Performatives

Performatives
Banno
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 6:26 PM:
Subject: Performatives
This thread might be considered as another step after Being and Propositional Attitudes

In Being I reviewed First Order Predicate Calculus, and followed that with a discussion of how it might be applied to indirect speech in Propositional Attitudes. The next obvious step is to see how this approach might be used to move beyond statements by giving an account of other performative utterances.

I plan to look at two ways of dealing with performatives, one form Austin and Searle and the other following Davidson.

But first a few notes about what performatives are. The notion comes from Austin, who noticed that while logic makes it's world out of statements, these form only a part of the sorts of sentences that constitute a natural language. As well as making statements, we ask questions, issue commands, Pledge allegiances, make promises, and so on.

Any analysis of language ought be able to make sense of such sentences.






Edited by Banno on Jan 25, 2013 - 10:11 PM. Reason: [
On Jan 25, 2013 - 6:31 PM, Csalisbury responded: This one oughta be a bit more fun than the last. Might have something more substantial to offer this round.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 7:11 PM:

Maybe, C., but Davidson's approach here is very similar to his approach to propositional attitudes.

Austin analysed performatives in detail; probably far more detail that strictly needed. It might suffice to say that he discusses three levels associated with the utterance: the sounds produced; the truth functional content and the mode; and the result achieved. He uses the terms locution, illocution and perlocution for each, respectively.

We will in the main be interested in the illocution; the propositional content and the mode in which it is uttered.

Consider "John shut the door". The propositional content might be represented by Shut(John, the door); the mode is that of a statement.

Consider "John, please shut the door!". The propositional content remains unaltered, but the mode has become that of an request or command.

Consider "Did John shut the door". The propositional content remains unchanged, but now the mode is that of a question.

Follow?
On Jan 25, 2013 - 7:51 PM, Csalisbury responded: Yep, have a rough understanding of Austin's idea of illocution.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 7:52 PM:

One curiosity here is that each of the utterances in #2 are said to have the same propositional content. This diverges from accounts in which only statements are said to have propositional content.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 8:17 PM:

Banno wrote:
One curiosity here is that each of the utterances in #2 are said to have the same propositional content. This diverges from accounts in which only statements are said to have propositional content.

Well, all utterances about the world, assuming they are not simply empty words referring to nothing, are in someway parasitic on the propositional.

If I shout "Help me," while I do not state anything propositional, there must be true proposition present for me to exist, you to exist and the situation I am in trouble to exist. This is what is what is going on in the example of 2#.


"John, please shut the door!" requires the idea John, the idea of a door, the idea that John can shut the door and, I would argue, the idea John ought to shut the door. A speaker who is asking the question or giving the demand and the language which contains the words "John, please shut the door!" are also needed. There are a whole lot of propositions which are required for statement to make sense.

"Did John shut the door?" requires, the idea John, the idea of a door, the the idea that John could have shut the door and, I would argue, the idea that whether or not John shut the door ought to be discovered. Again, many required proportions for the utterance to make sense.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 8:42 PM:

Seems true as far as it goes. Of course there's always a supplementary dimension. With any utterance that has some illocutionary function, there's an implicit recognition (or rejection) of the social relationships between those present. Who can ask/command/suggest what? So, in making such an utterance we either uphold the current state of social relations or challenge them.

Dad saying to son "go to your room!" means something entirely different than son saying to Dad "go to your room!"

Might be extraneous to what you want to explore. But it seems important. Maybe this sort of thing can be folded back into Austin's account (I only know the bare basics)...but it seems to exceed propositional content (while nonetheless relying on it.)

Edited by Csalisbury on Jan 25, 2013 - 9:34 PM
On Jan 25, 2013 - 9:40 PM, Csalisbury responded: Though I suppose this is meant to be covered by perlocution. Then, though, it seems perlocution complicates propositional content in a way illocution doesn't.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 9:55 PM:

Great idea for a thread.

It's probably important to mention at the outset that Austin considered perfomatives to be evaluable not as true or false, but as what he calls felicitous or infelicitous. So, if we stand alone in an empty room and say "John, shut the door", that would be an infelicitous use of the performative. Though there's nothing constated in the utterance which could be considered true or false, context is key.

