Philosophy of language is an attempt to understand the nature of language and its relationship with speakers, their thoughts, and the world. Philosophers of




НазваниеPhilosophy of language is an attempt to understand the nature of language and its relationship with speakers, their thoughts, and the world. Philosophers of
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INTRODUCTION


Philosophy of language is an attempt to understand the nature of language and its relationship with speakers, their thoughts, and the world. Philosophers of language ask and attempt to answer abstract questions such as: What is language? What is its purpose? How do we manage to understand each other? Under what conditions is what we say meaningful? What gives the various components of language and our speech the meaning they have? What is meaning? Philosophers of language are also concerned with questions about the relationship between languages and the world: Does language describe the world or does it, in some way, construct our picture of reality? Does language distort reality or does it enable us to give accurate accounts of what there is? Are the truth and falsehood of our statements determined by the world or by our linguistic conventions? What is the connection between names and the objects to which they refer?


Philosophy of language also explores the relationship between what we say and our mental states and intentions. Can we think without language? Are our patterns of thought determined by our language? Is there such a thing as ‘a language of thought’ that underlines all human languages? How do we come to learn a language? Do we have an innate linguistic faculty or do we learn to speak by observing the behavior of other speakers?


The answers, or attempts to answer such questions, are the source of various philosophical theories about language, notable among them theories of meaning, reference, and interpretation.


A Brief Historical Outline

The history of philosophical concern with language is as old as philosophy itself. Plato, in Cratylus, explored the relationship between names and things and engaged in what today would be recognized as philosophy

of language. Most philosophers since Plato have shown some interest in language. Rene Descartes (I596-1650), the founding father of modern philosophy, for instance, believed in the existence of a universal language underpinning the diverse languages which human communities use and is seen by twentieth-century linguist Noam Chomsky as a precursor of the theory of the innateness of linguistic abilities. Hobbes and Locke were interested in the relationship between language and thought or ideas. Hobbes wrote, 'Seeing then that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth had need to remember what every name he uses stands for, and to place it accordingly, or else he will find himself entangled in words, as a bird in lime twigs, the more he struggles, the more belimed.' And Locke argued that 'The use of Words . . . stand[s] as outward Marks of our internal ideas’.


In spite of the interest in language, the main preoccupations of philosophy until the beginning of the twentieth century were far from linguistic. The ancient philosophers, beginning with the Presocratics, established a tradition of metaphysical speculation that continued through the Middle Ages. They were primarily concerned with questions about the nature of existence, the categories of things that exist, their essences, their unity and diversity and so on. With Descartes, the locus of philosophical concern changed from the issue of what there is to what we know. The sceptical climate engendered by the Renaissance and the breakdown of old scientific and religious certainties gave urgency to questions such as 'How can we know anything at all?' and 'What justification have we for our claims to knowledge?'. Both the rationalist and the empiricist philosophers, from Descartes onward, were, in different ways, engaged in the project of establishing foundations for claims to knowledge, and so were primarily concerned with epistemological questions.


With the beginning of the twentieth century we witness a radical change. A preoccupation with language began to dominate philosophy and gave it its 'linguistic turn'. This change involved not only a quantitative increase in interest in matters linguistic, but also the recasting of age- old philosophical questions in linguistic terms. Language thus came to be seen as the primary means of both understanding and solving philosophical problems.


The philosophers directly responsible for this paradigm shift, Gottlob Frege in Germany and Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore in Britain, reacted against currents of philosophy prevalent in Germany and Britain at the end of the nineteenth century. The roots of what came to be known as 'the analytic revolution' can be found in Frege's revolt against German

psychologism and Russell's and Moore's rejection of British idealism. These philosophers wanted to replace the prevailing Neo-Kantianism and idealism with rigorous philosophical realism. They were primarily concerned with the nature of truth, with reality and the connection between thought and the world, and they sought to gain knowledge of reality and its connections with human thought. However, they also believed that reality cannot be studied directly without also studying the main medium for thinking about it and describing it, i.e., language. Their concern was with language as an abstract entity that expresses thought and whose structure, if analysed correctly, can reveal the structure of reality and they had no, or very little, interest in the actual use of language in its social context.


