Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy



First Advisor

Edward H. Pauley


This thesis aims at setting forth how J.L. Austin understood the use of the term 'statement.' Austin put forth a doctrine analyzing the different aspects of an utterance. One of these aspects is the type of utterance it is, e.g., a statement rather than a command. Austin called this aspect the illocutionary force of an utterance. The illocutionary force of an utterance is distinct from the meaning of the words used in making the utterance. On Austin's own admission, he neglected any discussion of the illocutionary force, or what I will call the claim-making force of statements. It is for this reason that the use of the term 'statement' in his philosophy needs to be examined.

In Chapter One, I want to present Austin's development of the illocutionary force thesis in How to Do Things with Words. In the first part of his book, Austin made a sharp distinction between statements and other types of utterances he called performatives, e.g., warning, commanding, judging and promising. The distinction was based on the fact that performatives, unlike statements, were not the kind of things which can be true or false. Performatives do not describe anything. Instead, they are the performing of acts in themselves. I will discuss in this chapter how Austin came to reject this distinction in favor of a distinction between the illocutionary force of an utterance and the other aspects of the utterance, i.e., its locutionary and prelocutionary aspects.

Chapter two presents criticisms of the notion of the illocutionary force of an utterance. These criticisms argue that the illocutionary force of an utterance is not distinct from the meaning of the sentence used in making the utterance. They conclude that by unpacking and examining the meaning of the expressions used we will know what illocutionary act has been performed.

Chapter three is a rebuttal to the arguments against Austin's notion of illocutionary force that were presented in the previous chapter. By presenting various arguments and examples, I want to show that the criticisms in Chapter two are mistaken. The conclusion reached claims that the meaning of the expressions used in the utterance will not exhaust the utterance's force. We can know one independently of the other. The point of these -two chapters is to offer a background for knowing and understanding the scope and importance of illocutionary force.

In chapter four, I begin to discuss the claim-making force of a statement. The chapter involves a discussion of the key terms involved in uttering something with a claim-making force. I also discuss facts and knowledge of the facts. This is to show what should be emphasized and what should not be emphasized in analyzing the claim-making force of a statement if problems are to be avoided. The discussion shows how our knowledge at the time of the utterance is important for knowing that an utterance has a claim-making force.

The last chapter begins by discussing some of the relevant elements that are needed in order for an utterance to have a claim-making force. I offer various examples as well, to aid in showing that things like the speaker's status, circumstances, knowledge, reasons and evidence play a role in determining whether an utterance has a claim-making force. To be stating, I must be making a claim about some actual or putative states of affairs based on information to which I have access. For the uttering of a sentence to be a happy act of stating, I must know certain things about certain states of affairs which I have been in a good position to know. This leads me and my audience to understand that my utterance is the making of a truth-claim.



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