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An Unfinished Revolution: A Historically Informed Picture of J.L. Austin’s Philosophy
thesisposted on 2021-08-01, 00:00 authored by Alessandro Ramon Moscaritolo
J.L. Austin was the de facto leader of so-called ordinary language philosophy, the very heterogeneous philosophical movement that came into prominence at Oxford after the Second World War. But after his premature death in 1960, mainstream Anglo-American philosophy quickly came to view Austin’s work as obsolete. My dissertation challenges this view; it does so by reading Austin’s works against the historical context that accords them their true significance. In chapter II, I argue that Austin’s philosophy is part of a subversive movement founded by John Cook Wilson, a now-forgotten late-19th century anti-idealist revolutionary. This proposal challenges the widespread prejudice that Austin’s philosophy is an offshoot of Wittgenstein’s. I build on these results to engage in a historically informed reading of Austin’s ideas on knowledge and language. In chapter III, I put forth an alternative reading of “Other Minds,” Austin’s only essay in general epistemology. I argue that this essay has been systematically misunderstood because key components of Austin’s philosophical method and vision have been misunderstood. In chapter IV, I examine Austin’s works on language as a topic of interest in its own right, with a special emphasis on How to Do Things with Words. After showing that this work is in fact an elaboration of ideas Austin took up from Cook Wilson and H.A. Prichard (Austin’s teacher), I argue against the re-interpretation of Austin’s views on language put forth by Grice, Searle, and Derrida. Finally, I argue that in How to Do Things with Words, Austin gestures at a subversive model of positive theorizing.