Analytic Philosophy

Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century. In the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand, the vast majority of university philosophy departments identify themselves as "analytic" departments.

The term "analytic philosophy" can refer to:

  • A broad philosophical tradition characterized by an emphasis on clarity and argument (often achieved via modern formal logic and analysis of language) and a respect for the natural sciences.
  • The more specific set of developments of early 20th-century philosophy that were the historical antecedents of the broad sense: e.g., the work of Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. E. Moore, Gottlob Frege, and the logical positivists.

In this latter, narrower sense, analytic philosophy is identified with specific philosophical commitments (many of which are rejected by contemporary analytic philosophers), such as:

  • The logical positivist principle that there are not any specifically philosophical truths and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. This may be contrasted with the traditional foundationalism, which considers philosophy as a special, elite science that investigates the fundamental reasons and principles of everything. As a result, many analytic philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences.
  • The principle that the logical clarification of thoughts can only be achieved by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions. The logical form of a proposition is a way of representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a logical system) to display its similarity with all other propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.
  • The rejection of sweeping philosophical systems in favour of attention to detail, or ordinary language.

According to a characteristic paragraph by Bertrand Russell:

"Modern analytical empiricism differs from that of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume by its incorporation of mathematics and its development of a powerful logical technique. It is thus able, in regard to certain problems, to achieve definite answers, which have the quality of science rather than of philosophy. It has the advantage, as compared with the philosophies of the system-builders, of being able to tackle its problems one at a time, instead of having to invent at one stroke a block theory of the whole universe. Its methods, in this respect, resemble those of science. I have no doubt that, in so far as philosophical knowledge is possible, it is by such methods that it must be sought; I have also no doubt that, by these methods, many ancient problems are completely soluble."

Analytic philosophy is often understood in contrast to other philosophical traditions, most notably continental philosophy, and also Indian philosophy, Thomism, and Marxism.

Read more about Analytic Philosophy:  History, Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

Famous quotes containing the words analytic and/or philosophy:

    “You, that have not lived in thought but deed,
    Can have the purity of a natural force,
    But I, whose virtues are the definitions
    Of the analytic mind, can neither close
    The eye of the mind nor keep my tongue from speech.”
    William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)

    ... if, as women, we accept a philosophy of history that asserts that women are by definition assimilated into the male universal, that we can understand our past through a male lens—if we are unaware that women even have a history—we live our lives similarly unanchored, drifting in response to a veering wind of myth and bias.
    Adrienne Rich (b. 1929)