Sunday, May 10, 2009

86 John Langshaw Austin

We started with Thales of Milete and went on through history untill now. We have covered a twothousand years and have arrived at one of the philosophers that died during our own lifetime. Well, that applies to some of us ^_^

John Langshaw Austin died in 1960 at the age of 49. I was in the fourth grade of primary school. Had the philosophical landscape changed since Thales of Milete or was it for me at that time just the same questions with just another answer?

I think that in the contribution to the development of philosophical analysis made by Austin you see, that you really can speak of progress.

In the 17th century man learns to see the world as a physical matter and scientific methods is developed by men like Copernicus, Bacon, Galilei, Newton, Huygens, Leeuwenhoek and many others. New knowledge became possible.

The rationalists and empiricists started to question the justification of knowledge and designed their epistemological theories. In the meantime science went on exploring and explaining the natural phenomena.

Attemps were made to create grand metaphysical explanations for what is, but they were overtaken by science and scientific method itself. And in1920 philosphy reached the point that it saw it as its main aim to question the language of science and its knowledge claims.

Men like Wittgenstein, Carnap, Russell and Tarski did it all in their own way, either by analysing formal languages and logic or by analysing the language of science, the propositions that had to be true or false.

The philosophers of the Vienna Circle were all focused on that first thesis of the Tractatus of Witttgenstein:
1 Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist / The world is all that is the case.
1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of objects.

The chief business of sentences thence was to state facts and the test of the sentence was the verification. Everyone was focused on the truth of falsehood of sentences. A true sentence descibes knowledge, a false one does not. And a sentence that cant be tested by verification has no meaning at all.

G.E. Moore already pointed at the fact that certain sentences werent suited for a verification test, judgements of value especially. Ethics became a special chapter. And here comes Austin, who goes one step further.

He shows that focussing on language as a system to state of affairs or facts and knowledge only was just a case of being concerned about just a small range of utterances. Regarding sentences that had a refererence to an extralinguistic fact or state of affairs as meaningful was closing your eyes for the reality of language.

After introducing several kinds of sentences which he assumes are indeed not truth-evaluable, he turns in particular to one of these kinds of sentences, which he deems performative utterances. These he characterises by two features:

* First, to utter one of these sentences is not just to "say" something, but rather to perform a certain kind of action.
* Second, these sentences are not true or false; rather, when something goes wrong in connection with the utterance then the utterance is, as he puts it, "infelicitous", or "unhappy."

To utter a sentence can be seen as an act, too. When I say "The door is open." it would be very narrow minded to regard this as a purely descriptive sentence, which will be true or false after verification.

This simple sentence can mean a lot more. Ok, first we can regard it as a locutionary (the term Austin used) act of uttering a sentence with a definite sense and reference to a particular door.

But second it can also be an illocutionary act (a not spoken outloud meaning) which could be the thought that you feel a draft and hinting at closing the door. And third, someone might then clse the door which is the perlocutionary act meant by the sentence.

What Austin put in the spotlight was that the language used by ordianry men, but also by philosophers was much more complicated than the severe empiricist epistemologists might suggest.

In that respect it is worth to do some reading in or on the book of Austin named "Sense and Sensibilia" in which he critisizes the empiricist sense-data theory as formulated by Alfred Ayer.

There here shows how words as illussion, looks, seems, appears as well as the word reality are used in questionable ways. What he makes clear is that philosophers and not only them have the inclination to assume that when you have one word you also have one thing to which that word refers.

So when I have the word 'concept' there is supposted to exist such a thing-concept, or when I use the word 'red' there is supposed to exist a thing-red. Since Austin we know we have to use our words much more carefully.

The Discussion

[13:27] Herman Bergson: This on John Langshaw Austin.
[13:27] Alarice Beaumont grins
[13:28] Herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks..feel free
[13:28] Ze Novikov: so any sentence is layered with many meanings?
[13:29] Herman Bergson: Yes, Ze, that was the strong issue that Austin pointed at
[13:29] Herman Bergson: It is a simplification to divide the world in meaningful and meaningless, true and false sentences
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: isn't that what we are doing in everyday life...? we utter a sentence in hope that someone does something
[13:30] arabella Ella: herman what i like about Austin is his performative utterances like ... 'I baptise you with the name John' or naming a boat or declaring someone man and wife
[13:30] Ze Novikov: that it even does something is amazing to me
[13:30] arabella Ella: and his view of language has a strong link with the context in which the words are uttered
[13:31] Herman Bergson: Yes Alarice...that is as was remarked last time the way politicians use the word "Truth" for instance
[13:31] Laila Schuman: not to be tedious... but i bring up the language of poetry..again
[13:31] Herman Bergson: it is a mistake to read it only as a descriptive term
[13:31] Sorcs Nolan: this might help explain why communication, verbal or written, can be challenging; if there is this much "gray area" in language?
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: yes..i would agree on this
[13:31] arabella Ella: exactly ... there is more to meaning than simply descriptive sentences that may be verified or falsified
[13:31] Mickorod Renard: and we say things in the hope that although what we say isnt completely full of explaination , we expect the recipient to use some logic to understand what we mean in the context of where or what we are doin
[13:31] Herman Bergson: Poetry is the best example of the other functions of languege than only being descriptive
[13:32] Mickorod Renard: x x x
[13:32] Mickorod Renard: oops
[13:33] Mickorod Renard: see, I didnt say a thing, but see the message
[13:33] Herman Bergson: I think the great contribution of Austin was that he brought these issues into the philosophical debate and analysis
[13:33] Herman Bergson: Lovely Mickorod
[13:33] herman Bergson blushes
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: some loose x's
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:34] Herman Bergson: or was is an X-rated statement Mickorod?
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: lol
[13:34] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:34] Mickorod Renard: he he
[13:34] Alarice Beaumont: haha
[13:34] arabella Ella: seems like it was a performative utterance as per Austin
[13:34] Mickorod Renard: see what a few x's can do
[13:35] Herman Bergson: As you see, this new approach of philosphical analysis brings us a smile
[13:35] Sorcs Nolan: how about an example sentence, that demonstrates what Austin is talking about?
[13:35] Ze Novikov: I thought he might be kissing the professor
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: lolooll
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: why not
[13:35] Mickorod Renard: he is handsome
[13:35] arabella Ella: we all love herman after all dont we
[13:35] Herman Bergson: An example, Sorcs...ok
[13:36] Herman Bergson: When somepone says:"I name this ship Queen Elizabeth." this person does not only give a descriptive statement of his action which can be true or false
[13:37] Herman Bergson: Given the right circumstances he does more...he gives a name to a ship
[13:37] Herman Bergson: and maybe even makes someone push a button to lauch it
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: yes... but he gives that name to a ship because he connects something with that name
[13:37] arabella Ella: or champagne
[13:38] Herman Bergson: yes other words..the sentence is not a true/false proposition
[13:38] Ze Novikov: yes the name carries the spirit to the ship of that person
[13:38] Herman Bergson:it implies the act of giving
[13:38] arabella Ella: it is an action performed using language
[13:38] Samuel Okelly: i fail to see how such a sentence does away with it's intrinsic descriptive content
[13:38] itsme Frederix: I missed something - but does this mean we have to take the whole environment/context with just a sentence before going away with it?
[13:38] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. thanks Ze..
[13:39] Ze Novikov: does he talk any about the confusion that might arise in communication?
[13:39] Herman Bergson: That, Itsme, was already something the later Wittgenstein suggested
[13:39] Ze Novikov: and how to sort it out?
[13:40] itsme Frederix: Herman the next step is to remain silent - that should say enough
[13:40] Herman Bergson: No Ze, he doesnt offer a theory of communication
[13:40] Ze Novikov: umm
[13:40] Mickorod Renard: what was he trying to get over to everyone extra than that that we may already have taken for granted?
[13:40] arabella Ella: Austin is more concerned with analysing different types of use of language
[13:40] Herman Bergson: He analysed language and the use of it
[13:41] Herman Bergson: and he showed that the true/false approach was just touching a small part of language
[13:41] arabella Ella: different forms of utterance and the different meanings which may be attributed which cannot be verified empirically
[13:41] arabella Ella: he was brilliant and he wrote in a very common sense way - he also influenced strawson another great british philosopher - are we going to do strawson too herman?
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Yes..the main concern here is about the sentences to which you can't apply the verification principle
[13:42] Mickorod Renard: but can an understanding of what he was trying to explain expand our perception in everyday life through language?
[13:42] itsme Frederix: ... you can not ... or you do not want because of context?
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Strawson will be in the next 100 we forgot to mention Arabella...:-)
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: oh goodness
[13:42] arabella Ella: ok ty herman
[13:43] arabella Ella: so there are the next 100 ... fantastic
[13:43] arabella Ella: ever a dull moment with professor herman ;)
[13:43] itsme Frederix: ever?
[13:43] Mickorod Renard: I get the idea that its about perception
[13:43] arabella Ella: never ... sorry
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: either is true
[13:44] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:44] Herman Bergson: Yes Mickorod...Austin pointed at the performative function of language...a new insight in the philosophical debate of those days
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: perception
[13:44] itsme Frederix: sorry I should have add the never myself ofcourse - I just learned
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: thes unverifiable sentences apper to be the gravy where empical statements are the steak
[13:44] Herman Bergson: never ever a dull moment..:-)
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: yummy
