For centuries we imagined that language was transparent. The 20th century changed all that. Philosophy, with the so-called linguistic turn, came to see language as central to our understanding of reality and set out to make it precise. But a hundred years on, the project is widely seen to have run aground. Critics argue that the danger now is that, because the problems of language and the world are so intractable we have imagined they can be ignored. For how can we make sense of widely held metaphysical claims, such as the existence of parallel universes, or that we are all living in a simulation, or everything is consciousness, if we don't understand what our words mean and how, or whether, they describe reality?   

Should we return to the positivist notion that all general claims about the nature of reality are empty theorising and should be abandoned? Can we find an alternative account of language that will enable us to make sense of such theories? Or was the linguistic turn an error and is it now time to return to the common sense notion that language is transparent and all can be said?  

Philosopher and longstanding critic of realism Hilary Lawson, and leading philosopher of physics Tim Maudlin debate the nature of language and reality.

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