NDPR Review: of Avner Baz’s “When Words Are Called For”

NDPR has just published a review — written by Sari Nusseibeh (al-Quds University) — of Avner Baz’s recently published book, When Words Are Called For: A Defense of Ordinary Language Philosophy (Harvard University Press). To access the review online, click here.

Here is how it begins:

In order to appreciate the radical thesis of this work and the case Baz defends — that Ordinary Language Philosophy (OLP) has been fundamentally misunderstood and therefore unfairly put to rest in the analytic tradition when in fact it still constitutes a ‘best-practice’ for doing philosophy — it is necessary from the outset to make clear that for OLP, a word’s meaning remains ‘in limbo’ (for all intents and purposes) until it is determined by context. Until then, it better be looked upon as a variable and not as a given. What Baz reveals in his new book is the astonishing fact that, even in eulogizing OLP as it is being pronounced dead, many of its half-way sympathizers suffer precisely from continuing to hold on to a semanticist/pragmatist distinction in meanings when, for OLP, there is none.

The ‘decline’ of the interest in OLP as an approach is vouched for by the fact that, among other things, not a single book in English on the one person who first tried to articulate this approach, J. L. Austin, has been published in the last thirty years or so (the exception, this year, is a volume edited by Martin Gustafsson and Richard Sorli, published by Oxford University Press, to which Avner Baz contributed versions of his third chapter in the book under review). A biography of Austin — the professional impact of whose sudden and premature death in 1960 at the age of 48 on OLP’s founding early years and his colleagues cannot be underestimated — is also now in the works, and will hopefully shed more light on a region of under-exploited intellectual wealth that has long been kept in the dark.

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