Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Austin on the words 'real' and 'cricket'

So here we go, as I start my collection of cricket/cricketing references in the philosophical literature. Here is an excerpt from JL Austin's Sense and Sensibilia, Chapter VII, page 64 (Oxford University Press reprint of 1962 edition):
The other immmensely important point to grasp is that 'real' is not a normal word at all, but highly exceptional; exceptional in this respect that unlike 'yellow', or 'horse', or 'walk' it does not have one single specifiable, always-the-same meaning. (Even Aristotle saw through this idea.) Nor does it have a large number of different meanings--it is not ambiguous, even 'systematically'. Now words of this sort have been responsible for a great deal of perplexity. Consider the expressions 'cricket ball', 'cricket bat', 'cricket pavilion', 'cricket weather'. If someone did not know about cricket and were obsessed with the use of such 'normal' words as 'yellow', he might gaze at the ball, the bat, the building, the weather, trying to detect the 'common quality' which (he assumes) is attributed to these things by the prefix 'cricket'. But no such quality meets his eye; and so perhaps he concludes that 'cricket' must designate a non-natural quality, a quality not to be detected in any ordinary way but by intuition. If this story strikes you as too absurd, remember what philosophers have said about the word 'good'; and reflect that many philosophers, failing to detect any ordinary quality common to real ducks, real cream and real progress, have decided that Reality must be an a priori concept apprehended by Reason alone.
You can check out a philosophical discussion centering on this passage as well.

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