On the verification of statements about ordinary language

  • B. Mates
Part of the Controversies in Philosophy book series (COIPHIL)


In this paper I shall discuss certain difficulties which seem to me to stand in the way of understanding or properly appreciating the work of the so-called ‘ordinary language’ philosophers. These difficulties concern the interpretation of the various seemingly factual statements which such philosophers make about language. I am mainly interested in the question of how one would go about verifying these statements; in so far as meaning is bound up with verification, this is also a question of their meaning. Of course, it is possible to pretend that no clarification is required at all, that the sense of assertions about the ordinary use of language is perfectly obvious, or at least sufficiently so for the purposes at hand. But I do not think that such optimism is justified. Even among those who can claim to be ‘in the know’ or to ‘get the point’ there are wide disagreements both as to the truth and as to the meaning of given assertions of the sort under consideration, and these disagreements are by themselves a basis for scepticism. When in addition it is seen that such assertions play a crucial role in the discussions which are supposed to answer, dissolve, or somehow get rid of the traditional problems of philosophy, a philosopher may perhaps be excused for looking at the matter a little more closely.


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  1. 6.
    J. O. Urmson, ‘Some Questions Concerning Validity’, in A. G. N. Flew (ed.), Essays in Conceptual Analysis (London, 1956).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Mates
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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