Revolution in the Philosophy of Language

Howard Wettstein

in The Magic Prism

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780195160529
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835072 | DOI:
 Revolution in the Philosophy of Language

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Two large-scale accounts of language and thought are distinguished: a traditional Cartesian-inspired picture, at the center of which is the idea that thought is prior to language; and the author’s own preferred account, which emphasizes social practice. While Frege is hostile to Descartes’ regarding epistemology as the starting point in philosophy, he shares Cartesian views about the priority of thought over its linguistic embodiment: the proposition that the sun is larger than the earth would exist and be true even if it were never expressed. The revolution that Wettstein urges against Frege and linguistic Cartesianism is discussed in the light of Kuhn’s ideas about the process of radical theory change. Various apparent counterexamples to Frege’s theory, which arise out of reflections on ordinary linguistic practice, are discussed; indexical expressions – unambiguous expressions whose reference shifts with the context of their utterance – are said to be particularly problematic for the Frege view.

Keywords: Descartes; Frege; indexicals; Kuhn; language; linguistic Cartesianism; social practice; thought

Chapter.  6297 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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