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There Is Nothing Other than Ordinary Language

Tuesday 29 January 2013, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Dr Rupert Read, Department of Philosophy, University of East Anglia

Ordinary/Everyday/Quotidian speaker series


The lecture will be followed on Wednesday 30th January by a workshop at 1.15pm in The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building. 

When Wittgenstein speaks of ‘ordinary’ or ‘everyday’ language, he generally means simply: language. This talk focuses on key moments in the heart of Wittgenstein’s consideration of how to conceive of and practice philosophy, 108-120, especially on 116. We will also take in en route every mention of “ordinary” in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. We endeavour here to explicate how, some appearances to the contrary, these passages need not be read as embodying theses, no matter of what kind. They simply ‘return’ one to (ordinary) language. E.g. To ordinary uses of terms: such as “ordinary” or “everyday."

Wittgenstein is in practice generally thought to be some variety of “Ordinary Language” Philosopher as that term is usually understood.  That is, a philosopher who takes ordinary language (as opposed to scientific language, to “technical” language, or to its bastard child, “super-scientific” [“metaphysical”] language) to be our keystone in philosophy; and who thinks that philosophy can therefore proceed through paying careful attention to the way we normally actually speak, and prohibiting uses that conflict with the way we normally actually speak.  Indeed, what “ordinary/everyday language” is taken to be opposed to is critical.  The key point of this talk however is to suggest, contrary to what still tends to be the prevailing wisdom, that the crucial mistake in “Wittgenstein studies” has generally been to misidentify the contrast class that Wittgenstein intended (roughly: as science, rather than metaphysics).  This talk identifies this as a mistake which has led to enormous consequences, as we here demonstrate/see.  In the end, to say it again,what Wittgenstein means by “ordinary language” is simply: language (cf. PI 494).  Language, as opposed to metaphysics, i.e. as opposed to nonsense, i.e. as opposed to nothing at all.

If attendees own a copy of the Philosophical Investigations, they are encouraged to bring it to both events. For those who do not, a handout will be available.

A drinks reception will follow the lecture.  Both events are open to all.

More about the Ordinary/Everyday/Quotidian research strand

Location: The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building

Admission: All are welcome