John L. Austin (1911-1960)

Source of the picture:


  • Linguistic philosophy, analytic philosophy

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, ethics, ordinary language philosophy

Notable Ideas


  • George E. Moore, Bertrand Russel, Gilbert Ryle


  • John Searle, Richard M. Hare, Judith Butler, Jean-François Lyotard, Jürgen Habermas, Stanley L. Cavell

Academic Life

John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 – February 8, 1960) was a British philosopher of language, who was educated at Balliol College, Oxford University. Austin is widely associated with the concept of the speech act and the idea that speech is itself a form of action. His work in the 1950s provided the early underpinnings for the modern theory of speech acts developed subsequently by the Oxford-educated American philosopher John R. Searle.

After serving in MI6 during World War II, Austin became White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford. He occupies a place in philosophy of language alongside Wittgenstein in staunchly advocating the examination of the way words are used in order to elucidate meaning. Unlike many ordinary language philosophers, however, Austin disavowed any overt indebtedness to Wittgenstein's later philosophy. His main influence, he said, was the exact and exacting common-sense philosophy of G. E. Moore.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1956 to 1957.

Austin was primarily concerned with performative verbs and their felicity conditions.

Main Publications

  • Austin, J.L. (1946). "Other Minds," in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 20: 148-187. Reprinted in JL Austin (1961) Philosophical Papers, ed. JO Urmson and GJ Warnock, Oxford (OUP), pp. 76-116.
  • Austin, J.L. (1962). Sense and Sensibilia. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Austin, J.L. (1962). How to do things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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