Philosophy buffs generally agree that language didn’t take center stage in philosophical inquiries until the advent of Analytic Philosophy, meaning around the 20th century. But did the grand masters of philosophy not take up language in their works in earlier periods? If not, why? Professor of Philosophy Danilo Marcondes engages in a quest to answer these questions in his book Skepticism and Language in Early Modern Philosophy (Lexington Books, 2020).
Marcondes reviews the works of eminent as well as some lesser known philosophers from the early modern era—mainly 17th and 18th centuries—to find any notable treatment of language in their philosophy. From Hobbes to Descartes, Locke to Hume and Vico, Marcondes attempts to show that language did secure an important place in the works of many important early modern philosophers. His position is that the real linguistic turn in the history of philosophy actually started in early modern era with the philosophers of the time engaging with philosophy of language in one way or another. As the book’s title conveys, skepticism among the Renaissance philosophers was the key element that led to a revised and deeper interest in developing a philosophical theory of language.
The chapters in this book are fairly short though the citations and references they carry direct one to a larger volume of academic work that has been completed over decades in relation to the subject matter of the book. The author kept this reviewer’s interest throughout the book and maintained a fair degree of clarity of thought and well-sequenced discussion of topics. The book connects dots between the philosophical views of each period in order to arrive at a conclusion.
There are a few pages in the book that carry cited speech in languages other than English without the English translation provided with each passage. At places the author tends to be a bit repetitive. On the whole, however, the book does a good job in sparking interest in the linguistic turn in philosophy.
Skepticism and Language in Early Modern Philosophy is not likely to interest every reader. It’s a book for philosophy lovers and students as well as teachers who are interested in the history of philosophy of language.