UCL Uncovering Politics

'Acts of speech' and how people recieve them

Episode Summary

This week we explore 'speech act theory', the idea that our speech acts and whether _how_ it acts depends on the audience. We ask: should philosophy be done from the armchair, or do philosophers need to go and find out what people really think? Note: this episode discusses issues around sexual consent and non-consent.

Episode Notes

Today we are examining speech acts and uptake. A central contribution from J. L. Austin has been the idea that our speech sometimes doesn’t only say things – sometimes it does things. When we speak, we don’t only convey content or information. We sometimes also - for instance - promise, name, refuse, or order: in short, our speech sometimes acts.

And that has prompted a great deal of philosophical debate over when speech acts are successfully performed, and whether that depends on the effects on the audience. This might sound like an esoteric matter, but philosophers think that thinking about how – and when- speech does things has implications for what we should think of pornography, and for when people really consent to sex. 

Our guest today is Dr Sarah Fisher, a Research Fellow here in the department of political science on a cross-disciplinary project on the ethics of content moderation on social media and the future of free speech online, funded by UKRI. 


Mentioned in this episode:


Some references suggested by Sarah for further reading: