Voting information candidates: Spot the False Ones


I was thinking about false promises made during election campaigns and as a research wished to made some sort of analysis. The first problem I got was to answer this question: Whom to blame for false promises inheritance in elections? Perhaps you have an answer…. Don’t hesitate to comment below this post.

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My analysis is based on the medium of communication false promises are conveyed through: “languages.” What is language and how is it manipulated to trap us into false promise belief? Through the speech act of promise.

1.1.  What is language?

KBBI (2008) defines the following language:

An arbitrary and conventional articulated sound emblem system used as a means of communication to convey the feelings and minds […]

In the field of philosophy of language, languages are associated with human ability to acquire a specific symbol system and use it for communication, namely for the exchange of Information.

Language is associated with the human ability to acquire certain system of symbols and use it for communication, i.e. for exchange of information,” (Slavkovský & Kutáš, 2013).

From the quote, few things can be stated:

  • Language is a tool to convey information
  • Language can either be natural (e.g. Javanese,… French,…) or artificial (mathematics, logic…)

=== Natural and artificial languages are all conventional

1.2. Philosophy of Language

In this section, questions that often arise in discussions about language philosophy are:

Is it true that a language is field that can studied under philosophy? Why is the world around us portrayed using a ‘language’?”

To answer this, Dell Hymes in Soeparno (2002) reminds us of the function of the language. The language helps: “to conform to social norms, convey experiences, show the world beyond language, etc.”

Magee (2008) argues that an explanation of why the world is portrayed in language opens up the possibility to explain the relationship between language and reality. “The problem in philosophy is not largely due to the mysteries […] but rather misunderstanding arising because of language improper use “(pp. 203-206)

So, the language to depict the world out and the use of improper language can have confusing meaning and confuse a person who is thinking logically. In this post, I’d like to emphasize the relationship between meaning (word) and truth. Sentences also describe the world/nature because sentences are made of words that represent objects, events, concepts, etc., because without language we cannot understand what is around us.

1.3. The philosophy of Language History

In this subtitle, let’s talk about the philosophy of language and key-figures in this field. It is a broad movement off thinkers, not sufficiently unified, but connected through such an approach to “philosophising” which emphasizes the importance of language as the media of our thinking and that connects us with reality.

In the history of philosophy, individual thinkers who talked about the role of language have emerged since ancient times, but only in the 19th and 20th centuries where such approaches became widespread. That new emphasis on language came with the belief that language can be analysed. This then became part of the solution to problems arising from the unfamiliarity of language function, which became the way to solve traditional philosophical problems, (Slavkovský & Kutáš, ibid: 11)

There are two notable people in the field of language philosophy, namely Gottlobe Frege and Russell B. They, as its proponents, contributed greatly to their time of talking about reference and sense (see Frege) and Proper Names and Logical Atomism and Knowledge by Acquaintance and Real Proper Names (Russell).

1.4. Some topics in philosophy of language

Some basic topics in language philosophy are:

  •  what is meaning?
  •  What is language mastering?
  •  What are the connections between meaning and reality?

This is also stated by Slavkovský & Kutáš (ibid: 12) in which it is clear that language includes:

The nature of meaning, use of language, knowledge of language and relation between language and reality are mainly stated as the central topics of the philosophy of language. Also Other topics are added in a understanding of philosophy: How is the language made and how are we learning it, the issue of translation, understanding, metaphorical nature of language, the role of language in forming social reality, impact on Interpersonal relations and even on understanding of self – identity

In the quote that is above, one can be astonished by the fact that ‘how language is made and how we learn it, translation issues, understanding language natural metaphors, the role of language in shaping social reality, impact on interpersonal relationships, and even on self-identity comprehension.


A. The Speech Act Theory

The early speech theory is attributed to Austin (1962) who mentioned that basically when someone says something, they also do something by those words uttered.

e.g. “I now Declare You Husband and Wife” or “I take you as wife/husband”

These sentences do not describe or report, but they “do something.” They are declarative sentences, but they do not define a fact or “state of affairs” as to be done right or wrong.

=== But person uttering each has done something: “he has united a male and female as spouses” or “a male/female has taken a female/male as a spouse”

B. Validity of Speech Acts: Case of Promise

For validity, a promise speech act becomes or is valid only if it fulfils five conditions, known as felicity Conditions (Austin, ibid.). The five conditions are:

  1. Speaker must actually intend to do what is promised,
  2. Speaker must believe that the parties (here wife and husband-to-be or spouse to be) believe the action is in their interest;
  3. Speaker must believe that he/she has the ability to carry out such an action.
  4. Speaker must declare action in the future
  5. Speaker must declare him/herself the own actions

The promise uttered is the proof that the words that have been issued by the promise giver become true, valid. If one the conditions is met, the promise becomes compromised and this is a sign that it will not be obeyed or kept.

