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Dismissive Incomprehension: A Use of Purported Ignorance to Undermine Others

“This paper analyses a particular social phenomenon whereby a speaker purports ignorance of the meaning of another speaker’s speech in order to undermine that other speaker: dismissive incomprehension. It develops a speech act theory of the phenomenon, and develops its distinctive, and sometimes problematic perlocutionary character. After taking a look at some of the issues surrounding the phenomenon, the paper compares it to more fully studied features of our social lives, including epistemic injustice and gaslighting. It ends with some thoughts on counteracting the problematic cases of dismissive incomprehension.”

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