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Analytic Philosophy

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Deeper and deeper into the tangled undergrowth of syntax, they moved further and further away from reality, to the point where most present-day "analytical philosophers" now deny that language mirrors the objective world at all. They have spent so long floating around the rarefied heights, that they have now decided that the language of ordinary mortals is just not good enough. They have even proposed the creation of an "ideal" language, which will be pure, precise, and free from all ambiguity. No doubt, quite useful work can be done on linguistic analysis. But to claim that this is the key to all the fundamental problems of human thought is indeed a slight misunderstanding.

At bottom, the crisis of modern science is connected with the extreme division of labour. The sharp dichotomy between those sections of science which take as their point of departure the real world, experiment and practice, and the so-called "deductive" and "a priori" sciences—maths and logic. The tendency of theoretical physics and cosmology to depend increasingly on complex mathematical theories has made it increasingly inadequate to explain the real world.

A revolution in logic is demanded by the entire situation. But for all their semantic investigations and abstruse symbols, no revolution has emerged. The logical positivists merely warm up the same old dishes, with a slightly different garnish. Expressing the same old ideas in abstruse symbols borrowed from mathematics does not give them any greater validity. The only real outcome has been to increase still further the gulf separating the scientific priest-caste from the "common herd."

Philosophy finally takes its revenge on those who tried to ignore her. Those who insisted on the "facts," and heaped curses on the head of "metaphysics," religion, and all the rest, are themselves responsible for re-introducing religion and mystical ideas into science. All the abstruse investigations into language and syntax, the search for an "ideal" language, for a world of mathematical symbols, and the rest of it, signifies an ever-accelerating slide away from the world of reality, into the most crass idealism.

Formal logic and mathematics establish a series of a priori rules (axioms, theorems, etc.), out of which everything else is derived by a process of deductive reasoning. Language develops in an entirely different way. The real, historical development of language does not conform to this method in the slightest degree. Any attempt to make it conform to such narrow and arbitrary parameters is doomed in advance. Grammar, vocabulary, and syntax evolve historically, as the result of an extremely complex interplay of different phenomena: social, economic, political, national, religious, cultural, etc. These are not logical constructs, but are socially determined. Insofar as they have rules, these are of an entirely different character to the rules of formal logic and mathematics.

Dead rules cannot give life to words. Moreover, the rules themselves have to be explained. In general, this obsession with words and language merely removes us one step further away from the real subject of our inquiry, which is material reality. No matter where we start, we find ourselves discussing something else altogether, namely, "what do you mean when you say A, B, C..." and so on ad infinitum, like a man who tries to quench his thirst by drinking salt water. Even insofar as it is valid (and the inquiry after the meaning of words is certainly a useful exercise), it does not get us very far in the real task in hand, and more often has exactly the opposite effect, recalling the interminable and sterile discussions of the mediaeval Schoolmen on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

This road eventually brings us back to subjectivism, very well exemplified by the theory of a "private language" put forward by Russell and Moore. What each individual "knows," according to this, is not the objective world, but only his own sensations, ideas and volitions. These are not physical, but mental phenomena. The things "known" are essentially private and individual, that is, inaccessible to others. Now this flies completely in the face of everything that is known about the development of language. Language is a social phenomenon. Historically, it arises out of the demands of collective, co-operative production. The very idea of a "private" language is a contradiction in terms. It is an extreme manifestation of the idea of "atomism," transferred from physics to language, and from language to society.

If this were the case, how could the physical world be known and expressed at all? In effect, here we have the trivialisation of philosophy, its reduction to commonplaces, or investigations into this or that detail. This senseless and futile theory shows clearly that what the linguistic philosophers understood least of all is—language.

 
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chinglen laishram - 3 Ekim 2016 00:45

short and concise. can you please further more on 'what the linguistic philosophers understood least of all is—language'... ill be very thankful

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