Insults, Slurs, and Other Pejorative Speech (Indian philosophy)


EXCERPT: Anyone who is familiar with premodern Indian philosophy written in Sanskrit knows that philosophers were not above using insults in their work. J.M. Verpoorten (2002) has a paper collecting these insults, which include akṛta-buddhi (having an unformed mind), paśu (animal, brute, beast), as well as lots of synonyms for stupid or foolish (jāḍya etc). And one of the common examples used for secondary meaning, what we might call “metaphor,” is gaur vāhīkaḥ, or “The Punjabi is an ox,” which is a slur based on the stereotype that Punjabis are dull (jāḍya) and lazy (māndya). To my knowledge, no one discussing this example takes time to reflect on the ethical status of such slurs, nor do Sanskrit philosophers reflect on the insults they use, understood as a special linguistic category.

[...] What I have not seen in Indian philosophy, however, is the thematization of insults and slurs as a special category of speech meriting its own investigation, like in contemporary analytic philosophy. The IEP has an entry for Pejorative Language (and the SEP will soon have one on slurs, I believe) which gives a sense as to why contemporary philosophers take pejoratives to merit special treatment as a linguistic phenomenon....


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