Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2021-22, Session 13

‘Actually, Scratch That’: A Tour into the Illocutionary Fabric of Retraction
Laura Caponetto (Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan)

03 December 2021, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – GMT) | Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Just as we can do things with words, so too we can use words to take back what we did in speaking. Political history is filled with such ‘u-turns’. Consider, for example, Nigel Farage’s ‘unresignation’ in May 2015, or Al Gore’s decision to ‘unconcede’ to George W. Bush in 2000. Retraction maneuvers are common currency and play a significant role in our discursive practices, as well as in our social and political lives. Still, very little attention has been paid among speech act theorists to how retraction works. By expanding upon previous work (Caponetto 2020) and engaging with recent contributions to the topic (e.g. Kukla & Steinberg 2021), I set out to unpack the illocutionary fabric of retraction – i.e. the illocutionary category it belongs to, its felicity conditions, the normative changes it effects. I construe retraction as a higher-order speech act whose definitional function is to cancel the deontic update enacted by some previous, lower-order speech act. After identifying its general (definitional) felicity conditions, I pause on the special felicity conditions for retracting specific illocutionary types. I conclude by saying something on “I-never-said-that!” kind of moves and how they differ from retractions.


The room has a limited number of seats. Pre-registration is required at <> until a day before the event. Note that this is an in-person event and everyone should wear a mask.