The Incantatives


While different kinds of speech acts can contribute to the construction of social reality, contemporary philosophers have focused on exercitives/declarations. We defend that there is another kind of speech act that is operative in the construction and the maintenance of social facts: the incantatives. The main function of incantatives is to express and generate collective evaluations. They thus contribute to the existence of social facts such as value-based collectives.


6 thoughts on “The Incantatives

  1. Constant Bonard says:

    I feel very stupid but I can’t find the password for the zoom meeting that is supposed to take place in 1 minute!
    Here is my email address:
    Can somebody help me?

  2. Vuille, Antoine says:

    Hi Benjamin and Constant, the talk is brilliant, I enjoyed it a lot ! I have a curiosity question concerning the institutional groups versus value-based collectivities contrast. Institutional groups need exercitives : they cannot exist without this kind of speech act. You do not say whether there is a counterpart of this requirement for value-based collectivities or not. Do these groups need incantatives ? Do the eco-feminists, the Beyoncé’s fan base and the punks need incantatives for their exisence ? Or maybe incantatives is just what reinforces these groupe without being a condition for them to exist ?

    1. Constant Bonard says:

      Hi Antoine!
      Thanks for your comment. Really glad you enjoyed the talk 🙂
      I would choose the last option you propose: the incantatives are not necessary for the creation of value-based collectives, but they help. Nevertheless, I believe that we would find incantatives in the vast majority of value-based collectives (there certainly are some in the eco-feminists, Beyoncé’s fan base and the punks). The reason why I think they are not necessary is that I think that language itself is not necessary for the existence of value-based collectives, but the incantatives are speech acts, and so they require language.
      However, it may be the case that non-verbal equivalents to incantatives are necessary for the creation of value-based collectives. These would be non-verbal communicative acts whose purpose is to express and generate collective evaluative attitudes. For instance, I believe that music may be used to perform such a non-verbal communicative act. Music may be used to create and/or reinforce a value-based collective without words, but by being something like the non-verbal equivalents to incantatives. Other non-verbal expressive means (vocal, facial, gestural, etc.) may be used to perform the non-verbal equivalent to incantatives.
      I find the idea that either the incantatives or their non-verbal equivalents are necessary for the creation of value-based collectives to be attractive, although I have not explored this hypothesis in details.

    2. Constant Bonard says:

      Oh and of course: clothing styles (a topic that interests you very much I believe ;-)) may very well be used as non-verbal equivalents to incantatives. What do you think?

  3. Massin, Olivier says:

    Hi Constant & Benjamin, thanks for this this is very nice! a couple of comments on the go:
    (i) I wonder if your contrasting value-based collectives with Searle’s institutional facts is quite fair. I think in his framework, such collectives would be accounted for in terms of collective intentionality—they fall on the side of institutionalizers rather than on the side of institutions.
    (ii) not entirely clear to me that the slogans are not directives. Certainly they do express some beliefs/emotions/evaluations of their utterers. But all speech act express mental states in speech act theory. The question is whether this is their purpose to do so. It is often not the case, at least prima facie: consider revendications such as “abolish…!” “stop …!”, “free…!”.
    (iii) Instead of having a new category of speech acts, why not say instead that sometimes with a same sentence, you perform two acts, one expressive, the other directive. You might then call these complex acts incantatives, but they are going to be made up of other simpler kinds of acts—directives and expressives.
    (iv) there is an interesting case in the vicinity in which by (pretending to?) make an assertion/order/ask a question… your indeed aim at signaling sth about you.
    (v) “‘express and generate a collective evaluation”: it seems it cannot be the same collective evaluation that they express and that they generate, for you can only express what is already there, and you can only generate what is not yet there. this support the view that there is a expressive and and directive side to incantatives which are utterly distinct.

    1. Constant Bonard says:

      Hi Olivier!
      Thanks a lot for your comments. I’ll answer briefly here but I hope to talk about it in more details at some occasion!
      (i) I don’t really see what you find to be unfair. Yes, Searle may want to account for value-based collectives through the notion of collective intentionality and we are not opposed to that. What we strongly reject is the following claim of his: “With the important exception of language itself, all of institutional reality, and therefore, in a sense, *all of human civilization*, is created by speech acts that have the same logical form as Declarations.” Incantatives are another kind of speech act that is effective in the creation of human civilization.
      (ii) Yes, there may be slogans that are used as directives, such as the ones you are thinking about (there may be slogans that are expressives too). But I don’t think this is a convincing analysis of the examples we discuss.
      (iii) This strategy wouldn’t work if by ‘directive’ and ‘expressive’ you mean what Searle means because, according to his taxonomy, the propositional content of directives must be an action performed by the addressee while the propositional content of expressives is a property of the hearer or the speaker. What we need is a speech act with one propositional content that is a value-loaded situation: neither directives nor expressives have the right kind of propositional content. Furthermore, he considers that expressives don’t have a direction of fit, but the incantatives have both directions of fit, so mixing directives and expressives would not work either concerning the direction of fit.
      (iv) Mmh yes sounds like an interesting case to study in the vicinity indeed. Thanks!
      (v) The idea is that, with an incantative, I express a type of attitude – say fear – and intend to generate this same type of attitude. I don’t intend to generate my token attitude in the crowd, but the type of attitude I am in (if I am sincere, if I am not sincere I may express something that I am not undergoing).

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