We may smile to be told that, in some cultures, the eating of timid or ugly animals is believed to make the eater timid or ugly. Yet, equally fundamental misunderstandings of the relations between things, words and ideas are rife among Western thinkers. In this provocative essay, G.A. Wells identifies some influential mistakes about language embedded in the empiricist philosophical tradition of Locke, Russell and Ayer. Wells shows how these errors stimulated a religious backlash, in which faith became coupled with commonsense realism, in such writers as Keith Ward, Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Altizer. Similar misconceptions gave rise both to the behaviourism of Watson and Ryle, and to the anti-behaviourist Chomskyan reaction with its chimera of a "universal grammar". Magical thinking, the writer claims, derives from plausible errors concerning the efficacy of gestures and words, and survives even though these errors have been refuted. Wells illustrates the influence of misconceptions about language as they manifest themselves in contemporary religious apologetics.
Publisher: Open Court Publishing Co ,U.S.