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November 20, 2018: L. Caponetto: Doing, Undoing, and Counteracting

CPT Time-Methods Colloquia

Talk organized by the Centre for Philosophy of Time (CPT Colloquia)


Laura Caponetto (San Raffaele, Milano)

Doing, Undoing, and Counteracting


November 20, 2018, 11:00-13:00.

Room Enzo Paci, Directorate of the Department of Philosophy, Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano 



Starting with the pioneering work of J.L. Austin (1962), several philosophers of language have looked into the mechanisms for doing things with words. The same attention has not been devoted to how to undo those things, once they have been done. This talk identifies and examines three main strategies to make one’s speech acts undone – namely, annulmentretraction, and amendment. Annulment is a declaration of nullity determining that a certain act, which at first passed as felicitous, was in fact invalidly performed. By contrast, retraction and amendment apply to felicitous acts that the speaker wants to cancel or adjust. Following Marina Sbisà (1984, 2007), I take the core illocutionary effect to be the assignment of new deontic statuses to the conversational participants. In light of this, I construe annulment, retraction, and amendment as tools to rub out the deontic updates engendered by our illocutions. Furthermore, I claim that such undoing strategies are second-order speech acts and try to disentangle their general felicity conditions. In conclusion, I take into account a few other notions with an undoing flavor, so to speak. In particular, I focus on Rae Langton (2018)’s notion of blocking and on (what I call) illocutionary disambiguation. I tentatively suggest that blocking (which Langton conceives of as a strategy to counteract harmful speech) might stand as the flip side of annulment, whereas disambiguation can be paralleled with amendment.


  • Austin, J.L. (1962), How to Do Things with Words, Oxford: Oxford University Press;
  • Langton, R. (2018), “Blocking as Counter-Speech”, in D. Harris, D. Fogal, M. Moss (eds.), New Work on
  • Speech Acts, New York: Oxford University Press: 144-164;
  • Sbisà, M. (1984), “On Illocutionary Types”, Journal of Pragmatics, 8, 93-112;
  • Sbisà, M. (2007), “How to Read Austin”, Pragmatics, 17, 461-473. 


The lecture will be held in English.
Participation is strongly recommended to students of the Doctoral School in Philosophy and Human Sciences.
Everyone interested is welcome to attend.

Project: LINEA 1B - UNIMI PER ERC (CUP: G45C16000000001).
For more info: samuele.iaquinto@gmail.com

20 November 2018
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