Amazon Customer Review
- John Rogers Searle (born 1932) is an American philosopher at UC Berkeley. He has written many other books, such as "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind", The Mystery of Consciousness, "Searle (John) - Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind", Expression and Meaning, Mind: A Brief Introduction, "Searle (John) - Mind, Language and Society", The Construction of Social Reality, etc.
- He explains in the first chapter of this 1969 book, “[we must] distinguish between the philosophy of language and linguistic philosophy. Linguistic philosophy is the attempt to solve particular philosophical problems by attending to the ordinary use of particular words or other elements in a particular language. The philosophy of language is the attempt to give philosophically illuminating descriptions of certain general features of language, such as reference, truth, meaning, and necessity… this book is an essay in the philosophy of language, not in linguistic philosophy.” (Pg. 3-4)
- He observes, “As a native speaker of English I know that ‘oculist’ is exactly synonymous with ‘eye doctor’ … Yet I have no operational criteria for synonymy, ambiguity, nounhood, meaningfulness, or sentencehood. Furthermore, any criterion for any one of these concepts has to be consistent with my (our) knowledge or must be abandoned as inadequate. The starting point, then, for this study is that one knows such facts about language independently of any ability to provide criteria of the preferred kinds for such knowledge.” (Pg. 11)
- He summarizes: “the methodology of this book must seem extremely simple. I am a native speaker of a language. I wish to offer certain characteristics and explanations of my use of elements of that language. The hypothesis of which I am proceeding is that my use of linguistic elements is underlain by certain rules. I shall therefore offer linguistic characterizations and then explain the data in those characterizations by formulating the underlying rules.” (Pg. 15)
- He says, "We thus detach the notions of referring and predicating from the notions of such complete speech acts as asserting, questioning, commanding, etc. ... [J.L.] Austin baptized these complete speech acts with the name 'illocutionary acts' and I shall henceforth employ this terminology... I employ the expression ... with some misgivings, since I do not accept Austin's distinction between 'locutionary' and 'illocutionary' acts." (Pg. 23)
- He explains, “the hypothesis of this book is that speaking a language is performing acts according to rules. The form this hypothesis will take is that the semantic structure of a language may be regarded as a conventional realization of a series of sets of underlying constitutive rules, and that speech acts are acts characteristically performed by uttering expressions in accordance with these sets of constitutive rules.” (Pg. 36-37)
- He points out, “The reader should bear in mind that in a natural language like English particular rules will either attach to elements in the deep structure of the sentence or more likely to some product of the combinatorial operations of the semantic component. There is, incidentally, a certain amount of syntactical evidence to indicate that in the deep structure of English sentences noun phrases are not as diverse as the surface structure makes them seem. In particular, some recent research tends to suggest that all English pronouns are forms of the definite article in the deep structure of sentences.” (Pg. 95-96)
- He states, “philosophers since the publication of Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus’ have often said that tautological utterances like ‘Either it’s raining or it’s not raining’ do not say anything or are empty. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a vast difference between saying of a politician ‘Either he is a fascist or he isn’t’ and saying of him ‘Either he is a Communist or he isn’t.’ Both of these are tautological assertions but the difference between then is to be explained by the difference in predication. The first raises the question of his being a Fascist, the second raises the question of his being a Communist.’” (Pg. 124)
- He cautions, “I am about to make some criticisms of contemporary linguistic philosophy, perhaps this is a good place to remark that I regard the contribution made by this kind of philosophy as truly remarkable. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that it has produced a revolution in philosophy, a revolution of which this book is but one small consequence. The effort I am about to make to correct a few errors should not be taken as a rejection of linguistic philosophy.” (Pg. 131)
- He clarifies, “my remarks here are not intended to offer any general account of the conditions of applicability of these concepts. I am not saying that ‘voluntary,’ ‘free will,’ etc., have no presuppositions, that any action at all can intelligibly be characterized as voluntary. On the contrary, I think that action-modifying concepts have a rather complicated network of presuppositions. Furthermore, some of these concepts are, in my view, excluders. ‘Voluntary,’ in particular, seems to be an excluder. It gets its meaning by contrast with ‘under duress,’ ‘forced,’ ‘compelled,’ etc.” (Pg. 150)
- He suggests, “Perhaps the best examples of the distinction between meaning… and use are provided by English obscenities. Obscenities … have the same meaning as, their clinical equivalents. Indeed, the point or one of the points of having the clinical equivalent is to have a polite synonym. But of course the use of obscenities is quite different from their use as polite synonyms. So a person may be quite willing to assert a proposition using the clinical euphemism and yet quite unwilling to assert the same… proposition using the obscene word.” (Pg. 155)
- This is one of Searle’s most important books, and will be “must reading” for anyone seriously studying his thought, or contemporary analytic philosophy.
CUP, 1969 (1978 reprint)
"Searle (John) - The Structure of Illocutionary Acts"
Source: Martinich - The Philosophy of Language
COMMENT: From "Searle (John) - Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language"
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