The Nature, Role, and Significance of Uptake

September 15, 2022 - September 16, 2022
Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna

Room 3D
Neues Institutsgebäude, Universitätsstraße 7
Vienna 1010


  • Austrian Science Fund (FWF grant number P33682-G)


Cambridge University
University of Reading
University of Vienna
Georgetown University
University of Warwick
Cambridge University
University of Vienna
University of Vienna
University of Massachusetts, Boston


University of Vienna
University of Vienna

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In How to Do Things With Words, JL Austin famously linked the performance of illocutionary acts with “uptake”, writing: 

“Unless a certain effect is achieved, the illocutionary act will not have been happily, successfully performed […] I cannot be said to have warned an audience unless it hears what I say and takes what I say in a certain sense. An effect must be achieved on the audience if the illocutionary act is to be carried out. How should we put it best here? And how should we limit it? Generally the effect amounts to bringing about the understanding of the meaning and of the force of the locution. So the performance of an illocutionary act involves the securing of uptake.”

These somewhat vague, hesitant remarks have spawned a number of debates within subsequent speech act theory about the character and function of uptake. What is the precise nature of uptake? Should it be understood in psychological terms (perhaps as the audience’s beliefs about the intentions of the speaker), or should it be construed in more social and normative terms (perhaps as the normative effect of the speech act on the relevant social situation)? What role, if any, does uptake play in the performance of illocutionary acts? Is uptake simply the characteristic goal of illocutionary acts, or is securing uptake a necessary condition for their performance? Alternatively is uptake a sufficient but not necessary condition of the performance of illocutionary acts? Might there be some illocutionary acts whose performance depends on uptake, while others do not? Finally, what is the broader political significance of uptake? How does uptake relate to practices of silencing, discursive injustice, and epistemic injustice?

This workshop investigates these and related questions about the nature, role, and function of uptake. 

In order to ensure compliance with COVID-related seating arrangements, spaces are limited and registration is required. To register, email Leo Townsend: [email protected]

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July 31, 2022, 9:00am CET

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