Speech and the social contract

Inquiry 28 (1-4):43 – 53 (1985)
Austin's ?doctrine of the infelicities?, whereby performative utterances are vulnerable to the risk of failure, has been criticized for treating such a possibility as contingent rather than as necessary (and hence revelatory of the essential nature of speech acts). This paper seeks to trace out what is at stake for one who maintains Austin's position. It examines Austin's curious hypothetical history of the development of speech acts, which is found to resemble forms of social?contract theory, and the problem with this hypothetical history is shown to be that it presupposes as original the very properties that it sets out to explain. The argument is then made that Austin's technicalization of the conditions and context of speech acts displaces our attention from the deeper issue that both speech?act and contract theory are versions of a concern with making social action transparent, and both raise the perennial (and insoluble) problem of trust in human affairs
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    Alan F. Blum (1974). Positive Thinking. Theory and Society 1 (3):245-269.
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