The main features of analytic philosophy, in its infancy, were: (a) the emphasis on rigorous argumentation and clarity, both as a goal and as methodology; (b) lack of interest in the history of the subject; (c) emphasis on the connections between philosophical concerns and those of the natural sciences (Russell voices the view of many analytic philosophers when he claims that philosophy is essentially one with science, differing from the special sciences only in the generality of its problems); (d) belief in the importance of language as a means of understanding philosophical questions, including questions about the relationship between the world, or reality, and thought; (e) the adoption of the method of analysis and reliance on formal logic as a tool to analyse and clarify philosophical problems. Analytic philosophy was seen, at first, as a tool for dissecting thought and analysing it into its ultimate constituents, in the same way that chemistry analyses physical substances. The newly discovered logical tools were to be the instruments for the analysis and language was the main medium through which thought was to be analysed. Analysis of language would reveal hidden logical structures and, in the process, help us solve age-old philosophical problems, hence the term 'analytic philosophy'. Frege and Russell revolutionized logic by inventing new ways of representing the logical form of language in formal notations. These innovations led to the hope that logically perfect or ideal languages could be constructed, free of the ambiguities of ordinary languages, able to express scientific truths clearly and precisely.


Despite many similarities we can detect a change of approach in the work of the next generation of analytic philosophers. The philosophers of the Vienna Circle, known as the logical positivists (see chapter 4), took much of their inspiration from a somewhat simplified understanding of Ludwig Wittgenstein's ideas in the 1920s. They associated the meaning of a sentence with the conditions which would verify it. Their most important contribution to philosophy of language was the emphasis put

on the connection between meaning and epistemic conditions, such as methods of verification. The verificationist theory of meaning distinguishes between analytic and synthetic statements, claiming that analytic statements, like statements of logic and mathematics, are true by virtue of the meaning of the terms contained in them and provide no information about the world. Synthetic statements, on the other hand, are about the world, and their meaning is their method of verification or confirmation by empirical means. As Tyler Burge has pointed out, 'The verificationist principle was supposed to explain why philosophy, particularly metaphysics, had failed. The idea was that, since philosophy associates no method of verification with most of its claims, those claims are meaningless. To be meaningful and produce knowledge, philosophy was supposed to imitate science in associating its claims with methods of testing them for truth. Thus, the logical positivists represent a typically ambitious move in philosophy of language, whereby a correct theory of meaning is seen as the means for solving, or rather dissolving, ancient philosophical problems. The positivist movement, influenced by Frege through Russell, Carnap and Wittgenstein, had propagated the view that the study of linguistic meaning was the proper starting point for philosophy. Language and meaning were supposed to elicit initial agreement better than other traditional starting points, such as the nature of concepts, or first metaphysical principles.


A common feature of early analytic philosophy of language was a mistrust of ordinary languages. Frege, for instance, had argued that 'someone who wants to learn logic from language is like an adult who wants to learn how to think from a child. When men created language, they were at a stage of childish pictorial thinking. Languages are not made to logic's ruler. He argued that philosophy should attempt to free thought from 'that which only the nature of the linguistic means of expression attaches to it'. One of the many problems with ordinary languages, according to Frege, is that they are vague and contain predicates whose boundaries are not clearly drawn (e.g., is tall, is bald), and hence fail to refer. Frege hoped that, eventually, a perfect or ideal language would be devised, with the help of his logical notation, which would be capable of expressing thoughts in an accurate way. His Begriffsschrift (1989), and the logical notation invented therein, were steps towards the construction of such a precise, ideal language.


Russell, in a similar vein, dismissed the relevance of ordinary languages

to the correct logical and scientific understanding of thought and the world. According to him, ordinary languages such as English can give rise to erroneous metaphysical beliefs and encourage a false view of the world, by giving 'metaphysical importance to the accidents of our own

speech'. As we shall see (chapter 2), Russell was interested in analyzing components of ordinary languages only to unmask the true logical form of linguistic expressions that had been distorted by their misleading grammatical form. Similarly, the logical positivists saw philosophy as a critique of language and were involved in the construction of an ideal language suitable for the expression of the results of scientific enquiry. Beginning in the 1930s, the concerns with formal aspects of language and the construction of ideal languages were supplemented, and gradually replaced, by a new interest in the workings of ordinary languages. The focus of philosophy of language began to shift from analyzing language in the abstract to looking at its day-to-day working in social contexts. Philosophers of language started concentrating more on what people do with language than on its abstract properties. While the earlier generation was concerned with semantical and syntactical questions, this new phase of philosophy of language concentrated on pragmatic questions. (These concerns are illustrated in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of this collection.)


This stark and ascetic conception of language began to be criticized, in the first place by Ludwig Wittgenstein, attacking the views he had expressed in his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) where he had ignored the multi-facetedness of linguistic usage and had concentrated on a single function of language, viz. its role in representing or picturing the world. Starting with his so-called Blue and Brown Books (1958), which comprised notes dictated to his Cambridge students in the 1930s Wittgenstein affected a sea change in philosophy of language. He rejected his earlier views on the conditions of meaningfulness and the relationship between language and the world, in particular his picture theory of meaning, which was based on the assumption of a relationship of correspondence or mirroring between propositions or the sentences of language and mind-independent facts. Now he favoured a view of meaning that was based on looking at language-use in its social and biological context, or what he called a 'form of life' (see chapter 5).


