Ordinary Language Philosophy and Ideal Language Philosophy

In Marcus Rossberg (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Analytic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)
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According to ordinary language philosophy (OLP), philosophical problems can be solved by investigating ordinary language, often because the problems stem from its misuse. According to ideal language philosophy (ILP), on the other hand, philosophical problems exist because ordinary language is flawed and has to be improved or replaced by constructed languages that do not exhibit these flaws. OLP and ILP together make up linguistic philosophy, the view that philosophical problems are problems of language. Linguistic philosophy is opposed to what may be called, for lack of a better word, ‘traditional philosophy’ (TP), the view that philosophical problems can be solved by discovering non-linguistic facts. In the following, OLP, ILP, and TP are taken to be methodologies, that is, frameworks in which to interpret and evaluate different philosophical methods (i.e., argumentative strategies). The two linguistic methodologies are discussed separately with TP as a foil, and then used to interpret the status of different philosophical methods. While each of the methods discussed here finds a plausible interpretation in each methodology, there are other arguments for and against linguistic philosophy in general, and for and against ILP and OLP in particular. As none of these arguments is decisive, I conclude with a superficial moral about peaceful co-existence.

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Sebastian Lutz
Uppsala University


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