THE FUNCTION OF PHILOSOPHY-Alfred Ayer

THE FUNCTION OF PHILOSOPHY -1936

Among the superstitions from which we are freed by the  abandonment of metaphysics is the view that it is the business of the philosopher to construct a deductive system.  In rejecting this view wc are not, of course, suggesting  that the philosopher can dispense with deductive reasoning.  We are simply contesting his right to posit certain first  principles, and then offer them with their consequences as  a complete picture of reality. To discredit this procedure,  one has only to show that there can be no Jlrst principles of the kind it requires.

As it is the function of these first principles to provide a  certain “basis for our knowledge, it is clear that they are not  to be found among the so-called laws of nature. For we  .shall see that the ‘laws of nature’, if they are not mere  definitions, are simply hypotheses which may be confuted  by experience. And, indeed, it has never been the practice  of the system-builders in philosophy to choose inductive  generalizations for their premises. Rightly regarding such  generalizations as being merely probable, they subordin ate them to principles which they believe to be logically  certain.

This is illustrated most clearly in the system of  Descartes. It is commonly said that Descartes attempted  to derive all human knowledge from premises whose truth was intuitively certain : but this interpretation puts an undue stress on the element of psychology in his system. I  think he realized well enough that a mere appeal to intuition was insufficient for his purpose, since men are not all  equally credulous, and that what he was really trying to  do was to base all our knowledge on propositions which it would be self-contradictory to deny. He thought he had  found such a proposition ia ‘cogito’, -which must not here  be understood in its ordinary sense of ‘I think’ but rather as meaning ‘there is a thought now’. In fact he was wrong,  because “non cogito’ would be self-contradictory only if it  negated itself; and this no significant proposition can do.
But even if it were true that such a proposition as ‘there is  a thought now’ “was logically certain, it still would not  serve Descartes’s purpose. For if ‘cogito’ is taken in this  sense, his initial principle, ‘cogito ergo sum’, is false. ” exist’ -docs not follow from ‘there is a thought now’. The  fact that a thought occurs at a given moment does not  entail that any other thought has occurred at any other  moment, still less that there has occurred a serks of  thoughts sufficient to constitute a single self. As Hume  conclusively showed, no one event intrinsically points to  any other. We infer the existence of events which we are  not actually observing, with the help of .general principles.  But these principles must be obtained inductively. By mere  deduction from what is immediately given we cannot advance a single step beyond. And, consequently, any attempt to base a deductive system on propositions which describe what is immediately given is bound to be a failure.

The only other course open to one who wished to de-
duce all our knowledge from ‘first principles’, without
indulging in metaphysics, would be to take for his pre-
mises a set of a priori truths. But, as we have already
mentioned, and shall later show, an a priori truth is a
tautology. And from a set of tautologies, taken by them-
selves, only further tautologies can be validly deduced.
But it would be absurd to put forward a system of tauto-
logies as constituting the whole truth about the universe.
And thus we may conclude that it is not possible to deduce
all our knowledge from ‘first principles’; so that those
who hold that it is the function of philosophy to carry out such a deduction are denying its claim to be a  genuine branch of knowledge.

The belief that it is the business of the philosopher to
search for first principles is bound up with the familiar
conception of philosophy as the study of reality as a
whole. And this conception is one which it is difficult to
criticize, because it is so vague. If it is taken to imply, as
it sometimes is, that the philosopher somehow projects
himself outside the world, and takes a bird’s-eye view of
it- then it is plainly a metaphysical conception. And it is
also metaphysical to assert, as some do, that ‘reality as a
v/hole’ is somehow generically different from the reality
which is investigated piecemeal by the special sciences.
But if the assertion that philosophy studies reality as a
whole is understood to imply merely that the philosopher
b equally concerned with the content of every Sciencej
then we may accept it, not indeed as an adequate defini-
tion of philosophy, but as a truth about it. For we shall
find, when we come to discuss the relationship of philo-
sophy to science, that it is not, in principle, related to any
one science more closely than to any other.

In saying that philosophy is concerned with each of  the sciences, in a manner which we shall indicate,  we  mean also to rule out the supposition that philosophy can  be ranged alongside the existing sciences, as a special department of speculative knowledge. Those who make this supposition cherish the belief that there are some things in  the world which are possible objects of speculative knowledge and yet lie beyond the scope of empirical science. But this belief is a delusion. There is no field of experience  which cannot, in principle, be brought under some form  of scientific law. and no type of speculative knowledge  About the world which it is, in principle, beyond the power  of science to give. Wc have already gone some way to substantiate this proposition by -demolishing metaphysics; and we shall justify it to the full in the course of this book.

