CHAPTER X
CONCLUSION

WHAT ARE THE positive conclusions of this book?

To begin with, the need for explicitness. Whatever may be the limits of meaningful discourse, the first principle of semantics must be: Whatever can be insinuated can be said. Ineffabilities, and far worse, the camouflaging of presuppositions and values as procedural rules, will not do. If common sense or ordinary language are claimed to be sensible or true, then the claim must be examined.

There is no justification for equating philosophy with self- defeating thought or with its cure, or for assuming that all general ideas (outside sciences) must be wrong. The theory behind these assumptions is false, and the assumption is not warranted by any practical successes of the policy based on it. This being so, the study of conceptual confusion, the importance of minute distinctions, examination of lexicographical evidence may be indulged in when there are genuine grounds for believing it to be relevant, but, in general, truth is not a matter of the ultimate nuance. It may be so sometimes. There is no reason for supposing that it is so always or frequently.

Similarly, there is no reason for avoiding generality in our statements. The complexities and untidiness of actual speech seldom contain clues of importance, and generally deserve to be unified under simpler notions. Where this is not so, the exceptions have a better chance of standing out clearly if a general claim is made first. The heaven of the linguistic philosopher, the idiographic study of particular expressions, where conceptual issues are said to arise in isolation from substantive ones, and where the analysis is claimed to be wholly neutral, is an utterly unreal realm, as much so as any transcendentalism of past philosophers.

Conceptual investigations are seldom or never separable from either substantive ones or from evaluation. The model on which the contrary assumption was based is false. A philosophy

-263-

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Words and Things
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Acknowledgements 7
  • Contents 9
  • Introduction 13
  • Chapter I - Of Linguistic Philosophy 17
  • Chapter II - Of Language 27
  • Chapter III - Of Philosophy 57
  • Chapter IV - Of the World 99
  • Chapter V - Of Knowledge 120
  • Chapter VI - Structure and Strategy 159
  • Chapter VII - Assessment 193
  • Chapter VIII - Implications 220
  • Chapter IX - Sociology 229
  • Chapter X - Conclusion 263
  • Index 267
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