PHIL 4120 Lecture Notes - Ordinary Language Philosophy, Linguistic Description, Illocutionary Act

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15 Nov 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
J.L. Austin
Inventor of ordinary language philosophy; believed philosophers were ineffective in
using the language because of culture. How we talk/use terms is the starting point for
Can we know what other people think/feel? Can we know anything at all? Real vs. not
real – we take ourselves to know thing from extrapolating from evidence/symptoms.
Nature of justification, degrees of justification.
Overall thing: in analyzing terms, philosophers had made a descriptivist fallacy – attempt
to describe something in the world, when people use words (knowledge, belief, truth),
isn’t descriptivist at all.
I.e. Sky is blue. I am justified in believing the sky is blue (i.e. I have evidence)
Other things you can do with the words (ask a question, make a demand, declare, insult,
promise, commitments not descriptions).
Speech-Act Theory – actions you can perform with speech while speaking/writing
Two categories: categories with descriptions, and everything else
Constative utterances – states a fact
Performative utterances –
Distinction between three things: locutionary (what it says), illocutionary force of an
utterance (what you do in saying this thing i.e. asking a question “Is the window open” –
you’re committing an interrogative act.), perlocutionary act of an utterance (
Sentences with one function to perform another (i.e. you’re on thin ice – could be on thin
ice, or take caution)
Austin thought there are other conditions for you make a promise, issue a command, etc.
Felicity conditions on utterances – what conditions needs to be satisfied for nothing to
be wrong in you uttering that thing
Appropriate – is the world purported by the description, the satisfaction of that
Felicity on non-descriptive speech-acts: I.e. open the window, but no window in the
room. Presupposed that there is a window. Presupposed in the appropriateness of the
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