With this we complete the over throw of speculative
philosophy. We arc now in a position to see that the func-
tion of philosophy is wholly critical. In what exactly does
its critical activity consist?

One way of answering this question is to say that it is
the philosopher’s business to test the validity of our scien-
tific hypotheses and everyday assumptions. But this view,
though very widely held, is mistaken. If a man chooses to
doubt the troth of all the propositions he ordinarily be-
Sieves, it is not in the power of philosophy to reassure him.
The most that philosophy can do, apart from seeing
whether his beliefs are self-consistent, is to show what are
the criteria which are used to determine the truth of false-
hood of any given proposition • and then, when the sceptic
realizes that certain observations would verify his proposi-
tions, he may also realize that he could make those
observations, and so consider his original beliefs to be
justified. But in such a case one cannot say that it is philo-
sophy which justifies his beliefs. Philosophy merely shows
him that experience can justify them. We may look to
the philosopher to show us what we accept as constitut-
ing sufficient evidence for the truth of any given empiri-
cal proposition. But whether the evidence is forthcoming
or not is in every case a purely empirical question.

If anyone thinks that we are here taking too much for
granted, let him refer to the chapter on ‘Truth and Pro-
bability, in which we discuss how the validity of syn-
thetic propositions is determined. He will see there that
the only sort of justification that is necessary or possible
for self-consistent empirical propositions is empirical veri-
fication. And this applies just as much to the laws of
science as to the maxims of common exist Indeed there
is no diiference in kind between them. The superiority of the scientific hypothesis consists merely in its being more
abstract, more precise, and more fruitful. And although
scientific objects such as atoms and electrons seem to be
fictitious in a way that chairs and tables are not, here, too,
the distinction is only a distinction of degree. For both
these lunds of objects arc known only by their sensible
manifestations and are definable in terms of them.

It is time, therefore, to abandon the supersition that
natural science cannot be regarded as logically respectable
until philosophers have solved the problem of induction.
The problem of induction is, roughly speaking, the prob-
lem of finding a way to prove that certain empirical gen-
eralizations which are derived from past experience will
hold good also in the future. There are only two ways of
approaching this problem on the assumption that It is a
genuine problem, and it is easy to see that neither of them
can lead to its solution. One may attempt to deduce the
proposition which one is required to prove either from a
purely formal principle or from an empirical principle. In
the former case one commits the error of supposing that
from a tautology it is possible to deduce a proposition
about a matter of fact; in the latter case one simply as-
sumes what one is setting out to prove, For example, it is
often said that we can justify induction by invoking the
uniformity of nature, or by postulating a “principle of
limited independent variety’. But, in fact, the principle
of the uniformity of nature merely states, in a misleading
fashion, the assumption that past experience is a reliable
guide to the future; while the principle of limited indepen-
dent variety presupposes it. And it is plain that any other
empirical principle which was put forward as a Justifica-
tion of induction would beg the question in the same way.
For the only grounds which one could have for believing
such a principle would be inductive grounds.

Thus it appears that there is no possible way of solving the problem of induction, as it is ordinarily conceived.
And this means that it is a fictitious problem, since all
genuine problems arc at least theoretically capable of be-
ing solved: and the credit of natural science is not im-
paired by the fact that some philosophers continue to be
puzzled by it. Actually, we shall see that the only test to
whkh a form of scientific procedure which satisfies the
necessary condition of self -consistency is subject, is the
test of its success in. practice. Wc are entitled to have faith
in our procedure just so long as it does the work which it
is designed to do – that is, enables us to predict future
experience, and so to control our environment. Of course,,
the fact that a certain form of procedure has always been
successful in practice affords no logical guarantee that
it will continue to be so. But then it is a mistake to demand
a guarantee where it is logically impossible to obtain one.
This does not mean that it is irrational to expect future
experience to conform to the past. For when we come to
define ‘rationality’ we shall find that for us ‘being rational”
entails being guided in a particular fashion by past ex-
perience.

