Philosophical Speech Acts

Philosophy 95 (4):497-521 (2020)
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The prevailing view among contemporary analytic philosophers seems to be that, as philosophers, we primarily issue assertions. Following certain suggestions from the work of Rudolf Carnap and Sally Haslanger, I argue that the non-assertoric speech act of stipulation plays a key role in philosophical inquiry. I give a detailed account of the pragmatic structure of stipulations and argue that they are best analyzed as generating a shared inferential entitlement for speaker and audience, a license to censure those who give uptake to the stipulation but do not abide by this entitlement, and as justified on the basis of the speaker and audience's shared ends. In presenting this account, I develop a novel taxonomy for making sense of criticisms of speech act performances generally and clarify the notions of successful speech act performance and uptake. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of this view of stipulation for recasting and advancing philosophical disputes, I apply my account to two case studies – the first concerns Iris Marion Young's analysis of the concept of oppression and the second involves Saul Kripke's and Hilary Putnam's accounts of the concept of reference.

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Matthew Shields
Wake Forest University


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