The original definition of a technical term, the paper argues, should not be altered without a good reason. This notion is applied to the conception of illocutionary acts suggested by Alston, which markedly differs from the conception originally introduced by John L. Austin. Alston appears to agree with the argument; at least, he does attempt to justify his re-definition. The paper argues, however, that the reasons he gives fail.
Gricean communication is communication between utterers and their audiences, where the utterer means something and the audience understands what is meant. The weak transmission idea is that, whenever such communication takes place, there is something which is transmitted from utterer to audience; the strong transmission idea adds that what is transmitted is nothing else than what is communicated. We try to salvage these ideas from a seemingly forceful attack by Wayne Davis. Davis attaches too much significance to the surface structure (...) of sentences of the type ‘S communicates the belief (desire …) that p to A’ by assuming that the communicated entity is denoted by the grammatical object following ‘communicates’. On our proposal, what is communicated in all Gricean cases is a thought. And since S communicates the thought that p to A only if S means that p and A understands what S means, the thought that p will be transmitted from S to A. (shrink)
The idea motivating their account, Cappelen and Lepore (C&L) say in Insensitive Semantics (2005), is that semantic content is context invariant, and that all colleagues who take, or even consider, different accounts are just on the wrong track. It is the purpose of their book to disprove all alternative accounts by way of an argument ‘by elimination’. The conclusion they arrive at is that their own account must be accepted by everyone as the only game in town at the end (...) of the day . The present paper is intended to examine this conclusion; its more significant findings are these. Firstly, C&L’s account is not, as they suggest, strictly minimalist, but in fact just a moderate version of contextualism. Secondly, prematurely associating semantical incompleteness and context sensitivity, they overlook some possible alternatives to their own view, among them at least one that is attractive. Thirdly, their argument ‘by elimination’ has an inductive structure, but is inexhaustive, and therefore inconclusive. Fourthly, for several different reasons, their attempts to reject arguments in favour of semantical incompleteness do not work. Finally, their contention that arguments in favour of semantical incompleteness employ metaphysical premisses for semantical conclusions rests on a faulty interpretation of these arguments. In the light of these findings, it is concluded that the central argument of Insensitive Semantics fails. (shrink)
A scholarly confusion of tongues, or, is promising an illocutionary act? Technical terms, I argued elsewhere, should not be re-defined without a profound reason; for such a re-definition furthers misunderstanding and is therefore undesirable. If my argument is on the right track, then we have reason to acknowledge the original definition of ‘illocutionary acts’ established by John L. Austin; any subsequent re-definition, unless it is specially justified somehow, must count as a terminological mistake. I use this argument, in order to (...) proceed against what appears to me a highly problematic terminological situation, namely, the present existence of a double-digit number of different definitions of the term "illocutionary act." Against my argument, I met the objection that the co-existence of several different intensional definitions of ‘illocutionary acts’ eventually is not very problematic, given the alleged fact that the extension of the term is indisputable. In this paper, I argue that the objection fails, because its central premise is false: William P. Alston, Bach & Harnish and John R. Searle have very different opinions as to whether, for instance, promising is an illocutionary act, even though promises are commonly supposed to be extremely obvious cases. Additionally, I consider the objection that the term "illocutionary act" is indispensable as a means of referring to those various things it is used for; I discard this objection by demonstrating that, and how, at least the accounts under consideration in this paper could easily do without the term. (shrink)
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