The natural history of fact

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (2):275 – 291 (2004)
The article provides an example of the application of the techniques and results of historical linguistics to traditional problems in the philosophy of language. It takes as its starting point the dispute about the nature of facts that arose from the 1950 Aristotelian Society debate between J. L. Austin and P. F. Strawson. It is shown that, in some cases, expressions containing the noun fact refer to actions and events; while in other cases, such expressions do not have a referring function at all. Thus, nothing corresponding to Strawson's 'pseudomaterial correlate' need be postulated in order to account for the reference of the noun fact . It is suggested that many philosophically problematic expressions may be better understood by tracing their historical evolution in natural language.
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