OF THE WORLD
WE HAVE DESCRIBED the views of Linguistic Philosophy on language and on philosophy, and it is time to turn to its view of the world. Officially, it has none. (Officially it is sometimes claimed not to be a theory of anything.) It often considers the pursuit of world-views to be the cardinal sin of thought. Alternatively, it claims to be neutral with regard to all substantive questions about the world. In fact, however, it does have an interesting, indeed striking, view of the world, which can, as shown, be elicited from its presuppositions, its procedural rules, its criteria of what counts as a solution, and from certain key slogans, and from occasional confessions.
The kernel of that view of the world is something that may strike one as so true, so all-embracing, so accurate a proposition as to merit being called the secret of the universe. I shall now disclose this Secret of the Universe. Its first formulation is:
The world is what it is.
It will be objected that this is a trivial tautology; to dress it up as the secret of the universe, a feeble joke; to attribute it to a serious philosophic movement, a silly travesty.
On the contrary, suitably interpreted, it is a powerful idea. Far from being a mere joke, the joke is on those who do not see its full implications: for past, pre-linguistic philosophy implicitly denied this principle, trivial though it may seem when so simply formulated.
Pre-linguistic philosophy implicitly contradicted it by supposing that the world could somehow be a different place according to whether this or that concept was employed to describe it. The power of the seemingly trivial proposition emerges if it is read in the light of the theory of language expounded earlier. For philosophic questions generally do not concern individual cases: they do not enquire whether this or that individual falls under some concept; whether this action is right, that
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Publication information: Book title: Words and Things. Contributors: Ernest Gellner - Author. Publisher: Gollancz. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1960. Page number: 99.
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