By Nancey Murphy
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Extra resources for Anglo-american Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives On Science, Religion, And Ethics
4 We claimed that modern thought could be ‘mapped’ along three interdependent axes: the epistemological axis, representing degrees of optimism regarding the foundationalist project; the linguistic axis, with poles representing referential versus expressivist or emotivist views of language; and what we called the metaphysical axis, where we located thinkers according to their individualist or collectivist accounts of human action and identity. We then argued that thinkers who had managed to transcend all three of these polarities or debates, but without simply returning to premodern modes of thought, should be counted as postmodern.
Linguistic Holism I claim that at least two sorts of linguistic holism can be differentiated. One is a typical modern counterposition to linguistic atomism, called semantic holism. The other, paying attention to the context and use of language, thereby recognizes hierarchical levels of analysis and provides an analog to top-down causation in science. There are a variety of versions of semantic holism, but, roughly, it is the thesis that the meanings of all terms or sentences in a language are so interconnected that the meaning of each part is dependent on the meanings of all others.
A radically different sort of holism has appeared in the writings of J. L. Austin and the later Wittgenstein. I claimed previously that the shift from a focus on meaning as reference to a focus on meaning as use (as in the writings of these two philosophers) is a change revolutionary enough to mark the shift from modern to postmodern in philosophy of language. I expect this claim to be controversial since the most influential contemporary philosophers of language in current Anglo-American philosophy are still very much concerned with meaning and reference.