Ordinary Language Film Studies

  • Andrew Klevan University of Oxford
Keywords: ordinary language philosophy, film studies, aesthetic criticism, Film-Philosophy


This essay explains Ordinary Language Philosophy (OLP), because it is relatively unfamiliar to those working in the field of Film-Philosophy, and proposes it as beneficial to film study. OLP provides us with a method of philosophising in relation to films that (1) is not theoretical, paradigmatic or thematic, and is therefore potentially unrestrained because it is not a priori or determining; that (2) is context sensitive, proceeding on a case-by-case basis, while also capable of synoptic overview (through connective analysis); that (3) encourages conceptual clarification and responsive articulation in order to present a perspicacious picture of individual films and our experience of them; and that (4) can act therapeutically by uncoupling us from unhelpful linguistic attachments that may restrict, helping us to see anew. 


Allen, Richard, and Malcolm Turvey. 2001. Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts. London and New York: Routledge.

Almeida, Marta. 2016. “The Concept of Law as Ordinary Language Philos- ophy.” Ph.D. diss., University of Kent.

Austin, J.L. 1964. “A Plea for Excuses.” In Ordinary Language: Essays in Philosophical Method, edited by V.C. Chappell, Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy Series, 41–63. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Baker, Gordon. 2006. Wittgenstein’s Method: Neglected Aspects. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell. Edited by Katherine Morris.

Baz, Avner. 2012. When Words are Called For: A Defense of Ordinary Language Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bordwell, David. 1985. Narration in the Fiction Film. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson. 1985. The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960. London: Routledge.

Cavell, Stanley. 2005/1969a. “Austin at Criticism.” In Must We Mean What We Say?, 97–114. New York: Cambridge University Press.

--- 2005/1969b. “Must We Mean What We Say?” In Must We Mean What We Say?, 1–44. New York: Cambridge University Press.

--- 1988. “The Politics of Interpretation (Politics as Opposed to What?).” In Themes Out of School: Effects and Causes, edited by Stanley Cavell, 27–59. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Connolly, William E. 1993. The Terms of Political Discourse. Third edition. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.

Crary, Alice, and Joel de Lara. 2019. “Who’s Afraid of Ordinary Language Philosophy? A Plea for Reviving a Wrongly Reviled Philosophical Tradition.” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 39 (2): 317–339.

Forguson, Lynd. 2001. “Oxford and the ‘Epidemic’ of Ordinary Language Philosophy.” The Monist 84 (3): 325–345.

G.J.Warnock. 1969. English Philosophy Since 1900. second. London and Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Hacker, P.M.S. 1996. Wittgenstein’s Place in Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.

--- 2013. “The Linguistic Turn in Analytic Philosophy.” In The Oxford Handbook of Analytic Philosophy (online edition), edited by Michael Beaney. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199238842.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199238842-e-030?rskey= NhrdRd&result=1.

Hamawaki, Arata. 2010. “Teaching and Learning.” In Wittgenstein: Key Concepts, edited by Kelly Dean Jolley, 175–184. Durham: Acumen.

Hanfling, Oswald. 2001. “Wittgenstein on language, art and humanity.” In Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts, edited by Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey, 75–91. London and New York: Routledge.

Hutchinson, Phil. 2010. “Thinking and Understanding.” In Wittgenstein: Key Concepts, edited by Kelly Dean Jolley, 92–108. Durham: Acumen.

Klevan, Andrew. 2013. Barbara Stanwyck. London: BFI, Palgrave MacMillan.

Lash, Dominic. 2020. The Cinema of Disorientation: Inviting Confusions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Forthcoming.

Laugier, Sandra. 2013. Why We Need Ordinary Language Philosophy. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Daniela Ginsburg.

Macarthur, David. 2017. “On Metaphysical Quietism and Everyday Life.” In The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology, edited by Giuseppina D’Oro and Søren Overgaard, 249–273. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, Adrian. 2007. Secret Agents. http://fipresci.hegenauer.co. uk/undercurrent/issue_0407/martin_secret.htm.

Moi, Toril. 2017. Revolution of the Ordinary: Literary Studies After Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Morris, Katherine J. 2006. “Introduction.” In Wittgenstein’s Method: Neglected Aspects, edited by Katherine J. Morris, 1–18. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.

Parker-Ryan, Sally. nd. Ordinary Language Philosophy. https://www.iep. utm.edu/ord-lang/.

Perkins, V.F. 1990. “Must We Say What They Mean? Film Criticism and Interpretation.” MOVIE, no. 34:1–6.

Phillips, Adam. 1997. Terrors and Experts. London: Faber and Faber. Read, Rupert, and Phil Hutchinson. 2010. “Therapy.” In Wittgenstein: Key Concepts, edited by Kelly Dean Jolley, 149–159. Durham: Acumen.

Rée, Jonathan. 1993. “English Philosophy in the Fifties.” Radical Philosophy, no. 65:3–21.

Ryle, Gilbert. 1931. “Systematically Misleading Expressions.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 32:139–170.

--- 1970/1954. “Feelings.” In Aesthetics and Language, edited by William Elton, 56–72. Oxford, United Kingdom: Basil Blackwell.

--- 2009/1971. Collected Essays 1929-1968: Collected Papers Volume 2. London and New York: Routledge.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 2001/1953. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell. Translated G.E.M. Anscombe.

Philosophy of film without theory