What is Analytic Philosophy?

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To some extent, these various schools all derive from pioneering work at Cambridge University in the early 20th Century and then at Oxford University after World War II , although many contributors were in fact originally from Continental Europe. Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Turning away from then-dominant forms of Hegelianism , particularly objecting to its Idealism and its almost deliberate obscurity , they began to develop a new sort of conceptual analysis based on new developments in Logic , and succeeded in making substantial contributions to philosophical Logic over the first half of the 20th Century.

Barcelona Institute of Analytic Philosophy (BIAP)

Early developments in Analytic Philosophy arose out of the work of the German mathematician and logician Gottlob Frege widely regarded as the father of modern philosophical logic , and his development of Predicate Logic. Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead , particularly in their groundbreaking "Principia Mathematica" and their development of Symbolic Logic , attempted to show that mathematics is reducible to fundamental logical principles.

From about to , Analytic Philosophers like Russell and Wittgenstein focused on creating an ideal language for philosophical analysis known as Ideal Language Analysis or Formalism , which would be free from the ambiguities of ordinary language that, in their view, often got philosophers into trouble. In his "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" of , Wittgenstein suggested that the world is merely the existence of certain states of affairs which can be expressed in the language of first-order predicate logic , so that a picture of the world can be built up by expressing atomic facts in atomic propositions , and linking them using logical operators , a theory sometimes referred to as Logical Atomism.

This view is characteristic of most important French philosophers since the s, beginning with Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze. They maintain that the standard logic analytic philosophers use can merely explicate what is implicit in the concepts with which we happen to begin; such logic is useless for the essential philosophical task, which they maintain is learning to think beyond these concepts.

Continental philosophies of experience try to probe beneath the concepts of everyday experience to discover the meanings that underlie them, to think the conditions for the possibility of our concepts. By contrast, continental philosophies of imagination try to think beyond those concepts, to, in some sense, think what is impossible. Philosophies of experience and philosophies of imagination are in tension, since the intuitive certainties of experience work as limits to creative intellectual imagination, which in turn challenges those alleged limits.


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Here, however, there is a serious lack of symmetry between analytic and continental thought. This is due to the relative clarity of most analytic writing in contrast to the obscurity of much continental work. Because of its commitment to clarity, analytic philosophy functions as an effective lingua franca for any philosophical ideas.

Even the most difficult writers, such as Sellars and Davidson, find disciples who write clarifying commentaries. There is, moreover, a continuing demand for analytic expositions of major continental figures. With all due appreciation for the limits of what cannot be said with full clarity, training in analytic philosophy would greatly improve the writing of most continental philosophers.

Of course, analytic philosophers could often profit from exposure to continental ideas. Epistemologists, for example, could learn a great deal from the phenomenological analyses of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, and metaphysicians could profit from the historical reflections of Heidegger and Derrida. But in view of the unnecessary difficulty of much continental writing, most analytic philosophers will do better to rely on a second-hand acquaintance through reliable and much more accessible secondary sources.

This would explain the move of academic interest in such work toward English and other language departments.

Analytic Philosophy: Frege

But it is hard to see that there is much of serious philosophical value lost in the clarity of analytic commentaries on Heidegger, Derrida, et al. There are many things that I know how to do—such as ride a bicycle—without being able to explain what I am doing, i.


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The temptation to assimilate knowing how to knowing that must thus be resisted. Austin was another influential figure in Oxford at the time. Like Ryle, he emphasized the need to pay careful attention to our ordinary use of language, although he has been criticized for valuing subtle linguistic distinctions for their own sake. He was influential in the creation of speech-act theory, with such distinctions as that between locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts Austin a.

Compare, for example, the following b, 36 :. Ryle, in particular, dominated the philosophical scene at Oxford and perhaps in Britain more generally in the s and s. His successor in the chair was P.


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  5. Such a view is not new. The point had also been made by A. Ewing, for example, in a book on ethics published in For further discussion, see Baldwin ; Beaney b; Hacker , ch. As mentioned at the beginning of this entry, analytic philosophy should really be seen as a set of interlocking subtraditions held together by a shared repertoire of conceptions of analysis upon which individual philosophers draw in different ways.

    There are conflicts between these various subtraditions. The ideas of the former were to be developed, most notably, by Donald Davidson and Michael Dummett, and the ideas of the latter by Strawson himself and John Searle; and the debate has continued to this day, ramifying into many areas of philosophy.

    As Dummett himself noted ibid. Since the s, the centre of gravity of analytic philosophy has shifted towards North America, counterbalanced slightly by the blossoming in recent years of analytic philosophy in continental Europe and South America and its continued growth in Australasia. Although many of the logical positivists—most notably, Carnap—emigrated to the United States in the s, it took a while for their ideas to take root and develop.

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    His critique was questioned at the time by Grice and Strawson , but it is only in the last few years that the issue has been revisited with a more charitable view of Carnap Ebbs , Part II; Friedman , ch. Consider, for example, his central argument in chapter 4, offered in defence of the view that colours are primary qualities of objects ibid. But as it stands it is ambiguous. Does Pr. If the property itself is only putative i. This is not to say that Jackson is wrong about the primary quality view of colour. In the end, as the history of conceptions of analysis shows, no conception can be dissociated from the logical and metaphysical context in which it operates.

    Analytic philosophy, then, is a broad and still ramifying movement in which various conceptions of analysis compete and pull in different directions. Reductive and connective, revisionary and descriptive, linguistic and psychological, formal and empirical elements all coexist in creative tension; and it is this creative tension that is the great strength of the analytic tradition. For further discussion, see Beaney on Jackson ; Dummett ; Hacker , chs. Introduction 2. Frege 3. Russell 4. Moore 5. Wittgenstein 6. The Cambridge School of Analysis 7.

    Carnap and Logical Positivism 8. Oxford Linguistic Philosophy 9. Contemporary Analytic Philosophy 1.

    Analytic Philosophy

    Introduction to Supplement This supplement provides an account of the development of conceptions of analysis in analytic philosophy. If we respected subject-predicate position, we might wish to express the latter thus: CHH Carbon dioxide is heavier than hydrogen. In this theory, Ka is rephrased as Kb , which can then be readily formalized in the new logic as Kc : Ka The present King of France is bald.

    Moore Moore is generally regarded as one of the founders of analytic philosophy, yet his own early conception of analysis is surprisingly traditional. Definitions of the kind that I was asking for, definitions which describe the real nature of the object or notion denoted by a word, and which do not merely tell us what the word is used to mean, are only possible when the object or notion in question is something complex.

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    You can give a definition of a horse, because a horse has many different properties and qualities, all of which you can enumerate.

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