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Theodore Jouffrey: Precursor of Ordinary Language Philosophy

University Library System, University of Pittsburgh
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  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy


nmoOORB JOUFFROY: PRECURSOR OF ORDINARY lANGUAGE PHIlDSOPHY It is my aim in this paper to show how Th~odore Jouffroy, an early nineieenth-century French philosopher, plainly shows> evidence of having adopted an outlook toward the relationship J)etween language and truth which was 10 become perh~ps the most fundamental assumption of recent ordinary Ianguage philosophy. The outlook in question holds that there is something definitive abouiordinary language-that it provides the ultimate criterion of truth. Where and when a philosophical thesis fails to confonn to the dictates of ordinary language it is regarded as somehow "bewitched;- philosophical problems arise, in Wittgenstein's famous dictum, when language "goes on holiday." From this perspective, the role the philosopherassumes becomes something of a cross between judge and exorcisl As judge, he evaluates the adequacy of particu1ar philosophical positions by measuring them against the law provided by ordinary language. If, for example, a phi- losopher should claim (as many have) that we do not perceive material objeets directly, but instead perceive ideas from which we infer that such objects exist (or out of which we "construct" them), the ordinary 1anguage philosopher would examine how the concept of "perceiving directly" is employed in everyday discourse, and, finding no precedent there for the philosophical use of the term, would rule the latter to be ·out of order"--- in violation of the statutes of ordinary language. As exorcist, to overcome the bewitchment of language, such philosophers seek noi to solve philos- ophical problems, but to dissolve them---to cast them out, so to speak, thereby purifying our language of these malevolent aberrations. In short, then, a philosophical position is seen as adequate to tbe extent that its key terms harmonize with ordinary discourse, and inadequate to the extent that it violates ordinary linguistic conventions. I will argue here that Jouffroy can be counted as a legitimate forerunner to this philosophi

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