In this work, I’ll try to show that Austin’s theory ofa utterances has an influence on political philosophers.
I choose this topicbecause I truly believe, that our mind is connected with our speech. Austin’stheory of utterances is a speech act and it makes people to think in a veryspecific way. Toexplain the topic of my essay, first of all, I should present Austin’s theoryof utterances.
John Austin in the first few lectures of «How To Do Things WithWords», distinguishes utterances in this way: there are constative andperformative utterances. Later Austin notices that this distinction does notreally exist, because whenever we ‘say’ something we shall ‘do’ something.That’s how Austin explains it: «…whenever I ‘say’ anything I shall beperforming both locutionary and illocutionary acts…» (Austin 1962, 132). Here Ishould explain what Austin means by locutionary and illocutionary acts. Thewhole utterance consists of locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts,where the locutionary act is an act of saying something: «…to say something is in the full normal sense to dosomething—which includes the utterance of certain noises, the utterance ofcertain words in a certain construction, and the utterance of them with acertain ‘meaning’ in the favourite philosophical sense of that word, i.e. with a certainsense and with a certain reference. The act of ‘saying something’ in this full normal sense I call…the performance of a locutionary act…» (94); the illocutionary act is an act performed insaying something: «…The performance of an ‘illocutionary’ act is the performance of an act in saying something as opposed to theperformance of an act of saying something…» (99); And the perlocutionary act is an act performed by sayingsomething: «…Saying something will often, or even normally, produce certainconsequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions of the audience,or of the speaker, or of other persons: and it may be done with the design, intention,or purpose of producing them; and we may then say, thinking of this, that thespeaker has performed…a perlocutionary act or perlocution»(101).
The main question here is how Austin’s old distinction betweenconstative and performative acts relates to his new distinction betweenlocutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. The wrong way to understandthe relation between Austin’s old and new theory is to assimilate constativeutterance to locutionary act and performative utterance with illocutionary andperlocutionary acts. Why can not this be right? On the one hand, statingis an illocutionary act, hence constative utterances involve both an illocutionand a locution. On the other hand, performative utterances also involve both anillocution and a locution acts. As a result, locutionary and illocutionary actsare internal aspects of utterances (not two kinds of utterances): «The doctrineof the performative/constative distinction stands to the doctrine oflocutionary and illocutionary acts in the total speech act as the specialtheory to the general theory» (147) .
What I want to show in myessay, is that Austin’s theory has a big impact on political philosophers. Oneof them is Rae Langton, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University. RaeLangton in the work «Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts» defends such anpolitical thesis that «pornography subordinates women», and she wants tocensorship pornography. She argues that pornography is a kind of speech actthat has locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary effect. To defend her thesis Langton shows thesubordination argument that Professor MacKinnon suggests. MacKinnon says that pornography harms women, it threatenstheir civil rights.
It creates a conflict between liberty (Right of men toproduce and consume pornography) and equality (Right of women to receive equalprotection by the law). Pornography objectifieswomen, it depicts women in situations of humiliation. Also, based on pornography, women seem to like it.
So pornography depicts subordination and causes it. Besides, pornographyperpetuate subordination. It leads to insult and injury at home and also, tobattery and rape on the streets. All this demonstrates the power of pornographyas a speech act. If we describe this in Austin terms it would be the locutionand perlocution dimensions: «Pornography depicts subordination and causes it.
That—in Austin’s terms —is to describe its locutionary and perlocutionary dimensions»(Langton 1993, 296). We can see that the illocutionaryact is missing here. But Langton wants to defend her thesis that «pornographysubordinates women» by considering pornography as an illocutionary act. Shewants to argue that subordination caused by pornography is an illocutionaryact.
To defend the thesisLangton uses an apartheid example to show that a speech act can be anillocutionary act of subordination. If an appropriate person (who has a power)in an appropriate situation says that ‘Blacks are not allowed to vote’, it willresult that blacks will not be allowed to vote. And, as the author says, it isan illocutionary act: «Can a speech act be an illocutionary act ofsubordination? The answer, I think, is yes. Consider this utterance: “Blacks are not permitted to vote.
” Imagine that this is uttered by a legislator inPretoria in the context of enacting legislation that underpins apartheid. It isa locutionary act: by “Blacks” it refers to blacks. It is a perlocutionary act: itwill have the effect, among others, that blacks stay away from polling booths.But it is, first and foremost, an illocutionary act: it makes it the case thatblacks are not permitted to vote.
It—plausibly— subordinates blacks» (Langton 1993, 302). Here we can draw the conclusion that an illocutionaryact against black people (1) rank blacks «as having inferior worth», (2)«legitimate discriminatory behavior on the part of whites» and (3) «depriveblacks of some important powers: for example, the power to go to certain placesand the power to vote» (Langton 1993, 303). But how a racism andpornography are correlated in the dimension of illocutionary act? Langtoninsists that pornography as an speech act can subordinate. An illocutionary actcan be a force of a certain kind when it satisfies felicity conditions,specifically when a speech has hearers who recognise it as an authority. As the authorsays: «Pornography issaid to rank women as sex objects, ‘defined on the basis of (their) looks…(their) availability for sexual pleasure.’ Pornography represents degrading and abusive behavior ‘in such a way as to endorse the degradation.’ MacKinnon has a striking list of illocutionary verbs: ‘Pornography sexualizes rape, battery, sexualharassment…and child abuse; it…celebrates, promotes, authorizes and legitimates them’» (Langton 1993, 307).
As we know, pornography is anauthority, for instance, for young boys, who want to learn what is right andwrong in this area, and in our society there are not a lot of representations of sex,so they learn how to behave from a porn movies. As with an apartheid example we can, in the same way,draw the conclusion to show that cases are the same. Pornography (1) rankswomen as sex objects, (2) legitimates degrading and abusive behaviour against women and (3) deprives women of the right ofintegrity. To sum up, I presentAustin’s theory of utterances and the way that it might be used in a politicalphilosophy.
As we can se, Austin’s theory has a great impact in thissphere.