Thursday, 10 December 2015

oversight or sense and sensibilia

Advocate of plain speaking, believing that heuristically people ought to be able to explore perception and reality and arrive at insights and truths through logic and simple language alone, Oxford professor John Langshaw Austin (no relation to author Jane, though much of his linguistic speculations were posthumously packaged under the above title) in the 1930s greatly expanded the nuanced understanding of the way meaning is imparted, demonstrating that sentences can be more than just interrogative, declarative or directive and in fact usually are none of these things and instead fall somewhere on the spectrum of doing things, a social task or a phememe.
After his wartime service in his majesty’s secret service (a tenure that a whole cadre of Oxbridge instructors took up) for which Austin was credited for as being instrumental in the success of the D-Day Invasion, Operation Overlord—however, perhaps influenced by his intelligence work, his research became even more engrossing in its accessibility. Packing his philosophical quiver, Austin dissected the language of excuse and pardon that people toss about with apparent abandon to find the pregnant meaning in all the ways to say that one is sorry and distance one’s self from moral decrepitude and omission. Not only is there an endless buffet of expressions to choose from to exculpate oneself—oversight, accident, mistake, mishap, misunderstanding, misstep, confusion, etc.—they all have subtle ethical connotations, on second look, that warrant further investigation. Though not naturally duplicitous, people are probably most honest about their feelings when they’re begging-off.