My research interests include logic, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind

John T KearnsAll of these areas are approached from a speech act, or language act, perspective.

I am convinced that in order to understand what is special, or distinctive, about people, as opposed to other animals, say, we need to understand language, and what people do with language. One rather large-scale thing they do, or try to, is make sense of the world, by doing science and philosophy, by producing and appreciating literary and artistic creations, by their religious beliefs and practices, and many other things as well. Almost every sense-making activity depends on, and is constrained by language and the resources it provides.

At present I am trying to finish a book I have been working on for far too long. My experience with this project is a little discouraging. Once I think I am making good progress, I either realize that I have left out something important that the project requires, or that I have got something wrong that I once thought I had settled. And then I go back and work on fixing what I had previously thought was ok. The tentative title of the book is Truth and Commitment, essays in illocutionary logic.

The label ‘illocutionary logic’ is a little misleading, but I am sticking with it for historical reasons. A better label might be ‘the logic of speech acts or language acts.’ Some logical theories deal with illocutionary acts and illocutionary arguments, while others focus on locutionary acts and locutionary arguments. Although I think all logical theories are directly or indirectly concerned with language acts, the development of what might be called explicitly language-act logical theories was pioneered by John Searle and Daniel Vanderveken. They considered themselves to be introducing and developing illocutionary logic.

The book I am working on is concerned to articulate, or develop, a conceptual framework which accommodates language acts and logical theories. This will enable us to identify topics and areas that can be, and should be, explored. Many of these have been explored already, but many have not. Developing the framework is preliminary to working out theories for the unexplored parts, because the framework itself provides guidance for doing this.

In addition to spelling out the framework, I am concerned to develop logical theories for some topics or areas that haven’t been adequately explored, as well as topics/areas that haven’t been explored at all.

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