Philosophy of Language in the Twentieth Century

Thomas Baldwin

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552238
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577451 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Philosophy of Language in the Twentieth Century

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  • History of Western Philosophy


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During the first half of the twentieth century philosophy took a ‘linguistic turn’. (The phrase, which comes from Gustav Bergmann, was made famous by Richard Rorty as the title of an anthology of papers in which this development is set out and assessed.) The first clear signal of this development was Ludwig Wittgenstein's remark in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) that ‘All philosophy is “Critique of Language”‘ and this work by Wittgenstein (which is discussed in this article) remains a classic presentation of the thesis that philosophy can only be undertaken through the critical study of language. Thus during the twentieth century philosophical approaches to language, the kinds of theorizing now known as ‘philosophy of language’, have been developed in a context in which language has been taken to be a primary resource for philosophy, and as a result there has been a two-way relationship in which conceptions of language and of philosophy have been developed together.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; philosophy of language; linguistic turn; twentieth century philosophy; resource for philosophy; conception of language

Article.  21699 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language ; History of Western Philosophy

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