My article ‘The experimental and the empirical: Arne Naess’s statistical approach to philosophy’ is now published online by the British Journal for the History of Philosophy.
It will be included in a special issue of the journal on Experimental Philosophy and the History of Philosophy. My article considers both the similarities and the differences between Naess’s Empirical Semantics from the mid twentieth century, and experimental philosophy of the present day, and reflects on what these might tell us about attitudes to philosophical methodology.
There is a link to my article here, with free access to the full text for the first fifty clicks.
Last week I was in Oslo for the Arne Naess Memorial Seminar, an event organised by the Centre for Development and the Environment at the University of Oslo. It was great to hear talks on various aspects of Naess’s work, and to have the chance to talk to a number of people who knew and worked with Naess at different stages in his career. I will be back in Oslo next year for a seminar focussing on Naess’s work in semantics and its relation to logical positivism, run by the Seminar in Science Studies at the University.
The Norwegian philosopher and environmentalist Arne Naess died on Monday, two weeks short of his 97th birthday. The Associated Press announcement, along with most of the tributes now being paid to Naess, focus on his ecological work and appropriately so; the ‘Deep Ecology’ movement, which he founded in 1970, is his greatest intellectual legacy. But Naess is also a significant figure in the history of analytic philosophy. He was the last surviving philosopher to have attended meetings of the Vienna Circle in the 1930s, and during the 1950s and 60s he was a sparrring partner for his near contemporaries such as A. J. Ayer and J. L. Austin. Perhaps most significantly, his dissatisfaction with logical positivism led him to pioneer methods of language study that prefigured developments in branches of linguistics such as sociolinguistics and corpus linguistics by some thirty years. He was a major intellectual figure of the twentieth century.
I have just received copies from Palgrave of my new book Language and Empiricism, After the Vienna Circle, published on 17th April.
Last week I was at the LAGB conference at King’s College, London, where I heard some very interesting papers and discussions. My paper was called ‘Empirical semantics: the case of “or”‘. In this, I used two separate accounts of ‘or’ from the 1960s, Grice’s famous treatment of generalised conversational implicatures in his lectures on ‘Logic and Conversation’, and an empirical study by Arne Naess, as a way of comparing the assumptions and methodologies of ordinary language philosophy with those of Naess’s empirical semantics. Linguists are becoming increasingly interested in questions of methodology and of data and, as I argued in my paper, some of the things being said in present-day linguistics are remarkably similar to the views expressed in Naess’s little-known philosophy of language.