The term “analytic philosophy” means a ”philosophical” movement who was founded initially on the new contemporary logic, outcome of the work of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to answer the great philosophical questions. Its approach is based on a logical analysis of language seeking to highlight the fallacies that this can induce and thereby the “logical clarification of thought” the goal of philosophy in the words of Carnap.
Logic, philosophy of language and philosophy of science, were the first and main areas of analytic philosophy. The recent rise of cognitive science, philosophy of action, philosophy of mind, and the increased attention by analytic philosophers to the theory of the decision, game theory and metaphysics have challenged the dominance of the original disciplines, so that since the second half of the twentieth century analytic philosophy touches all traditional areas in philosophy. There is also an analytical metaphysics (Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Nathan Salmon, Peter van Inwagen), analytic theology (Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne) and an analytic tradition in political philosophy (eg John Rawls, Robert Nozick or analytical Marxism) and moral philosophy.
Place of analytic philosophy in Western philosophy
Originally, analytic philosophy opposes the Hegelian, and more broadly to the currents of German idealism. Indeed, after Emmanuel Kant, German idealism dominates Western philosophy through the thoughts and works of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. British philosophy itself became increasingly Hegelian (FH Bradley, Thomas Hill Green …). Meanwhile, the German Gottlob Frege thinks outside the idealism of his countrymen and endeavors to resume the project of universal feature of Leibniz as logicism.
Setting itself up against the British idealism, Bertrand Russell combines the contributions of Frege with those of the former British empiricism from David Hume. The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein thought from the thought of Russell and his first philosophy (that of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) influenced the ideas of the Vienna Circle of logical positivism which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. Vienna Circle, through its “Manifesto and Carnap“, based first on the Wittgenstein waged a scathing criticism
Logical positivism distinguished between analytic statements, true by their intrinsic meaning (eg ‘bachelors are unmarried “); a posteriori synthetic statements, including empirical verification, is possible; Finally, statements that are neither analytic nor synthetic a posteriori, and which would therefore be meaningless, because neither tautological statements such as analytical or “verifiable” as a posteriori synthetic statements (they denied explicitly the existence of a priori synthetic judgments, in the heart of the Kantian project of refounding of metaphysics based on science).
Therefore, the ethical and metaphysical statements were to them, as prescriptive and not descriptive and verifiable statements, necessarily empty of meaning. Logical positivism is at the origin of the sharp dichotomy between “facts” and “values”, which was later partially re-questioned. Since the decline of logical positivism, analytic philosophy has developed in various directions, including an analytic metaphysics (the Whitehead’s Process and Reality, Peter Strawson, David Lewis, Saul Kripke, etc.).
Relations of analytic philosophy and continental philosophy
Some oppose analytic philosophy to the “continental philosophy“, a term under which they group together the postmodern philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy, and all previous philosophical tradition they both emerged. The “continental” adjective evokes a geographical distinction, and consequently, language: analytic philosophy take its source outside the European continent and is predominantly English.
This presentation of analytic philosophy as an Anglo-Saxon production is, however, disputed. Indeed, the first analytic philosophers were German or Austrian (Frege, Wittgenstein). Similarly in France, a number of philosophers were involved in questions related to the philosophy of mathematics, such as the mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré, or Couturat Louis (who published in 1901 the Leibniz manuscripts that came to Russell’s attention) . The logical philosophy has been present in Poland through the Lvov-Warsaw School (Jan Łukasiewicz, Alfred Tarski, etc.).
The relationship between analytic philosophy and continental tradition which it intends to detach, however, continue to cause heated debate. Indeed, some analytic philosophers sometimes complain of not being able to teach an important form of philosophical method, in an academic institution with the exegesis and history, leading a certain conservatism and infertility research.
In countries where analytic philosophy is dominant (Anglophone countries, Israel, Scandinavia, parts of Eastern Europe such as Poland), non-analytic philosophy remains taught and cleavage seems less important than in France. North American academic departments including welcome philosophers like Richard Rorty, and others like Stanley Cavell that attach to the dialogue between the two traditions of thought.
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