New Contributions to Ordinary Language Philosophy and Experimental Philosophy


Philosopher Nat Hansen (University of Reading), a longtime friend of this blog, has let us know of some recent contributions to the intersection of “Ordinary Language Philosophy,” particularly the work of J.L. Austin, and “Experimental Philosophy”:

1. Taylor Murphy, “Experimental Philosophy: 1935-1965”, in Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, 2014.

Hansen: “This includes discussions of Arne Naess’s interactions with Austin.”

Pdf here.

2. Nat Hansen and Emmanuel Chemla, “Linguistic Experiments and Ordinary Language Philosophy”, Ratio 28(4), 422-445. (2015)

Hansen: “We test some of Austin’s classic examples, like his donkey stories from ‘A Plea for Excuses’ to see how people do in fact react to them. Our results are mixed.”

Pdf here.

Thanks to Nat Hansen for letting us know about these papers!

Maurice Blanchot papers Acquired by Harvard

Reblogged from

Harvard acquires manuscripts, typescripts, notebooks and proofs by the post-war French writer and philosopher

Maurice Blanchot
Maurice Blanchot

Houghton Library has acquired the archive of French writer, literary theorist, and philosopher Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003) from his daughter, Cidalia Blanchot. Christie McDonald, Smith Professor of French Language and Literature at Harvard University, said, “I am thrilled by Houghton’s acquisition of this important archive.  Scholars will have unprecedented access to material that will give us a deeper understanding of his work.”

Blanchot’s writings influenced a generation of postmodern and post-structuralist thinkers, and the Blanchot papers provide an incredibly rich research resource not only on Blanchot himself, but also the intellectual life of France in the twentieth century. His political thought was complicated and is still debated today: shifting from the extreme right in pre-World War II France to the extreme left in his opposition to the war in Algeria in the 1950s and support for student protests in 1968. Over the last 30 years of his life his written output was infrequent, and although he remained an important figure for many, he became reclusive.  This has perhaps contributed to the intense interest in the unpublished writings he left behind.

Notebooks kept by Maurice Blanchot.Notebooks kept by Maurice Blanchot.

Typescript of Blanchot's Espace-Litteraire (The Space of Literature)Typescript of Blanchot’s Espace-Litteraire (The Space of Literature)

In extent, the archive fills approximately 20 cartons (ca. 25 linear feet). It includes his working manuscripts, typescripts, and proofs of books, essays, and reviews; extensive notes on and translation of Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Karl Marx, and Franz Kafka; reading notes (including notes on Paul Valéry, Françoise Sagan, Marcel Brion, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault); some ephemera from the May 1968 Paris student protests, of which he was an active supporter; twenty-six spiral-bound notebooks containing drafts of letters, reading notes, interview notes, lists of books, etc.; substantial correspondence with Robert and Monique Antelme, Dominique Aury/Anne Desclos, Georges Bataille, Jacques Derrida, Edmond Jabès, Henri Lefebvre, and with Gallimard and magazine publishers, as well as letters from Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Emmanuel Levinas, and other philosophers and writers of the period; family correspondence; and hundreds of letters by Denise Rollin, Blanchot’s lover in the mid-1940s.

Houghton’s acquisition of the corrected proofs of L’Entretien infini in 2009 attracted much scholarly attention, as the writer’s papers have been inaccessible following his death. An article about that earlier acquisition, by Harvard’s Smith Professor of French Language and Literature Christie McDonald and Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts Leslie Morris, is available online on Espace Blanchot and The Romance Sphere. This second, much larger and significant acquisition awaits full description, but the archive is now available for research in the Houghton Reading Room.

The Blanchot papers complement Houghton’s strong holdings in printed French literature of the twentieth century, recently augmented by the addition of the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection and its extensive holdings in French popular culture, and May 1968 Paris student protest posters and flyers. [Read More]

Analytic & Ordinary Language Philosophy in Dialogue: Max Deutsch & Avner Baz on the ‘Method of Cases’

Inquiry recently published a paper by Max Deutsch responding to Avner Baz’s ordinary language critique of mainstream analytic philosophy. The journal then invited Baz to reply to Deutsch’s paper. Their full exchange (see links below) will be of interest to OLP&Lit readers eager to understand what’s at stake in between analytic and ordinary language philosophy.

The relevant citations are as follows:

  1. “Must Philosopher Rely on Intuitions?” (Journal of Philosophy, 2012)
  2. “Recent Attempts to Defend the Method of Cases, and the Linguistic (Re)turn” (forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research):
  3. Deutsch’s criticism of Baz’s argument (Inquiry, September 2015): “Avner Baz on the ‘Point’ of a Question”
  4. Baz’s reply to Deutsch (Inquiry, November 2015): “Questioning the Method of Cases Fundamentally”

Happy reading!



