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A quantitative history of ordinary language philosophy

Porter, J. D. and Hansen, N. (2023) A quantitative history of ordinary language philosophy. Synthese, 201 (6). 225. ISSN 1573-0964

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11229-023-04187-2


There is a standard story told about the rise and fall of ordinary language philosophy: it was a widespread, if not dominant, approach to philosophy in Great Britain in the aftermath of World War II up until the early 1960s, but with the development of systematic approaches to the study of language—formal semantic theories on one hand and Gricean pragmatics on the other—ordinary language philosophy more or less disappeared. In this paper we present quantitative evidence to evaluate the standard story of the rise and fall of ordinary language philosophy, building on the topic model of over 30,000 philosophy articles in Weatherson in (A History of Philosophy Journals, Volume 1: Evidence from Topic Modeling, 1876–2013, 2022). Using a combination of qualitative judgment and a topic-model-based measurement of similarity between individual articles, we find evidence that supports the first part of the standard story, according to which ordinary language philosophy arises in the 1940s, peaks between the early 1950s and the late 1960s, and then rapidly declines. But we argue that there is also evidence of a “new wave” of ordinary language philosophy in the early twenty-first century that defies the second part of the standard story.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:112283


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