And I just wonder how Csal's example would fit in here. To back up a bit, there are implicit and explicit performatives, right? An explicit performative would be something like "I hereby pronounce you man and wife", the words not only describe but constitute the action, provided the context is appropriate (as opposed to "John, shut the door" where the action is not constituted but ordered in the speech act). If we see two strangers standing near a street corner and approach them and say "I hereby pronounce you man and wife", nothing happens, the performative fails. We're not involved in the right social context to make it work.

So, in Csal's example, something similar seems to be going on even though it's an implicit and not an explicit performative, an order, and it doesn't seem to be infelicitous in the sense that there is someone there to be ordered. What's wrong with it seems to be a problem with the social context that seems similar to the type of problem that would cause the failure of an explicit performative.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 10:32 PM:

baden511 wrote:

So, in Csal's example, something similar seems to be going on even though it's an implicit and not an explicit performative, an order, and it doesn't seem to be infelicitous in the sense that there is someone there to be ordered. What's wrong with it seems to be a problem with the social context that seems similar to the type of problem that would cause the failure of an explicit performative.


Most of the time when son tells Dad to go to his room, he's not actually trying to get him to do that. He's making it known, by a kind of parody, that he doesn't respect Dad's authority. 'What are you gonna do about it?' So Dad's not going to his room doesn't quite mean that the performative failed. It seems more a matter of perlocution (and perlocution - and its implications - seems so much more interesting/significant than illocution.)
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 11:37 PM:

Csalisbury wrote:


Most of the time when son tells Dad to go to his room, he's not actually trying to get him to do that. He's making it known, by a kind of parody, that he doesn't respect Dad's authority. 'What are you gonna do about it?' So Dad's not going to his room doesn't quite mean that the performative failed. It seems more a matter of perlocution (and perlocution - and its implications - seems so much more interesting/significant than illocution.)


Yeah, I agree it didn't fail because it wasn't infelicitous. There was someone there to whom the order could be addressed. And to succeed in making an order doesn't require it be carried out if it's made in the implicit sense anyway (it being carried out being part of the perlocutionary act, I agree). Only an order in the explicit sense (when it's a constitutive speech act) fails as an illocutionary act due to the context of the social position of the speaker, if I've got it straight, as in only the president can issue an Executive Order etc. Social support/agreement is required.
On Jan 25, 2013 - 11:41 PM, Csalisbury responded: ah, alright. Looks like we're on the same page.
On Jan 26, 2013 - 1:12 PM, Banno responded: Yep, Baden11.
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Posted Jan 25, 2013 - 11:46 PM:

Banno wrote:
One curiosity here is that each of the utterances in #2 are said to have the same propositional content. This diverges from accounts in which only statements are said to have propositional content.


Isn't that the way Searle analysed it, rather than Austin, as in propositional content vs. illocutionary force?

----------------

Edit: Nevermind, I checked this out myself. I see later Austin described things along these lines.

Edited by baden511 on Jan 26, 2013 - 4:55 AM
On Jan 26, 2013 - 1:12 PM, Banno responded: Searle is of course Austin's student. Much in common.
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Posted Jan 26, 2013 - 5:17 AM:

TheWillowOfDarkness wrote:

Well, all utterances about the world, assuming they are not simply empty words referring to nothing, are in someway parasitic on the propositional.


"John, please shut the door!" requires the idea John, the idea of a door, the idea that John can shut the door


The propositional content here is that "the door is shut by John", and the illocutionary force is in the form of a request for the propositional content to be made true.

TheWillowOfDarkness wrote:
and, I would argue, the idea John ought to shut the door.


I understand that as being not propositional but illocutionary. The propositional content remains the same "the door is shut by John" but now the illocutionary force takes the form of the placing of an obligation on the subject to make the propositional content true (although there may be a better way to describe it than that).

TheWillowOfDarkness wrote:

A speaker who is asking the question or giving the demand and the language which contains the words "John, please shut the door!" are also needed. There are a whole lot of propositions which are required for statement to make sense.


Maybe you are coming at this from the Russellian point of view, i.e. in order to assert x is anything, we presuppose there is an x such that x is ....and so on.

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