Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reading J.L. Austin

I'm holed up in the John Johnson manuscripts reading room in the Bodleian, reading and transcribing J.L. Austin's notes for his 'Sense and Sensibilia' lecture series. It is slow going--I've gotten through about 50 pages of notes, which represents two lecture series. There are about another 70 pages of lecture notes and maybe 100 pages of miscellaneous scraps that have all been collected.

Austin's handwriting is about 95% intelligible. What takes the most effort is desciphering his shorthand. For example, both 'word' and 'would' get abbreviated as 'wd', 'sixpence' is abbreviated '6d'.

Some other interesting finds:

In his 1947 notes, Austin calls Ayer's search for a 'word that exactly fits the facts' a search for a 'shadow''. (Travis might be interested in this.)

Austin says that the assumption that an object 'ought always to look [the way] we say it is' is 'idiotic'.

In the 1948 lectures he says that if someone says that there is a different sense of 'exist' in the sentence 'The silvery speck does exist and is the star', then there will be a 'million senses! even chimeras!!'

Finally, a note in the 1947 lectures says: 'talk abt Ayer (& Price) in detail: only way seriously to cure insanity.'

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