What is the name of the philosophical view that most (if not the vast majority, or even all) problems in philosophy are caused by language in some sort of way?

The question was partly inspired by a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein:

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.


1 Answer 1


The comments suggested appropriate leads. Following is a compilation.

Linguistic philosophy

Linguistic philosophy describes the view that philosophical problems are problems which may be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. The former position is that of ideal language philosophy, the latter the position of ordinary language philosophy.

ideal language philosophy

From about 1910 to 1930, analytic philosophers like Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein emphasized creating an ideal language for philosophical analysis, which would be free from the ambiguities of ordinary language that, in their opinion, often made philosophy invalid. This philosophical trend can be termed "ideal-language analysis" or "formalism".

The linguistic turn

The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy during the early 20th century, the most important characteristic of which is the focusing of philosophy and the other humanities primarily on the relationship between philosophy and language. Very different intellectual movements were associated with the "linguistic turn", although the term itself is commonly thought to be popularised by Richard Rorty's 1967 anthology The Linguistic Turn, in which it is taken to mean the turn towards linguistic philosophy. According to Rorty, who later dissociated himself from linguistic philosophy and analytic philosophy generally, the phrase "the linguistic turn" originated with philosopher Gustav Bergmann.

Ordinary language philosophy

Ordinary language philosophy is a philosophical methodology that sees traditional philosophical problems as rooted in misunderstandings philosophers develop by distorting or forgetting what words actually mean in everyday use. "Such 'philosophical' uses of language, on this view, create the very philosophical problems they are employed to solve." Ordinary language philosophy is a branch of linguistic philosophy closely related to logical positivism.
This approach typically involves eschewing philosophical "theories" in favor of close attention to the details of the use of everyday "ordinary" language. It is sometimes associated with the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and a number of mid-20th century philosophers.

  • 1
    Thank you for this wonderful answer summarizing things very neatly. Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 6:55

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