The task of defining rationality is precisely the sort of  task that it Is the business of philosophy to undertake. But  in achieving this it does not justify scientific procedure.  What justifies scientific procedure, to the extent to which  it is capable of being justified, is the success of the predictions to which it gives rise: and this can be determined only in actual experience. By itself, the analysis of a synthetic principle tells us nothing whatsoever about its  truth.

Unhappily, this fact is generally disregarded by philo-
sophers who concern themselves with the so-called theory
of knowledge. Thus it is common for writers on the sub-
ject of perception to assume that, unless one can give a satisfactory analysis of perceptual situation?, one is hot  entitled to believe in the existence of material things. But  this is a complete mistake. What gives one the right to “be-
lieve in the existence of a certain material thing is simply
the fact that one has certain sensations ; for, whether one
realizes it or not, to say that the thing exists is equivalent
to saying that such sensations are obtainable. It is the
philosopher’s business to give a correct definition of ma-
terial things in terms of sensations. But his success of fail-
ure in this task has no bearing whatsoever on the validity
of our perceptual judgements. That depends wholly on
actual sense-experience.

It follows that the philosopher has no right to despise
the beliefs of common sense. If he does so, he merely dis-
plays his ignorance of the true purpose of his inquiries.
What he is entitled to despise is the unreflecting analysis
of those beliefs, which takes the grammatical structure of
the sentence as a trustworthy guide to its meaning. Thus.
many of the mistakes made in connexion with the problem
of perception can he accounted for by the fact, already
referred to in connexion with the metaphysical notion of
‘substance’, that it happens to be Impossible in an ordinary
European language to mention a thing without appearing to distinguish it genericalfy from its qualities and states.

But from the fact that the common-sense analysis of a proposition is mistaken it by no means follows that the  proposition is not true. The philosopher may be able to  show us that the propositions wc believe arc far more complex than we suppose; hut it does not follow from this that  we have no right to believe them.

It should now be sufficiently clear that if the philoso-
pher is to uphold his claim to make a special contribu-
tion to the stock of our knowledge, he must not attempt to
formulate speculative truths, or to look for first principles,
or to make a priori judgements about the validity of our empirical beliefs. He must, in fact, confine himself to  works of clarification and analysis of a sort which we
shall presently describe.

In saying that the activity of philosophizing is essen-
tially analytic, we are not, of course, maintaining that all
those who are commonly called philosophers have actu-
ally been engaged in carrying out analyses. On the con-
trary, we have been at pains to show that a great deal of
what is commonly called philosophy is metaphysical in
character. What we have been in search of, in inquiring
into the function of philosophy, is a definition of philo-
sophy which should accord to some extent with the prac-
tice of those who are commonly called philosophers, and
at the same time be consistent with the common assump-
tion that philosophy is a special branch of knowledge. It
is because metaphysics fails to satisfy this second condi-
tion that we distinguish it from philosophy, in spite of the
fact that it is commonly referred to as philosophy. And
our justification for making this distinction is that it is
necessitated by our original postulate that philosophy is
a special branch of knowledge, and our demonstration that Metaphysics is not.

Although this procedure is logically unassailable, it will
perhaps be attacked on the ground that it is inexpedient.
It will be said that the ‘history of philosophy’ is, almost
entirely, a history of metaphysics; and, consequently, that
although there is no actual fallacy involved in our using
the word “phj^o ( soph^y , in the sense in which philosophy
is incompatible with metaphysics, it is dangerously mis-
leading. For all our care in defining the term will not pre-
vent people from confusing the activities which we call
philosophical with the metaphysical activities of those
whom they have been taught to regard as philosophers.
And therefore it would surely be advisable for us to aban-
don the term ‘philosophy’ altogether, as a name for a distinctive branch of Tenowledge. and invent some new description for the activity which we were minded to call
the activity of philosophizing.

Our answer to this is that it is not the case that the ‘his-
tory of philosophy’ is almost entirely a history of meta-
physics. That it contains some metaphysics is undeniable.
But I think it can he shown that the majority of those
who are commonly supposed to have been great philoso-
phers were primariLy not metaphysicians but analysts. For
example, I do not see how anyone who follows the ac-
count which we shall give of the nature of philosophical
analysis and them turns to Locke’s Essay Concerning Hu-
man Understanding can foil to conclude that it is essen-
tially an analytic work. Locke is generally regarded as
being one who, like G. E. Moore at the present time, puts
forward a philosophy of common scnse. , But he does not
any more than Moore, attempt to give an a priori justi-
fication of our common-sense beliefs. Rather does he ap-
pear to have seen that tt was not his business as a philo-
sopher to affirm or deny the validity of any empirical
propositions, but only to analyse them. For he is content,
in his own words, ‘to be employed as an uDder4abourer in
clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the
rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge’; and so de-
votes himself to the purely analytic tasks of defining
knowledge, and classifying propositions, and displaying
the nature of material things. And the smalt portion of
his work which is not philosophical, in our sense, is not
given over to metaphysics, but to psychology.

