Elements of Speech Act Theory in the Work of Thomas Reid

History of Philosophy Quarterly 7 (1):47 - 66 (1990)
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Abstract

Historical research has recently made it clear that, prior to Austin and Searle, the phenomenologist Adolf Reinach (1884-1917) developed a full-fledged theory of speech acts under the heading of what he called "social acts". He we consider a second instance of a speech act theory avant la lettre, which is to be found in the common sense philosophy of Thomas Reid (1710-1796). Reid’s s work, in contrast to that of Reinach, lacks both a unified approach and the detailed analyses of pertinent examples. But his writings leave no doubt that he is acutely aware of the very problems concerning language structure and use out of which contemporary speech act theory has evolved and that he goes a good way towards solving these problems in the spirit of the modern theory.

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo

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