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The Claims of Common Sense: Moore, Wittgenstein, Keynes and the Social Sciences
     

The Claims of Common Sense: Moore, Wittgenstein, Keynes and the Social Sciences

by John Coates
 

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The Claims of Common Sense investigates the importance for the social sciences of the ideas developed in Cambridge philosophy between the two World Wars. John Coates examines the thought of Moore, Ramsey, Wittgenstein and Keynes, and offers new evidence that there was a far closer collaboration between them than has hitherto been supposed. He then proposes that

Overview

The Claims of Common Sense investigates the importance for the social sciences of the ideas developed in Cambridge philosophy between the two World Wars. John Coates examines the thought of Moore, Ramsey, Wittgenstein and Keynes, and offers new evidence that there was a far closer collaboration between them than has hitherto been supposed. He then proposes that Wittgenstein's and Keynes's ideas on the economy of ordinary language present a way of bridging the current gap between the philosophy and practice of social science.

Editorial Reviews

Economic Journal
The strategy of invoking Keynes's authority for non-economic purposes is carried to new lengths in this intelligent and stimulating study by John Coates. Coates is not centrally concerned with economics, Keynesian or otherwise, but with method in the social sciences. He uses Keynes to defend (and exemplify) a particular kind of discourse, which he calls 'commonsense and which characterised by 'clear prose and compelling argumentation' against the formal semantics of analytical philosophy on the one side and the textual nihilism of post-structuralism on the other. Much of his book is taken up with a lucid exposition of the commonsense tradition, and the attacks of critics. To historians of Keynes's thought the most interesting section will be chapter 6 which traces Wittgenstein's direct influence on Keynes at Cambridge at the end of the 1920s. This was when Wittgenstein was developing his new theory of meaning: the idea that words have a variety of interlocking uses which have a family resemblance, the use of the term 'vague' to refer to this property, and the understanding that vague concepts can be perfectly serviceable without being analysed. Coates makes out an impressive case that it was Wittgenstein's lectures between 1929 and 1932 which explain the appearance of these lines of thought in Keynes's manuscripts and lectures in the early 1930s. --Robert Skidelsky
Philosophy in Review
The position Coates defends in this book canoften seem confused but, on careful rading, merely revelas itself to be complicated. There is no straight forward defence of common sense here. What are on offer are arguments in defence of vague concepts not ordinary language as such. There are arguments which would take one the further step to a recommendation of common sense concepts, arguments concerning the economy of using ordinary language and the utility of using such a language if one's theory is to have implications that might be fed into policy-making decisions. But these considerations do not render ordinary language essential to social science and both. Coates and Keynes insist that some explanatory tasks are better handled through formalization. Considred as a contribution to the history of philosophy, Coates' book has an unusual breadth in bringing together the evolution of Cambridge's philosophers and that of its economists.
Choice
This book has two aims. The philosophical aim is to show that the philosophy of the social sciences developed by Keynes in this General Theory is an application of a more or less perennial philosophy of common sense to the basic concepts of economics. The historical aim is to show that Keynes arrived at this perspective via his participation in the philosophical milieu of Cambridge in the 1920's and 1930s, a setting in which the Russellian drive toward formalization was being superseded by two waves of commonsense philosophy: first Moore's naive version and then Wittgenstein's mature work. Into the latter work also pour the influences of Piero Sraffa and Frank Ramsey. Coates chronicles the pattern of friendship and acquaintance in Cambridge in the '20s and '30s that makes the historical claim plausible. -J. Churchill
From the Publisher
"John Coates's The Claims of Common Sense: Moore, Wittgenstein, Keynes and the social sciences is a very ambitious book." David R. Amdrews, Review of Social Economy

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521039581
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
08/18/2007
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.43(d)

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