John Searle responded to this in an essay called “Reply to Derrida: Reiterating the Differences.” He claimed that Derrida misinterpreted Austin, who never claimed to give a full account of language and was focused on a narrower form of inquiry. He accuses Derrida of misunderstanding Austin’s type-token distinction and missing his concept of failure in performativity. If this was the extent of his critique, it might have been a normal academic exchange. But Searle just couldn’t resist digging in to Derrida, accusing him of making pseudo-profound statements that were actually silly or trivial, blasting the whole continental tradition, and relaying a private conversation with Foucault in which the latter allegedly described Derrida’s prose as “terrorist obscurantism.”
Derrida’s response, in a book called Limited Inc., pulls no punches. He makes a rather interesting dig at Searle for copyrighting his essay. Searle has an acknowledgment section where he recognized his wife, D. Searle, and Hubert Dreyfus, a fellow UC Berkeley professor. As such, Derrida says, he cannot claim to be the essay’s sole author. He even suggests that we cannot be sure that Searle himself wrote it, claiming it could have been his family, his secretary, his lawyer, the managing editor of the journal, a joker, or a namesake. As such, we cannot be sure if the meaning of the reply is itself “parasitic” in Austin’s sense.
Instead of referring to Searle directly, he refers to “a more or less anonymous company or corporation” or “three + n” authors. He also points out that Searle, like himself, was indebted to a more or less anonymous tradition of code. Derrida remarks with amusement that Dreyfus is an old friend of his, with whom he himself had worked, discussed and exchanged ideas. So, if it was indeed through Dreyfus that Searle had read and understood him, then Derrida himself could be said to be one of the authors of Searle’s reply. These “three + n” authors, Derrida said, comprised a limited liability corporation, or in French, a “société à responsabilité limitée” (Sarl). So, from that point on in the essay, the author of Searle’s reply is referred to as “Sarl.”
“Sarl” sees Derrida’s portrayal of Austin as denying the possibility that performatives can be cited, whereas Derrida points out that it is not the possibility but the eventuality that in any supposedly normal case, we might be dealing with a citation or parasitic act (we can imagine, for example, someone quoting from a movie we haven’t seen, thus mistaking their “parasitic” act for a performative one). So whereas Searle refers to “Derrida’s Austin,” Derrida, pointing out Searle’s misinterpretation of his interpretation, refers to “Sarl’s ‘Derrida’s Austin.’”
One particularly devilish ploy Derrida uses is to repeatedly cite Searle’s copyright, in increasingly nested quotation marks, asking whether this repeated iteration might somehow take on the character of an illocutionary act, or perhaps cause the supposed original to be lost.
"""Copyright © by John R. Searle"""
Derrida’s essay in fact cites nearly the full text of Searle’s essay, violating fair use law, but Derrida addresses this in the essay, saying that if he was called to court over it, he could at least have a chance to publicly defend his position, pointing out the derivative nature of the language Searle uses, and undermining the very basis of copyright itself.
The countless playful jabs at “Sarl” throughout the essay illustrate his point that all language is “parasitic” in this sense, and therefore illocutionary acts cannot be said to have primacy over these iterations. Searle never responded back to Derrida, though he did spend the next couple decades trying to destroy his career.