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Fly and the Fly-Bottle

Encounters With British Intellectuals
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Ved Mehta
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Ryle, does not accuse linguistic philosophers of 'disin genuousness This word does not occur in it once, let alone one hundred times. It does attack linguistic doctrines and methods as inherently evasive. This claim does not require (though it does not exclude) conscious dishonesty. I am sorry to see Professor Ryle resorting to one further device, the exclusion of criticism as indecorous, and thus evading once again the substantive issue of the merits of linguistic phi losophy. Gellner's letter left me baffled. I was still wondering whether Ryle had an excuse for not review ing the book. My skepticism was not shared by a knighted gentleman, Sir Leslie F arrer, private solicitor to the Queen, who appeared on the same page as Gellner. Sir Leslie defended the author of Words and Things with a sharp tongue. Ridicule, he wrote, is one of the oldest and not the least effective weapons of phi losophic warfare, but yet we find Professor Ryle speaking no doubt 'ex cathedra on a matter of faith or morals,' propounding the dogma that making fun of members of the Sacred College of Linguistic Philoso phers is mortal sin. True, Ryle's first description Of Gellner was the word 'abusive' and his second that he 'made imputations Of disingenuousness,' but those who read Words and Things' (and I trust they will be many) may agree with me that 'made fun Of' is a more accurate description.

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