Rebecca Roache

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Rebecca Roache
Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
InstitutionsRoyal Holloway University of London
Doctoral advisorD. H. Mellor, Jane Heal
Main interests
Philosophy of language
Notable ideas
Theory of swearing

Rebecca Roache is a British philosopher and Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, known for her work on the philosophy of language, practical ethics and philosophy of mind.[1] She is particularly noted for her work on swearing, which has featured in various media, such as the BBC.[2]


Roache received her BA in philosophy at the University of Leeds in 1996, and her MA in philosophy at the same university in 1997, where she worked among others closely with Robin Le Poidevin. She then took an MPhil (1999) and a DPhil (2002) at the University of Cambridge, St. John's College, with Jane Heal and D.H. Mellor as dissertation advisers.[3] After completing her DPhil, she worked in various projects at the University of Oxford from 2006 onwards. She is currently Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London.[4] From 2013 to 2018, she was Associate Editor for the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Notable philosophical views[edit]

Roache's theory of swearing [5] examines why swearwords (including non-slurs and non-religious swearwords) are so powerful. She proposes that swearwords have a unique linguistic role, coupled to a unique emotional role. According to Roache, swearing obtains its power because of speaker inferences: when someone swears, she knows her audience will find it offensive, and the swearer knows the audience knows she knows that the audience will find it offensive, and so on, a process termed offence escalation. Speakers and listeners who belong to the same cultural and linguistic community will likely find similar things offensive, which explains why some expressions (disrespecting social hierarchy, sexual taboos, mention of bodily fluids etc.) tend to cross-culturally recur as swearwords.[6]

Roache is also noted for a blogpost where she said she unfriended people who voted for the Conservatives at the 2015 General Election. She argued that “Openly supporting a political party “that – in the name of austerity – withdraws support from the poor, the sick, the foreign, and the unemployed while rewarding those in society who are least in need of reward” was “as objectionable as expressing racist, sexist, or homophobic views.”.[7]

In addition to her work in the philosophy of language, Roache has published on a variety of topics in practical ethics and metaphysics, such as which biomedical modifications to humans could be used to fight climate change.[8]

She has an active Twitter feed.[9] On 25 July 2018, she was listed among the top 100 philosophers on Twitter.[10]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Roache, R. 1999: ‘Mellor and Dennett on the perception of temporal order’, The Philosophical Quarterly 49: 231-38.
  • Bostrom, N. and Roache, R. 2007: ‘Ethical issues in human enhancement’, in J. Ryberg, T. Petersen, and C. Wolf (eds.) New Waves in Applied Ethics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan): 120-52.
  • Roache, R. 2009: ‘Bilking the bilking argument’, Analysis 69/4: 605-11.
  • Liao, S.M., Sandberg, A. and Roache, R. 2012: ‘Human engineering and climate change’, Ethics, Policy & Environment 15/2: 206-21. With nine open peer commentaries.
  • Roache, R. 2014: ‘Can brain scans prove criminals unaccountable?’, AJOB Neuroscience 5/2: 35-37.
  • Roache, R. 2016: ‘Infertility and non-traditional families’, Journal of Medical Ethics 42/9: 557-58.
  • Roache, R. 2017: 'Is it better to die than to be lonely?' Journal of Medical Ethics 43/9: 575-76.


  1. ^ "[1]" Departmental website
  2. ^ [2]” BBC article on swearing, accessed 27 February 2017.
  3. ^ [3]” Biography of Rebecca Roache, accessed 25 July 2018.
  4. ^ "[4]" Departmental website
  5. ^ "[5]" Roache, Rebecca. 2018. Naughty words. Aeon Magazine.
  6. ^ [6]” Roache, Rebecca. 2018. Podcast on swearing. Philosophy Bites Podcast.
  7. ^ [7]” Independent article, Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  8. ^ "[8]” Bioengineer humans to tackle climate change, say philosophers, The Guardian, 14 March 2012, accessed 25 July 2018.
  9. ^ [9]” Rebecca Roache, Twitter feed.
  10. ^ [10]” Philosophers on Twitter, accessed 25 July 2018.

External links[edit]