Dan Sim

Email: dansim@liverpool.ac.uk

Thesis Title

What is the aim of contemporary philosophy of consciousness? – to show the fly the way back into the bottle.

An investigation into the cultural and institutional factors leading to the demise of post-war Ordinary Language Philosophy and an evaluation of whether contemporary philosophers of consciousness are justified to ignore the methodological challenge of this period (with specific reference to the work of Wittgenstein, Austin and Ryle).


University of Liverpool


Dr Rachael Wiseman
Professor Siobhan Chapman

Research Summary

Between 1945 and the mid-1970s British philosophy of mind was dominated by the legacies of the later-Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin. According to these philosophers, seemingly substantive philosophical questions about the nature of consciousness would be solved by ‘looking into the workings of our language’ and not by metaphysical or scientific method.

However, by the end of the 1970s that dominance was broken. Speculative metaphysics re-emerged and it became orthodoxy that the philosophical study of consciousness, pace Wittgenstein and Austin, was continuous with scientific study thereof.

Fifty years later, philosophers have made little progress on the so-called ‘hard problem of consciousness’. This thesis asks whether the rejection of the methods of so-called ‘Ordinary Language Philosophy’ has led to valuable lessons and insights being lost.

I will investigate, and argue, that the main forces behind the rejection of these methods are institutional and cultural rather than philosophical. I intend to show that insights from OLP that are unacknowledged in much of contemporary philosophy of consciousness constitute an important, and still relevant, critique.

My research will:

  1. Examine OLP’s contribution to the philosophy of mind.
  2. Employ this analysis to critique contemporary philosophical discussions of consciousness.
  3. Explore the social and cultural factors which led to the demise of OLP.
  4. Assess the philosophical arguments levied against OLP.
  5. In light of 3 and 4, assess the assumptions of contemporary philosophers of consciousness and re-assess the challenges posed by OLP.

Research Interests

Ordinary Language Philosophy,
Historiography of Analytic Philosophy.


Coming soon


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