Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement

Papers

Cutting Philosophy of Language Down to Size

Ruth Garrett Millikan

When asked to contribute to this lecture series, my first thought was to talk about philosophy of biology, a new and increasingly influential field in philosophy, surely destined to have great impact in the coming years. But when a preliminary schedule for the series was circulated, I noticed that no one was speaking on language. Given the hegemony of philosophy of language at mid-century, after ‘the linguistic turn’, this seemed to require comment. How did philosophy of language achieve such status at mid-century, and why is it losing it now? Has the Anglo-American tradition really begun to put the philosophy of language in better perspective? I hope so. Indeed, I will end with suggestions for how to keep it more securely in its proper place.

Professor of Philosophy, University of Connecticut.