a quick clarificatory note on citation:

I'm using "Bolinger" as the last name, "Jorgensen" as middle name, following the convention invoked by Delia Graff Fara (who notes that "Judith Jarvis Thomson"/"Elizabeth Cady Stanton"/"Hillary Rodham Clinton"/"Ruth Barcan Marcus" invoke the same convention).

  • For full-name references, use 'Renee Jorgensen Bolinger'; for last-name-only references, use 'Bolinger'. Thanks!

 

Publications

The Pragmatics of SlursNous, forthcoming. (Published online March 2015)

  • It is standardly assumed that an adequate semantics of slurring terms must account for the peculiar embedding pattern exhibited by slurs, explaining why slurs often cause offense despite logical embedding. I argue that the offense generation pattern of slurring terms parallels that of impoliteness behaviors, and is best explained by appeal to purely pragmatic mechanisms akin to those at work in impoliteness phenomena. In short, in choosing to use a slurring term rather than its neutral counterpart, the speaker signals that she endorses the term (and its associations). Such an attitude is offensive, and consequently slurs generate offense whenever a speaker’s use demonstrates a contrastive preference for the slurring term. Since such an explanation comes at low theoretical cost and imposes few constraints on an account of the semantics of slurs, this suggests that we should not require semantic accounts to provide an independent explanation of embedding patterns.

 

Revisiting the Right to do Wrong. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 95 no. 1 (2016): 43-57.

  • Rights to do wrong may be conceptually possible, but (contra Waldron, Enoch, and Herstein) they are not necessary (even) within the framework of interest-based rights aimed at preserving autonomy. Agents can make morally significant choices and develop their moral character without a right to do wrong, so long as we either acknowledge supererogatory and minimally satisficing acts, or allow that there can be moral variation within the set of actions an agent is obligated to perform. Agents can also engage in non-trivial self-constitution in choosing between morally indifferent options, so long as there is adequate non-moral variation among the alternatives. Furthermore, the intuition that in some cases individuals do have a right to do wrong can be explained as stemming from a cautionary principle motivated by the asymmetry between the risk of wrongly interfering and that of refraining from interfering.

 

Reasonable Mistakes and Regulative Norms: Racial Bias in Defensive Harm, Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 25 no. 2 (2017): 196–217.

  • A regulative norm for permissible defense distinguishes the conditions under which we will hold defenders to be innocent of any wrongdoing from those in which we hold them responsible for assault or manslaughter. The norm must strike a fair balance between defenders' security, on the one hand, and other agents’ legitimate claim to live without fear of suffering mistaken defensive harm, on the other. Since agents must make defensive decisions under high pressure and on only partial information, they will sometimes make mistakes. We have reason to want a norm that considers a mistake permissible when it was highly likely on the evidence that defense was proportionate and necessary to avert a threat. However, adopting an evidentialist norm under non-ideal conditions is treacherous business. I briefly survey empirical data suggesting that the type and extent of bias prevalent in the US renders a straightforward evidentialist norm unjust, and thus since the legal practice in the US relies on such a norm, we must explore avenues for reform. Preferably this will take the form of adopting a modified evidential norm, and I explore some promising options. If this proves impossible, however, then we have to accept a strict regulative norm (which does not consider any mistakes permissible), as the sole just alternative.

 

Book review: Jason Stanley's How Propaganda Works. In Ethics (2017) vol. 127 no. 2, pp. 502-507.