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Film and Philosophy

Volume 24, 2020

Kyle Barrowman
Pages 134-155

Morals of Encounter in Steve Jobs
J.L. Austin, Stanley Cavell, and the Possibilities of Ordinary Language Philosophy

In this article, the author argues for the probative value of ordinary language philosophy for the discipline of film studies by way of an analysis of the conversational protocols discernible in the film Steve Jobs (2015). In particular, the author focuses on the work of J.L. Austin, specifically his theory of speech acts and his formulation of the performative utterance, and Stanley Cavell, specifically his extension of Austinian speech act theory and his formulation of the passionate utterance, and analyzes the interactions between the titular character and his daughter through this unique Austinian/Cavellian lens. In so doing, the author endeavors to encourage more scholars in the field of film-philosophy to explore the key concepts and arguments in ordinary language philosophy for use in analyzing films. Despite its having been virtually ignored by film scholars over the last half century, one of many regrettable effects of the Continental bias of film scholars generally and film-philosophers specifically, the author contends that ordinary language philosophy provides powerful tools for the analysis of dialogue and communication in film, with Steve Jobs serving as a particularly insightful test case of the broad utility of ordinary language philosophy for film studies.

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