Hausserl and the Linguistic Turn

Charles Parsons

in Future Pasts

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139167
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833214 | DOI:
 Hausserl and the Linguistic Turn

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Parsons criticizes Dummett’s recent argument that Husserl was not an analytic philosopher because Husserl did not accept that a philosophical account of thought can be attained only through a philosophical account of language, the thesis which Dummett takes to define the analytic tradition. Dummett locates the beginning of the conceptual break between the analytic and the continental traditions in Husserl’s transcendental turn of 1905–1907, after which Husserl came to subscribe to a essentially non-linguistic general conception of intentionality. Parsons agrees with Dummett that Husserl did not view the philosophy of language as basic to the philosophy of thought, but argues that Husserl was quite aware of the need for an account of the linguistic expression of thought. The problem that led Husserl away from accepting the fundamental status of philosophy of language was whether particular perceptual experiences must have a propositional or language-like structure in order to be said to have genuine content. In concluding that not all perceptual experience is propositional in structure, Husserl’s position is relevant to contemporary debates about thought and consciousness, especially the notion of non-conceptual mental. Through this critique of Dummett’s interpretation, Parsons suggests that the distinction between the analytic and continental traditions is neither as sharp nor as philosophically principled as many have supposed.

Keywords: Husserl; Michael Dummett; perception; analytic philosophy; philosophy of language; philosophy of thought; propositional structure; intentionality; non-conceptual content; consciousness

Chapter.  10707 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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