Wittgenstein’s influence on Austin’s philosophy of language

Authors
Elmar Unnsteinsson
University College Dublin
Daniel W. Harris
Hunter College (CUNY)
Abstract
Many philosophers have assumed, without argument, that Wittgenstein influenced Austin. More often, however, this is vehemently denied, especially by those who knew Austin personally. We compile and assess the currently available evidence for Wittgenstein’s influence on Austin’s philosophy of language. Surprisingly, this has not been done before in any detail. On the basis of both textual and circumstantial evidence we show that Austin’s work demonstrates substantial engagement with Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. In particular, Austin’s 1940 paper, ‘The Meaning of a Word’, should be construed as a direct response to and development of ideas he encountered in Wittgenstein’s Blue Book. Moreover, we argue that Austin’s mature speech-act theory in How to Do Things with Words was also significantly influenced by Wittgenstein.
Keywords Wittgenstein  Austin  Philosophy of language
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Reprint years 2017, 2018
DOI 10.1080/09608788.2017.1396958
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