Linguistic Analysis: Ayer and Early Ordinary Language Philosophy

In Adam Tamas Tuboly (ed.), The Historical and Philosophical Significance of Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 123 - 149 (2020)

Sally Parker-Ryan
University of Texas at Arlington
The ‘between Wars’ period in England in the early twentieth century was extraordinary, philosophically. It was marked by a profusion of new, controversial, and revolutionary ideas. Developments in formal logic, the rise of the method of ‘analysis’, and logical atomism were already changing the face of philosophy in England. From this mix emerged two distinctive views about language and its connection to philosophical methodology: one championing the concept of an ideal language; and one rejecting this and favoring appeal to ordinary language. The origin of both views is to be found in the (earlier and later) work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. In this paper, I will examine the emergence of these views in relation to one another: an ideal language conception represented by A.J. Ayer in his Language, Truth and Logic, and the reaction against this conception in the early phases of ordinary language philosophy, in particular in the work of John Wisdom.
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