Nordic Wittgenstein Review: Special Issue, Wittgenstein and Forms of Life

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Special Issue 2015. Edited by Danièle Moyal-Sharrock and Piergiorgio Donatelli.



Note from the Editors
Daniele Moyal-Sharrock, Piergiorgio Donatelli 0
Forms of Life FULLTEXT PDF
Peter Hacker 1-20
Wittgenstein on Forms of Life, Patterns of Life, and Ways of Living FULLTEXT PDF
Daniele Moyal-Sharrock 21-42
Forms of Life, Forms of Reality FULLTEXT PDF
Piergiorgio Donatelli 43-62
Voice as Form of Life and Life Form FULLTEXT PDF
Sandra Laugier 63-82
Tractarian Form as the Precursor to Forms of Life FULLTEXT PDF
Chon Tejedor 83-109
Mathematics and Forms of Life FULLTEXT PDF
Severin Schroeder 111-130
“If Some People Looked Like Elephants and Others Like Cats”: Wittgenstein on Understanding Others and Forms of Life FULLTEXT PDF
Constantine Sandis 131-153
Elucidating Forms of Life. The Evolution of a Philosophical Tool FULLTEXT PDF
Anna Boncompagni

New Book by Kyle Stevens: “Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism”


We’re pleased to announce the appearance of a new book by Kyle Stevens (Cinema Studies and English, Colby College), titled Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism (Oxford University Press). Below is some information Stevens provided us about the book, and in particular its relationship to Ordinary Language Philosophy.

In The World Viewed, Stanley Cavell writes: “It is an incontestable fact that in a motion picture no live human being is up there. But a human something is, and something unlike anything else we know.” In his new book, Kyle Stevens explores the category of these human somethings, which, as Cavell suggests, inform and gird our own ideas of the category of the human. He does so through the study of performer and director Mike Nichols. With iconic movies like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, and Carnal Knowledge, Nichols was the most prominent American director during the cultural upheavals of the 1960s. It was also during the late 1960s and 1970s, as Film Studies crystallized into an academic discipline, that psychological realism became linked to both classical Hollywood and continuity editing. The style was derided as theatrical, or worse, bourgeois, a product of a capitalism that valorized individual personality. This view persists, though often tacitly. Yet, we must attribute some degree of mindedness to any figure that we might call a character. Stevens clarifies that at stake is an idea of action: how a film expresses a character’s orientation toward and effect upon objects, and how audiences construe that relation. He contends that Nichols creates a mode of character rooted in doubt about actions, doubt that is politically savvy and which, by accommodating quotidian anxiety about knowing other minds, offers a new register of realism.

Themes and methods from Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell are central throughout the book, from thinking about the nature of improvisational utterances to linguistic self-presentation. For example, by asking when, or whether, The Graduate’s taciturn hero means his silences, Stevens shows that the film exhibits an interest in rethinking the nature, force, and relationality of utterances. In doing so, he illuminates its appeal to an aesthetic context fascinated by silence, and to a political context of youth galvanized by the Free Speech Movement and Vietnam. The Graduate thus becomes a means of asking what it means to speak representatively. And what, in that context, does it mean to remain silent, to choose to speak only for oneself? Hence, readers will learn not only about an important filmmaker and his influence on the last five decades of Hollywood, but about film’s participation in a US history of ideas and, more broadly, the relation of film and philosophy.

You can find out more about the book by accessing its page on the Oxford University Press website. We had previously posted on Kyle Stevens’s work some time back here.

“Ordinary Language, Ordinary Criticism”—Upcoming Seminar at the ACLA (Papers due TOMORROW 9/23)

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Joshua Gang (University California, Berkeley) and Daniel Wright (University of Toronto) are co-organizing a seminar at the 2016 ACLA Annual Meeting on “Ordinary Language, Ordinary Criticism.” Note that paper proposals are due tomorrow, September 23.

More information about the seminar is posted below. Click [here] for the ACLA seminar page. Click [here] to contact the conference organizers.

This seminar invites papers on the role ordinary language philosophy might play in literary study today. Building on recent critical discussions of description, denotation, and the hermeneutics of suspicion, we ask: should we understand the languages of criticism and literature as “ordinary”? How might the assumptions of ordinary language philosophy change the ways we think about critical practice? About literature’s broader historical and theoretical relationships to philosophy? Papers from all literary periodizations, national traditions, and methodologies are encouraged.

Topics of interest might include: the relation between literary language and critical language to “ordinary language”; the relation of the literary to Wittgenstein, Austin, Strawson, Cavell, Ryle, Diamond and other figures in ordinary language philosophy; the relation of ordinary language to aesthetic categories, such as form, genre, and medium; how the concept of “ordinary language” has varied over time and in different national traditions; the relation of ordinary language to discourses of sexuality, race, class and other categories of lived experience; language as both evidence and explanation; readings of literary texts by ordinary language philosophers (i.e. Ryle on Austen, Cavell on Shakespeare, Beckett and others); and past engagements between literary criticism and ordinary language philosophy.

