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SPAGAD Lecture Series: Fictive utterances as constative speech acts

Speaker Emanuel Viebahn
Affiliaton(s) Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institute of Philosophy
Date 25.11.2022
Time 16:00 o'clock
Venue Online (see below)
Link to SPAGAD Lecture Series

Comment:              Regine Eckardt, Universität Konstanz

Link to YouTube-Video of the talk­


What kinds of speech acts do authors characteristically perform in producing fictive utterances, the utterances that make up works of fiction? For example, what kind of speech act does Tolkien perform in producing the fictive utterance (1)?

(1)            In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. (The Hobbit)

The two most popular answers to this question are the pretence view and the make-believe view. According to the pretence view, Tolkien doesn’t in fact perform any speech act in writing (1). He merely pretends to assert that in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, and thus his action lacks illocutionary force altogether. On the make-believe view, Tolkien prescribes his readers to make-believe that in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. His utterance is thus similar to everyday directive speech acts, such as commands and requests. My first aim in this talk is to point to insincere fictive utterances that challenge these two views. My second aim is to argue that Tolkien’s utterance is a constative speech act, namely an assertion about a story. The view that characteristic fictive utterances are constative speech acts, such assertions or suggestions, has been frequently ruled out. I hope to show that, once properly developed, it enjoys a great deal of plausibility.

Zoom Meeting-ID: 656 5811 2731

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