The Aristotelian Society

The Aristotelian Society

est. 1880

2013 Joint Session

Symposium III

Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 20.00

speech Acts and Intersubjectivity

Testimony, Illocution And the Second-Person

Richard Moran (Harvard)


The notion of "bi-polar" or "second-personal" normativity is often illustrated by such situations as that of one person addressing a complaint to another, or asserting some right, or claiming some authority.  This paper argues that the presence of speech-acts of various kinds in the development of the idea of the "second-personal" is not accidental.  Through development of a notion of "illocutionary authority" I seek to show a role for the "second-personal" in ordinary testimony, despite Darwall's argument that notion of the "second personal" marks a divide between practical and theoretical reason. 


Richard Moran is the author of Authority and Estrangement:  an essay on self-knowledge (Princeton, 2001).   He has published several articles on agency and practical knowledge, metaphor, speech and testimony, moral psychology, aesthetics and imagination.   He is the Brian D. Young Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.  

Illocution, Recognition and Co-operation

Jane Heal (Cambridge)


Moran rightly links performance of speech acts to instituting second-personal normative relations. He also maintains that an audience’s recognition of the speaker’s intention in speaking is sufficient for the speaker’s success in doing the speech act intended. The claim is true on some ways of understanding speech act verbs, but false on others. This complexity of speech act verbs can be explained by seeing how speech acts need to be understood in the context of shared life and co-operative action.


Jane Heal studied for her first degree in Cambridge, reading History for two years and then Philosophy (or 'Moral Sciences' as it was then called) for another two years. She also took her PhD at Cambridge, working on problems in the philosophy of language. After two years of post-doctoral study in the US, at Princeton and Berkeley, she was appointed to a Lectureship at the University of Newcastle on Tyne. Having taught there for ten years, she moved back to Cambridge, where she is now Emeritus Professor and a Fellow of St John's College. She is the author of Fact and Meaning, Quine and Wittgenstein on Philosophy of Language (Blackwell 1989) and Mind, Reason and Imagination (CUP 2003). She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1997.

Jane Heal was president of the Aristotelian Society from 2001 to 2002.