Spongia: Philosophy Blog EUR

Reading group on Van Parijs: Linguistic Justice

Posted on: 2011/11/28

Next Monday (5 December), we will launch an on-line reading group here at Spongia on Philippe Van Parijs‘s latest book Linguistic Justice. This is in preparation of the first Erasmus Philosophy Lecture that Van Parijs will give on Thursday January 26, and the seminar for scholars and graduate students the next day. But anyone interested in reading the book is welcome to join us here over the next two months in discussing the book chapter by chapter.

The schedule for our online reading group is as follows:

December 5, Chapter 1: Lingua Franca
December 12, Chapter 2: Linguistic justice as fair cooperation
December 19, Chapter 3: Linguistic justice as equal opportunity
January 2, Chapter 4: Linguistic justice as parity of esteem
January 9, Chapter 5: Linguistic territoriality
January 16, Chapter 6: Linguistic diversity

Constanze Binder, Sem de Maagt and myself will take turns in introducing a chapter, after which anyone who has read the chapter can join the discussion.

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1 Response to "Reading group on Van Parijs: Linguistic Justice"

In spite of the great detail and wide documentation this “theory” of linguistic justice is very misleading.
To me the greatest untruth is that we should adopt a lingua franca as English for the political feasibility of a united Europe, a demos. The demos Philippe Van Parijs is longing for, will be able to create only a technocratically united Europe of the elite. I don’t see a connection between such a unified Europe and a socially (inter-country) just continent. On the micro-sociological level this incongruity is reflected in the phenomenon that – in my opinion – those who master English better (predominantly the native speakers) will be the speakers and the non-natives those being addressed. Van Parijs himself mentions a percentage of ten in the population, which would have sufficient proficiency to communicate on an equal level with english-language born people (p. 74).
The great stress on the value of English as a language for communication (in order to create political unity – in order to create social justice) is a grand but useless theory. If Van Parijs is the idealist as who he portrays himself, why does he not express himself in a simplified English addressing the non-elite? I can’t see this apologetics for adopting English other than as a means to appease the conscience of the political elite.
And this is only one aspect of the book which I commented. What to think of the condescent meaning you allow yourself on the merits of Esperanto? Or the sheer neglect of the question that the world probably will undergo a centuries long process of competition between lingua franca’s?
What would have been more valuable to me is an exposé of the ongoing march of English towards worldly domination, adding the costs to the non native-english populations – not only on the political level, but more aggressively on the individual level, and spelling out the options which remain to us, non-natives !
Better than expanding in a well documented but partly rhetorical way on the inescapability of the choice for English.

Note: In het aprilnummer van het tijdschrift “Esperanto” van Universala Esperanto Asocio verschijnt een recensie van mij over het boek van Van Parijs. Als u geïnteresseerd bent, wil ik het wel – ruwweg – vertalen.
Johan Derks, johan.derks@gmail.com

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