Analytic Philosophy

Ordinary Language Philosophy

Who was Norman Malcolm?

Norman Malcolm (1911–1990) was an American interpreter of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), perhaps even his leading U.S. advocate. He had met both Wittgenstein and G. E. Moore (1873–1958) during studies at Cambridge University, and described his association with Wittgenstein in Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (1958). O.K. Bouwsma (1898–1978) was also an early influence.

Malcolm discussed Wittgenstein’s private language argument in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1954) and argued that dreams are not genuine experiences in Dreaming (1958). In Memory and Mind (1976) Malcolm analyzed philosophical and psychological ideas of memory, concluding that there was no scientific foundation for “memory traces.” (By “memory trace,” it was not clear what earlier thinkers had meant. Anyone can imagine different meanings for such a term, but none of them has objective, observable qualities.) He rather thought that the idea of memory traces was an example of how thought can be falsely “tempted.”


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