First Word Philosophy: Wittgenstein-Austin-Cavell, Writings on Ordinary Language Philosophy

First Word Philosophy: Wittgenstein-Austin-Cavell, Writings on Ordinary Language Philosophy

First Word Philosophy: Wittgenstein-Austin-Cavell, Writings on Ordinary Language Philosophy

First Word Philosophy: Wittgenstein-Austin-Cavell, Writings on Ordinary Language Philosophy

Synopsis

"The significance of ordinary language (first word) philosophy is stated and argued in this book. Fleming provocatively makes the distinguishing facts of ordinary language philosophy clear and provides opportunities for investigation rather than causes for avoidance and despair. This is a synthesis of some of the thoughts of Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell, and thereby is something none of them individually propose."

Excerpt

My intention in this brief abstract is to discuss a single perspective and teaching that arises in the study of ordinary language philosophy, i.e., primarily in the writings of Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell. This may be a hopeless hope since no individual proposition or argument of ordinary language philosophy stands easily and meaningfully alone. Nonetheless, it seems a desire worth pursuing since it is fairly undeniable that those who are unaccustomed to such philosophy often lose the threads of its discussions as they are intricately interwoven in the texts of its proponents. Such readers ask, not improperly, for a more concise chain of reasoning, a differently ordered view of what is argued, where basic assertions are presented and traced from first principles to a last conclusion. I wish here to answer in part that request.

Ordinary language philosophy has, since its inception and over its short History, been criticized as obscure, trivial, dogmatic, and generally unreflective. One need only remember complaints like the following:

I find myself totally unable to accept this view.... Because it is insincere ... it makes philosophy trivial . . . it makes almost inevitable the perpetuation among philosophers of the muddle-headedness they have taken over from common sense. (Russell, Basic Writings, p. 137)

The familiar material objects may not be all that is real, but they are admirable examples. There are, however, philosophers who overdo this line of thought, treating ordinary language as sacrosanct. They exalt ordinary language to the exclusion of one of its own traits: its disposition to keep evolving.... in steadfast laymanship they deplore . . . departures from ordinary usage, failing to appreciate that it is precisely by showing how to circumvent . . .

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