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Speech Acts in Logic and Democracy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Political Philosophy, and Taalfilosofie or Language and Thought.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


In early modern philosophy there was still a natural relation between topics in political philosophy, such as free speech and religious toleration, and accounts in theoretical philosophy of notions like opinion, judgement and belief. A nice example is provided by Locke’s writings, and we will start the course with reading his Essay on Toleration. The aim of the course is to show that themes from theoretical philosophy can still be relevant for topics in political philosophy.

In the first half of the course we will read Frege, Austin, Searle and Brandom on speech acts. In the second half, we will see how Rae Langton uses Austin’s speech act theory to argue for a restriction of free speech, when it concerns pornography and hate speech.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

  • train students to address topics in political philosophy with approaches from theoretical philosophy;

  • train students to write a well-argued paper with a clear thesis, which shows that the he is able to do as described in the former point on his own initiative.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • central concepts and literature of speech act theory;

  • philosophical issues relating to free speech.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • apply speech act theory to other fields in philosophy, more specifically in political philosophy;

  • defend a view of his own regarding an actual discussion relating to speech act theory and free speech.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Paper


The paper counts as 100% of the grade.


The resit consists of one examination, consisting of a paper. The mark for the resit replaces the previously earned mark for the paper.

Active participation in class is required for admission to the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Essays will be retured to students with feedback. Students will have an opportunity to discuss the grading of their essays with the instructor.

Reading list

  • J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Oxford University Press

  • Further texts will be made available via Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number, which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M.S. van der Schaar


Not applicable.