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Episteme

Abstract

This article looks critically at Austinian speech act philosophy and applies Derrida’s critique to Searle’s account of promising. First, the author provides an overview of speech act philosophy, especially in connection to the notion of illocution. The author notes that for the Austinian, the gap between the intention and the expression is deemed unimportant. But isn’t Austinian speech act theory invested in a problematic idealization? Derrida holds that the Austinian account is misleading and ignores real difficulties. Searle’s notion of felicity neither approaches the reality that context itself is always partially open for (mis)interpretation, nor recognizes that speech acts often rest on iterable institutions that make it so that the speech act itself in no way tells us what the speaker actually intends. The author next exposes several problems with Searle’s account in Speech Acts. Also, can’t one promise without uttering “I promise”? In summary, following Derrida’s advice, we must “recognize the anomaly as a necessary possibility.”

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