Performative (or ditto) theory of truth

Theory developed by English philosopher Peter Frederick Strawson (1919- ) in and after 1949 from Frank Ramsey’s redundancy theory of truth, and in opposition to the correspondence theory.

To call something true is to perform the act of agreeing with it, endorsing it, appraising it and so on. Like the emotive theory of truth this is a speech act theory, and like similar theories in ethics and elsewhere is open – at least prima facie – to the objection that it cannot cover cases like ‘If that is true, then… ‘ where the relevant speech act is not being performed.

G Pitcher, ed., Truth (1964)

Performativity is a concept that can be thought of as a language which functions as a form of social action and has the effect of change.[1] The concept has multiple applications in diverse fields such as anthropology, social and cultural geography, economics, gender studies (social construction of gender), law, linguistics, performance studies, history, management studies and philosophy.

The concept is first described by philosopher of language John L. Austin when he referred to a specific capacity: the capacity of speech and communication to act or to consummate an action. Austin differentiated this from constative language, which he defined as descriptive language that can be “evaluated as true or false”. Common examples of performative language are making promises, betting, performing a wedding ceremony, an umpire calling a strike, or a judge pronouncing a verdict.[1]

Influenced by Austin, philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler argued that gender is socially constructed through commonplace speech acts and nonverbal communication that are performative, in that they serve to define and maintain identities.[2] This view of performativity reverses the idea that a person’s identity is the source of their secondary actions (speech, gestures). Instead, it views actions, behaviors, and gestures as both the result of an individual’s identity as well as a source that contributes to the formation of one’s identity which is continuously being redefined through speech acts and symbolic communication.[1] This view was also influenced by philosophers such as Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser

2 thoughts on “Performative (or ditto) theory of truth

  1. Amira Drylie says:

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