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Explanation and theory in linguistic inquiry

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In this article, I argue that the later Wittgenstein’s related conclusions regarding the importance of a non-theoretical understanding of human behaviour and the essentially therapeutic function of philosophy can be arrived at without subscribing either to the position that description and explanation are necessarily distinct activities or the idea that language is an inherently rule-based activity operating within determinate conceptual-cultural regimes. I aim to do so by bringing together two figures, A.R. Louch and Roy Harris, both of whom stand within a post-Wittgensteinian tradition, but whose kindred yet hitherto unconnected departures from the orthodoxy of that tradition render their work not only distinctive but all the more compelling for it. I shall try to exhibit the affinity between Louch and Harris by means of an expository discussion of the former’s thesis regarding the role and form of explanation in the social and behavioural sciences, followed by an account of explanation in linguistic inquiry consistent with the latter’s ‘integrationist’ philosophy of language and communication. I will also claim that the thought of both Louch and Harris points towards a form of atheoretical empiricism in the investigation of human action, as well as a broadly therapeutic conception of philosophical and linguistic inquiry respectively. However, I will suggest that such a conception is not necessarily best served by the adoption of an overtly therapeutic rhetoric.
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Keywords: A. R. Louch; Roy Harris; Wittgenstein; explanation; human action; linguistic inquiry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Hong Kong

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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  • Empedocles aims to provide a publication and discussion platform for those working at the interface of philosophy and the study of communication, in all its aspects. This Journal is published in cooperation with the Section for the Philosophy of Communication of ECREA, the European Communication Reserach and Education Association.
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