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DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-DD3600-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2018
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

The term ‘the linguistic turn’ refers to a radical reconception of the nature of philosophy and its methods, according to which philosophy is neither an empirical science nor a supraempirical enquiry into the essential features of reality; instead, it is an a priori conceptual discipline which aims to elucidate the complex interrelationships among philosophically relevant concepts, as embodied in established linguistic usage, and by doing so dispel conceptual confusions and solve philosophical problems.

The linguistic turn originated with Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921). In the 1920s and early 1930s, the logical positivists deepened the turn through their outright rejection of metaphysics; in line with their scientific outlook, they also sought to merge it with ‘ideal language philosophy’. The linguistic turn was developed in a different direction by the later Wittgenstein and ‘ordinary language philosophers’ after him. While no less hostile to metaphysics than the positivists, they rejected the suggestion that philosophical problems can be solved by reforming rather than clarifying our existing language. Linguistic philosophy began to wane from the mid-1970s onwards, largely as a result of the rise of naturalism in the United States. In recent years, however, there has been a rehabilitation of conceptual analysis and thereby of a type of linguistic philosophy. The term ‘the linguistic turn’ was coined by Gustav Bergmann, a one-time member of the Vienna Circle, and was later used by Richard Rorty as the title for an influential anthology of essays on ‘the most recent philosophical revolution’.

Citing this article:
Glock, Hans-Johann and Javier Kalhat. Linguistic turn, 2018, doi:10.4324/0123456789-DD3600-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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