Nor is it fair to regard Berkeley as a metaphysician. For v
he did not, in fact, deny the reality of material things, as
we are. still too commonly told. What he denied was the
adequacy of Locke’s analysis of the notion of a material thing. He maintained that to say of various ‘ideas of sensation that they belonged to a single material thing was
not, as  thought, to say that they were related to a
single unobservable underlying ‘somewhat ”. but rather
that they stood in certain relations to one another. And in
this he was: right. Admittedly he made the mistake of sup-
posing that what was immediately given in sensation, was
necessarily mental; and the use. by him and by Locke, of
the word ‘idea’ to denote an element in that which is
sensibly given is objectionable, because it suggests this
false view. Accordingly we replace the word ‘idea’ in this
usage by the neutral word “sense-content’, which we shalL
use to refer to the immediate data not merely of ‘outer’
but also of ‘ introspective’ sensation, and say that what
Berkeley discovered was that material things must be de-
finable in terms of sense-contents. We shall see, when we
come finally to settle the conflict between idealism and
realism, that his actual conception of the relationship be-
tween material things and sense-contents was not alto-
gether accurate. It led Mm to some notoriously paradoxi-
cal conclusions, which a slight emendation will enable us
to avoid. But the fact that he failed to give a completely
correct account of the way in which material things are
constituted out of sense-contents does not invalidate his
contention that they are so constituted. On the contrary,
we know that it must be possible to define material things
in terms of sense-contents, because it is only by the occur-
rence of certain sense-contents that the existence of any
material thing can ever be in the least degree verified. And
thus we see that we have not to inquire whether a pheno-
menalist ‘theory of perception or some other sort of
theory is correct, but only what form of phenomenahst
theory is correct For the fact that all causal and repre-
sentative theories of perception treat material things as if
they were unobservable entities entitles us, as Berkeley saw, to rule them out a priori. The unfortunate thing Is that, in  spite of this, he found it necessary to postulate Cod as an  unobservable cause of our ‘ideas’; and he must be criti-
cized also for falling to See that the argument which he
uses to dispose of Locke’s analysis of a material thing is
fatal to his own conception of the nature of the self, a
point which was effectively seized upon by Hume,

