May 29, 2012

When Words are Called for

The other day I received a copy of Avner Baz's book When Words are Called for: A Defense of Ordinary Language Philosophy  (Harvard University Press , 2012), which I look forward to reading. I can't resist quoting from the preface:

I was quite confident, when I began working on this book, that the widespread hostility and and dismissiveness toward Wittgenstein - more frequently encountered in the form of professional gossip than as the conclusion of serious engagement with his work - were suspect, and for two main reasons. First, I knew how hard it was to arrive at anything like a satisfying understanding of his work. Even if that work was fundamentally misguided in one way or another, successfully exposing it as such would not be a simple and straightforward matter. And second, the Wittgensteinian conceptual or grammatical investigation, as I understand it, while informed by a particular understanding of philosophical difficulty, is not essentially different from what competent speakers regularly do when they wish to become clearer about what they or others say or think. It would therefore be literally incredible if that form of investigation were somehow found to be illegitimate or misguided in some principled way.
                      But I did not know then, as I do now, how thoroughly reinforced by theoretical presuppositions the resistance to Wittgenstein's (later) work had become. As I wrote this book, I found myself again and again discovering, often with the help of colleagues and friends, yet another layer of theoretical bulwark set against the philosophical approach I was seeking to vindicate. The present book took shape in the wake of these discoveries.

Baz, it appears to me, is here giving eloquent expression to impressions I believe many philosophers in this tradition have shared.

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