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j. l. austin Quotes

J. L. Austin Quotes

Birth Date: 1911-03-28 (Tuesday, March 28th, 1911)



    • The Nicomachean Ethics is only intended as a guide for politicians, and they are only concerned to know what is good, not what goodness means...and in any case one can know what things are good without knowing the analysis of 'good' --J.L. Austin, Philosophical Papers, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford, 1979) 22.
    • Why should it not be the whole function of a word to denote many things? --Austin, Papers 38.
    • In one sense 'there are' both universals and material objects, in another sense there is no such thing as either: statements about each can usually be analysed, but not always, nor always without remainder. -- Austin, Papers 43n.
    • But surely, speaking carefully, we do not sense 'red' and 'blue' any more than 'resemblance' (or 'qualities' any more than 'relations'): we sense something of which we might say, if we wished to talk about it, that 'this is red.' --Austin, Papers 49.
    • It may justly be urged that, properly speaking, what alone has meaning is a sentence. --Austin, Papers 56.
    • Faced with the nonsense question 'What is the meaning of a word?' and perhaps dimly recognizing it to be nonsense, we are nevertheless not inclined to give it up. --Austin, Papers 58.
    • Ordinary language blinkers the already feeble imagination. --Austin, Papers 68.
    • [I]f we say that I only get at the symptoms of his anger, that carries an important implication. But is this the way we do talk? --Austin, Papers 107.
    • But suppose we take the noun 'truth': here is a case where the disagreements between different theorists have largely turned on whether they interpreted this as a name of a substance, of a quality, or of a relation. --Austin, Papers 73.
    • We become obsessed with 'truth' when discussing statements, just as we become obsessed with 'freedom' when discussing conduct...Like freedom, truth is a bare minimum or an illusory ideal. --Austin, Papers 130.
    • Like 'real', 'free' is only used to rule out the suggestion of some or all of its recognized antitheses. As 'truth' is not a name of a characteristic of assertions, so 'freedom' is not a name for a characteristic of actions, but the name of a dimension in which actions are assessed. --Austin, Papers 180.
    • [W]ords are not (except in their own little corner) facts or things: we need therefore to prise them off the world, to hold them apart from and against it, so that we can realize their inadequacies and arbitrariness, and can relook at the world without blinkers. --Austin, Papers 182.
    • [H]owever well equipped our language, it can never be forearmed against all possible cases that may arise and call for description: fact is richer than diction. --Austin, Papers 195.
    • [O]rdinary language is not the last word: in principle it can everywhere be supplemented and improved upon and superseded. Only remember, it is the first word. --Austin, Papers 185.
    • Infelicity is an ill to which all acts are heir which have the general character of ritual or ceremonial, all conventional acts.
    • Let us distinguish between acting intentionally and acting deliberately or on purpose, as far as this can be done by attending to what language can teach us.
    • There are more ways of outraging speech than contradiction merely.
    • When may we hope to see your Harvard lectures published sir?' an undergraduate asked the late Professor Austin. 'You may hope to see them published any time' was the characteristic reply.
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