Profanity: Ethics and Ethnocentricity

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Reply Tue 24 Nov, 2009 07:46 pm
Greetings to all...

There is a very interesting thread - http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum-administration-area/site-feedback-suggestions/6673-word-censuring.html

- about the use of profanity and it being censored on this forum. The thread is now closed but it brought up some interesting points that I'd like to address.

[NOTE: Before I continue, let me stress that I am NOT trying to challenge the rules of this forum pertaining to the general use of profanity; I am merely bringing up the topic as a matter of Aesthetic / Ethical discussion.]

It's been often stated that: "People who use profanity do so because they lack a proper vocabulary."

Indeed, one of the users, Zetherin, made this comment:

And besides, as a philosopher (assumedly semi-intelligent), you should be able to find more clever, if not more subtle, ways to insult others if need be. Blatantly, liberally, and obnoxiously throwing around curse words isn't testament to one's intellectual prowess.

After thinking about this statement, I have no conclude that: if it's 'ok' to insult people using so-called intellectual terms, then what difference does it make if one uses profanity? -- The point being that an insult is an insult, regardless of what form it takes.

Criticising those who use profanity seems to me to be form of snobbery and elitism: a ethnocentric class-distinction that states that some words are 'acceptable' and others are not.

Having been a long-time participant on many online forums which censor profanity, I have learned many ways to be dreadfully insulting to people without using a drop of profanity, or using more technical versions of profane words to mean the same thing.

For example, I've told someone:

"You're just like the Stymphalian Birds and you're a sycophantic hierodule on this forum."

That's a pretty serious insult if you know what it means.

More examples:

"I'd like to invite the original poster to copulate with themselves."

"Please do try to extricate your cranium from your rectum before posting again, thank you."

"Not being like the original poster, who possess a male organ roughly the size and shape of an anemic peanut, I cannot answer this question."

Language aside, we all know what these phrases mean; any one of them could've been expressed using profanity.

I assert that making the claim that it's somehow ethically / intellectually superior to refrain from using profanity is absurd when the language means the exact same thing.

Moreover, I assert that the claim "Use of profanity is evidence of a lack of intellect" is unfounded and amounts to nothing more than intellectual classism.

Finally, I assert that profanity certainly does have its uses. Language, like art, is fluid and we use words as an artist uses a brush. Sometimes a sharp or bold word is used for emphasis or specific description. To eliminate profanity from our language would be like eliminating the color red from the pallet.

Your thoughts?

-ITL-
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 01:11 am
@IntoTheLight,
You make some good points. A ban on rudeness in general might be more ideal. But it's a tricky game, for it's a matter of interpretation. If rules are to be enforced, a text must be interpreted as to its intent. But a simple ban on profanity is efficiently enforceable.

I totally agree that profanity in no way indicates a lack of intelligence. But one could argue that personal attacks indicate a lack of emotional maturity, and profanity is strongly associated with aggression. To profane.

I'm new to this board and am not seeking to take sides in any sort of conflict but merely to respond to an interesting post.

S.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:13 am
@IntoTheLight,
IntoTheLight;105709 wrote:
Greetings to all...

There is a very interesting thread - http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum-administration-area/site-feedback-suggestions/6673-word-censuring.html

- about the use of profanity and it being censored on this forum. The thread is now closed but it brought up some interesting points that I'd like to address.

[NOTE: Before I continue, let me stress that I am NOT trying to challenge the rules of this forum pertaining to the general use of profanity; I am merely bringing up the topic as a matter of Aesthetic / Ethical discussion.]

It's been often stated that: "People who use profanity do so because they lack a proper vocabulary."

Indeed, one of the users, Zetherin, made this comment:

And besides, as a philosopher (assumedly semi-intelligent), you should be able to find more clever, if not more subtle, ways to insult others if need be. Blatantly, liberally, and obnoxiously throwing around curse words isn't testament to one's intellectual prowess.

After thinking about this statement, I have no conclude that: if it's 'ok' to insult people using so-called intellectual terms, then what difference does it make if one uses profanity? -- The point being that an insult is an insult, regardless of what form it takes.

Criticising those who use profanity seems to me to be form of snobbery and elitism: a ethnocentric class-distinction that states that some words are 'acceptable' and others are not.

Having been a long-time participant on many online forums which censor profanity, I have learned many ways to be dreadfully insulting to people without using a drop of profanity, or using more technical versions of profane words to mean the same thing.

For example, I've told someone:

"You're just like the Stymphalian Birds and you're a sycophantic hierodule on this forum."

That's a pretty serious insult if you know what it means.

More examples:

"I'd like to invite the original poster to copulate with themselves."

"Please do try to extricate your cranium from your rectum before posting again, thank you."

"Not being like the original poster, who possess a male organ roughly the size and shape of an anemic peanut, I cannot answer this question."

Language aside, we all know what these phrases mean; any one of them could've been expressed using profanity.

I assert that making the claim that it's somehow ethically / intellectually superior to refrain from using profanity is absurd when the language means the exact same thing.

Moreover, I assert that the claim "Use of profanity is evidence of a lack of intellect" is unfounded and amounts to nothing more than intellectual classism.

Finally, I assert that profanity certainly does have its uses. Language, like art, is fluid and we use words as an artist uses a brush. Sometimes a sharp or bold word is used for emphasis or specific description. To eliminate profanity from our language would be like eliminating the color red from the pallet.

Your thoughts?

-ITL-


People do not always use profanity because they cannot think of a better term, but they often do. From the fact that two words are synonymous, it does not follow that it is not better to use one than the other. Context and good taste matter too. But, in fact, extremely profane words do not mean anything much, and are simply expostulations of feeling and frustration. And, in many conversations they are just used while the speaker thinks of other things to say. They are fillers like, "um", or "you know", or "like" in "He is like, you know, nice". "Like" and "you know", could be omitted from that sentence with no loss of meaning.
 
 

 
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