Austin on Sense-Data: Ordinary Language Analysis as 'Therapy'

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The construction and analysis of arguments supposedly are a philosopher's main business, the demonstration of truth or refutation of falsehood his principal aim. In Sense and Sensibilia, J.L. Austin does something entirely different: He discusses the sense-datum doctrine of perception, with the aim not of refuting it but of 'dissolving' the 'philosophical worry' it induces in its champions. To this end, he 'exposes' their 'concealed motives', without addressing their stated reasons. The paper explains where and why this at first sight outrageous aim and approach are perfectly sensible, how exactly Austin proceeds, and how his approach can be taken further. This shows Austin to be a pioneer of the currently much discussed notion of philosophy as therapy, reveals a subtle and unfamiliar use of linguistic analysis that is not open to the standard objections to ordinary language philosophy, and yields a novel and forceful treatment of the sense-datum doctrine.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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