The Core and the Periphery
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The earliest attacks against the later Wittgensteinian tradition were part of the “intellectual war” between the London School of Economics and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The main characters of this story were Popper, Watkins and, above all, Ernest Gellner, the author of Words and Things (1959). Gellner’s philosophical and sociological critique of Oxford linguistic philosophy was influential: Gellner addressed issues such as the hostility of linguistic philosophy towards science, its opposition to philosophical progress, its sacred devotion to ordinary language, its relativism and, above all, its trivialisation of the task of philosophy. Yet, it would be an overstatement to suppose that the decline of Wittgenstein in the history of analytic philosophy depended on Gellner’s impact. First, most Anglo-American analytic philosophers reacted with hostility towards Words and Things, mainly because of its non-academic style. Second, Gellner taught in London and criticised Oxford, but from a geopolitic, economic, and even philosophic point of view the centre of the world had moved, and Britain had irremediably become more peripheral, with respect to the United States.