The Life and Works of John Langshaw Austin

The Life and Works of John Langshaw Austin

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

John Langshaw Austin was born in 1911 in Lancaster, England. His father was an architect. His family moved to Scotland in 1922.

He was educated at Shrewsbury School and Balliol College. He came to Oxford University in 1929 to study the classics. During this period, his interest in philosophy and especially Aristotle increased. He worked for MI6 during the Second World War and after the war began teaching moral philosophy at Oxford University. In the mid-1950s, he was a visiting professor at the Universities of Austin, Harvard and Berkeley. In 1955, his lectures at Harvard were published under the title How to Do Things With Words. During this period, he met and became friends with Noam Chomsky. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1956 to 1957. He died of lung cancer in 1960 at the age of 48.

Austin is known as a leading proponent of the concept of speech acts. Austin became known for his analysis of speech itself as a type of action. He argued that we should think of language not as a passive practice describing a given reality, but as a practice we use to influence and reveal realities. The concept of speech acts was later used and developed by other philosophers. In particular, the American philosopher John Searle developed a comprehensive theory based on speech acts. Due to his understanding of semantics based on analyzing the everyday use of words, he was among the founders of the philosophy based on everyday language, together with the late Wittgenstein and Gilbert Ryle. On the other hand, he refused to connect Wittgestein’s views with his own philosophy and claimed that his way of thinking developed under the influence of G.W.Moore’s philosophical views. Another important contribution of Austin to analytical philosophy is the translation of Gottlob Frege’s Grundlagen der Arithmetic into English in 1952 with the title Foundations of Arithmetic.

The British philosopher, who developed the word-action theory, was born in Lancester on March 26, 1911, and died on February 8, 1960 in Oxford.

He was born in Austin Lancester and studied academically at Balliol College, Oxford. From 1952 until his death, he attended ethics classes at Oxford University as a professor. He is one of the most notable morals professors at Oxford.

He served as professor of moral philosophy at Oxford University from 1952 to 1960. He specialized in Aristotelian ethics and Leibniz philosophy. He used a series of speech-act analysis techniques, which he called “linguistic phenomenology,” and thus laid the foundations of “speech-act theory”, which would be put into a more solid theoretical framework with the contributions of his successor, Searle. Austin argued that taking the utterances used in everyday language seriously would contribute to the solution of some traditional problems in philosophy, and with this argument, he followed the path opened by Wittgenstein during his time and became one of the pioneers of the movement that would later be known as the “philosophy of everyday language”. He made analyzes on the language of perception by adopting Wittgenstein’s thesis that language is our only perception door opening to the world. Austin’s understanding of language was evaluated as a “pragmatic” approach to the classification for proposed solutions to the problem of meaning. Except for the English translation of Frege’s Fundamentals of Arithmetic and a few articles he wrote, he did not publish any of his works in his lifetime. He died in 1960.

Posthumously published by his Oxford colleagues: Philosophical Papers (1961), Sens and Sensibilia (1962), How to do Things with Words (1962). (Altinors,2000).

Austin was more interested in ‘philosophy of language’ than in ‘morality’. Especially thanks to his work “How to Do Things with Words” in 1955 and his lecture notes published after his death, Austin has been accepted as the founder of “word-action theory”.

In his work “How to Do Things with Words”, Austin showed that the representative of verificationist thought and also to other philosophers: The thought of being content with the conditions of linguistic meaning and truth is a mistake. He stated that it should not be overlooked that an expression is also exhibited with an action. In his first theory he put forward, he stated that there is a difference between the concepts of ‘Performative’ (practitioner) and ‘Constative’ (constructor).

He stated that while performative statements can be called success or failure, constant statements can be evaluated as true or false. Later, Austin rejected this theory and suggested that every expression also has three dimensions.

Later, Austin rejected this theory and argued that every expression is simultaneous and 3-dimensional. These:

Locution: Expressions of grammatical words that belong to a dictionary. At this stage, the truth of the words can be measured. Edim Söz (Illocution): It talks about the duties and roles of expressions. For example, an apology