Beata Gallay

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This is a detailed exposition and development of some of the epistemic implications of John R. Searle's ontology of the "Background" of communication. Detailed references are made to Searle's more recent and therefore lesser known relevant works, including his 1992 text. The Rediscovery of the Mind, and The Construction of Social Reality, published in 1995. 'Communication' refers to the intentional action of an individual speaker to let another individual (the addressee) know the contents of the speaker's subjective conscious mental state, by way of producing a linguistic utterance made in one or the other conventional language, as well as to the intentional action of the addressee to interpret the contents of the speaker's subjective conscious mental state expressed in the production of the speaker's utterance. The notion of "Background" occupies a central position in Searle's work: it is defined as a speaker's own set of nonconscious, innate and/or acquired neurophysiological capacities that ultimately determine the contents of the speaker's intended utterance meaning on a particular occasion. The speaker is not aware of the actual set of Background capacities effective on a particular occasion, and so the Background is wholly inexplicit in the utterance produced publicly. All members of the human species share some fundamental Background capacities which makes communication at all possible. However, the interpreter's attribution of his/her own Background to the interlocutor--the primary method employed in communication--is not always justified, given the potential dissimilarities in individual speaker's own Backgrounds. This work provides a detailed assessment of how speakers' Backgrounds both enable and at the same time potentially undermine the possibility of successful communication.



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