Common Sense and Ordinary Language: Wittgenstein and Austin

In Rik Peels & René Van Woudenberg (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Common Sense Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)
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What role does ‘ordinary language philosophy’ play in the defense of common sense beliefs? J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein each give central place to ordinary language in their responses to skeptical challenges to common sense beliefs. But Austin and Wittgenstein do not always respond to such challenges in the same way, and their working methods are different. In this paper, I compare Austin’s and Wittgenstein’s metaphilosophical positions, and show that they share many metaphilosophical commitments. I then examine Austin and Wittgenstein’s respective takes on the problem of other minds and the problem of our knowledge of the external world. Interestingly, we find Wittgenstein employing methods more frequently associated Austin and vice versa. Moreover, we find that a variety of defenses of common sense beliefs are compatible with ‘ordinary language philosophy.’

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Krista Lawlor
Stanford University


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