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Encyclopedia > Ordinary language philosophy

Ordinary language philosophy is a philosophical school that approached traditional philosophical problems as rooted in misunderstandings philosophers develop by forgetting what words actually mean in a language. These approaches typically involve eschewing philosophical "theories" in favour of close attention to the details of the use of everyday, "ordinary" language. They are generally associated with the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the works of Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin, Peter Strawson, and Norman Malcolm. The name comes from the contrast between these approaches and the earlier approaches that had been dominant in analytic philosophy, and are now sometimes called ideal language philosophy. Ordinary language philosophy was a dominant philosophic school between 1930 and 1970, and remains an important force in present-day philosophy. Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (IPA: ) (April 26, 1889 – April 29, 1951) was an Austrian philosopher who contributed several ground-breaking works to contemporary philosophy, primarily on the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. ... Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976), was a philosopher, and a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers influenced by Wittgensteins insights into language, and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase the ghost in the machine. He referred to some... John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 - February 8, 1960) was a philosopher of language, who developed much of the current theory of speech acts. ... Professor Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (November 23, 1919 – 13 February 2006) was an English philosopher. ... Norman Malcolm (1911 – 1990) is an American philosopher. ... Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to prominence during the 20th Century. ...


Early analytic philosophy had a less positive view of ordinary language. Bertrand Russell tended to dismiss language as being of little philosophical significance, and ordinary language as just being too confused to help solve metaphysical and epistemological problems. Frege, the Vienna Circle (especially Rudolf Carnap), the young Wittgenstein, and W.V. Quine, all attempted to improve upon it, in particular using the resources of modern logic. Wittgenstein's view in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus more or less agreed with Russell that language ought to be reformulated so as to be unambiguous, so as to accurately represent the world, so that we could better deal with the questions of philosophy. Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell OM FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, and mathematician. ... Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (November 8, 1848 - July 26, 1925) was a German mathematician, logician, and philosopher who is regarded as a founder of both modern mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. ... Moritz Schlick around 1930 The Vienna Circle (in German: der Wiener Kreis) was a group of philosophers who gathered around Moritz Schlick when he was called to the Vienna University in 1922, organized in a philosophical association named Verein Ernst Mach (Ernst Mach Society). ... Rudolf Carnap Rudolf Carnap (May 18, 1891, Ronsdorf, Germany – September 14, 1970, Santa Monica, California) was an influential philosopher who was active in central Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. ... W. V. Quine Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25, 1908 - December 25, 2000) was one of the most influential American philosophers and logicians of the 20th century. ... Logic, from Classical Greek λόγος logos (the word), is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... Book cover of the Dover edition of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Ogden translation) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length work published by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his lifetime. ...

The sea-change brought on by Wittgenstein's unpublished work in the 1930's centred largely around the idea that there is nothing wrong with ordinary language as it stands, and that many traditional philosophical problems were only illusions brought on by misunderstandings about language and related subjects. The former idea led to rejecting the approaches of earlier analytic philosophy--arguably, of any earlier philosophy--and the latter led to replacing them with the contemplation of language in its normal use, in order to "dissolve" the appearance of philosophical problems, rather than attempt to solve them. At its inception, ordinary language philosophy (also called linguistic philosophy) had been taken as either an extension of or as an alternative to analytic philosophy. Now that the term "analytic philosophy" has a more standardized meaning, ordinary language philosophy is viewed as a stage of the analytic tradition that followed logical positivism and that preceded the yet-to-be-named stage analytic philosophy continues to be in (Rortyian neo-pragmatism and Kripke-esque philosophy). Richard McKay Rorty (born October 4, 1931 in New York City) is an American philosopher. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ...

Although heavily influenced by Wittgenstein and his students at Cambridge, ordinary language analysis largely flourished and developed at Oxford in the 1940s, under Austin and Gilbert Ryle, and was quite widespread for a time before declining rapidly in popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is now not uncommon to hear that "ordinary language philosophy is dead". Wittgenstein is perhaps the only one among the major figures in this vein to retain anything like the reputation he had at that time. On the other hand, the linguistic turn remains one of most important and controversial movements in contemporary thought, and many of the effects of this turn, which are felt across many academic disciplines, can be traced to ordinary language philosophy. Shown within Cambridgeshire Geography Status: City (1951) Region: East of England Admin. ... Oxford is a city and local government district in Oxfordshire, England, with a population of 134,248 (2001 census). ... Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976), was a philosopher, and a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers influenced by Wittgensteins insights into language, and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase the ghost in the machine. He referred to some... Note: this article originated from a translation from the German Wikipedias [entry] on the same topic. ...

