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Quietism in philosophy is an approach to the subject that sees the role of philosophy as broadly therapeutic or remedial. Quietist philosophers believe that philosophy has no positive theses to contribute, but rather that its value is in defusing confusions in the linguistic and conceptual frameworks of other subjects, including non-quietist philosophy. By re-formulating supposed problems in way that makes the misguided reasoning from which they arise apparent, the quietist hopes to put an end to our confusion, and help us return to a state of intellectual quietude.
Quietism is by its very nature not a philosophical school in the traditional sense of a body of doctrines, but can still be identified by its methodology, which is to focus on language and the use of words, and its objective, which is to show that most philosophical problems are only pseudo-problems.
The genesis of the approach can be traced back to the later philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose work greatly influenced the Ordinary Language philosophers. One of the early Ordinary Language works was Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind, an attempt to demonstrate that dualism arises from a failure to appreciate that mental vocabulary and physical vocabulary are simply different ways of describing one and the same thing, namely human behaviour. J L Austin's Sense and Sensibilia took a similar approach to the problems of scepticism and the reliability of sense perception, arguing that they arise only by misconstruing ordinary language, not because there is anything genuinely wrong with our empirical knowledge. Norman Malcolm, a friend of Wittgenstein's, took a quietist approach to sceptical problems in the philosophy of mind. More recently, another philosopher to take an explicitly quietist position is John McDowell.
- Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. 3rd Rev Edn, Blackwell, 2002. ISBN 0631231277
- Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson, 1949. ISBN 0140124829
- Austin, J L. Sense and Sensibilia. OUP, 1962. ISBN 0198810830
- Malcolm, Norman. Dreaming (Studies in Philosophical Psychology). Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1959. ISBN 0710038364
- McDowell, John and Evans, Gareth. Truth and Meaning. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976. ISBN 0198245173
- McDowell, John. Mind and World. New Ed, Harvard, 1996. ISBN 0674576101
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