‘Taking the Linguistic Method Seriously’: On Iris Murdoch on Language and Linguistic Philosophy

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This chapter brings together Murdoch’s thoughts about language with other central aspects of her thought such as love, attention, perfectionism and morality. By making clear how Murdoch’s variety of linguistic philosophy differs from contemporary philosophy of language, this paper also shows that Murdoch’s philosophy contains the seeds for a fruitful form of philosophizing which brings the moral and aesthetic dimensions of language into view. “Taking the linguistic method seriously” means making clear the ways in which all concepts belong to a fabric that is changing on a personal level as well as an historical one. One of the things that Murdoch can help us see is that one problem with contemporary philosophy of language, is that it does not take the linguistic method seriously enough.

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This article argues that Iris Murdoch, who was supervised by John Wisdom during her 1947–48 fellowship at Newnham College Cambridge, went on to practice philosophy in a recognizably Wisdomian manner in her earliest paper, “Thinking and Language” (1951). To do so, I first describe how Wisdom understood philosophical perplexity and paradox. One task that linguistic philosophers should take up is to investigate the concrete cases that give paradoxical philosophical statements their sense and to sift the truth they contain from the distortion. I then show how this vision informed his critical reception of Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind as well as his own investigation of the Hidden Stream Paradox. Finally, I trace a similar approach to Murdoch's discussions of a paradox I call the Coarse Net Paradox. Recognizing Murdoch's intellectual inheritance from Wisdom enables us to see a thus‐far overlooked connection between Murdoch and the tradition of linguistic philosophy.
In the past few years, we have seen emerging new work that brings into focus the role of historical change and its moral implications in Iris Murdoch's philosophy. This paper strengthens this reading of her work and investigates the implications of this aspect of Murdoch's thinking for education in general and for moral education in particular. It resituates the Platonic imagery of the individual's ascent towards the true and the good in a framework where our conceptions of the true and the good are in a process of historical reconfiguration.
This article takes off from Wittgenstein’s observation that “When language games change, then there is a change in concepts, and with the concepts the meanings of words change” (Wittgenstein, On certainty. Anscombe GEM, von Wright GH (eds), Denis Paul (Trans). Blackwell, Oxford, 1969, §65), and Murdoch’s related observation that “We cannot over-estimate the importance of the concept-forming words we utter to ourselves and to others. This background of our thinking and feeling is always vulnerable” (Murdoch, Metaphysics as a guide to morals. Vintage Classics, London, 2003, 260). I want to show that these two sentences contain an accurate observation about how our uses of words, and more importantly, how shifts in our uses of words, partake in transforming the moral landscape itself. Taking these two lessons to heart enables us to see more clearly that political and moral changes in public opinion are not simply rooted in people changing their opinions but must be traced back to conceptual changes that a community has “accepted”, as it were, unwarily. I discuss two examples of how the undercurrent of language has been altered with rather massive effects on the more familiar and visible level of “moral discourse”: the alt-right movement in Sweden, and political election strategies in Sweden.KeywordsLudwig WittgensteinIris MurdochPolitical philosophyMetapoliticsExtremismNationalismAlt-right movementsConceptual changeHistoricityLanguage use
The way that Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals begins may seem perplexing since it does not state in a clear way what the aims and purposes of the book are, nor does it say anything about methodology. This chapter aims to show how this peculiar opening, rightly understood, functions as an entrance to an understanding of the book as a whole, and to make clear why the opening chapter’s focus on the concept of art is the right place to start. Murdoch’s view of metaphysics is that we are always guided by a worldview, i.e. by unified images that are historical and changing. Art functions as a mirror of its time that help to bring the background of our lives and thoughts into view.
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This is part 2 och an interview with Prof. J. Conant, conducted by Niklas Forsberg.
