, Volume 153, Issue 2, pp 213-234

Straight talk: conceptions of sincerity in speech

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What is it for a speech act to be sincere? The most common answer amongst philosophers is that a speech act is sincere if and only if the speaker is in the state of mind that the speech act functions to express. However, a number of philosophers have advanced counterexamples purporting to demonstrate that having the expressed state of mind is neither necessary nor sufficient for speaking sincerely. One may nevertheless doubt whether these considerations refute the orthodox conception. Instead, it may be argued, they expose other ways of elucidating sincerity in speech. “Sincerity in speech” is ambivalent between a number of different conceptions. Against this background this paper presents two alternative conceptions, viz., Sincerity as Spontaneity and Sincerity as Presenting Oneself as one takes Oneself to be and develops a third conception which we may call Sincerity as a Communicative Virtue. This conception emphasizes the speaker’s intention in communicating her attitudes and the need to be properly justified in saying what one does.