Ordinary Language Philosophy

Ordinary language philosophy is a philosophical school that sees traditional philosophical problems as rooted in misunderstandings philosophers develop by distorting or forgetting what words actually mean in everyday use.

This approach typically involves eschewing philosophical "theories" in favour of close attention to the details of the use of everyday, "ordinary" language. Sometimes called "Oxford philosophy", it is generally associated with the work of a number of mid-20th century Oxford professors: mainly J.L. Austin, but also Gilbert Ryle, H.L.A. Hart, and Peter Strawson. The later Ludwig Wittgenstein is ordinary language philosophy's most celebrated proponent outside the Oxford circle. Second generation figures include Stanley Cavell and John Searle.

The Wittgenstein scholar A. C. Grayling (Wittgenstein, Oxford University Press, (Oxford), 1988, p. 114) is certain that, despite the fact that Wittgenstein’s work might have played some "second or third-hand the philosophical concern for language which was dominant in the mid-century", neither Gilbert Ryle nor any of those in the so-called "ordinary language philosophy" school that is chiefly associated with J. L. Austin were Wittgensteinians. More significantly, Grayling asserts that "most of them were largely unaffected by Wittgenstein’s later ideas, and some were actively hostile to them".

The name comes from the contrast between this approach and earlier views of the role of language in solving philosophical problems that had been dominant in analytic philosophy, now sometimes called ideal language philosophy. Ordinary language philosophy was a major philosophic school between 1930 and 1970, and remains an important force in philosophy today.

Read more about Ordinary Language Philosophy:  Central Ideas, History, Criticism

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