Central ideas

Wittgenstein held that the meanings of words reside in their ordinary uses, and that that is why philosophers trip over words taken in abstraction. From England came the idea that philosophy has got into trouble by trying to understand words outside of the context of their use in ordinary language (cf. contextualism). Abstraction is the process of reducing the information content of a concept, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. ... In philosophy, contextualism describes a collection of views in the philosophy of language which emphasize the context in which an action, utterance or expression occurs, and argues that, in some important respect, the action, utterance or expression can only be understood within that context. ...

For example: What is reality? Philosophers have treated it as a noun denoting something that has certain properties. For thousands of years, they have debated those properties. Ordinary Language philosophy would instead look at how we use the word "reality". In some instances, people will say, "It seems to me that so-and-so; but in reality, such-and-such is the case". But this expression isn't used to mean that there is some special dimension of being that such-and-such has that so-and-so doesn't have. What we really mean is, "So-and-so only sounded right, but was misleading in some way. Now I'm about to tell you the truth: such-and-such". That is, "in reality" is a bit like "however". And the phrase, "The reality of the matter is …" serves a similar function — to set the listener's expectations. Further, when we talk about a "real gun", we aren't making a metaphysical statement about the nature of reality; we are merely opposing this gun to a toy gun, pretend gun, imaginary gun, etc.

The controversy really begins when ordinary language philosophers apply the same levelling tendency to questions such as What is Truth? or What is Consciousness?. Philosophers in this school would insist that we cannot assume that (for example) 'Truth' 'is' a 'thing' (in the same sense that tables and chairs are 'things'), which the word 'truth' represents. Instead, we must look at the differing ways in which the words 'truth' and 'conscious' actually function in ordinary language. We may well discover, after investigation, that there is no single entity to which the word 'truth' corresponds, something Wittgenstein attempts to get across via his concept of a 'family resemblance' (cf. Philosophical Investigations). Therefore ordinary language philosophers tend to be anti-essentialist. Of course, this was and is a very controversial viewpoint. Anti-essentialism and the linguistic philosophy associated with it are often important to contemporary accounts of feminism, Marxism, and other social philosophies that are critical of the injustice of the status quo. The essentialist 'Truth' as 'thing' is argued to be closely related to projects of domination, where the denial of alternate truths is understood to be a denial of alternate forms of living. Similar arguments sometimes involve ordinary language philosophy with other anti-essentialist movements like post-structuralism. Book cover of the Blackwell edition of Philosophical Investigations Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen) is, along with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the two major works by 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. ... In philosophy, essentialism is the view, that, for any specific kind of entity it is at least theoretically possible to specify a finite list of characteristics —all of which any entity must have to belong to the group defined. ... Feminism is a collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies largely motivated by or concerned with the liberation of women. ... Marxism refers to the philosophy and social theory based on Karl Marxs work on one hand, and the political practice based on Marxist theory on the other hand (namely, parts of the First International during Marxs time, communist parties and later states). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ...

Important books of ordinary language philosophy

  Results from FactBites:
Ordinary language philosophy - definition of Ordinary language philosophy in Encyclopedia (790 words)
Ordinary language philosophy is less a philosophical doctrine or school than it is a loose network of approaches to traditional philosophical problems.
Ordinary language philosophy, also called linguistic philosophy is thus sometimes taken as an extension of, and sometimes as an alternative to, analytic philosophy.
Therefore ordinary language philosophers tend to be anti-essentialist.
Analytic philosophy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2258 words)
Logic and philosophy of language were central strands of analytic philosophy from the beginning, although this dominance has diminished greatly.
Language is the principal—or perhaps the only—tool of the philosopher.
Ordinary language philosophy was often used to disperse philosophical problems, by exposing them as results of fundamental misunderstandings regarding the ordinary usage of the pertinent lingusitic terms.
  More results at FactBites »



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