25 Pages

Do Illocutionary Force Exist?

IF the late Professor J. L. Austin had survived to publish the substance of his William James Lectures himself, he would no doubt have made many alterations in them. With his brilliant sharpness of intellect he would probably have eliminated more flaws than most of his critics will ever see. But, tragic as it is, we have only a posthumously published version of those lectures, and it is to this version, carefully put together by J. 0. Urmson under the title How To Do Things With Words (Oxford, 1962), that criticism must perforce be directed. I wish to argue that the concept of illocutionary force developed therein is empty.