Truth Through Combat


A few people recently inquired into the usefulness of neatly parsing
through the use of the English language. Ryle’s argument in the
textbook is an argument about the use of concepts, and his point is
that some of the concepts we use in the philosophy of mind only exist
because of errors we make in the use of language.

To the extent that he is right, however, a few of you have questioned
whether there’s any point to the discussion. At several junctures
during today’s discussion, the challenge of elucidating the point of it
all was laid at my feet. It seemed that some of you were simply
saying: “OK, so we misuse language. So Ryle is right. So what, though?
Why is this important?”

It occurs to me that the following quotation is applicable:

“A sharpened awareness of words sharpens our perception of the
phenomena.” — J.L. Austin

Austin’s statement can be rephrased as follows: a keen understanding of
the way we use words is helpful to an understanding of reality itself.

This is not to say that all we need to do to understand reality is to
understand our use of language. However, a clear understanding of the
use of words helps us see how our concepts can be flawed, confused, or

Filed under: Bioethics, Uncategorized

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