Maciej Witek, 5 March 2018, 16h

February 20, 2018

ArgLab Research Colloquium

Av. de Berna 26, I&D Building, room 007


Illocution and accommodation in the functioning of presumptions*

Maciej Witek, CCRGInstitute of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, University of Szczecin, Poland


My aim in this talk is to develop a speech act-based model of the functioning of presumptions in discourse. Following Marcin Lewiński (2017), I claim that presumptions fail to constitute a homogeneous class. In my view, however, they can be grouped into a few illocutionary act types singled out and defined by reference to the effects their performance has on the score or record of a conversation. I also argue that the mechanisms whereby presumptions bring about their characteristic effects can be either direct or indirect; more specifically, they can involve either illocution or accommodation.

            My talk is organised into two parts. In the first one, I present a score-keeping model of illocutionary games (Witek 2015) which results from integrating elements of John L. Austin’s theory of speech acts (Austin 1975; cf. Sbisà 2002; 2009; forthcoming) within the conceptual framework proposed by David Lewis (1979). It is instructive to stress, however, that the presented model departs from Lewis’s original account of illocutionary acts – as well as from its more elaborated version developed by Rae Langton (2015; forthcoming a; forthcoming b) – in that it distinguishes between two mechanisms whereby speech acts construed of as moves made in an illocutionary game can produce normative states of affairs: illocution and accommodation. Roughly speaking, illocution is a direct mechanism guided by the essential rules of the game, whereas accommodation is an indirect, context-adjusting process that functions against the background of the preparatory or felicity conditions (see Witek 2016; forthcoming). In the second part of my talk, I use the presented model to examine the functioning of presumptions in discourse. I distinguish between three types of presumptions understood as illocutionary acts: (a) individual presumptions, whose function is to shift the burden of proof (see Corredor 2017), (b) joint presumptions, whose function is to contribute rationally endorsed propositions to the ongoing argument (or, more generally, to the common ground among the participants in a dialogue), and (c) collective presumptions, that can be understood as indirect speech acts that outsource (in Rae Langton’s sense) the authority of direct illocutions to social practices or institutions.



Austin, J. L. (1975). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

Corredor, C. (2017). Presumptions in Speech Acts. Argumentation 31: 573-589.

Langton, R. (2015). How to Get a Norm from a Speech Act. The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy 10: 1–33.

Langton, R. (forthcoming a). Accommodating Injustice: The John Locke Lectures 2015. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Langton, R. (forthcoming b). Blocking as Counter-Speech. In: D. Harris, D. Fogal, and M. Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts, New York: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, D. (1979). Scorekeeping in a Language Game. Journal of Philosophical Logic 8: 339-359

Lewiński, M. (2017). Argumentation Theory Without Presumptions. Argumentation 31: 591-613.

Sbisà, M. (2002). Speech Acts in Context. Language & Communication 22: 421-436.

Sbisà, M. (2009). Uptake and Conventionality in Illocution. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 5(1): 33-52.

Sbisà, M., forthcoming, Varieties of speech act norms. In: M. Witek and I. Witczak-Plisiecka (eds.), Normativity and Variety of Speech Actions. Leiden: Brill (Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities).

Witek, M. (2015). Mechanisms of Illocutionary Games. Language & Communication 42: 11– 22.

Witek, M. (2016). Convention and Accommodation. Polish Journal of Philosophy 10(1): 99-115.

Witek, M. (fortcoming). Accommodation in Linguistic Interaction. On the so-called triggering problem. In: P. Stalmaszczyk (ed.), Philosophical Insights into Pragmatics.


*  The preparation of this work is supported by the National Science Centre, Poland, through research grant No. 2015/19/B/HS1/03306.


Back to previous page


All Events

Workshop: Misunderstanding, disagreement, manipulation

The idea of the workshop is to explore the blurred…

June 22, 2018

Katharina Stevens, 18 June 2018, 14h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Argument-Design through Role-Taking"

June 18, 2018

Workshop: Communication and metaphors for health. An educational challenge

The workshop discusses the importance of communication and metaphors in…

June 01, 2018

Inês Hipólito, 30th May 11:00 - 12:00

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Perception as Cognition: Beyond…

May 30, 2018

Dima Mohammed, 28 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Proposals for the examination of networked…

May 28, 2018

Jakob Krebs, 16 May, 15h to 16h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Pictorial Models, Imagination, and…

May 16, 2018

Mehmet Ali Üzelgün, 14 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Level, focus, and force of argumentative…

May 14, 2018

Virtualism and the Mind: Rethinking Presence, Representation and the Self

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning Workshop "Virtualism and the Mind"

April 23, 2018

João Leite, 16 April 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "An Online Social Debating System"

April 16, 2018

Klaus Gärtner, 20 Mar, 2018, 14.30h to 15.30h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"4E Cognition: Radical or…

March 20, 2018

Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas, 19 March 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Reasoning as a self-doubter"

March 19, 2018

Erich Rast, 16.3., Sala 1.05 ID, 16h

Value Seminar Session with Erich Rast, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 16, 2018

Value Seminar Marcin Lewiński, Sala 105 ID 16h

Value Seminar with Marcin Lewiński, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 09, 2018

Value Seminar Dima Mohammed, Sala 105 ID 16h

Value Seminar with Dima Mohammed, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 02, 2018

The 1st European Conference on Argumentation

International Conference | Argumentation and Reasoned Action

June 09, 2015


Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa