By G.J. Warnock
This booklet is offered both separately, or as a part of the specially-priced Arguments of the Philosphers assortment.
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But the essential factors are (a) You said you knew: you said you promised; (b) You were mistaken: you didn’t perform. ’16 I believe that this extended comparison, while of great interest at the time as introducing Austin’s fertile topic of performative utterance, is both unilluminating and indeed misleading about knowledge. ’17 We can see that at least the phrase ‘just as’ is wrong here, if we change the grammatical person. I myself indeed cannot properly say ‘I promise, but I may fail’; you, on the other hand, can perfectly well say of me ‘He promises;—or ‘has promised’—‘but he may fail’: I have undertaken a commitment which you are not sure that I shall (be able to) actually carry out, and there is nothing offcolour about that.
It seems to be ‘a distortion’ to suggest that we are disposed in general to accept what people say because we have—or that we are ‘justified’ in so doing only in so far as there is—an inductive argument which shows that to be the rational thing to do. The question, in general, simply does not arise in that way. And it seems fantastic to suggest that our ‘belief’ that there are people besides ourselves with Knowledge and Other Minds 33 whom communication is possible is just a theory that fits in well with the experience we have.
If you ask me as a doctor whether I am sure that the prescribed medicine is safe for children, I may reply that I know that it is; and in so replying I give you my word as a medical man, my professional authority, for that: that is what I do. But what if you tell me that George is coming to lunch, and I say unexcitedly ‘Yes, I know’? In so saying I surely do not ‘give you my authority’: in such a case, after all, you do not need my authority, since you for your part already know (perfectly well) that George is coming to lunch, as you have told me: all I have done is to tell you that I know that too.
Austin by G.J. Warnock