Philosophy On Stage.

Materiality and Temporality of Perfomative Speech Acts.

In his anthology “Performanz” Uwe Wirth has shown convincingly that terms like “performance/performatives” have become a central subject of various reflections in Twentieth Century’s philosophy of language and philosophy of culture, including a bright range of cultural studies.

With the question “How to do things with Words?” Austin obviously has induced a discourse that provoked representatives of very different scientific schools to passionate responses. Paradigmatically for such an intense reaction we can point to the academic dispute between Searle and Derrida where two leading representatives of Twentieth-Century-philosophy verbally went to war to vigorously defend their heterogeneous interpretations of Austin’s theories.

It is the fact of such passionate reactions that will lead us to state one of the main hypothesis of this project: to wit that performative speech-act-theory touches on elementary needs (passive syntheses) whose very validity is questioned by this theory. Thus, primarily we will not investigate in questions like “How should Austin’s theory be picked up and read ‘correctly’?”, or “How should the philosophical lawsuit between the heirs of his doctrine, Searle, Derrida and others, be settled as ‘just’ as possible?” Rather we are interested in questions like “Why does the theory of performatives provoke such vigorous reactions in many of its profoundest advocates?”, or “Can the performative character of language be shown to be a phenomenon especially predestined to provoke fierce resistances in most of its readers – and if so, why is this the case?”

Our research project wants to show that what really matters in “How do to things with words” is our traditional use of “an over-simplified notion of correspondence with the facts” (Austin), grounded in an image of thought which presupposes a quasi-prestabilized correspondence between the real act of verbalizing something and the ideal meaning expressed in it. A distinction that necessarily blurs in the case of performatives, since the real act of expressing something has shown to be one of the constitutive moments of the ideal conditions, which have to be satisfied in order to perform such a speech act. But once we get rid of the metaphysical definition of truth qua adaequatio intellectus ad rem or rei ad intellectum the question remains: what (performative) image of truth than has been induced? Should the productive force inherrent in the arts since than have become the new paradigm of truth?

Funding proposal (PDF) here.

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