Philosophers have long since begun to question the possibility of ‘neutral’ speech acts. More recently, thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Rene Girard have each offered diverse analyses of the many ways in which discourse is marked by violence. Is language necessarily connected to acts of oppression? Can we speak without limiting the world, reducing the ‘other’?
Recent headlines suggest the beginning of a kind of bare minimum assent to such theories. According to the BBC, the French government is deliberating over the possibility of legally banning ‘psychological violence’ (i.e., verbal abuse) within couples. While practical questions of ‘proof’ remain, the consideration itself is encouraging. Contrary to the old adage, words can hurt. And, if the law passes, ‘violent’ verbal exchanges will yield real penalties.
One wonders if such policies will serve to prompt a wider awareness – one critical of other discourses of violence, other ‘sayings’ of marginalization. To read more, see this article from the BBC.
Legal and Moral Responsibility,
Antony Duff , University of Stirling,
Philosophy Compass 4/6
One thought on “Sticks and Stones …”
It seems you take the power of the individual to act and give it to the government. Would you have govt. legislate all thought? What of humor? What of comedy? And of sarcasm? If this were global law immediately, where could privacy be found? This rush to endow any and all government with so much power over the individual freightens me.