Of Hume we may say not merely that he was not tn
practice a metaphysician, but that he explicitly rejected
metaphysics. We find the strongest evidence of this in the
passage with which he concludes his Enquiry Concerning
Human Understanding. It is said, ‘we take in our hand
oy volume; of divinity, or school metaphysics, for in-
stance; let us ask. Does it contain any abstract reasoning
concerning quantity or number ? No. Does it contain any
experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and
existence? No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can
contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’ What is this
but a rhetorical version of our own thesis that a sentence
which does not express either a formally true proposition
or an empirical hypothesis is devoid of literal significance?
It is true that Hume does not, so far as I know, actually
put forward any view concerning the nature of philoso-
phical propositions themselves, but those of his works
which are commonly accounted philosophical are apart
from certain passages which deal with Questions of psy-
chology, works of analysts, if this is not universally con-
ceded, it is because his treatment of causation, which is
the main feature of his philosophical work, is often mis-
interpreted. He has bceu accused of denying causation,
whereas in fact he was concerned only with defining it.
So far is he from asserting that no causal propositions
are true that he is himself at pains to give rules for judg-
ing of the existence of causes and effects. He realized well enough that the question whether a given causal proposition was true or false was not one that could be settled a
priori, and accordingly confined himself to discussing the
analytic question, What is it that we are asserting when
we assert that one event is causally connected with an-
other ? And in answering this question he showed, I think, conclusively, first that the relation of cause and effect was  not logical in character, since any proposition asserting a  casual connexion could be denied without self-contra-
diction, secondly that causal laws were not analytically
derived from experience, since they were not deducible
from any finite number of experiential propositions, and.
thirdly, that it was a mistake to analyse propositions as-
serting causal connexions in terms of a relation of neces-
sitation which held between particular events, since it was
impossible to conceive of any observations which would
have the slightest tendency to establish the existence of
such a relation. He thus laid the way open for the view,
which we adopt, that every assertion of a particular causal
connexion involves the assertion of a causal law, and that
every general proposition of the form ‘C causes E’ is
equivalent to a proposition of the form ‘whenever C then
E, where the symbol ‘whenever’ must be taken to refer
not to a finite number of actual instances of C. but to the
infinite number of possible instances. He himself defines
a cause as ‘an object, followed by another, and where all
the objects similar to the first are followed by objects simi-
lar to the second’, or, alternatively, as ‘an object followed
by another, and whose appearance always conveys the
thought to that other’;  but neither of these definitions is
acceptable as it stands. For, even if it is true that we should
not, according to our standards of rationality, have good
reason to believe that an event C was the cause of an event
E unless we had observed a constant conjunction of events like C with events like E, still there is no self-contradiction
involved in asserting the proposition C is the cause of E’
and at the same time denying that any events like C or
like E ever have been observed: and this would be self-
contradictory if the first of the definitions quoted was eor-
rcct. Nor is it inconceivable, as the second definition im-
plies, that there should be causal laws which have never
yet been thought of. But although we are obliged, for these
reasons, to reject Hume’s actual definitions of a cause, our
view of the nature of causation remains substantially the
same as his. And we agree with him that there can be no
other justification for inductive reasoning than its success
in practice, while insisting more strongly than be did that
no better justification is required. For it is his failure to
make this second point clear that has given his views the
air of paradox which has caused them to be so much
undervalued and misunderstood.

When we consider, also, that Hobbes and Bentham were
chiefly occupied in giving definitions, and that the best
part of John Stuart Mill’s work consists in a development
of the analyses carried out by Hume, we may fairly claim
that in holding that the activity of philosophizing is es-
sentially analytic we are adopting a standpoint which has
always been implicit in English empiricism. Not that the
practice of philosophical analysis has been confined to
members of this school- But it is with them that we have
the closest historical affinity.

Jf I refrain from discussing these questions in detail,
and make no attempt to furnish a complete list of all the
‘great philosophers’ whose work is predominantly analy-
tic – a list which would certainly include Plato and
Aristotle and Kant – it is because the point to which this
discussion is relevant is one of minor importance in our
inquiry. Wc have been maintaining that much of ‘tradi-
tional philosophy is genuinely philosophical, by out standards, in order to defend ourselves against the charge  that our retention of the word ‘philosophy is misleading.
But even if it were the case that none of those who are
commonly called philosophers had ever been engaged in
what we call the activity of philosophizing, it would not
follow that our definition of philosophy was erroneous,
given our initial postulates. We may admit that our re-
tention of the word ‘philosophy’ is causally dependent
on our belief in the historical propositions set forth a Dove.
But the validity of these historical propositions has no
logical bearing on the validity of our definition of philo-
sophy, nor on the validity of the distinction between
philosophy, in our sense, and metaphysics.

It is advisable to stress the point that philosophy, as we
understand it, is wholly independent of metaphysics, in-
asmuch as the analytic method is commonly supposed by
its critics to have a metaphysical basis. Being misled by
the associations of the word ‘analysis’, they assume that
philosophical analysis is an activity of dissection; that it
consists in “breaking up’ objects into their constituent
parts, until the whole universe is ultimately exhibited as
an aggregate of ‘bare particulars’, united by external rela-
tions. If this were really so, the most effective way of
attacking the method would be to show that Its basic pre-
supposition was nonsensical. For to say that the universe
was an aggregate of bare particulars would be as senseless
as to say that it was Fire or Water or Experience. It is
plain that no possible observation would enable one to
verify such an assertion. But, so far as I know, this line
of criticism is in fact never adopted. The critics content
themselves with pointing out that few, if any, of the com-
plex objects in the world are simply the sum of their parts.
They have a structure, art organic unity, which distin-
guishes them, as genuine wholes, from mere aggregates.
Rut the analyst, so it is said, is obliged by his atomistic metaphysics to regard an object consisting of parts a, h, c,  and d, in a distinctive configuration as being simply a+b
+c+d. and thus gives an entirely false account of lis  nature.

