Taking a Stance: An Account for Persons and Institutions
Certain commissive speech acts, such as “I forgive you,” “I’m in favor,” “Thank you” and “Sorry,” are often characterized as “expressives,” utterances whose primary function is to express a psychological state (so thanks expresses gratitude, apologies express remorse, and so on). In contrast, I argue here that such utterances are stance-takings: speech acts that commit the speaker to behave towards others in light of a normative position she accepts. I argue that stance-taking, as developed here, makes better sense of these utterances than the standard expressivist account, in terms of their meaning and the norms (both linguistic and moral) that govern their use. It also better accounts for how non-personal institutions – corporations, countries and courts, for example – can perform these utterances sincerely.
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