The Debate in the Philosophy of Language

  • Daniel González Lagier
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 67)


In an essay published some years ago, Eduardo Bustos wrote that „these are good times for pragmatics, as a theory about actions people perform through language, as well as for those who study pragmatics“. He goes on to explain that pragmatics has undergone a drastic change of reputation, from being considered the ‘garbage can’ or ‘wastebasket’ for phenomena that could not easily be accomodated in other branches of linguistics, to a respectable discipline practiced by scholars who are organized in associations and publish their own solid periodicals.2


Language Game Constitutive Rule Chapter Versus Illocutionary Force Pragmatic Conception 
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  1. 1.
    Some writers distinguish between ‘philosophy of language’ and ‘linguistic philosophy’. According to John Searle, for instance, the former is the study of certain general features of language whereas the latter is a method for the solution of philosophical problems concerning the study of ordinary language. Cf. Searle 1969, p. 4. Here, we will be dealing with the philosophy of language in Searle’s sense.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bustos 1997, p. 264.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid. p. 265.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid. p. 294.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Searle 1969, p. 17.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bustos 1997, p. 267.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    In this section, I rely heavily on Hierro S. Pescador 1982, esp. the section on ‘Meaning and use in the second Wittgenstein’.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Wittgenstein 1958, § 23.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid. § 43.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cf. Hierro S. Pescador 1982, p. 117.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cf. below, in this subsection.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Grice 1989b, p. 217.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ibid. p. 219.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Grice 1989a, p. 92. Later, Grice increases the complexity of that definition in response to objections by his critics, but we do not need to go into the details here.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    The distinction between utterance-type and utterance-token is equivalent, on the level of language, to the distinction presented in Chapter I, sect. 1, between generic action (act-type) and individual action (act-token).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hierro S. Pescador 1982, p. 182 (emphasis added).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Here is another example that illustrates the notion of procedure: „Two drivers meet at an intersection, and one of them asks the other what route he must take to get to a certain place. Now, the other one waves his left arm out of the window of his car in a certain way in order to tell him to follow him. Obviously, in such a case we can say that the gesture means what in words we would express as ‘Follow me!’. The driver who was asked has a procedure by which to tell the other party to follow him: the procedure is to put his left arm through the window and wave it in a certain manner“. Acero/Bustos/Quesada 1982, p. 178.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hierro S. Pescador 1982, p. 183; cf. also Grice 1971, 62.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Searle 1969; Hierro S. Pescador 1982, pp. 184 ff.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Grice 1989a, p. 92.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Searle 1969, p. 44; 1971, pp. 45 f.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Searle 1969, p. 45.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Valdés Villanueva 1978, p. 191.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    According to Valdés Villanueva, there are three kinds of determinants of meaning: rules and conventions, intentions, and context.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    As we have seen, when Wittgenstein initiated the turn towards pragmatics, he himself had emphasized the importance of rules for the determination of the correctness or incorrectness of our use of language.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Austin introduces the expression ‘constative’, which is a neologism in English, in order to avoid calling them ‘descriptive’, since „Not all true or false statements are descriptions“; Austin 1976, p. 3.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Austin 1979b.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Austin 1976, 133; emphasis added.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid. pp. 14 f.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ibid. p. 16.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ibid. pp. 133 ff.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Austin 1979c, p. 251.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Austin 1976, p. 109.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Austin (ibid. p. 107) says this only in passing: „the illocutionary act and even the locutionary act too involve conventions“; but it is an important point because it implies that there are two kinds of conventions related to meaning: those linked to meaning as sense and reference, and those linked to illocutionary force.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Austin 1976, p. 98.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ibid. p. 117. This statement, however, contradicts Austin’s previous assertion that a locutionary act by itself brings about an illocutionary act. This obscurity in Austin raises the question whether when the illocutionary force of an utterance is not understood, this is a failure on the locutionary or on the illocutionary level. For a discussion of this problem, cf. Valdés Villanueva 1978.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Austin 1976, 117.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ibid. pp. 117 f.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ibid. p. 101.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Ibid. p. 122.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ibid. p. 119.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Ibid. p. 118.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
