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Austin, John Langshaw


Subject Literature

People Austin, J. L.

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


(1911–60) Philosopher born in Lancaster, England, educated at Oxford University and a fellow of All Souls College (1933–5) and Magdalen College (1935–52). He was elected to the White's Professor of Moral Philosophy Chair at Oxford in 1952 and held the position until his death. He wrote little and published less (seven articles during his life), yet his name was for decades synonymous with a philosophical approach that emphasized careful attention to ordinary language use, sometimes simply called Oxford philosophy. Austin took pride in being a teacher and a university professor. He believed, however, that philosophy should be more than traditional academic lecturing and writing. Philosophy was for him something in which to engage, in which to participate actively. It should be a joint undertaking, not a solitary one; it is best done in groups as a cooperative enterprise. Philosophical inquiry, Austin believed, should include careful discussions with others about clearly set topics and have definitive goals. Even though he stressed the cooperative and shared nature of philosophy, Austin had the reputation of being a terrifying person and made many an enemy at Oxford. His work was often dismissed as limited and unphilosophical. His use of philosophy was considered trivial by Bertrand Russell and nothing but extremely narrow wordplay by A.J. Ayer. Such sentiments are still to be found ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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