Dr. des. Deborah Mühlebach


Deborah Mühlebach studierte Philosophie, Gender Studies, Soziologie und Arabisch in Zürich und Paris. 2014 und 2015 war sie zunächst wissenschaftliche Assistentin und Studienberaterin am Philosophischen Seminar der Universität Zürich dann Assistentin in der Philosophiegruppe des Instituts für Umweltentscheidungen an der ETH Zürich. Von 2016 - 2018 wurde sie durch den Schweizerischen Nationalfonds (SNF) mit einem doc.CH-Vollzeitdoktoratstipendium gefördert. In ihrer Dissertation unter der Betreuung von Prof. Dr. Markus Wild, Prof. Sally Haslanger (MIT) und Prof. Jennifer Saul (University of Sheffield) arbeitet sie zu sprachphilosophischen Aspekten und der Kritik abwertenden Sprachgebrauchs. Seit 2019 ist sie wissenschaftliche Assistentin am Lehrstuhl für Theoretische Philosophie (Prof. Markus Wild) der Universität Basel. Zudem ist sie Mitglied des Graduiertenkollegs "Geschlechterverhältnisse - Normalisierung und Transformation" der Gender Studies an der Universität Basel.

Deborah Mühlebach studied Philosophy, Gender Studies, Sociology, and Arabic at the Universities of Zurich and Paris IV - Sorbonne. In 2014, she was an assistant and study adviser at the University of Zurich Institute of Philosophy and 2015, she held the position of a research assistant at the ETH Zurich Institute of Environmental Decisions. From 2016 to 2018, she received a doc.CH grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). She writes her dissertation on derogatory language use under the supervision of Prof. Markus Wild, Prof. Sally Haslanger (MIT), and Prof. Jennifer Saul (University of Sheffield). Since 2019, she is a research assistant at the chair of Theoretical Philosophy (Prof. Markus Wild) at the University of Basel. Moreover, she is a member of the graduate program "Geschlechterverhältnisse - Normalisierung und Transformation" at the University of Basel Institute of Gender Studies.

PhD Project

“Linguistic and Social Meanings in Derogatory Language Use”

since FT 2014

Supervisors: Prof. Markus Wild (University of Basel), Prof. Sally Haslanger (MIT, USA), Prof. Jennifer Saul (University of Sheffield, UK)

In my dissertation, I give a comprehensive answer to the question of what it means for our clearly (as opposed to merely implicitly) derogatory terms to be embedded in our broader social structures and practices. There are three major aims to my project:

First, I shall show that pragmatist inferentialism, as it has been developed by Robert Brandom (1998), is in a good position to explain a broad range of important linguistic and political aspects of clearly derogatory terms. I defend inferentialism against the main objections that have been raised against this view (paper under review)and give a detailed explanation of the hitherto most extensive list of linguistic and political aspects of derogatory language use (paper under review).

Second, I argue that if we are interested in the political and moral topicality of derogatory language use, it is crucial to embed the explanation of linguistic and political aspects of clearly derogatory terms in a broader framework of politically significant language (paper under review). I show that other theories of derogatory terms fail both to generalise to a broad range of clearly derogatory terms and remain silent about the connections both between clearly and implicitly derogatory terms, and between derogatory and politically significant terms (paper under review).

Third, I argue that even if we take a broad range of politically significant language into account, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of verbal derogation if we restrict our scope of investigation to linguistic meaning only. Based on the assumption that our verbal and non-verbal actions are meaningful in several ways, I argue that social meanings, such as stereotypical ascriptions, enter and shape the linguistic meanings of our terms and sentences in at least two ways, as part of the common ground of a speech situation and as possible precursors to certain linguistic meanings. As the practical upshot of this, effective criticism of clearly derogatory language requires us to engage in the political contestation of social meanings, too (paper under review).


(* peer reviewed)

*Mühlebach, D. 2019. „Semantic Contestations and the Meaning of Politically Significant Terms“ forthcoming in Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy

*Mühlebach, D. 2016. “Reflective Equilibrium as an Ameliorative Framework for Feminist Epistemology” in Hypatia 31 (4): 874–89. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hypa.12270/pdf

Mühlebach, D. 2017. “Is There a Politically Correct Language?” in UNI NOVA 130: 64-5.

Mühlebach, D. 2017. “Gibt es eine politisch korrekte Sprache?” in UNI NOVA 130: 64–5.