18 July, 2008

J.L. Austin


John Langshaw Austin was a British philosopher of language, born in Lancaster and educated at Balliol College, Oxford University. Austin is widely associated with the concept of the speech act and the idea that speech is itself a form of action. His work in the 1950s provided the early underpinnings for the modern theory of speech acts developed subsequently by the Oxford-educated American philosopher John R. Searle and his followers.

After serving in MI6 during World War II, Austin became White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford. He occupies a place in philosophy of language alongside Wittgenstein in staunchly advocating the examination of the way words are used in order to elucidate meaning. Unlike many ordinary language philosophers, however, Austin disavowed any overt indebtedness to Wittgenstein's later philosophy. His main influence, he said, was the exact and exacting common-sense philosophy of G. E. Moore.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1956 to 1957.

Austin died on February 8, 1960 at the age of 48.

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