Search - List of Books by J. L. Austin
"Infelicity is an ill to which all acts are heir which have the general character of ritual or ceremonial, all conventional acts." -- J. L. Austin
John Langshaw Austin (March 26, 1911 — February 8, 1960) was a British philosopher of language, born in Lancaster and educated at Shrewsbury School and Balliol College, Oxford University. Austin is widely associated with the concept of the speech act and the idea that speech is itself a form of action. Consequently, in his understanding language is not just a passive practice of describing a given reality, but a particular practice that can be used to invent and affect realities. His work in the 1950s provided both a theoretical outline and the terminology for the modern study of speech acts developed subsequently, for example, by John R. Searle, François Récanati, Kent Bach, Robert M. Harnish, and William P. Alston (the Oxford-educated American philosopher).
Total Books: 5
He occupies a place in philosophy of language alongside Wittgenstein and his fellow Oxonian Ryle in staunchly advocating the examination of the way words are ordinarily used in order to elucidate meaning, and avoid philosophical confusions. Unlike many ordinary language philosophers, however, Austin disavowed any overt indebtedness to Wittgenstein's later philosophy, calling Wittgenstein a "charlatan". His main influence, he said, was the exact and exacting common-sense philosophy of G. E. Moore. His training as a classicist and linguist influenced his later work.
Austin made another significant contribution to philosophy, as well, of a very different sort. In 1950, he published a translation of Gottlob Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic. Together with Peter Geach and Max Black's book Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege, published in 1952, Austin's translation was what made Frege's writings available to the English-speaking world and thus helped establish Frege's important place in analytic philosophy. The translation is still widely used today.