Erkenntnis

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 115–129 | Cite as

Misleading Appearances: Searle on Assertion and Meaning

Original Research

Abstract

John Searle’s philosophy of language contains a notorious tension between a literalist view on the relationship between sentences and their meanings, and what—at the first glance—appears to be a virulent defence of contextualism. Appearances notwithstanding, Searle’s views on background and meaning are closer to literalism than to contextualism. Searle defines assertion in terms of the commitment to the truth of the propositional content. In absence of an independent criterion to delimit the asserted content, such a definition overgenerates—hence Searle’s commitment to literalism. His position is untenable—and this is the general lesson of the paper—, because sentence meaning cannot be used to determine the asserted content.

References

  1. Alston, W. P. (2000). Illocutionary acts and sentence meaning. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Cappelen, H., & Lepore, E. (2005). Insensitive semantics. A defense of semantic minimalism and speech act pluralism. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Carston, R. (1988). Implicature, explicature and truth-theoretic semantics. In R. M. Kempson (Ed.), Mental representations. The interface between language and reality (pp. 155–181). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Carston, R. (2002). Thoughts and utterances. The pragmatics of explicit communication. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cruse, D. A. (1986). Lexical semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Kissine, M. (2007). The fallacy of semantic minimalism. Facta Philosophica, 19, 23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kissine, M. (forthcoming) From contexts to circumstances of evaluation: is the trade-off always innocous? Synthese. doi:10.1007/s11229-010-9727-1.
  8. Recanati, F. (1987). Meaning and force. The pragmatics of performative utterances. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Recanati, F. (1994). Contextualism and anti-contextualism in the philosophy of language. In S. Tsohatzidis (Ed.), Foundations of speech act theory. Philosophical and linguistic perspectives (pp. 156–166). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Recanati, F. (2001). Déstabliser le sens. Revue internationale de philosophie, 216(2), 197–208.Google Scholar
  11. Recanati, F. (2003). The limits of expressibility. In B. Smith (Ed.), John Searle (pp. 189–213). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Recanati, F. (2004). Literal meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts. An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Searle, J. R. (1978). Literal meaning. Erkenntnis, 13, 207–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Searle, J. R. (1980). The background of meaning. In J. R. Searle, F. Kiefer, & M. Bierwisch (Eds.), Speech act theory and pragmatics (pp. 221–232). Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  16. Searle, J. R. (1983). Intentionality. An essay in philosophy of mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Searle, J. R. (1992). The rediscovery of the mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Searle, J. R. (2001). Unstable meanings, stable communication. Reply to Recanati. Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 2, 284–286.Google Scholar
  19. Searle, J. R. (2007). What is language: Some preliminary remarks. In I. Kecskes & L. R. Horn (Eds.), Explorations in Pragmatics. Linguistic, cognitive and intercultural aspects (pp. 7–37). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  20. Searle, J. R., & Vanderveken, D. (1985). Foundations of illocutionary logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Soames, S. (2002). Beyond rigidity. The unfinished semantic agenda of ‘Naming and Necessity’. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance. Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  23. Stainton, R. J. (1998). Quantifier phrases, meaningfulness “in isolation”, and ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy, 21(3), 311–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stainton, R. J. (2005). In defense of non-sential assertion. In Z. G. Szabó (Ed.), Semantics versus Pragmatics (pp. 383–457). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stanley, J. (2005). “Review of “Literal Meaning”, François Recanati.” Notre-Dame Philosophical Reviews (ndpr.nd.edu).Google Scholar
  26. Vanderveken, D. (2005). Success, satisfaction and truth in speech acts and formal semantics. In S. Davis & B. S. Gillon (Eds.), Semantics. A reader (pp. 710–734). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Wittgenstein, L. (1989). On certainty. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.F.R.S.-FNRS, Laboratoire de linguistique textuelle et de pragmatique cognitiveUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrxuellesBelgium

Personalised recommendations