Speech-Acts and the Peace of Jesus


Jesus talkingOne of the most interesting and useful concepts I picked up in my philosophy undergrad is the idea of a ‘speech-act.’ Speech-act philosophy takes as its basic insight that language isn’t just about representing thoughts, or making simple statements of fact, but that, we actually do things with our words. There are words that we say in order to accomplish or bring about a new state of affairs. There are innumerable examples of this sort of thing (promising, lying, etc.) and all sorts of distinctions that philosophers can, and have made, but we see the basic point that, some words can be more efficacious than others.

The classic example of this is the minister’s words in a wedding. ‘I now pronounce you man and wife’ doesn’t just state the fact, but actually creates the fact. Before that statement, the two are merely engaged, but after that, they are married.


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