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Topics in Philosophy of Social Reality



Speech acts are one of the most important topics in the philosophy of language. Besides offering a firm basis to a treatment of human communication, speech act theory plays a crucial role in understanding how social reality is created and maintained. In this course, after introducing the basic concepts of the area, the two main theoretical approaches to speech acts (respectively dubbed the “conventionalist” and the “intentionalist” approach) will be presented and compared. Finally, a possible synthesis of the two approaches will be outlined.



  1. Speech acts: introduction and basic concepts.
  2. The conventionalist tradition: Austin, Searle, and others.
  3. The intentionalist tradition: Grice, Strawson, and others.
  4. A possible synthesis.


The course will alternate ex-cathedra lessons introducing the different topics and classroom discussions on assigned readings. During the introductory lessons, a reasonable amount of readings will be assigned. At the beginning of discussion sessions, the participants will be asked to submit, in written form, their personal questions and/or comments on the assigned readings. Some of the questions and/or comments will then be selected as topics of discussion.



90% of the final grade will be based on a 2000-3000 words essay on one of the topics treated in the course (to be agreed with the lecturer). The remaining 10% will be based on the student’s participation in the classroom discussions.


Basic readings

Austin, John L. (1962). How to do things with words. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Grice, H. Paul. (1957). Meaning. The Philosophical Review, 66 (3), 377-388.

Searle, John R. (1969). Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge University Press.

Strawson, Peter F. (1964). Intention and convention in speech acts. The Philosophical Review, 73 (4), 439-460.

Carassa, Antonella, and Marco Colombetti (2015). Interpersonal communication as social action. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 45 (4-5), 407-423.

Complementary readings

Alston, William P. (2000). Illocutionary acts and sentence meaning. Cornell University Press.

Bach, Kent, and Robert M. Harnish (1979). Linguistic communication and speech acts. MIT Press.

Green, Mitchell (2007/2017). Speech Acts. In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition),

Kukla, Rebecca, and Mark Lance (2009). Yo! and Lo!: The pragmatic topography of the space of reasons. Harvard University Press.

Sbisà, Marina (2009). Uptake and conventionality in illocution. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, 5 (1), 33-52.

Schiffer, Stephen (1972). Meaning. Oxford University Press.

Searle, John R. (1975). Indirect speech acts. In Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan (eds.), Syntax and semantics (Vol. 3): Speech Acts, 59-82. Academic Press. Reprinted in: Searle, John R. (1979). Expression and meaning, 30-57. Cambridge University Press.

Searle, John R., and Daniel Vanderveken (1981). Foundations of illocutionary logic. Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, Dan, and Deirdre Wilson (1986). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Blackwell.



Colombetti M.

Course director

Additional information

Academic year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Elective course, Elective Courses, 1st year

Master of Arts in Philosophy, Elective course, Elective Courses, 2nd year