For one who says “promising is not merely a matter of uttering words! It is an inward and spiritual act!” is apt to appear as a solid moralist standing out against a generation of superficial theorizers: we see him as he sees himself, surveying the invisible depths of ethical space, with all the distinction of a specialist in the sui generis. Yet he provides Hippolytus with a let-out, the bigamist with an excuse for his “I do” and the welsher with a defense for his “I bet.” Accuracy and morality alike are on the side of the plain saying that our word is our bond (684).
When the “moralist” adds a dimension of human goodness to a promise – a dimension of error and forgiveness –, he complicates the act the spoken word asserts has been completed. Consequently, Austin concludes that such statements – explained to be illocutionary acts in the following section of the excerpt – must be considered irrelevant to this moral realm to be honest and, perhaps, truly ethical. For this reading and for many of the others, though, it seems necessary to question where the human emotion resides within communication. If each word has, naturally, no signification as Locke asserts, can emotional inference allow for a clearer perception of the intended signifier?