Sophia: An African Journal of Philosophy

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Are philosophical problems semantical?

F I Minimah


Were the exact function of philosophy more clearly recognized than is now the case, philosophy would have lost much of its purpose and meaning including the aura of dignity which surrounds it for many years. To point out this exact function in an effort to uncover the nature of its problem is in itself one of the more perplexing of philosophical problems. In rejecting abstract theorizing of speculative philosophy as the ultimate goal of philosophy, philosophers of the analytic bent have abandoned the contention that a priori reasoning cannot establish anything about the nature of reality. To them, philosophical problems are linguistic problems and this can only be resolved through the clarification of language. Like Plato, it was Wittgenstein's suggestion that the traditional quarrel in philosophy is a reflection of the wrong application of language. This discovery to some extent liberated philosophy from speculation allowing it a more exact function of linguistic analysis of sense and meaning. Given this background, this work sets out to test the "hypothesis‟ as to whether philosophical problems are semantical? To achieve this purpose, the author presents concrete examples of philosophical problems through observation of philosophers in action engage in controversies with other philosophers. By stating in some details as clearly as possible what problem philosophers dealt with in each case of the controversy, the work lead us to investigate the nature and methods of semantical inquiry on the basis of which we attempt to point out various forms taken by the semantical problem in philosophy. In discerning the nature exhibited by all philosophical problems to be semantical, the author argues that this nature by no means reduces philosophy to a mere “wrangles over words” but insists that it does concern the nature of certain entities and “their properties” in a manner to be described.

Key Words: Philosophical Problem, Semantic, Linguistic

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