This essay attempts to provide a systematic reconstruction of Nāgārjuna's philosophical thought by understanding it as a critique of the attachment to linguistic expressions and their referents. We first present an outline of Nāgārjuna's philosophy, centering on such notions as ‘dependent origination’, ‘emptiness’ and ‘self-nature’. Then we discuss Nāgārjuna's dismissal of a metaphysical use of language, particularly his contention that language can function well without assuming the reality of its referents. We also consider his statement that he has no assertion and explain his provisional use of language. Towards the end of the essay, we direct our attention to a paradoxical formula in a Buddhist sutra that should help in evaluating the contemporary significance of Nāgārjuna's linguistic critique.