How to Do Things With Wars

We turn our attention here to a buzzing philosophical activity in post-war England, and primarily among Oxfords young dons, animated by Austin, but including a number of older and already influential colleagues like Gilbert Ryle, editor of Mind. Here, Oxford seemed to be cutting a way for itself, leaving Russell and his Cambridge colleagues — including their celebrated darling Wittgenstein — behind and out.[1] With Germanys defeat in WWII, an entire page in history was felt to have been turned. During the war, Austin had been recruited to set up, and ended up heading, the “order of battle” section of what became SHAEF the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force under Eisenhower. The section was responsible for collecting and analysing information from a variety of sources, including the top-secret Enigma at Bletchley Park, but also through the developing art of aerial reconnaissance which later became satellite imaging and human intelligence from the resistance across Europe, in support of the war effort generally and to prepare for the D-Day landing.It is said that when the German army surrendered at Frankfurt, Austin was the only person amongst the Allies who knew where all of the German army was actually located.[2] Returning to do philosophy at Oxford from this high-level Intelligence posting, it was natural for the young Austin to try applying this very special war experience in his resumed philosophical investigations. He set himself the task again, as he preferred it, and had found more effective during the war, through team-work of demystifying philosophical concepts in a somewhat parallel way, one imagines, to the manner he employed as scattered data e.g., pictures or separate pieces of information e.g., a train movement were painstakingly put to work in order to interpret the data being gathered — very much a bottom-up, piece-by-piece approach to finding out what these meant.

Fascinating!

via When Words Are Called For: A Defense of Ordinary Language Philosophy // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame.

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