The book presents a theory of illocutionary acts. It argues that the study of speech acts initiatied by Austin complements the truth theoretic approach to speaker meaning. It is shown that there are aspects of speaker meaning which cannot be explained by truth theoretic approaches. Though the nature of a speech act is partially determined by the semantic type of the the sentence uttered the speaker's intention and context of utterance are important also.
In ‘A Plea For Excuses’ Austin observes that there are many situations in which a person accused of doing an action A wishes to protest that it is not altogether accurate or fair to say that he did A. The person may wish to excuse himself from an accusation of doing A on the grounds that what happened was inadvertent, or the result of an accident, or done by mistake etc. etc. Moreover if he really has an excuse, then it (...) will no longer be possible simply to say that he did A, because it will be seen that either it is not true that he did anything at all, or that whatever he did it was not A but something else, or that he did A in such a manner that simply to say that he did it would be misleading in the extreme. (shrink)
Bradley thought that there is a connexion between the theory of reality and the theory of truth. The theory of reality to which he subscribed, Monism, rules out a correspondence theory of truth, he thought, since it denies the existence of a plurality of facts, or things, in virtue of correspondence to which a judgment could be true. But though he rejects the correspondence theory he insists on the independence of truth from belief, wish and hope. For him the test (...) of truth is coherence, which has two aspects, system and comprehensiveness. However, he does not think that this test yields ?absolute? truth. This, he maintains, for at least three different reasons, is unobtainable. Judgments can only be partially true. However, since there are degrees of truth, some judgments are closer to the truth than others, even though none are, or could be, unconditionally true. (shrink)
It is common in the history of science to try to extend an idea first demonstrated in one domain into others. Sometimes the extension is literal, and sometimes it is frankly metaphorical. Sometimes, however, when an extension is claimed to be literal, it is far from easy to see that it is. If an extension does not make use of entities and mechanisms involved in the original domain, and introduces novel entities and mechanisms, then it is not unreasonable to doubt (...) the claim of its authors that it is a literal extension of a well-established theory. IT is, therefore, not surprising that many who accept that the cultural transmission of information is unique to out species nevertheless balk at Dawkins's and Dennett's contention that there are units of cultural evolution, called 'memes', which can be used to explain the development and diversity of human culture, and whose survival is explicable in terms of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Our aim in this paper is to argue that scepticism about Dawkins's and Dennett's proposal is indeed justified; though it of course does not follow that there is not another way of explaining human culture in evolutionary terms. (shrink)
It has been proposed by Dawkins, Dennett and others that memes are the units of cultural evolution. We here concentrate on Dennett's account because of the role it plays in his explanation of human consciousness - which is our principal target. Memes are claimed to be replicators that work on Darwinian principles. But in what sense are they replicators, and in what way are they responsible for their own propagation? We argue that their ability to replicate themselves is severely limited, (...) particularly in the case of language-borne memes. We contend, too, that the theory has unacceptable consequences for the role of design in accounting for cultural change, unless we seriously want to entertain the thought that design has as little relevance to cultural evolution as it does to the evolution of species. Finally, we argue that the account fails to do justice to the complexities of social practices. (shrink)
Bradley’s first work, The Presuppositions of Critical History, was published in 1874 when he was 28, and was followed shortly by the publication of Ethical Studies ‘in 1876. T.S. Eliot, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Bradley and was a great admirer of not only his philosophy but also his prose, described the British philosopher as a ‘master of style’; but that of The Presuppositions often seems over embellished, even a little pretentious. Moreover, though the argument is dense it is (...) compressed into only forty five pages; and it has to be said that the text is not easy to follow, in part because it is dense, in part because of the style, and in part because it is not immediately apparent how to reconcile its two principal theses. The first of these maintains that historical testimony has to be evaluated from the standpoint of one’s personal scientific beliefs and judgments, so that if what is attested to conflicts with the latter, it cannot be accepted. The second thesis maintains that natural science and history are distinct, thereby denying the positivistic conception of history which is, at first sight anyway, implied by the first thesis. (shrink)
The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure has exerted a profound influence not only on twentieth century linguistics but on a whole range of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. His central thesis was that the primary object in studying a language is the state of that language at a particular time – a so-called synchronic study. He went on to claim that a language state is a socially constituted system of signs that are quite arbitrary and that can only (...) be defined in terms of their relationship within the system. This new perspective has changed the way people think about linguistics and has led to important attempts to apply structuralist ideas in anthropology, literary criticism, and philosophy. Professor Holdcroft's book expounds and elaborates Saussure's central ideas. It also offers a critical assessment of them, arguing that many of Saussure's claims are either questionable or have been misunderstood. (shrink)