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descriptive fallacy

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of language, ethics J. L. Austin 's term for the practice in the traditional theory of statements of taking all statements to be descriptive and claiming that to understand the meaning of a sentence is to understand its truth condition . However, Austin argued that there are many sentences, such as those used in performative utterances, whose meanings are not determined by their truthconditions. They are not subjects of truth and falsity, for they do not specify or report features of reality, but are used to do something. To say “I swear …” is not to report that one swears, but is the act of swearing itself. This point is well developed by non-cognitivism , whose major theme is to distinguish factual statements from ethical statements. “To overlook these possibilities in the way once common is called the ‘descriptive fallacy’.” Austin, How to Do Things with Words ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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