How to Use (Ordinary) Language Offensively

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Alex Davies


One can attack a philosophical claim by identifying a misuse of the language used to state it. I distinguish between two varieties of this strategy: one belonging to Norman Malcolm and the other to Ludwig Wittgenstein. The former is flawed and easily dismissible as misled linguistic conservatism. It muddies the name of ordinary language philosophy. I argue that the latter avoids this flaw. To make perspicuous the kind of criticism of philosophical claims that the second variety makes available, I draw a comparison between Wittgenstein’s recommendation that philosophers study ordinary language and Alfred Schütz’s recommendation that social scientists study the methods of the agents they study. Both do so in an attempt to sensitise philosophers and social scientists respectively to particular artefacts of method which can be easily mistaken for features of that which is studied.

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20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; method; Schuetz Alfred; Malcolm Norman; ordinary language; artifact