This book states and accounts for a number of principles important to
the effective communication of meaning, correct reasoning and the interpretation
of texts. These subjects are brought together within one consistent
paradigm and easily-understood terminology that conforms as far as possible
to established works in these fields. Copious examples of the use and
misuse of language in practice serve to demonstrate the application
of the principles. As such, the aim has been to provide a practical
method of language analysis and interpretation suitable to the critical
examination of the spoken word and texts, whether academic, scientific,
political or general.
For systematic pedagogical purposes the book is divided into three sections
of progressive difficulty:
1) Principles of Efficient Communication
2) Principles of Reason - Traditional Logic
3) Principles of Understanding
In the first section
(Principles of Efficient Communication) conventions which underlie the
effective use of language are stated as principles to follow when communicating
with a view to clarity of meaning. Issues and views relevant to contemporary
life are used as material for examples and exercises.
The theoretical background for much of this section is the work of Professor
Arne Næss of the University of Oslo. His textbook, translated
as "Communication and Argument" (Oslo 1966), has been used
throughout two decades at all Norwegian universities as the basis of
a one-semester course for the obligatory Examen Philosophicum and has
been widely used in other institutes of higher learning and adult education
both in Scandinavia and abroad. Further, the course to which it gave
rise has been developed by many philosophy teachers, particularly at
the University of Oslo where my many colleagues of the Philosophy Teachers'
Association have made important advances in its pedagogical development
for examination purposes. Apart from the somewhat dated textbook translation
in English the results of these collective efforts have only been available
in Norwegian. The present book therefore sets out to up-date, modify
and extend the course materials in accordance with these experiences,
particularly on the basis of what I have learned in teaching it both
in Norwegian and English for 15 years, especially including non-native
English speakers from many countries.
One great asset of Næss' theory is that it is based on the factual
use and misuse of language. Since it is thus less formal than empirical
in nature, the theory is necessarily subject to modification and development
in the light of experience. I have discovered a number of serious difficulties
with certain key standpoints of Næss when applied to the usage and
misuse of English. Applied to Norwegian of the more culturally-standardised
sort current at universities and similar institutions, its weaknesses
are not so evident. Unlike the Norwegian language, on which Næss'
textbook is based, English tends to be less conventional and often more
metaphorical than formal, being a world language of several major variants
(British, American, Australasian etc.) and many dialects, styles and
sub-languages with a wide variety of users. This has led me to make
fundamental changes in the conceptual framework and to some key ideas
of Næss. Inclarities and repetitions of concepts have been eliminated
by a complete re-ordering (of definitions and principles stated by Næss)
under seven main principles, including some not covered by Næss.
Nonetheless I draw heavily on Næss' work in Chapters 5,7 &
9 while Chapters 1,2 & 5 could not have been written were it not
for the proceeding hypothesis of reasonable interpretation (see 'Communication
and Argument' Chapter 1). My re-ordering has also been designed on pedagogical
grounds, sometimes relying on the collective experience of my colleagues
but largely upon my own teaching results. The overall change of orientation
in the theory is also partly due to advances in the theory of understanding
in the Continental tradition (hermeneutics), not least to the ever-present
influence of Wittgenstein's later works. This has been done with the
minimum of academic-technical references, as the requirements of those
unacquainted with philosophy have been given full priority.
In the second section (Principles of Reason - Traditional Logic) elementary
fundaments of logic are put forward in a theoretical and terminological
framework consistent with the first 'semantics' section. The principles
are well-known from traditional and modern logic from Aristotle to Russell.
Though symbolic or mathematical logic has subsumed the role of traditional
logic, there are many benefits from studying logical though in the older
context, which trains in the recognition and avoidance of many kinds
of logical and semantic fallacy. Since no fully standardised terminology
exists in this area, I have chosen to stay in the mainstream of established
terminological variants and as close to common English usage as this
allows. Further, this section is written as a natural extension of section
one (to which it occasionally refers back) with examples and gradual
exercises again provided to focus on the sort of practical reasoning
and argumentation required in critical thinking both within and outside
the academic sphere. The value of the discipline of traditional logic
- prior to the simplification and universalisation made by Russell and
Whitehead - was the basic training it gave in logical thinking altogether
it provided, only part of which training is required for the understanding
of mathematical logic.
The method of surveys
of arguments for and against an issue (Chapter 5) is basically that
of Næss' Communication and Argument. This method of ordering
and analysing arguments for and against broad issues is a valuable one
which Professor Arne Næss developed and which played a central
role in higher education in Norway for several decades. Some important
changes in this method were due to the work of the Philosophy Teachers'
Association of Oslo University, others I have made in the interests
of teaching economy (avoidance of traditional but redundant materials).
Throughout these sections the examples and exercises are based on materials
used in lectures and set for examinations by me. Though a really thorough
treatment of the subjects referred to would sometimes require particular
knowledge of them, they are presented in a manner where any person interested
in and reasonably informed about general issues and events in the contemporary
world should be able to understand them satisfactorily. Views which
are relevant to life and real situations will probably always be controversial,
often highly so. In my view the discussion of politics can no more be
excluded from education than the subject of education can be excluded
from politics. To a large extent the same applies to scientific pursuits.
It is on this conviction that the examples are chosen and argued without
laying claim to the correctness of the actual views under discussion
but only to the methods of expressing and interpreting them.
Above all the intention
of this book is to provide the instruments of independent critical thinking,
avoiding academic or other forms of doctrine so that everyone may use
them according to their own views and interests.
In the third section (Principles of Understanding and Theory of Science),
the preceding semantic and logical themes are brought within a wider
frame of reference. The principles apply to the interpretation of the
meaning of whole texts, whether scientific, literary or general and
are drawn from the hermeneutical tradition from Schleiermacher, Dilthey,
Heidegger, Gadamer, Betti and Ricoeur. The later work of Wittgenstein
is again important in the conception of this section.
Firstly, a general
introduction to hermeneutical theory interpretation of texts, relying
mainly on the canons of Betti, is given. Subsequently a brief introduction
to hermeneutical philosophy as theory of understanding in general is
given, the main representative being Heidegger, whose views on understanding
are briefly forwarded.
Theory of scientific
generalisation and explanation is the subject of the second half of
the third section.The chief themes included here are induction, hypothetico-deductive
method, the status of theory and the problems of causality versus voluntarism.