2018-10-17 Culture War, or Taking Offence

I recently got linked to the article Two concepts of offence where the author examines what duelling can teach us about being offended. Mark basically has three models:

  1. offence-as-hurt
  2. offence-as-harm
  3. offence-as-insult

He posits that offence-as-insult would help us better understand what this is all about. It’s independent of whether the victim feels hurt, or suffered harm. It’s a question of honour and respect.

Offence-as-insult also makes more sense of our approach to apologies. No early modern gentleman ever avoided a duel by saying: ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’ Nor is that a sufficient apology in most contemporary cases of offence. As in honour cultures, offence today demands an affirmation of respect for the offended person’s equal status, or evidence that the offending speech did not carry an insulting meaning.

It also means that people don’t have to grow a thicker skin, because a thicker skin is required between people of unequal honour. Having a thin skin is a sign of people demanding equal standing. It’s what we want.

Understanding why people are offended doesn’t solve the problem, of course. But it’s the first rebuttal when somebody claims the victims just need to grow a thicker skin. Not so!

Note that this explanation does not tell you whether offending speech should be banned or not. It just says that there being consequences should be expected. (We don’t need to duel, though.)



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