In this 1989 book Rorty argues that thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein have enabled societies to see themselves as historical contingencies, rather than as expressions of underlying, ahistorical human nature or as realizations of suprahistorical goals. This ironic perspective on the human condition is valuable on a private level, although it cannot advance the social or political goals of liberalism. In fact Rorty believes that it is literature not philosophy that can do this, by promoting a genuine sense of human solidarity. A truly liberal culture, acutely aware of its own historical contingency, would fuse the private, individual freedom of the ironic, philosophical perspective with the public project of human solidarity as it is engendered through the insights and sensibilities of great writers. The book has a characteristically wide range of reference from philosophy through social theory to literary criticism. It confirms Rorty's status as a uniquely subtle theorist, whose writing will prove absorbing to academic and nonacademic readers alike.
In this book one of the world's foremost philosophers of language presents his unifying vision of the field--its principal achievements, its most pressing current questions, and its most promising future directions. In addition to explaining the progress philosophers have made toward creating a theoretical framework for the study of language, Scott Soames investigates foundational concepts--such as truth, reference, and meaning--that are central to the philosophy of language and important to philosophy as a whole. The first part of the book describes how philosophers from Frege, Russell, Tarski, and Carnap to Kripke, Kaplan, and Montague developed precise techniques for understanding the languages of logic and mathematics, and how these techniques have been refined and extended to the study of natural human languages. The book then builds on this account, exploring new thinking about propositions, possibility, and the relationship between meaning, assertion, and other aspects of language use. An invaluable overview of the philosophy of language by one of its most important practitioners, this book will be essential reading for all serious students of philosophy.
One of Iris Murdoch’s most characteristic philosophical ideas is that any way of understanding what moral philosophy is and how it may be practised will be shaped by deep-going conceptual attitudes, of which moral philosophers themselves may be unaware. In her own philosophical writings she tried to bring out the role played by these attitudes, and to unsettle accepted ideas about the subject. I examine some of the elements in her thought which open up different ways of understanding the subject, and I discuss the relevance of these ideas to contemporary moral philosophy.
Among contemporary philosophers there is a growing interest in recounting the history of philosophy in the twentieth century. Those who discuss what is more or less loosely called “analytic philosophy”—among them some who reject the methods of analysis outright—are increasingly engaged in attempting to delineate the origins and significance of the analytic tradition. This collection of essays is meant to be a contribution to the growing historical consciousness of contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. More than that, however, the decision to bring together these particular essays stems from the editors’conception of present difficulties facing the historiography of recent philosophy. Both partisans and critics of what is called "analytic philosophy" assume that it is definable by a small number of questions, theories, principles, or concepts. This volume calls into doubt these often unquestioned, even unconscious, assumptions about the history of recent philosophy. Containing 21 previously unpublished articles by such luminaries as W.V. Quine, John Rawls, Stanley Cavell, Warren Goldfarb, Hilary Putnam, and others, this volume represents a new approach to the history of philosophy as well as a novel portrait of 20th-century analytic philosophy.
Nacido en 1931 y muerto en 2007, Richard Rorty se formó en las universidades de Chicago y de Yale y, aunque se adhirió inicialmente a la filosofía analítica, pronto se volvió un crítico severo de ella y en general de toda la filosofía esencialista centrada en las grandes preguntas. Conocido militante del pragmatismo iniciado por John Dewey, Rorty cuestionó siempre las verdades absolutas y los significados inamovibles y, en contraposición, sostuvo que las ideas deben ser valoradas por su utilidad para facilitar una mejor convivencia social y para que los hombres sean más felices. Nacido en una familia de izquierda, nunca renunció a determinadas reivindicaciones sociales, aunque cierta crítica lo acusa de haberse sometido en demasía a la sociedad del bienestar.
Everything Important Is to Do with Passion’: Iris Murdoch’s Concept of Love and Its Platonic Origin. Dissertation
  • K Larson
Aspects of Love in Western Society
  • S Lilar
Twilight of the Idols
  • F Nietzsche
Past the Linguistic Turn
  • Y Williamson