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Seminar: A Theory of Manipulative Speech, Justin D'Ambrosio, 9 Apr

Australian National University, Outreach

Date: 1 April 2021

Seminar: A Theory of Manipulative Speech

Speaker: Justin D'Ambrosio

When: 9 Apr 2021, 3pm-4.30pm

Where: HC Coombs Building, Seminar Room G  (3.314), 3rd floor Southern Hexagon - Please note this is an in-person seminar


Manipulative speech is ubiquitous and pernicious. We encounter it continually in both private conversation and public discourse, and it is a core component of propaganda, whose wide-ranging insidious effects are well-known. But in spite of these facts, we have no account of what exactly manipulative speech is or how it works. In this paper I develop a theory of manipulative speech. On my view, manipulative speech involves a deliberate, coordinated violation of the two core Gricean norms of conversation: Cooperativity and Publicity. A manipulative speaker violates Cooperativity to further her goals at the expense of the audience’s. But the manipulative speaker also violates Publicity in intending, and taking steps to ensure, that her speech appears cooperative. Thus, in a slogan, manipulative speech is covertly strategic speech. This definition correctly classifies a wide range of speech acts that we intuitively take to be manipulative, correctly predicts novel forms of manipulative speech, and yields an account of propaganda and its mechanisms that is superior to those in the literature. 

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