Language, philosophy of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-U017-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Philosophical interest in language, while ancient and enduring (see Language, ancient philosophy of; Language, medieval theories of; Language, Renaissance philosophy of; Language, early modern philosophy of), has blossomed anew in the past century. There are three key historical sources of the current interest, and three intellectual concerns which sustain it.

Philosophers nowadays often aspire to systematic and even mathematically rigorous accounts of language; these philosophers are in one way or another heirs to Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein and the logical positivists, who strove to employ rigorous accounts of logic and of meaning in attempts to penetrate, and in some cases to dispel, traditional philosophical questions (see Logical positivism). Contemporary philosophers, too, are often attentive to the roles that philosophically interesting words (like ‘know’, ‘true’, ‘good’ and ‘free’) play in ordinary linguistic usage; these philosophers inherit from ‘ordinary language philosophers’, including G.E. Moore, J.L. Austin and again Wittgenstein, the strategy of finding clues to deep philosophical questions through scrutiny of the workaday usage of the words in which the philosophical questions are framed (see Ordinary language philosophy).

Philosophical interest in language is maintained by foundational and conceptual questions in linguistics, quintessentially philosophical problems about the connections between mind, language and the world, and issues about philosophical methodology. These springs sustain a rich and fascinating field of philosophy concerned with representation, communication, meaning and truth.

Citing this article:
Crimmins, Mark. Language, philosophy of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-U017-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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