Language, Perception and Action: Philosophical Issues
This summary is on the last chapter of the book which focuses on the philosophy of language. It first discusses the philosophical concern with language, to be followed with the philosophical discussion of perception and the knowledge derived from perception and voluntary action. Discussion-wise, there has been increased interest in the philosophy of language nowadays. The progression of philosophy right now is towards the search for reliable knowledge of the world through language and logic, the attempt to construct criteria for the truth of propositions by linguistic methods, to attempts to clarify intellectual concepts through the study of ordinary language and finally a most likely disenchantment with language and linguistic methods. Here are some representative statements indicating the different approaches there have been to language and its significance for philosophy.
Russell, Whitehead and early Wittgenstein constructed a new logic of propositions that were concerned with syntax and saw that the proper mode of philosophical analysis is by rewriting natural sentences so that they can exhibit a clearer meaning and eradicate the philosophical perplexities. The tool that they used here was mathematical logic. It then moved to the development of the ‘ordinary language’ school where ordinary language was thought to be subtle. Recently comes Austin's development of ordinary language philosophy into a view of language as action, where all sentences are performative, whether they convey information , induce action or constitute an action in their very utterance.
The chapter also pointed out that there are two types of philosophers, the rationalists and the empiricists. The rationalists' view is that the only reliable source of knowledge is human reason with mathematics as the paradigm example of reliable knowledge arrived at purely by reason. They view all sensory experiences as delusory and could not be a reliable source of knowledge. True knowledge is the result of the inherent properties of the human understanding. On the other hand, the empiricists said that whatever a person claims to know must be explained by his acquisition of the knowledge, ultimately depending upon direct experience by some human being. They also said that one source of ideasis the perception of the operations of a person’s mind and it’s the first step towards knowledge. There is also the philosophy of pragmatism, which says that truth is determined by experience and the pragmatic test of meaning is to find out whether ideas in fact serve as effective tools for coping with experience, for survival and successful action.
The prime source of the importance of language for philosophy is through the conduction of philosophical discussion through language. It derives its structure from the structures of perception and action and has as its function the representation, of the content of perception and action. It is built on the most mundane of foundations, in human neurophysiological structure; where it is subsidiary rather than primary in human behaviour and thought. Therefore, since language is a secondary coding of experience, one should not expect much certainty or philosophical illumination from the analysis of language in isolation.
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