Sticks and Stones The Philosophy of Insults

Sticks and Stones The Philosophy of Insults

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"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." This schoolyard rhyme projects an invulnerability to verbal insults that sounds good but rings false. Indeed, the need for such a verse belies its own claims. For most of us, feeling insulted is a distressing-and distressingly common-experience. In Sticks and Stones, philosopher Jerome Neu probes the nature, purpose, and effects of insults, exploring how and why they humiliate, embarrass, infuriate, and wound us so deeply. What kind of injury is an insult? Is it determined by the insulter or the insulted? What does it reveal about the character of both parties as well as the character of society and its conventions? What role does insult play in social and legal life? When is telling the truth an insult? Neu draws upon a wealth of examples and anecdotes-as well as a range of views from Aristotle and Oliver Wendell Holmes to Oscar Wilde, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, and many others-to provide surprising answers to these questions. He shows that what we find insulting can reveal much about our ideas of character, honor, gender, the nature of speech acts, and social and legal conventions. He considers how insults, both intentional and unintentional, make themselves felt-in play, Freudian slips, insult humor, rituals, blasphemy, libel, slander, and hate speech. And he investigates the insult's extraordinary power, why it can so quickly destabilize our sense of self and threaten our moral identity, the very center of our self-respect and self-esteem. Entertaining, humorous, and deeply insightful, Sticks and Stones unpacks the fascinating dynamics of a phenomenon more often painfully experienced than clearly understood.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 138 x 206 x 22mm | 340.19g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195388240
  • 9780195388244
  • 2,007,159

Review quote

"Mr. Neu leads his readers into many a satisfying alleyway of mortifying wit." * Wall Street Journal * "Jerome Neu's book, Sticks and Stones: The Philosophy of Insults, provides a wide-ranging, original, and fascinating introduction to the many philosophical questions raised by insult.... Sticks and Stones is a remarkably wide-ranging book.... Neu's book is lucid, wide-ranging, and provocative, and he has deftly brought together a number of important philosophical issues related to insult. Given its scope and style, Sticks and Stones should appeal to philosophers, legal theorists, sociologists, and anyone who is interested in the all-too-common phenomenon of insult." * Macalester Bell, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * "Neu gives us a wide-ranging, thought-provoking, and incredibly readable-if demanding-study of a subject that will be of interest to anyone who has ever been insulted-and who among us hasn't been?... A delightful, important study for readers of all levels; highly recommended." * Library Journal * "This is a fascinating exploration of that most human of activities: insulting one another."- * Simon Blackburn, Times Higher Education *show more

About Jerome Neu

Jerome Neu is Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Santa Cruz.show more

Table of contents

1. On Feeling Insulted ; 2. Honor: Slaps and Swords ; 3. Insult in Play and Ritual ; 4. Assault from the Rear ; 5. The Language of Abuse ; 6. Insult in the Law: Fighting Words, Obscenity, and Hate Speech ; 7. Insult in the Law: Libel and Slander ; 8. Insult in the Law: Blasphemy ; 9. Insult Humor ; 10. To Understand All Is to Forgive All-Or Is It?show more

Rating details

8 ratings
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4 25% (2)
3 25% (2)
2 25% (2)
1 12% (1)
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