If we follow the Gestalt psychologists, who of all men
talk most constantly about genuine wholes, in defining
such a whole as one in which the properties of every pari
depend to some extent on its position in the whole, then
we may accept it as an empirical fact that there exist gen-
uine, or organic, wholes. And if the analytic method in-
volved a denial of this fact, it would indeed be a faulty
method. But, actually, the validity of the analytic method
is not dependent on any empirical, much Jess any meta-
physical, presupposition about the nature of things. For
the philosopher, as an analyst, is not directly concerned
with the physical properties of things. He Is concerned
only with the way in which we speak about them.

In other words, the propositions of philosophy are not
factual, but linguistic in character – that is, they do not
describe the behaviour of physical, or even mental, ob-
jects; they express definitions, or the formal consequences
of definitions. Accordingly, we may say that philosophy
is a department of logic. For we shall see that the charac-
teristic mark of a purely logical inquiry is that it is con-
cerned with the formal consequences of our definitions
and not with questions of empirical fact

It follows that philosophy does not in any way compete
with science. The difference in type between philosophical
-and scientific propositions Is such that they cannot con-
ceivably contradict one another. And this makes it clear
that the possibility of philosophical analysis is independent
of any empirical assumptions. That it is independent of
any metaphysical assumptions should be even more
obvious still. For it is absurd to suppose that the provision
of definitions, and the study of their formal consequences,involves the nonsensical assertion that the world is composed ol bare particulars, or any other metaphysical dogma.

What has contributed as much as anything to The pre-
valent misunderstanding of the nature of philosophical
analysts is the fact that propositions and questions which
are really linguistic arc often expressed in such a way that
they appear to be factual.- 4 A striking instance of this is
provided by The proposition that a material thing cannot
be in two places at once. This looks like an empirical pro-
position, and is constantly invoked by those who desire
to prove that it is possible for an empirical proposition to
be logically certain. &ut 3 more critical inspection shows
that it is not empirical at all. but linguistic. It simply re-
cords the fact that, as a result of certain verbal conven-
tions, the proposition, that two sense-contents occur in
the same visual or tactual sense-field is incompatible with
the proposition that they belong to the same material
thing,  And this is indeed a necessary fact. But it has not
the least tendency to show that we have certain know-
ledge about the empirical properties of objects. For it is
necessary only because we happen 10 use the relevant
words in a particular way. There is no logical reason why
we should not so alter our definitions that the sentence ‘A
thing cannot be in two places at once’ comes to express
a self-contradiction instead of a necessary truth,

Another good example of linguistically necessary pro-
position which appears to be a record of empirical fact
is the proposition, ‘Relations are not particulars, but unlversals.’ One might suppose that this was a proposition  of the same order as, ‘Armenians are not Mohammedans,
but Christians’ : but one would be mistaken. For. where-
as the tatter proposition is an empirical hypothesis relat-
ing to the religious practices of a certain group of people,
the former is not a proposition about ‘things’ at all, but
simply about words. It records the fact that relatjon-
symbok belong by definition to the class of symbols for
characters, and not to the class of symbols for things.

The assertion that relations are unlversals provokes the
question, ‘What is a universal ?’; and this question is not,
as it has traditionally been regarded, a question about the
character of certain real objects, but a request for a defini-
tion of 2 certain term. Philosophy, as it is written, is fall
of questions like this, which seem to be factual but are
not. Thus, to ask what is the nature of a material object
is to ask for a definition of ‘material object’, and this, as
wc shall shortly see, is to ask how propositions about ma-
terial objects are to be translated into propositions about
sense-contents. Similarly, to ask what is a number is to
ask some such question as whether it is possible to trans-
late propositions about the natural numbers into proposi-
tions about classes.” And the same thing applies to all the
philosophical questions of the form, ‘What is an x?’ or,
‘What is the nature of x2 ‘ They are all requests for defini-
tions, and, as we shall see, for definitions of a peculiar sort.

Although it, is misleading to write about linguistic questions in ‘factual’ language, it is often convenient for the sake of brevity. And wc shall not always avoid doing it ourselves. But it is important that no one should be deceived by this practice into supposing that the philosopher is engaged on an empirical or a metaphysical Inquiry. We may speak loosely of him as analysing facts, or notions, or  even things. But we must make it clear that these are simply way? of saying that he is concerned with the ctefinition of the corresponding words.


Alfred Ayer – Language, Truth and Logic-1936