Introduction on the Philosophy of Language

Philosophy of language covers a variety of activities:

Philosophers interested in in problems, for example, avout mind and knowledge, may frame their questions in various ways. They may ask directly about mind or knowledge; they may talk about the concept of mind or knowldge; or they may begin by asking ho the words ‘mind’ and ‘knowledge’ are used. The belief that philosophical questions may be approached by asking questions about the use of words underlies what is sometimes called linguistic philosophy. Those who practice linguistic philosophy are sometimes said to be be practising the philosophy of language.

The procedure of investigating philosophical questions by reflecting on the uses of words generates another meaning of ‘philosophy of language’. Here there are two questions. First is a general question about the justifiability of approaching philosophical questions via a study of how words are used (see Austin and Wittgenstein). Second, philosophers who study the used of words use such key terms as ‘meaning’, ‘reference’, ‘thruth’ and ‘use’. It is possible to make these terms, used by philosophers and others in talking about language, on this interpretationn then becomes a higher level study of ‘linguistic philosophy’ and of its terms of art.

Although an interest in such terms as ‘meaning’ or ‘truth’ and the like can arise as philosophers deliberate on their methods, it can also arise because philosophers become interested in a study of the nature ans workings of language as a subject in its own right, rather than as a means to the solution of futher philosophical problems.

Philosophy of language become the search for an understanding of the nature and functioning of language. This may lead, as in the later Wittgenstein, to the consideration of the sorts of conditions that have to be met for language to be possible at all. In this kind of philosophy of language we can detect a difference: between those, such as Austin and Wittgenstein, who are happy to study the actual workings of natural languages, and those who believe natural languages to be overly vuage, confused, or imprecise and in need of tidying up. Some of the latter believe the workings of language are best explored through the construction of more precise artificial languages.

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