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Becoming Who We ArePolitics and Practical Philosophy in the Work of Stanley Cavell$
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Andrew Norris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190673949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190673949.001.0001

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Ordinary Language and Philosophical Conversion

Ordinary Language and Philosophical Conversion

(p.15) Chapter 1 Ordinary Language and Philosophical Conversion
Becoming Who We Are

Andrew Norris

Oxford University Press

This chapter evaluates Cavell’s reception of Austin’s ordinary language philosophy, showing it to be more critical than it has been understood to be. For Austin, the ordinary language philosopher speaks in the first-person plural to remind other philosophers of “what we say when” so as to correct the mistakes those philosophers have made in writing about ethics, epistemology, etc. But Austin cannot give a compelling explanation of why those other philosophers require such reminders: how can they have been wrong about their language and its implications, since they too are one of us who speak the language? On Cavell’s account, we forget what we say when—or, what comes to the same thing, fail to mean what we say—because we evade ourselves. Ordinary language philosophy does not correct mistakes but addresses the uncanny nature of the ordinary, that it is not yet what it is.

Keywords:   J. L. Austin, conversion, first-person plural, Sigmund Freud, nihilism, ordinary language philosophy, self-knowledge, “terms of criticism”, the uncanny, Ludwig Wittgenstein

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