The Elusiveness of the Ordinary

The Elusiveness of the Ordinary: Studies in the Possibility of Philosophy

Stanley Rosen
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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    The Elusiveness of the Ordinary
    Book Description:

    The concept of the ordinary, along with such cognates as everyday life, ordinary language, and ordinary experience, has come into special prominence in late modern philosophy. Thinkers have employed two opposing yet related responses to the notion of the ordinary: scientific and phenomenological approaches on the one hand, and on the other, more informal or even anti-scientific procedures. Eminent philosopher Stanley Rosen here presents the first comprehensive study of the main approaches to theoretical mastery of ordinary experience. He evaluates the responses of a wide range of modern and contemporary thinkers and grapples with the peculiar problem of the ordinary-how to define it in its own terms without transforming it into a technical (and so, extraordinary) artifact.Rosen's approach is both historical and philosophical. He offers Montesquieu and Husserl as examples of the scientific approach to ordinary experience; contrasts Kant and Heidegger with Aristotle to illustrate the transcendental approach and its main alternatives; discusses attempts by Wittgenstein and Strauss to return to the pre-theoretical domain; and analyzes the differences among such thinkers as Moore, Austin, Grice, and Russell with respect to the analytical response to ordinary language. Rosen concludes with a theoretical exploration of the central problem of how to capture the elusive ordinary intact.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12952-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    InSense and Sensibilia,John Austin warns us that we must always bear in mind the non-arbitrary character of ordinary words. He adds that we must never tamper with them before careful investigation: “Tampering with words in what we take to be one little corner of the field is alwaysliableto have unforeseen repercussions in the adjoining territory.”¹ Austin is in effect recommending that ordinary language play a regulative role in the evaluation of philosophical discourse. This is a particular version of the more general tendency in twentieth-century philosophy to take one’s bearings by, or to place central emphasis...

  5. Chapter 1 Politics and Nature in Montesquieu
    (pp. 14-53)

    A dispute concerning the philosophical authority of science marks the decisive character of the pursuit of the ordinary in the twentieth century. Those for whom ordinary experience is still understood as fundamentally political in the broad sense of that term differ from those who assign no special prominence to politics but arrive at a theoretical abstraction of “the plain man” or the life of “average everydayness,” to mention two prominent examples. In the first case, “ordinary experience” is inseparable from the older view, going back to Aristotle, that human beings are by nature the sole political animals. Ordinary life is...

  6. Chapter 2 Husserl’s Conception of the Life-World
    (pp. 54-93)

    Husserl’s analysis of the life-world is one of the most thorough attempts in the past hundred years to ground philosophy in everyday or pretheoretical life. At the same time, it is the most prominent example of the consequences of applying the Enlightenment model of scientific rationalism to the explanatory description of human affairs. A careful study of the essential elements of this analysis will supplement what we have learned about the ordinary from Montesquieu.

    I want first to say a word of explanation concerning the order in which I study the thinkers in chapters 2 and 3. I wanted to...

  7. Chapter 3 Kant and Heidegger: Transcendental Alternatives to Aristotle
    (pp. 94-134)

    I turn now to two different ways of responding to the incompatibility between modern natural science and an account of human life that is true to the manner in which we actually live it. The first way is that of Kant himself; the second is that of Kant’s most idiosyncratic student: Heidegger. Rather than attempt a direct comparison between these two thinkers, however, I propose to contrast each with Aristotle. This will allow us to see the difference between approaches to everyday life that are entirely free of transcendental or ontological intentions, and those that are not. I shall begin...

  8. Chapter 4 Wittgenstein, Strauss, and the Possibility of Philosophy
    (pp. 135-158)

    The two thinkers I discuss in this chapter can be initially described as two different but related responses to Kant. The most important sense in which they are related is that they share the intention of returning to the pretheoretical domain of ordinary language. The most important difference between them is that Wittgenstein’s “return” is itself neo-Kantian, or let us say post-Kantian, in the sense that it derives from the nineteenth-century process by which transcendental philosophy was transformed into the philosophy of language. This process is itself decisively marked by the emergence of the historical ego, at first as a...

  9. Chapter 5 Moore on Common Sense
    (pp. 159-181)

    My intention in this chapter is to get clear on the relation between common sense and ordinary language, with special attention to the use of these terms in the approaches to philosophy that are characteristic of G. E. Moore, John Austin, and Paul Grice, to mention three important examples. I say “special attention,” but I want to emphasize that my concern is with the theoretical issues and not with constructing an accurate historical account of this or that school, or set of schools, of philosophizing. I shall seek assistance from these eminent predecessors in clarifying the relation between common sense...

  10. Chapter 6 Austin and Ordinary Language
    (pp. 182-203)

    What is ordinary about ordinary language? I intend this as a question that is primarily but not exclusively inspired by the various doctrines or procedures of what used to be called “ordinary language philosophy.” In raising this question, I shall take my bearings by some of the philosophical writings of John Austin. My intention is not at all to present a detailed study of Austin’s philosophy, but to use passages from his texts as authoritative illustrations of the following problem. Despite the very frequent reference in Austin and many other thinkers to “ordinary language” or what we “ordinarily” say, there...

  11. Chapter 7 What Do We Talk About?
    (pp. 204-258)

    Bertrand Russell said that “the point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.”¹ This amusing statement by Russell is at least fifty percent true. Russell, however, may not live up to his own good advice. In the series of lectures in which this passage is found, Russell begins the exposition of his chief thesis, the legitimacy of analysis (47), with a discussion of facts, propositions, symbols, and relations. He proceeds to a discussion of logically proper names, in the...

  12. Chapter 8 The Attributes of Ordinary Experience
    (pp. 259-289)

    The stories that we tell about ourselves are made possible by certain pervasive traits of ordinary experience. I discuss four such features in the first half of this chapter: the inner connection between truth and goodness, the exemplification of a unified process, regularity, and comprehensiveness. The reader should not expect to find a general ontology of experience in what follows. My hope is rather to approach the traits as they show themselves within ordinary life. The description of the ordinary or common attributes of experience cannot be discussed entirely in the language of everyday life. I have emphasized throughout this...

  13. Chapter 9 Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 290-304)

    In these chapters I have argued both that philosophy begins as a disruption within ordinary experience, and that the expression “ordinary experience” is itself ambiguous. Normally we mean by “ordinary” that which usually happens, but there are important exceptions. An extraordinary pianist could give an ordinary performance of a piece of music. We could also say that such a performance from that pianist is extraordinary if the pianist almost always plays at the highest level. But neither of these cases, nor others that might be mentioned, alter the central issue: The local or special senses of “ordinary” and “extraordinary” are...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 305-316)
  15. Index
    (pp. 317-328)