INTRODUCTION Recently, language has been the focus of philosophical investigation by Philosophers.

This is often called the "linguistic turn" in philosophical discourse, as advanced by the famous American philosopher, Richard Rorty. The wonders of language have been studied empirically by linguistics, cultural anthropology, etc. As a result, both investigations of the empirical scientists and philosophers of language have concluded that language is only proper of the human being. This is a general agreement among philosophers and empirical scientists who do serious study on the phenomenon of language today. The phenomenon of language is characterized by its richness and complexity. No single explanation can do justice to it. As Susanne K. Langer puts it, language is “the most momentous and at the same time the most mysterious product of the human mind.”1 Strictly speaking then, it is only the human being who can really create language, who can really render speech. All the races of human beings - even the scattered, primitive denizens of the deep jungle, and the brutish cannibals who have lived for centuries on worldremoved islands - have their complete and articulate language.2 Several reasons are put forward for studying language, relative to ones perspective. First reason, if language is the proper characteristic of the human being, then our investigation of language would give us something about being human. What is in the human that impels him/her to create language? And how does language as a human creation affects the human being? Second reason, if some philosophical problems emerge from a misunderstanding of the structure of language, then proper understanding of language may solve some of these problems. Third reason, if language mirrors reality, then our investigation of language would lead us to a better understanding of the structure of reality. And the final reason is to study language for its own sake. In general, language has been studied in three areas: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Syntax, mainly, refers to the arrangement of words in a sentence. It deals with the grammatical rules. So, the focus is not on the meaning of words but its arrangement in the sentence based on the grammatical rules of a particular language. Semantics is the study of the meaning of words. The focus is not on the arrangement but the meaning of the linguistic term. What is the meaning of meaning? What makes a word meaningful? This will be discussed later in the course. Pragmatics is the study of what speakers do with language. Here, the focus is not on the arrangement, not on the meaning, but on the use of language. It deals with the different functions of language in our life. This will also be discussed later in detail. 1. The Scope.

To determine the scope of Philosophy of Language, first of all, we have to consider what most philosophers of language call the distinction between use (using a language), and mention (mentioning a language). In use, words are used to point beyond themselves to
1 2

Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (London: Harvard University Press, 1979) p. 103. ibid., p. 103.


other things. In this case, words are not the focus of the investigation, but the objects or reality they refer to. Such use of language is what we call object language, which is used by Sciences and Philosophy. In mention, words are used to mention or talk about themselves. In this case, words are the focus of the investigation. This is what we call metalanguage, which is used by linguistics and philosophy of language. Here, our course in Philosophy of Language mainly follows the way of linguistic analysis, the analytic tradition. We philosophically analyze the linguistic phenomenon in order to determine its nature and its systematic finality. The different interests in and the diverse understanding of this phenomenon language are greatly diversified. This diversification already indicates the beginning of specific directions as shown in the diversity of approaches to language: for example, between Plato and Augustine in one part, and Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas on the other part. 2. What is Philosophy of Language?

Language can be defined solely as a communication system, i.e. solely oriented towards communicative-intention. Language is born because of man’s desire to communicate. Secondly, the structure of language cannot be studied independently from its function, thus language is defined in terms of its use and the meaning of a word is determined by the functions it performs. This is well elaborated in the works of later Wittgenstein. (cf. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigation) A similar elaboration can be seen in structural perspective of Ferdinand de Saussure wherein the respective functions are understood in relation to or against the background of a particular structure. The meaning of the function of each element is intrinsically related to the structure it belongs. A. Some Principles in Understanding the Philosophy of Language. Ones understanding of philosophy of language would depend on the principle s/he holds with regard to language. The following principles3 are the following: Principle1 If “philosophy of language” is supposed to “ground” philosophy in general, then it is thereby supposed to be a “first philosophy”.

Philosophy of Language (PHL) as a “first philosophy” would ground all of philosophy. This means that this is another form of a “theory of knowledge”, i.e. putting “language” in the place of the “ideas” in post-Cartesian philosophy. In this case “epistemology” as a “first philosophy” would take an exclusively linguistic form. Phrased differently again, PHL would not change the Cartesian-Kantian model of “first philosophy”. One, then, would have to decide if one wants such a philosophy. Principle 2 If “PHL” reflects more general philosophical views applied to language as one could also apply such views to culture, politics, nature, and so forth, then PHL would be just one branch of philosophy by the side of


The text is based on the notes of Verhaar, s.j. given during his class on Linguistic and Philosophy.


other branches. Every branch of philosophy could take account on what has become empirically known about the field concerned. Thus, in this sense, philosophical anthropology would have to take account of psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, etc.; political philosophy, of political science; philosophy of nature, of physics; etc. Similarly, PHL would have to take account of linguistics as an empirical science (more especially of semantics as done in linguistics and of grammatical topology). Principle 3 If “PHL” is associated with logic, then the issue is raised of the logic of natural language, as distinct from formal logic as an ideal language.

By common consent of philosophers, natural language is “vague”, or “imprecise” thus some philosophers (e.g. Carnap of the Cambridge School) have been tempted to create an “ideal language”, which would be invariably unambiguous and precise. In contrast, other philosophers (e.g. Austin of the Oxford School) have claimed that “ordinary language” is “all right”, although sometimes clarifications are needed (which can also be given in ordinary language). Both schools deal with language (ideal or natural) as an instrument to talk about something. Differently, logicians see formal (or symbolic) logic as self-contained, without any “referential” dimension, with relations between propositions as purely “deductive”. Logic is about the kind of language, which is about nothing. Logicians never claim to be “philosophers” in a wider sense, and in fact many of them see no difference in principle between logic and mathematics. Principle 4 If PHL is associated with culture and indeed considered as part of culture, then the issue is on how culture affects human nature, and PHL may thus have an ancillary function in philosophical anthropology.

Philosophical anthropology raises questions of the human being as distinct from the “world” and yet living in it, in communities, which define themselves (and the “world”) along cultural lines. PHL in this sense is intertwined with philosophy of culture in multifarious ways.


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