What will follow might strike some as unchallenging. Those who are slightly acquainted with the beginnings of ordinary language philosophy might even notice the Austinian aroma of the whole perusal and treat everything as long since resolved. Yes, J. L. Austin too, in his William James lectures (Austin, 1962), and eveb some others before him (e.g. Gardiner, 1932; not to mention Arnauld & Nicole, 1683) tried to give an adequate answer to more or less the question (or type of question). Of course Austin came up with a terminology, made distinctions, proposed a theory, then another theory, then other proposed other theories and so on.
Nonetheless, I believe one can discuss and think of these issues without reference to any theoretically-driven concepts. Not to mention that Austin, just as any … mortal, might have been wrong!
That being said, let us have the following utterances.
|(1) “I affirm that the Earth is flat” |
(2) “I command you to be there at 8 pm”
The quotation marks don’t stand for anything unusual – they are to be taken simply as indicating that (1) and (2) are actual utterances. Imagine them as having been made. The question is:
Are they true or false?
In order to make clear the point of all this, I’ll note down three possible answers. They are not the only possible ones. They are not necessarily bad, nor necessarily good – if at all such slicing can be done. I suggest, for each, to try and see why would anyone propose such an answer (for now, I can only assure you that some very smart men actually did) and what can be brought for or against them. Again, try to consider things as a-, pre- or anti- theoretically as possible.
So, we can have:
|A. They are both true |
B. They are neither true nor false
C. The first is true and the second is neither true nor false
After you thought of A-C for a few moments, check the comments on this post for some possible supporting arguments. To be sure: this is only to steer the discussion a bit; that is, to avoid debating whether the Earth is strictly speaking, perfectly flat or round or whether “I” means Jack or Rachel etc.
Do not take anything for granted! :)