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It is, I believe, generally assumed—certainly it is natural to assume—that the philosophical appeal to ordinary language constitutes some sort of immediate repudiation of traditional philosophy, in particular of that continuous strain or motive within traditional philosophy which is roughly characterizable as skepticism (a strain or motive which most clearly includes elements of Cartesianism and of British Empiricism). This formulation is vague enough, and the assumption I refer to, if I am right that it is there, is itself vague enough. It would be the latest in the long history of altering relations which philosophy, as it alters, will draw between itself and common sense or everyday belief or the experience or the ordinary man. And the specific terms of criticism in which one philosophy formulates its opposition to another philosophy or to everyday beliefs is as definitive of that philosophy as any of the theses it may produce. I wish in what follows to suggest that so far as the appeal to what we should ordinariiy say is taken to provide an immediate repudiation of skepticism, that appeal is itself repudiated.
The usefulness, not to say the authority, of appeals to what we should ordinarily say, as philosophical data, depends upon their being met in independence of any particular philosophical position or theory. (This is, I take it, what the phrase “ordinary language” meant to its Oxford coiners: a view of words free of philosophical preoccupation.)
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