Linguistic turn

Linguistic turn: (1) A sea-change in contemporary philosophy beginning with a British-led turn of analysis from the early twentieth century on to concepts, propositions and language use as the primary object of inquiry and explanation in the apparent belief that herein was found the logical form of reality and knowledge (Moore, Russell, the early Wittgenstein, Carnap, Ayer, the “logical positivists”), shifting over time to “ordinary language philosophy” led by the “later Wittgenstein” of the Philosophical Investigations and subsequent schools including postmodern preoccupation with “signs” and “signifiers”; (2) the decisive break from the material world in which signs become many autonomous worlds of language games and discursive practices which have no signifying relationship to the external world, or necessary relationship to each other thus the model of “language games” in the first instance and “discursive practices” and “signifiers with no signified” in the second main moment. For Wittgenstein and his followers, philosophical problems arise from the logical muddles about the referents of words and confusion of different language games, and so are resolvable at the level of linguistic understanding itself (e.g., “I” or “nothing” are not open-ended mysteries of the world or cosmos, but non-referring grammatical functions). The postmodern movement of philosophy led from France from the second half of the twentieth century does not relate to any British school of analytic linguistic philosophy, but, similarly to the later Wittgenstein across the channel, adopts language or “linguistic circuits” in autonomous elaboration as the object of inquiry and understanding with the human subject itself, truth and decidability dissolved into multiple semiotic constructs and irreducible pluralities of meaning in a manifold de-grounding of symbolic thought.

Source: What is Good? What is Bad? The Value of All Values across Time, Place and Theories’ by John McMurtry, Philosophy and World Problems, Volume I-III, UNESCO in partnership with Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems: Oxford, 2004-11.