Organon F

Volume 28, August 2021, Issue 3, Pages 672–688

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article | Special issue on Value in Language

The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs

Bianca Cepollaro


While prototypical uses of slurs express contempt for targets, some reclaimed uses are associated with positive evaluations. This practice may raise concerns. I anticipate this criticism in what I dub the Warrant Argument (WA) and then defend the legitimacy of this kind of reclamation. For the WA, standard pejorative uses of slurs are problematic for assuming unwarranted connections between descriptive properties (e.g., being gay) and value judgements (e.g., being worthy of contempt). When reclaimed uses of slurs express a positive evaluation of their targets—the WA goes—reclamation fails to challenge the unwarranted link between descriptive properties and value judgements, and merely reverses the evaluation polarity from negative to positive. So, the WA concludes, reclaimed uses of slurs evaluating targets positively for belonging to a certain group make a similar moral error as derogatory uses of slurs (sections 2-3). The WA could lead us to condemn reclamation. To resist this conclusion, I draw a parallel with affirmative action, arguing that it can be morally permissible to balance an existing form of injustice by temporarily introducing a countervailing mechanism that prima facie seems to violate the norm of equality: even if the WA were right, it wouldn’t constitute an argument against the moral permissibility of reclamation in the case of most slurs (section 4). This line of argument in defense of pride reclamation may also serve to debunk the myths of reverse racism and reverse sexism (section 5).


Hate speech; polarity reversal; reclamation; reverse racism; reverse sexism; slurs.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Bianca Cepollaro


Vita-Salute San Raffaele University


Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele Via Olgettina, 58, 20132 Milano, Italy


About this article


18 December 2020


4 June 2021

Published online

30 August 2021


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Cepollaro, B. (2021). The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs. Organon F28(3), 672–688.


Cepollaro, Bianca. 2021. "The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs." Organon F 28 (3): 672–688.


Cepollaro, B. (2021). The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs. Organon F, 28(3), pp. 672–688.

Copyright information

© Bianca Cepollaro

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