How not to do things with words
De Gaynesford, M. (2011) How not to do things with words. British Journal of Aesthetics, 51 (1). pp. 31-49. ISSN 1468-2842
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1093/aesthj/ayq045
If philosophy and poetry are to illuminate each other, we should first understand their tendencies to mutual antipathy. Examining (and, where possible, correcting) mutual misapprehension is part of this task. J. L. Austin's remarks on poetry offer one such point of entry: they are often cited by poets and critics as an example of philosophy's blindness to poetry (I). These remarks are complex and their purpose obscure—more so than those who take exception to them usually allow or admit (II). But it is reasonable to think that, for all his levity at their expense, what Austin offers poets is exemption from forms of commitment. Since such exemption is precisely what poets and critics have sought, this diagnosis is eirenic (III). This exemption has a price, but it may be affordable (IV).