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Symposium VI – Sneering
Lucy O’Brien (UCL) & Luvell Anderson (Syracuse)

2022 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association

University of St Andrews

8–10 July 2022

Symposium VI – sneering


Lucy o'brien

University college london

Sneering, or other Social Pelting


luvell anderson


Sneering Satire


My aim in this piece is to understand what kinds of acts, sneering acts are. I aim to look at what sneering acts do, and what social function they perform. In particular, I want to mark them out as acts of ‘making people feel’. I explore the grounds on which we might criticise sneering acts, and ask whether the thing that we do when we sneer is always vicious.

In ‘Sneering Acts and other Social Pelting’ Lucy O’Brien understands sneering acts as a way of making feel that are aimed at socially downgrading a target. Sneers are essentially expressions of contempt. Although typically thought of as vicious, O’Brien argues they can also be used virtuously to disrupt social hierarchies, especially when taken up by people with low social status. O’Brien identifies satire as a potentially effective means of carrying out this virtuous activity. I examine O’Brien’s account while exploring the conditions that must obtain to make satire an efficacious tool for social recalibration.


Lucy O’Brien is the Richard Wollheim Professor of Philosophy at University College London. Her research interests lie in the philosophy of mind and action, with a particular focus on self-consciousness and self-knowledge. She has more recently been working on self-consciousness understood in a broader setting—working on interpersonal self-consciousness, the nature of the self-conscious emotions, and our capacities to bring about, and manage self-consciousness in ourselves and others. She is writing a book on interpersonal self-consciousness following a British Academy Senior Research Fellowship. She has published papers in a range of journals and collections, she is the author of Self-Knowing Agents  (Oxford University Press, 2007) and co-editor, with Matthew Soteriou, of Mental Actions  (Oxford University Press, 2009). She is co-editor, with A. W. Moore, of the journal MIND, and is Chair of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. 

Professor Anderson (PhD, Rutgers University) is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Affiliate Faculty in African American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University. His research lies principally in Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Humor, and Philosophy of Race. He is co-editor of the Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race. He is currently working on a book entitled The Ethics of Racial Humor, forthcoming with Oxford University Press and a co-edited volume, The Oxford Handbook of Applied Philosophy of Language (OUP).

About the Joint Session

the postgraduate session

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The Supplementary Volume