The great obstacle or challenge that a promise speech act poses is that we cannot see the wishes of the promise giver. We just believe what s/he does, whether s/he really wants or will keep the promise only s/he knows.

C. When We Promise, We Provide Information

This is the angle of philosophy of language developed in this paper. This act is very important because it can be dangerous when we do not keep promises to others. “Someone who accepts a promise standardly forms the expectation the promisor will perform, and they may rely on this expectation to their detriment.”

===The promisor utters something (promise) and the latter is a set of information. The receiver of a promise then expects that the promisor will keep his/her promise. But the danger arises when the promise turns in to have been a lie or cunning words. This then exposes the dark side of forming expectations based on promises.

Believing a promise is partially exposing oneself because the assertion (= promise in our case) might turn false”, (Barber & Stainton, 2010:413).

More consistently, one may argue that problems can be more perceived when we view the promise as a provision of information, namely facts about an event, situation, etc. People who provide information (facts) are not properly viewed as a liar by the public. And a liar’s image is associated with a negative behavior, and everyone is unhappy with liars.

The question in this discussion is:

“to what extent do we keep our promises? How many times have we promised, and remember that a little promise should be kept?

For example, the father who promises his son: Don’t cry, tomorrow I’ll give you a new shoe/ice cream,… The child will not forget the promise and will often remind his father of his promise. As long as his father won’t keep his promises to his son, the boy will grow up with an ugly model about keeping promises and keeping them.

D. The Role of promise (=information) receiver

Would we agree if a friend of ours says that 2 + 2 = 5? I am sure that all of us will cry out “What is it?”, why it is a real fact that the equation is wrong and whatever long time the friend will be trying to convince us, s/he will not succeed to get us trust the calculations.

===This is a concrete case where everything is factual. But what about “utterances used to promise?”

Do we critically think about/question facts that are said? When a promise issued, are we able to take a little time, however short it may, to think about the promise (= information given)?

The basic angle of philosophy of languages that are being developed are:

“Promise that is kept = Lie”                               

Why? Because when someone promises = they provide information

E. Giver and recipient of false information: All Are Wrong

When the promisor does not keep her/his promise = the meaning of the information he has given is not correct (= False promise).

What should a promise (=information) receiver/recipient do? S/he must verify the information for him-/her-self:

“Is this information true or false? Why?

Scenario I: (Anom wooed Retno, and the lady refused to be Anom’s friend.

===So, they are not close friends now L

Anom becomes successful: finishes his Doctoral Studies, buys a house and car for himself

Retno: (Spotting the current Anom’s wealth… one day, states): [Bam]…my dear …I love you very much and my love to you …won’t fade ….

Anom: Ah??? (a bit confused, smiles, hugs the lady…. believing in her promise; he forms expectations out of Retno’s words.

Analysis: Why is Retno coming now that Anom has a car and house? Anom had to ask himself these questions.

If Anom suddenly loses his car and his house collapses, and that Retno withdraws herself, who’s to blame?


  • Retno is seen as fraudster, a liar;
  • Anom is also to blame as he had received (believed) information/sudden promise without the critical thinking of all the things around Retno’s promise.

===But would he have verified Retno’s wishes/intention? No way to have known; this is the challenged posed by the promise speech act!

Scenario II: Political person/propagandist

Promises :

If you elect me, I will build 1000 highways and each province will receive 10 planes for public and fast transportation

Analysis: The presidential candidate became president. The electorate waits for the implementation of the promise in vain! Who is wrong or to blame?

  • Supporters/electorate are wrong because they believe the propagandist’s words without looking critically into the promise background and pragmatism;
  • The Propagandist (now president) would be wrong because s/he lied to the masses by providing false information, unpragmatic or unkept promises. This relates to Conserva’s (2009) Propaganda theory and how to slam successfully false electoral promises.

III. Conclusion

In this paper “Voting information candidates: Spot the False Ones”, a ‘promise’ is viewed or analysed as some sort of “information provided!”


-A promisor who issues unkept promises is equated to false informer; then s/he is wrong;

-Recipients of false information, who receive promises without any pragmatic background verification are wrong as well.

“Why a promise is not kept?” is a frequently asked question. ===Either a promise is not kept it is not pragmatic (impossible to be implemented), or one or more felicity condition is/are missing at the time of promise issuance.

So, “both the Giver and recipient of false information=promise are all wrong”

Read these articles to Foil Future Traps:


Barber, A. & Stainton, R. J, (2010). Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language and Linguistics. Sheffield: Elsevier Ltd

Conserva, H. (2009). Propaganda: A Question and Answer Approach. Bloomington : Author House

 Magee, B. (2010). The Story of Philosophy : Kisah Tentang Filsafat (Ed.Indonesia). Yogyakarta: Kanisius

Slavkovský, R. A& Kutáš, M. (2013). Introduction to the Philosophy of Language. Trnava: fftu

Soeparno, (2002). Dasar-dasar Linguistik Umum (ed.1). Yogyakarta : Tirta Wacana

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