Esercizi Filosofici 10 (2) (2015)

On the one hand, Austin appreciates truth as the aim not only of science, but also of philosophy. On the other hand, truth in his works is demythized, contextualized, or even relativized. I analyze this ambivalence by considering some aspects of Austin’s thought which may appear close to pragmatism: his claims that the bearer of truth is assertion as a speech act, that speech acts are to be assessed as felicitous and infelicitous before being assessed as true or false, and that the truth/falsity judgment is concerned with assertions in their contexts, including the participants’ goals and knowledge. These claims are, however, argued for in full coherence with a corrispondentist conception of truth. At a closer examination, Austin’s conception of truth appears to be an independent, “heretic” development of that of Frege. In taking distance from Frege, albeit on a Fregean basis, Austin went some length in the direction in which pragmatists too had gone, without actually sharing any properly pragmatist assumption.
Keywords truth   J.L. Austin   pragmatism   assertion   context
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