What philosophical ideas prompted Austin to write a corrective argument? Which aspects of language did he believe other philosophers had ignored? (logical positivist preoccupied with verifiability, desire to imitate scientific precision)
What are some features of his description of the incident which opens his essay? How does his account prefigure his approach and the style of this essay? Are concepts such as “means what he says” entirely transparent? (1430)
How would you describe Austin’s style? How does he use elements of humor, understatement and surprise? (1431)
What does he find limited about the “descriptive theory” of language? In the notion that there are infinite uses of language? (2431)
What examples does he give of performative utterances? (1432) Does it matter whether these are enunciated by a sincere speaker? (1433)
What is meant by an “unfelicitous” utterance? According to Austin, what circumstances may make an utterance “infelicitous”? What rules must it follow to succeed? (1433-34, must follow accepted conventions, must be sincere, must be consistent, must be understood)
What are some examples he gives of “successful” and “unsuccessful” utterances? (1434-35, unsuccessful: grabbing the bottle as a ship is being christened and inserting another name, telling one’s spouse that one is divorcing him/her) Why have these failed?
What characterizes orders and instructions? (1436, these also are performative)
In contrast to performative utterances, what is a “statement”? Are there some utterances which are neither exclusively performatives nor statements? What examples of these does he give?
(1439, “damn,” “I am sorry”)
Under what circumstances may the distinctions between performative utterances and statements collapse? (1439)
How may statements be “unfelicitous”? (1439-40, may lack referent, may be insincere, may be contradictory)
According to Austin, may statements in themselves be speech-acts? (1441)
Why are the criteria of truth and falsity imprecise labels for describing statements?
What does Austin seem to mean by his claim that we need a doctrine of the “force” of utterances? (1442) Does “force” mean something like “implied meaning,” or alternatively, “intensity”?
What may be some applications of Austin’s theories for literary criticism? (latter filled with performative and near-performative utterances)
Page numbers are from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001.