[13:44] arabella Ella: LOL
[13:45] Herman Bergson: Nice metaphore Aristotle..:-) Juicy
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:45] Ze Novikov: tasty
[13:45] arabella Ella: dont make us hungry Ari it is dinner time here
[13:45] Osrum Sands: well done ... there Aris
[13:45] Herman Bergson: But in a way you are right Aristototle...
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Today we find it normal to talk about communication theory and the layered functions of utterances
[13:46] Andret Beck: hi prof
[13:46] Andret Beck: hi guys
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Hi Andret..:-)
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: hey Andret
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:46] Ze Novikov: smiles
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: Hi Andret
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Welcome Rodney.!!
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[13:47] arabella Ella: Austin's ideas had great influence on a number of philosophers like Goldman and Davidson who moved on to theory of action ... will we do them too herman in the next 100?
[13:47] itsme Frederix: seems arabella goes for 10000
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: Mr. Handrick
[13:47] Alarice Beaumont smiling
[13:47] Rodney Handrick: Hi Ari
[13:47] arabella Ella: yea itsme ... or more possibly
[13:47] Mickorod Renard: Hi Rod
[13:47] Herman Bergson: Well Arabella..I still have to do some research on my new list..:-)
[13:47] Rodney Handrick: Hi Mick
[13:48] itsme Frederix: wel we got persons
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:48] arabella Ella: ok herman that is understandable
[13:48] arabella Ella: and we really appreciate all your efforts
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: we well be in sl as philosophy students forever at this rrate
[13:48] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:48] Herman Bergson: thank you.. ^_^
[13:48] arabella Ella: and why not
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: :-0
[13:48] itsme Frederix: the nice thing here is that there is some clue between all those guys, the clue is the Herman perception
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: exactly
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: until we expire
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:49] Mickorod Renard: yea,,thank you Herman
[13:49] Herman Bergson: True Gemma...that will be your fate
[13:49] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: purgatory
[13:49] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: or heaven???
[13:49] Herman Bergson: take it with a smile ^_^
[13:49] arabella Ella: paradise may sound nicer
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: well at least not hell
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: I live in paradise
[13:50] itsme Frederix: not paradise, there was no distinction/awareness then
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: maybe we could do Dante
[13:50] Herman Bergson: And indeed is my perception , but you are free to contribute of course
[13:50] arabella Ella: Dante would be interesting
[13:50] itsme Frederix: well we all do, dont we
[13:50] arabella Ella: and more females Herman if poss pls
[13:50] Herman Bergson: Very true, Itsme
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: yeaaa,,let have more females
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[13:51] Ze Novikov: xxxxs Mick
[13:51] arabella Ella: ehrm ... Mick ...
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: calm down Mick
[13:51] itsme Frederix: female students?
[13:51] Mickorod Renard: xx
[13:51] Herman Bergson: I have a series on 25 female philosophers in store
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: save those x's
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: wow
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: but the men still are in the majority!
[13:51] Mickorod Renard: u have a big store
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: Heram that will be marvelous
[13:51] arabella Ella: fantastic news herman
[13:52] Herman Bergson: before I begin the series of those who were forgotten in our 100 I would like to do this Female Series first
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: great!
[13:52] itsme Frederix: Nussbaum?
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: cool
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ah that wil be nice
[13:52] Laila Schuman: :-)
[13:52] arabella Ella: arendt?
[13:52] Ze Novikov: yes!!
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: i missed one of the 2 this session
[13:52] arabella Ella: Anscombe?
[13:52] Mickorod Renard: Nussbaum? what does that mean?
[13:53] itsme Frederix: emotion Mick
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Ok....After we end with Quine, I'll start my series on 25 female philosophers
[13:53] arabella Ella: u should recognize the females u will get mick ;)
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: ta
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: i already register for the next course!
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: how come?
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Thank you for all your contributions and smiles today..^_^
[13:54] Alarice Beaumont: xxx
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Herman
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: xxx
[13:54] Ze Novikov: xxx
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: xxx
[13:54] arabella Ella: x x x
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: thank you herman :)
[13:54] Osrum Sands: Cheers and CU all later :)
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: xxx

[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: .,¡i|¹i¡¡i¹|i¡,.
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: `'¹li¡|¡|¡il¹'` ¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨MWAH!!!!

[13:54] herman Bergson blushed deep purple
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: bye os
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: thanks herman
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: back thursday
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Next philosopher will be Ryle
[13:54] Wisdom Streeter: thanks herman
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: who just blew a kiss
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: me
[13:54] Menard Wemyss: thank you herman
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: HA HA HA HA HA
[13:54] Alarice Beaumont: oh... i have to apologize.. don't think i will make it on thrusday!
[13:55] Wisdom Streeter: see you next time
[13:55] arabella Ella: hey rodney we are all feeling romantic today
[13:55] Rodney Handrick: HA HA HA HA HA
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: long story rodney
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Thank you for your was great again and a great pleasure too today ^_^
[13:55] arabella Ella: thanks to Mick

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-09-24 15:58:51

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