Assertion: a (partly) social speech act

Journal of Pragmatics 181 (August 2021):17-28 (2021)
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In a series of articles (Pagin, 2004, 2009), Peter Pagin has argued that assertion is not a social speech act, introducing a method (which we baptize ‘the P-test’) designed to refute any account that defines assertion in terms of its social effects. This paper contends that Pagin's method fails to rebut the thesis that assertion is social. We show that the P-test is both unreliable (because it overgenerates counterexamples) and counterproductive (because it ultimately provides evidence in favor of some social accounts). Nonetheless, we contend that assertion is not fully social. We defend an intermediate view according to which assertion is only a partly social speech act: assertions both commit the speaker to a proposition (a social component) and present their propositional content as true (a non-social component). The upshot is that assertion is in some important respect social, although it cannot be defined solely in terms of its social effects.



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Author Profiles

Neri Marsili
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
Mitchell Green
University of Connecticut

Citations of this work

Speech acts.Mitchell S. Green - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Fictions That Don’t Tell the Truth.Neri Marsili - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
Fictions that Purport to Tell the Truth.Neri Marsili - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):509-531.

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How to do things with words.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press. Edited by Marina Sbisá & J. O. Urmson.
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Truth and objectivity.Crispin Wright - 1992 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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