Language and the Pursuit of Truth


Revision as of 16:54, 8 November 2010 by Chris Cooper (Talk | contribs)

John Wilson (1928-2003) was an educationalist who passionately believed in the practical necessity of philosophical thinking in broad areas of life, and in education in particular. Distinctively philosophical thinking means getting clear about concepts - or, less grandly, about meaning. Language And The Pursuit of Truth, published in 1956, is a primer for this.

Wilson said in his What Philosophy Can Do (1986) that Language And The Pursuit of Truth 'tries to set out different kinds of words, statements and truth, in a cut-and-dried way (grotesquely oversimplified)'. And it's undeniable that there are a lot of crude things in it. But I think that the heart of the book is this claim:

  If I am to be able to say correctly that a statement is true, 
  I must necessarily be able to do three things first:
    (i) Know what the statement means.
    (ii) Know the right way to verify it.
    (iii) Have good evidence for believing it.
  Unless these three conditions are satisfied, it would be ridiculous
  to say that the statement is true.

I think that's true and important. And it's still not being taught, as far as I can tell from the quality of discussion all around us.

Wilson's Thinking With Concepts (1963) is a more solid book, but it's a practical textbook aimed at sixth-formers, with worked exercises that you couldn't abbreviate, so I shan't try putting it onto WikiSummaries.

Chris Cooper 15:53, 8 November 2010 (PST)