Hägerström Lectures 2015

Rae Langton: Accommodating Injustice

  • Lecture 1. Accommodating Authority
    Monday November 30, 1-3pm, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum

  • Lecture 2. Accommodating Norms
    Tuesday December 1, 1-3pm, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum

  • Lecture 3. Accommodating Knowledge
    Wednesday December 2, 3-5pm, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum

  • Lecture 4. Silence as Accommodation Failure
    Thursday December 3, 1-3pm, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum

  • Lecture 5. How to Undo Things with Words
    Friday December 4, 1-3pm, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum


What we do with words can help or hinder justice in ways that exploit rules of accommodation: a process of adjustment that tends to make speech acts count as ‘correct play’. Speech acts follow rules of accommodation. Authority, norms and knowledge can likewise follow rules of accommodation, in ways that contribute to injustice. Accommodation allows speakers and hearers to build unjust norms and patterns of authority, sexual subordination, and racial hatred. ‘Back-door’ speech acts work subtly, via presupposition, generics, thick concepts and epithets. Accommodation can contribute to epistemic injustice: through knowledge destruction, via alteration of standards, stakes, and credibility; and also, more surprisingly, through knowledge creation. Handicaps on would-be speakers are failures of, or challenges to, accommodation: such limits on ‘correct play’ can be viewed as a kind of silence.

Attending to these dangers makes visible certain solutions. Accommodation reveals speech acts as something we do together with words: the acts and omissions of hearers, as well as speakers, contribute to what is done. Free speech itself looks different, demanding richer resources: state and individual action, not just inaction, could be needed to make it real.

About Rae Langton

The 2015 Hägerström lecturer, Rae Langton, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Newnham College. She is author of Kantian Humility: Our Ignorance of Things in Themselves, and Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification. Born and raised in India, she studied philosophy at Sydney and Princeton, and has taught at MIT, Edinburgh, and Monash (inter alia). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013, and the British Academy in 2014. Her Hägerström lectures will develop themes from her John Locke Lectures (Oxford, April-June 2015).