Rule following and the background

Linguistics and Philosophy 28 (3):269 - 280 (2005)
Abstract
. In his work on language John Searle favors an Austinian approach that emphasizes the speech act as the basic unit of meaning and communication, and which sees speaking a language as engaging in a rule-governed form of behavior. He couples this with a strident opposition to cognitivist approaches that posit unconscious rule following as the causal basis of linguistic competence. In place of unconscious rule following Searle posits what he calls the Background, comprised of nonintentional (nonrepresentational) mental phenomena. I argue that these two aspects of his philosophy of language cannot be reconciled. In order to preserve his view of language as a rule-governed activity, he must embrace the cognitivist idea of unconscious rule following. Finally, I try to show how such an accommodation would be far less traumatic to Searle’s philosophical system than it might otherwise seem.
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