Amphithéâtre Maurice Halbwachs, Site Marcelin Berthelot
En libre accès, dans la limite des places disponibles


Many philosophers of language think that in using a declarative sentence "p" with its meaning in a language, one thereby performs the meaning-generated speech act of saying that p. The same goes for interrogative and imperative sentences and the acts of asking questions and telling someone to do something. Austin called such meaning-generated speech acts locutionary acts and distinguished them from the further, illocutionary acts that one performs in saying, asking, and telling-to: e. g. asserting vs. conjecturing, inquiring vs. examining, ordering vs. requesting vs. advising. The main idea is that saying something is one thing, what the real point of your saying it is, what you’re trying to communicate or do, goes well beyond it. 

However, there is a puzzle in the heart of theorizing about meaning-generated speech acts, consisting in the apparent inconsistency between two points of view. One point of view insists that sentences can generate such acts only if their meaning encodes force. But all force is illocutionary. Hence, sentence-meaning encodes illocutionary force and locutionary acts are very generic illocutionary acts (Alston, Searle, Garcia-Carpintero). The other point of view insists that non-serious uses of sentences can't lead to the performance of illocutionary acts (Davidson). Illocutionary force is always a matter of serious intentions. Hence, sentence meaning only encodes content.

In this talk I'm going to argue that we can reconcile the two points of view by distinguishing between locutionary and illocutionary force. I will defend a view on which sentence meaning encodes locutionary force which is what explains the difference between sentences vs. clauses and data about reports, something which the content-only view has trouble with. However, this view still agrees with Davidson that sentence meaning can’t encode illocutionary force which is always a matter of serious intentions.

Indrek Reiland

Indrek Reiland received his PhD from the University of Southern California. Since then he's worked at Rice University and University of Edinburgh and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Institut Jean Nicod and University of Barcelona. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Vienna. His research interests are in philosophy of language and mind, especially the nature of our linguistic and mental capacities, and how they’re related to each other. He's the author of papers published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Synthese, and Inquiry, among others.


Indrek Reiland

Université de Vienne