By D. W. Hamlyn (auth.)
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Extra info for The Theory of Knowledge
Reprinted in his Philosophical Papers, ed. J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock (Oxford, 1961), pp. I 23ff. , that are enshrined in it are likely to be significant. " To the extent that this says that the beliefs that ordinary language encapsulates are likely for evolutionary reasons to be correct, this says little different from what I said earlier about common sense. But Austin is mainly concerned with what ordinary usage indicates about the ways of thinking and concepts behind it; for it is thus a source of understanding of those concepts.
Here he rests his case ultimately on the point that what he calls the simple ideas that we have of things are caused by those things and they cannot therefore in general be wrong. Complex ideas need not correspond to anything, since the human mind plays a part in compounding simple ideas into complex ones, and in this way error may creep in. But this consideration is not pertinent to simple ideas themselves; hence he concludes, though invalidly, that they must be veridical. The presupposition that lies behind all this of course is that error can arise only as a result of human judgment; but judgment must operate upon something that is "given," and what is "given" in this way cannot be wrong.
To say the least, it does not seem at all obvious in the great majority of cases that we learn the meaning of tenns by reference to their applications in instances. It has indeed been argued by J. W. N. Watkins10 that while we may learn the meanings of tenns like "red" in this way, we do not so learn the meaning of more complex expressions. l l It is more than doubtful whether we learn the meaning of any tenus in this way. , an application. There must, however, be many tenns that have meaning although there is nothing answering to those tenus.