2016 Knox Lecture

The 2016 Knox Lecture, ‘Blocking as Counter-speech’

Thursday 29th September 2016 at 5.15pm

School III, St Salvator’s Quad, North Street, St Andrews

Prof Rae Langton, FBA, FAAAS


Prof Rae Langton, University of Cambridge http://www.newn.cam.ac.uk/person/professor-rae-langton/

She is the author of:

  • ‘Whose right? Ronald Dworkin, Women, and Pornographers’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1990 (reprinted in The Philosopher’s Annual, as voted one of the ‘ten best’ articles in philosophy in 1990)
  • Kantian Humility: Our Ignorance of Things in Themselves (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1998)
  • ‘Defining Intrinsic’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1998 (co-authored with David Lewis)
  • ‘Objective and Unconditioned Value’, Philosophical Review 2007
  • Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification (Oxford University Press 2009)
  • ‘The Disappearing Women’ The Stone, New York Times 2013
  • Accommodating Injustice (Oxford University Press 2017)

In addition to being inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013 and the British Academy for Humanities and Social Sciences in 2014, she was rated one of the ‘50 World’s Top Thinkers’ in 2014 by Prospect Magazine, and was the recipient of a Mind Association Senior Research Fellowship for 2015-16.


The title of Prof Langton’s Knox Lecture is ‘Blocking as Counter-speech’.

Abstract: It is widely thought that evil speech should be fought with more speech, not bans. There are well-known limits on the effectiveness of counter-speech, but my topic here is chiefly its scope. Counter-speech can work by undoing, rather than refuting, evil speech: by blocking its felicity conditions and (relatedly) its presuppositions, and thus disabling its harmful illocutionary force. This brings out an unnoticed dimension to counter-speech, and highlights an unnoticed capacity of hearers and bystanders.