Departing from a concern with certain ’hard’ problems in social theory and focusing instead on the theoretical strategies employed in their solution, especially on how these strategies depend on what the author calls the theoretical attitude towards language, this book considers whether these strategies, far from being indispensable guides to thinking, might in fact lead social theorists to misunderstand the concepts constitutive of social life. Making use of the insights and practice of Ordinary Language Philosophy, understood as encompassing the work of Wittgenstein, Ryle, Austin and their followers, Clarity and Confusion in Social Theory reveals the profound logical flaws in some of the central methodological procedures often employed in social theory for dealing with concepts, offering alternative approaches to social scientists and philosophers for tackling the conceptual issues that have so bedevilled social science from its inception. A lucid explication of Ordinary Language Philosophy and the potential that it offers for deepening and re-orienting theoretical work in the social sciences, this volume, apart from being a challenge to the influential Critical Realist paradigm, constitutes a radical critique of social theoretical reason. As such, it will appeal to social theorists and philosophers of social science, those with interests in research methods and theory construction, and anyone interested in thinking clearly about society.
Leonidas Tsilipakos is Chrystal Macmillan Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
’Drawing on the philosophical insights of Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle, Peter Winch, and related arguments, Leonidas Tsilipakos presents a lucid, incisive, and powerful critique of the manner in which, what he characterizes as, the theoretical attitude and attending conceptual confusions have become endemic in much of contemporary social theory. Building on his critical analysis, he offers a vision of a different path forward in social inquiry.’ John Gunnell, SUNY, Albany, USA ’This book is a lucid application of the methods and techniques of ordinary language philosophy to contemporary social theory. Dr Tsilipakos argues convincingly that much of the confusion in current social theory is rooted in adherence to an inappropriately narrow range of conceptual resources and in dogmatic preoccupation with misconceived ontological questions. Clarity and Confusion in Social Theory provides a salutary corrective to social theories that succumb to the allure of scientism.’ P.M.S. Hacker, University of Oxford, UK