  44. 44.
    Ibid. p. 106.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ibid. p. 147.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Cf. Hierro S. Pescador 1982, p. 156.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Austin 1976, p. 151.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Ibid. p. 152.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
  50. 50.
    Cf. below, sect. 5.3.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    There is a certain, rather disturbing, ambiguity in the term ‘speech act’, because sometimes it is used to refer to any kind of linguistic act considered as a whole, and sometimes it is used to refer to each one of the aspects of a speech act as such (thus, sometimes it is said that the locutionary act, the illocutionary act and the perlocutionary act are three kinds of speech acts), and still other times it is used to refer exclusively to illocutionary acts.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Searle 1969, pp. 18 f.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Ibid. pp. 17 f.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Ibid. pp. 22 ff.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Ibid. pp. 23 ff. Once perlocutionary acts have been distinguished, they are usually considered not to be of interest for a theory of language.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Ibid. pp. 39 f.; emphasis added.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ibid. p. 40.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    That same distinction can be found in other writers, such as von Wright, Alf Ross, etc. It has been extensively discussed in recent legal philosophy. For a comparison of Searle’s constitutive rules and von Wright’s defining rules as well as for some problems with this distinction, cf, e. g., González Lagier 1993, p. 269.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Searle 1969, pp. 33 f.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    The assertion that constitutive rules create new ways of conduct can be comprehended better if one remembers the distinction between bodily movements and interpretations of bodily movements. What constitutive rules ‘create’ is the possibility of new interpretations of bodily movements. „It is possible that twenty-two men might go through the same physical movements as are gone through by two teams at a football game, but if there were no rules of football, that is, no antecedently existing game of football, there is no sense in which their behavior could be described as playing football“ (Searle 1969, pp. 35 f.).Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Ibid. ch. 2.7.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Ibid. p. 34.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Ibid. p. 41.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Ibid. p. 42.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Ibid. p. 55.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Acero/Bustos/Quesada 1982, p. 214.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Searle 1969, pp. 57 ff.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Searle 1979a, pp. 11 f.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    The other criteria are: differences in the force or intensity with which the illocutionary object is presented; differences in the status or position of speaker and hearer insofar as that affects the illocutionary force of the utterance; differences in the way how the utterance is related to the speaker’s and the hearer’s interests; differences in how it is related to the rest of the discourse; differences in propositional content that are determined by the determinants indicating the illocutionary force; differences between acts that must always be speech acts and acts that may, but need not be performed as speech acts; differences between acts that require extra-linguistic institutions for their performance and those that do not; differences between acts where the corresponding illocutionary verb has a performative use and those where this is not the case; and differences in the style in which the illocutionary act is performed; cf. Searle 1979a, pp. 12 ff.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Hierro. S. Pescador 1982, p. 164.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Searle 1979a, p. 3.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Ibid. pp. 3 f.; cf. Anscombe 1963, p. 56.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Searle 1979a, pp. 15 f.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Ibid. p. 19.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Ibid. pp. 16 ff.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Searle performs this turn towards the theory of mind in his book Intentionality (1983).Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Searle 1983, pp. 165 f. In works published after Speech Acts (1969), Searle proposes to replace that ‘communication intention’ by a‘representation intention’ as the key notion for understanding the meaning of an utterance. That ‘representation intention’ is prior to the communication intention and consists of the speaker’s intention to make his utterance express or represent a certain mental state (belief, desire, etc.) and certain conditions that are necessary for the success of the illocutionary act. Thus, a description represents a belief and a situation of the world with which the utterance stands in a words-to-world direction of fit; an order represents a desire and a situation of the world with which the utterance stands in a world-to-words direction of fit, etc. (ibid., pp. 163 ff.). With this strategy, Searle wants to explain how it is possible that we sometimes make fully meaningful utterances without wonying about the reactions of the audience (nor about whether there is an audience at all), as when we simply ‘think aloud’.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    This is clearer in Searle’s theory than in Austin’s who seems to suggest the possibility of non-intentional illocutionary acts. Cf. Austin 1976, p. 106.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Cf. above, sect. 4.2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel González Lagier
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AlicanteAlicanteSpain

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