NLH: Feminist Investigations and Other Essays

The eagerly-awaited “Feminist Investigations and Other Essays” issue of New Literary History is available at last. See below for a table of contents and the opening paragraphs of the Introduction. Click [here] to access the articles through Project Muse. Happy reading!

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Feminist Investigations and Other Essays [46, 2 (2015)]

  • “Introduction”
  • Toril Moi, “Thinking Through Examples: What Ordinary Language Philosophy Can Do for Feminist Theory”
  • Sandra Laugier, “The Ethics of Care as a Politics of the Ordinary”
  • Sarah Beckwith, “Are There any Women in Shakespeare’s Plays? Fiction, Representation, and Reality in Feminist Criticism”
  • Linda M. G. Zerilli, “The Turn to Affect and the Problem of Judgment”
  • Alice Crary, “Feminist Thought and Rational Authority: Getting Things in Perspective”
  • Jonas Grethlein, “Aesthetic Experiences, Ancient and Modern”
  • Robert J. Meyer-Lee, “Toward a Theory and Practice of Literary Valuing”


We have called this cluster of essays “Feminist Investigations,” in reference to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. 1 The five essays that follow work in the philosophical tradition after Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, and Stanley Cavell. Although we call this tradition “ordinary language philosophy” (OLP for short), most of us have misgivings about the name. Some of us feel that the term “ordinary language philosophy” may lead to misunderstandings, not least among philosophers, who often take it to mean either a certain Oxford-based, post-war linguistic philosophy centered on Austin, or certain contemporary analytic continuations of that linguistic philosophy.2 Moreover, the term “ordinary language philosophy” doesn’t explicitly include another fundamental source of inspiration for many of us, namely Cora Diamond’s pathbreaking work on Wittgenstein, moral philosophy, and literature. Despite our reservations, we have decided to use the term in this introduction.

Although the members of our group differ on many philosophical issues, we share an experience of profound liberation at the discovery of the power of OLP to revolutionize our most fundamental understanding of language, theory, and philosophy. We believe that OLP helps feminists to understand everyday experience in transformative ways. In their attunement to the ordinary, the philosophers in the OLP tradition offer us a chance to rethink the everyday contexts in which normative relations of gender and sexuality are reproduced.

This leads to a two-pronged project. In our engagement with feminist theory, we must show how to escape theoretical pictures that block our return to our everyday lives. Such a project entails a diagnosis and description of the philosophical pictures that hold us captive (cf. PI § 115), a challenge taken up by most of the essays in this cluster. But we must also show, through analyses of particular cases, what our own engagement with the everyday actually looks like. This leads us to work on everyday experience, on ethics, and on aesthetics. [Click here to read on]

CFP: “Pragmatism, Wittgenstein, and the Virtues: Three Heterodox Approaches to Ethics”—Abstracts due 8/31

Pragmatism, Wittgenstein, and the Virtues: Three Heterodox Approaches to Ethics

14-5 September 2015, School of Philosophy, University College Dublin

The conference explores the historical and theoretical dialogues between pragmatist ethics, Wittgensteinian moral philosophy, and virtue ethics. Charting different philosophical programs, these three heterodox approaches to ethics offer metaphilosophical alternatives to both the disengaged project of meta-ethics and to  the prescriptive project of normative ethics. As against the meta-ethical aspect of moral theory, they question the independence of second-order ethical analysis from first order moral inquiry, while contrary to the prescriptive aspect they recommend a descriptive investigation of moral normativity. The conference surveys the convergences and  divergences of  these traditions as they have shape d the course of the twentieth (and now twenty-first) century debate s about the goals, methods, and limits of moral philosophy.

We invite submissions of short (20-5 min) papers on any issue falling within the conference topic. Keynote speakers will be David Bakhurst (Queens’s University at Kingston), Alice Crary (New School for Social Research), Piergiorgio Donatelli (Sapienza Università di Roma), and Sandra Laugier (Paris 1, Sorbonne).

Please submit a 250 word abstract by August 31 to

Accepted papers will be acknowledged by Sept 1.

The event is sponsored by the Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme and the American Voice in Philosophy research project.

Two New Articles by Martin Shuster

Martin Shuster (Avila University) has two new articles out that are sure to be of interest to our readers:
1. “Nothing to Know: The Epistemology of Moral Perfectionism in Adorno and Cavell”
Idealistic Studies, 44:1, Spring 2014, 1-29
2. “On the Ethical Basis of Language: Some Themes in Davidson, Cavell, and Levinas”
Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory, 14.2, Spring 2015, 241-266
Incidentally, Shuster is one of several scholars engaged in an ongoing research project on the theory and practice of apophatic and kataphatic discourses as these pertain to religious understanding in a host of cultural contexts. I encourage those of you interested in the relationship between OLP&Lit and religious themes to check out their site here.