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John Rogers Searle

(b. 1932)


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(1932–)

Americananalytic philosopher, best known for his work on speech act theory, but also well known for his work on the philosophy of mind. Born in Colorado, Searle completed his undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. He then went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar to complete his DPhil. He worked briefly as a tutor at Oxford before returning to the US to take a position at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has been ever since. Searle's reputation is based on his extension of J. L. Austin's idea in How to Do Things with Words (1962) that sentences can perform actions as well as state facts and express truths. In Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969), Searle develops the idea of an indirect, or illocutionary speech act, listing five different varieties: assertives (true or false), directives (obliging an action), commissives (promise of action), expressives (revealing of speaker's psychological state), and declaratives (which cause something to happen). This work has proved useful in the development of artificial intelligence. Searle became widely known outside of the closed ranks of analytic philosophy when he got involved in a very public debate with French philosopher Jacques Derrida, over a short critique the latter wrote of Austin's theory in Marges de la philosophie (1962), translated as Margins of Philosophy (1982). Searle wrote a sharp defence of Austin, which prompted a book-length rebuke from Derrida.

Subjects: Philosophy — Literature.


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