The ordinary-language approach developed further with the work of Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin (see chapter 6). Austin thought that inattention to the finer details of the working of language had led philosophers into major conceptual errors. By having too narrow a conception of language, by emphasizing the assertoric or the propositional aspect of linguistic utterances, philosophers had fallen into various errors, including what Austin called the 'descriptive fallacy': the assumption that words are used only to describe. Many of the traditional philosophical concerns and problems, for example, scepticism about the external world, the argument from illusion, free will versus determinism,

can be resolved or dissolved by painstaking analysis and attention to the correct use of terms.


Wittgenstein and Austin, despite many differences, shared the common aim of looking at the actual uses of language and attention to the pragmatics of language, in order to find the sources for philosophical puzzles. They treated philosophy as an activity. For Wittgenstein in particular, this was a therapeutic activity, useful for dissolving as well as solving philosophical problems. Philosophical problems, they maintained, are often created by misuse of language (hence Wittgenstein's famous dictum: 'Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language'). They rejected the ambitious system- building and foundationalist projects that were the hallmark of earlier philosophical temperaments and adopted a quietist attitude which would have seemed alien to more traditional philosophers.


A further important figure engaged in ordinary-language philosophy in the 1940s and 1950s was Gilbert Ryle whose work has had its greatest impact on philosophy of mind. Ryle, like Austin and Wittgenstein, believed in the curative role of philosophy. His most significant and innovative contribution was the idea that certain philosophical doctrines (e.g., mind-body dualism) arise out of treating expressions that properly belong to one logico-linguistic category as if they belonged to a different category, for example, thinking that 'mind' belongs to the category of substantive things rather than dispositions to behaviour. Ryle, like Austin, was attempting to detect 'the sources in linguistic idioms of recurrent misconstructions and absurd theories'. In this they were both following Moore's example by according priority to 'commonsensical' judgements and intuitions rather than to philosophical theorizing.


The earlier generations of philosophers of language concentrated on language as primarily the medium for making true (or false) statements about the world. The ordinary-language philosophers, in contrast, emphasized the role of pragmatics and the communicative function of language, believing that the detailed study of how ordinary languages work can help solve many traditional philosophical problems. Here an important part of the disagreement between the ideal-language and ordinary-language philosophers can be located. Although both groups accepted that philosophical problems, at least to some extent, are created by the ambiguities and lack of clarity inherent in ordinary language, they adopted opposing strategies to try to deal with the perceived difficulties. The ideal-language philosophers proposed a total reform of our ordinary language by revealing the correct, underlying logical form of our assertions. The ordinary-language philosophers, on the other hand, advocated a deeper understanding of ordinary languages as they stand, but

did not feel the need to improve or reform them. The common link between these phases of analytic philosophy was the treatment of language as the starting point for philosophy, a lack of concern for the history of the subject, emphasis on clarity of the thought and expression, and interest in the method of analysis. But while Russell, Frege, the early Wittgenstein and the logical positivists emphasized logical analysis, the ordinary-language philosophers, following Moore, were more interested in conceptual analysis, which involved looking at ordinary usage of language. As P. M. Hacker has pointed out:


"Conceptual analysis" as practised in Britain after the war, was an heir to Moorean analysis, in which the term "analysis" was retained, but its implication of decomposition into simple constituents was jettisoned. Similarly, the term "concept" was preserved, but its Moorean realist or Platonist connotations were abandoned. "Conceptual analysis" thus conceived amounted, roughly speaking, to giving a description, for specific philosophical purposes, of the use of a linguistic expression and of its rule-governed connection with other expressions by way of implication, exclusion, presupposition, etc.


The next phase of the linguistic turn in analytic philosophy can be dated from the publication of W. V. 0. Quine's highly influential work 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' (chapter 8) in 1951.


The Nazi take-over in Germany and Austria and the onset of the Second World War forced many philosophers affiliated with the Vienna Circle and logical positivism to flee to the United States. Notable among them were Rudolf Carnap, Alfred Tarski, Herbert Feigl and Kurt Godel, whose arrival had an enormous impact on future developments in American philosophy. The philosophical school indigenous to the United States was Pragmatism, which had started with C. S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey and had been continued by C. I. Lewis. The Pragmatist philosophers James, Dewey and Peirce had concentrated on the connection between truth and what works or is useful. Truth, they maintained, is a property of the end result of successful scientific research which in turn enables us to have control over nature. They regarded the questions about meaning and truth as answerable only in terms of how things work out in practice. Many contemporary American philosophers have been influenced by Pragmatist conceptions of truth and knowledge, notably Wilhem van Orman Quine (chapter 8),
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