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The Practical TurnPragmatism in Britain in the Long Twentieth Century$
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Cheryl Misak and Huw Price

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266168

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266168.001.0001

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Wittgenstein’s Rain in the ‘Philosophical Desert’: Pragmatist Ideas in Post-War Oxford

Wittgenstein’s Rain in the ‘Philosophical Desert’: Pragmatist Ideas in Post-War Oxford

(p.131) 9 Wittgenstein’s Rain in the ‘Philosophical Desert’: Pragmatist Ideas in Post-War Oxford1
The Practical Turn

Hans-Johann Glock

British Academy

Although Wittgenstein described post-war Oxford as a ‘philosophical desert’, his ideas greatly fertilized Oxford philosophy. This chapter deals with the role pragmatist ideas played in this influence. Neither Wittgenstein nor Oxford conceptual analysts (Ryle, Austin, Strawson, Grice) were part of the historical movement of ‘Pragmatism’ (Peirce, James, Dewey, Mead, Lewis), yet both display intriguing similarities and dissimilarities with ideas that are pragmatist in a looser sense. They subscribe to the fundamental tenet that philosophically contentious concepts must be elucidated by characterizing their role within human practices. There is a shared tendency to avoid both epistemological naturalism and ontological super-naturalism, and contrasting attitudes towards meta-philosophical naturalism and matters of philosophical style. As regards meaning, there are parallel transitions from reference to use. Whereas Wittgenstein and the Oxonians are alethic realists, pragmatist theories make truth dependent on our beliefs or expediences. At the same time, they all acknowledge an anthropological dimension to the bearers of truth-values—propositions—which are understood as thinkables and sayables.

Keywords:   Wittgenstein, Peirce, James, Ryle, Austin, Strawson, naturalism, meaning, truth, propositions

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