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What's the big deal about ordinary language? Bertrand Russell remarked rhetorically, ?Why should we listen to what silly people have to say?? Max Black has ever been an advocate of plain talk and he exhibits in this book what is the big deal about ordinary language. There he deals with the great issues in philosophy as he speaks plainly to all who will attend. He is not a silly person.
There are jokers who jest with issues in philosophy but as philosophers they are failures. Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein in their book Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar . . . give the world silly but sage observations worthy of a standup comic. Leave them to those comedians who can savor their wit. Get Lily Tomlin: ?There will be sex after death, we just won't be able to feel it.? She appears in Eileen Bertelli's tract: The NO GOOD DIRTY ROTTEN LOW DOWN Book of Love. With jokes we are caught in a labyrinth and have not Ariadne's thread to help us find a way out.
With passages in these contrasting books we are able to see what aspects language can give us, and we can see in Max Black's book the world as significant in a way open to plain folks. He plays in language games to give us extraordinary insight into ordinary language and philosophical issues arising in it.
Bertrand Russell worked to make philosophy more scientific. Lisa Randall works in particle physics and cosmology to make science more philosophical, but in a way peculiar to quantum theory. She exposes the roots of quantum mechanics in Einstein, Heisenberg and others in her book, Warped Passages. We gather that Heisenberg was inspired by Plato's Timaeus. Lisa Randall pleads for perspective on extra dimensions. Like philosophy, quantum theory does not arise from commonsense but begins at a theoretical level where language falters. As in relativity principles, the concept ?spacetime? replaces concepts ?space? and ?time?.
Ludwig Wittgenstein rejected Russell's tendencies and sought to divert attention away from science to meaning in ordinary language as rooted in poetry. A saving grace in Max Black's work is to bring intellectual curiosity back into focus on philosophical issues as they arise in ordinary language. Again, ?plain talk? is Black's motto and watchword. While we have not Ariadne's thread to lead us through the labyrinth, we have Max Black's good sense to guide us. It suffices to say we are much the better for it.
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