OF LINGUISTIC PHILOSOPHY
LINGUISTIC PHILOSOPHY IS a certain cluster of views about the world, language and philosophy. This cluster has a considerable measure of unity and inner coherence. It merits treatment as "a philosophy", that is, a distinctive outlook, a way of looking at things, with its associated style of reasoning and of setting about solving problems, of recognising problems and solutions. This philosophy underlies the views and practices of what has become the dominant school of philosophy in British Universities, and particularly in Oxford, since the war. Before the war it was upheld by an influential avant-garde. Its main origin is to be found in the later views of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
For a variety of reasons inherent in that philosophy, it seems to me unlikely that an adequate account of it can be expected from those who subscribe to it. For this philosophy need only be stated clearly for certain disastrous defects in it to become apparent.
Those who are committed to it and subscribe to it have no incentive to bring out its defects. In fact, the philosophy contains a number of features which militate against a clear statement of the general position. These features include the notions that certain important things are unsayable, or that truth must be communicated in a kind of oblique way, and that it can only be done in an extremely piecemeal and detailed manner if it is not to be misleading. The founder of the movement was obsessed by the inevitability of being misunderstood. These views may be held in good faith and have some merit, but their consequence is that the uninitiated have great difficulty in ascertaining just what the key ideas of the movement are, and a clear statement which would highlight their weaknesses is avoided.
The accounts of the philosophy which are available tend to be either esoteric, or piecemeal and fragmentary, or historical, in that they attempt to convey the key ideas by showing how