Austin on Perception

W. F. R. Hardiea1

a1 Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

‘After it, the philosophy of perception cannot be discussed in ways it usually was discussed before.’ This is said about Sense and Sensibilia by Mr Bernard Williams in an article, ‘J. L. Austin's philosophy’, published in the Oxford Magazine of 6 December 1962. It is not quite clear what Mr Williams means by the remark. It might be understood as an endorsement of Austin's insistence that philosophers have lapsed into crudity and error through their neglect of distinctions marked by the rich variety of linguistic expressions in ordinary use. But Mr Williams himself in his article makes some effective criticisms of Austin's opinion that ordinary language is a reservoir of philosophically significant distinctions, and points out also that Austin's own practice in these lectures did not exhibit any close connection between his survey of the variety of the uses of such words as ‘look’, ‘seem’, ‘appear’, and his criticism of theories of perception.