Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy

Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy

Avrum Stroll
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 304
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    Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Analytic philosophy is difficult to define since it is not so much a specific doctrine as a loose concatenation of approaches to problems. As well as having strong ties to scientism -the notion that only the methods of the natural sciences give rise to knowledge -it also has humanistic ties to the great thinkers and philosophical problems of the past. Moreover, no single feature characterizes the activities of analytic philosophers. Undaunted by these difficulties, Avrum Stroll investigates the "family resemblances" between that impressive breed of thinkers known as analytic philosophers. In so doing, he grapples with the point and purpose of doing philosophy: What is philosophy? What are its tasks? What kind of information, illumination, and understanding is it supposed to provide if it is not one of the natural sciences? Imbued with clarity, liveliness, and philosophical sophistication, Stroll´s book presents a synoptic picture of the main developments in logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics in the past century. It does this by concentrating on the individual thinkers whose ideas have been most influential. Major themes in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy include: · the innovation of mathematical logic by Gottlob Frege at the close of the nineteenth century and its independent development by Bertrand Russell; · the impact of advancements in science on the world of philosophy and its importance for understanding such doctrines as logical positivism, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and eliminative materialism; · the refusal by such thinkers as Wittgenstein, Moore, and Austin to treat logic as an ideal language superior to natural languages; and · a conjecture about which, if any, of the philosophers discussed in the book will enter the pantheon of philosophical gods. Along the way, Stroll also covers the theories of Rudolf Carnap, W. V. O. Quine, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, Hilary Putnam, Saul Kripke, John Searle, Ruth Marcus, and Patricia and Paul Churchland. Stroll´s approach to his subject treats the critical movements in analytic philosophy in terms of the philosophers who defined them. The notoriously complex realm of analytic philosophy emerges less as an abstract enterprise than as a domain of personalities and their competing methods and arguments. The book´s inventive presentations of complex logical doctrines relate them to the traditional problems of philosophy, seeking the continuity between them rather than polemical distinctions so as to bring the true differences of their respective achievements into sharper focus.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50040-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter One The Solera System
    (pp. 1-10)

    The rapidity with which major movements suddenly appear, flourish, lose their momentum, become senescent, and eventually vanish marks the history of twentieth-century analytic philosophy. Examples include idealism in its absolutist and subjectivist variants, sense-data theory, logical atomism, neutral monism, and logical positivism. These defunct “isms,” and their living congeners, such as “reductionism,” “pragmatism,” and “naturalism,” form the subject matter of this study and will be explained for the general reader in due course. There are, of course, exceptions to the pattern of birth, flowering, and decline. In ontology various forms of materialism continue to enjoy widespread support, and naturalized epistemology—...

  5. Chapter Two Philosophical Logic
    (pp. 11-44)

    We can begin by describing, in this and the next chapter, two positive reactions to modern logic: the philosophies of logical atomism and logical positivism. To set the background for the discussion, I shall focus on the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, the authors of Principia Mathematica (vols. 1–3, 1910–1913). They had two important aims. The first, following Gottlob Frege, was to show that mathematics is a branch of logic, in the sense that number theory (arithmetic) can be reduced to propositions containing only logical concepts, such as constants, quantifiers, variables, and predicates. This was...

  6. Chapter Three Logical Positivism and the Tractatus
    (pp. 45-86)

    Despite Strawson’s criticisms of logical atomism, Russell’s general approach to philosophical problems was never to lose its influence. Russell described this approach as a “scientific philosophy, grounded in mathematical logic.” As a guiding idea, it was enthusiastically accepted by the early Wittgenstein, by the positivists Moritz Schlick and Rudolf Carnap, and by such later writers as Quine, Marcus, Putnam, and Kripke. What Russell meant by “scientific philosophy” was essentially an empiricist epistemology, and it was this theory of knowledge that he felt should be grounded in mathematical logic. In chapter 2, I described some of the metaphysical consequences Russell drew...

  7. Chapter Four G. E. Moore: A Ton of Bricks
    (pp. 87-112)

    George Edward Moore was born in 1873 in Upper Norwood, a suburb of London, and died in Cambridge in 1958. Beginning with a famous book, Principia Ethica, and an equally celebrated article, “Refutation of Idealism,” both published in 1903, he continued throughout his long career to make fundamental contributions to philosophy. Any list of the most illustrious British philosophers of the twentieth century would surely include Moore as a prominent member. Like Russell and Wittgenstein, he had his admirers and critics. In an obituary that appeared in the Manchester Guardian of October 25, 1958, one of his champions, C. D....

  8. Chapter Five Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy: “The Stream of Life”
    (pp. 113-145)

    No single sentence can summarize Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. But the aphorism “words have meaning only in the stream of life” expresses one pervasive theme. This remark represents an enormous change from his views in the Tractatus. It is deeply connected to a “new method” he had discovered in the early 1930s for analyzing and resolving philosophical problems. The method rejects the notion that an ideal language contributes to philosophical understanding by enhancing ordinary speech and instead emphasizes the importance of accurately describing the complex ways in which people use language in the course of their daily activities. Such activities are...

  9. Chapter Six Ryle and Austin: The Golden Age of Oxford Philosophy
    (pp. 146-180)

    Although Russell, Moore, and Wittgenstein lived through the Second World War, their best days were behind them, and by 1960 the great days of Cambridge philosophy were essentially finished. Wittgenstein died in 1951, and Moore wrote only two new essays between 1942 and his death in 1958. Russell’s last major book—Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits—was published in 1948. C. D. Broad, R. B. Braithwaite, and John T. Wisdom, who were born in 1887, 1900, and 1904, respectively, made their most important contributions before 1955. G. H. von Wright inherited Wittgenstein’s chair in 1947 but decided to return...

  10. Chapter Seven W. V. O. Quine
    (pp. 181-210)

    With Quine the philosopher and with Quine the man we encounter paradox. Quine the philosopher has stated that science is self-conscious common sense and that his doctrines are an extension of science; yet he has also asserted that there are no meanings, no propositions, no attributes, no relations, no numbers, and no analytic truths. What could be more paradoxical than the claim that there are no numbers? How could anyone count unless there were numbers? And now the second paradox. This concerns Quine the man and the disparity between his professional and autobiographical writings. The former are invariably elegant and...

  11. Chapter Eight Direct Reference Theories
    (pp. 211-245)

    In chapter 2, I briefly compared and contrasted the Fregean and Russellian views on meaning and reference with those of direct reference theorists. I said then that in this chapter I would examine direct reference theories in more detail, and I will now turn to that task. The direct reference approach has its roots both in modal and nonmodal logics. The nonmodal roots are essentially Russellian rather than Fregean. For those who wish to explore these connections, I recommend Ruth Barcan Marcus’s superb book, Modalities (1993). It consists of a series of essays in which she discusses these relationships both...

  12. Chapter Nine Today and Tomorrow
    (pp. 246-270)

    At the beginning of this book I argued that analytic philosophy, despite frequent claims by some of its practitioners to be “scientific,” is essentially a humanistic endeavor. As such it is intimately tied to its past in a way that science is not. As I have emphasized throughout this study, many issues analytic philosophers deal with now and have dealt with since the time of Frege have ancient antecedents: How is it possible to speak meaningfully or truly about the nonexistent? How with consistency can one deny that something exists? How is it possible for two true identity sentences to...

  13. References
    (pp. 271-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-302)