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Perspectives on the Logical Study of Language


Published originally as “Loogisen kielentutkimuksen näköaloja”, Ajatus 19, (1956), pp. 81–96, the following piece by Jaakko Hintikka is the first essay he published in his mother tongue of Finnish. It is seen to provide both a state-of-the-art review of current topics emerging in the philosophy of language in the mid-1950, as well as outlines of Hintikka’s own evaluation of major theses of that era, in particular those of Quine’s and Wittgenstein’s concerning language use. Hintikka evaluates contributions that the logical study of language use can make to the solving of philosophical questions. Published in 1956 in Ajatus: The Yearbook of the Philosophical Society of Finland, Hintikka’s essay served to introduce these topical issues to the Finnish-speaking audience soon after the original works had appeared in print. It also puts the theses into the perspectives of Hintikka’s own fledgling logical philosophy. One can see the germs of game-theoretical semantics is his comments on Wittgenstein’s notion of a language-game, and his remarks on general habits of action anticipate the importance of strategic rules in Hintikka’s mature, inquiry-led and ‘action-first’ epistemology. This is manifest in Hintikka’s characteristic approach to the methodology of philosophy of science and mathematics as an attempt to understand the nature of scientific and mathematical practices and operations through the logical analysis of their central concepts. Topics indicated below thus became the hallmarks of Hintikka’s next sixty years of work, which saw the development of a range of logical methods by which language and its use can be studied, and in particular in such a way that progress can be made in solving problems of genuinely philosophical nature that one encounters across various fields of science. This piece was very briefly summarized in English in 1963 by Arto Salomaa (The Journal of Symbolic Logic 28(2), 1963, p. 165), and it is translated from the original Finnish by Jukka Nikulainen and Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen. [A.-V. P, J. N.]

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  1. Translators’ note: The 20th-century.

  2. Translators’ note: This quotation replaces the simplified version that occurs in the original text and which lacks the symbols.

  3. Translators’ note: “And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.”

  4. These terms are not Wittgenstein’s.


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Updated version of the original publication from Ajatus 19, (1956), pp. 81–96. Reprinted with permission.

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Hintikka, J. Perspectives on the Logical Study of Language. Log. Univers. 13, 151–163 (2019).

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  • Hintikka
  • Carnap
  • Quine
  • Wittgenstein

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • Primary 03A10
  • Secondary 01A70