Ernest Gellner's Words and Things: A Case Study of Empirical Philosophy

Metaphilosophy 46 (2):300-316 (2015)
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This article considers how Ernest Gellner used sociology and anthropology to attack ordinary language philosophy in Words and Things. It argues that this attack can be seen as a part of the movement to make philosophy more empirical or “naturalized,” something that has not been generally noted. It also discusses what general lessons to draw from Words and Things regarding how empirical knowledge should be used in philosophy. Among other things, the article argues that one important lesson is that empirical philosophers should make more use of “soft” social sciences, such as sociology and anthropology, and not focus exclusively on “harder” disciplines, such as physics and experimental psychology. Another upshot of the discussion is that philosophers should draw on empirical knowledge not only when they solve problems but also when they formulate them



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Stefan Schubert
Lund University (PhD)

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Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Ontological relativity and other essays.Willard Van Orman Quine (ed.) - 1969 - New York: Columbia University Press.
Every thing must go: metaphysics naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Don Ross, David Spurrett & John G. Collier.
Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.

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