Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1

Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1: The Dawn of Analysis

Scott Soames
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t1cs
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  • Book Info
    Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    This is a major, wide-ranging history of analytic philosophy since 1900, told by one of the tradition's leading contemporary figures. The first volume takes the story from 1900 to mid-century. The second brings the history up to date.

    As Scott Soames tells it, the story of analytic philosophy is one of great but uneven progress, with leading thinkers making important advances toward solving the tradition's core problems. Though no broad philosophical position ever achieved lasting dominance, Soames argues that two methodological developments have, over time, remade the philosophical landscape. These are (1) analytic philosophers' hard-won success in understanding, and distinguishing the notions of logical truth, a priori truth, and necessary truth, and (2) gradual acceptance of the idea that philosophical speculation must be grounded in sound prephilosophical thought. Though Soames views this history in a positive light, he also illustrates the difficulties, false starts, and disappointments endured along the way. As he engages with the work of his predecessors and contemporaries--from Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein to Donald Davidson and Saul Kripke--he seeks to highlight their accomplishments while also pinpointing their shortcomings, especially where their perspectives were limited by an incomplete grasp of matters that have now become clear.

    Soames himself has been at the center of some of the tradition's most important debates, and throughout writes with exceptional ease about its often complex ideas. His gift for clear exposition makes the history as accessible to advanced undergraduates as it will be important to scholars. Despite its centrality to philosophy in the English-speaking world, the analytic tradition in philosophy has had very few synthetic histories. This will be the benchmark against which all future accounts will be measured.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2579-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION TO THE TWO VOLUMES
    (pp. xi-xx)

    This work presents an introductory overview of the analytic tradition in philosophy covering roughly the period between 1900 and 1975. With a few notable exceptions, the leading work in this tradition was done by philosophers in Great Britain and the United States; even that which wasn’t written in English was, for the most part, quickly translated, and had its greatest impact in the world of English-speaking philosophers. Fortunately, the philosophy done in this period is still close enough to speak to us in terms we can understand without a great deal of interpretation. However, it has begun to recede far...

  5. PART ONE: G. E. MOORE ON ETHICS, EPISTEMOLOGY, AND PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS

    • CHAPTER 1 COMMON SENSE AND PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS
      (pp. 3-11)

      George Edward Moore was born the son of a doctor, in 1873, in a suburb of London. He studied classics—Greek and Latin—in school, and entered Cambridge University in 1892 as a classical scholar. At the end of his first year he met Bertrand Russell, two years his senior, who encouraged him to study philosophy, which he did with great success. He was especially drawn to ethics and epistemology, which remained his primary philosophical interests for most of his career. After his graduation in 1896, he held a series of fellowships at Trinity College for eight years, by the...

    • CHAPTER 2 MOORE ON SKEPTICISM, PERCEPTION, AND KNOWLEDGE
      (pp. 12-33)

      We begin with what may be G. E. Moore’s best-known article, his famous “Proof of an External World.”¹ The article appeared in 1939, the same year that Moore retired from Cambridge University at the age of 65. The paper, though late in his career, was not his final piece of work. He continued to lecture at various universities and to publish off and on for nearly two decades until his death in 1958. Although “Proof of an External World” was one of his later works, its main ideas had been familiar fixtures of his philosophical outlook for at least thirty...

    • CHAPTER 3 MOORE ON GOODNESS AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF ETHICS
      (pp. 34-70)

      In this chapter we turn to Moore’s ground-breaking views on ethics, presented in his classic work Principia Ethica, published in 1903.¹ In the preface to that work, Moore distinguishes two kinds of ethical questions.

      A. What kinds of things ought to exist for their own sakes?

      are good in themselves?

      have intrinsic value?

      B. What kinds of actions ought we to perform?

      are right?

      are duties?

      He takes the different versions of A to be equivalent. The same is true of the B questions, with the exception of a slight difference between what he means by calling an action our...

    • CHAPTER 4 THE LEGACIES AND LOST OPPORTUNITIES OF MOORE’S ETHICS
      (pp. 71-88)

      At the end of the last chapter, we noted an important tension in Moore’s ethical views. On the one hand, he held that no ethical statements about what is or isn’t good are analytic; in particular, no equivalences of the sort commonly put forward by philosophers are either provable or analytic. On the other hand, he thought that some of these statements are both true and capable of being known to be true; for example, he thought that the equivalencethe appreciation of beautiful objects and the pleasures of human companionship are (intrinsically) good, and only those things are (intrinsically)...

  6. SUGGESTED FURTHER READING FOR PART ONE
    (pp. 89-90)
  7. PART TWO: BERTRAND RUSSELL ON LOGICAL AND LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS

    • CHAPTER 5 LOGICAL FORM, GRAMMATICAL FORM, AND THE THEORY OF DESCRIPTIONS
      (pp. 93-131)

      Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore were contemporaries who influenced one another very significantly, particularly in the early stages of their careers. They met as students at Cambridge at the end of the nineteenth-century, where both began their studies in fields other than philosophy. Whereas Moore started his student days with a strong in terest in classics, and was later won over to philosophy by Russell, Russell himself began as an undergraduate in mathematics, and was initially drawn to philosophy by an interest in the philosoph-ical foundations of mathematics, to which he devoted the early part of his career. Among...

    • CHAPTER 6 LOGIC AND MATHEMATICS: THE LOGICIST REDUCTION
      (pp. 132-164)

      In developing his theory of descriptions, Russell distinguished logical form from grammatical form and used this distinction to solve philosophical puzzles arising from problematic views about meaning. His theory of descriptions was taken to be a paradigm of analysis, and the success of the theory gave strong impetus to the view that logical and conceptual analysis was the road to progress in philosophy. That view was given powerful additional support by his next major achievement—the completion of the logicist project of reducing mathematics to logic presented in his great work,Principia Mathematica, coauthored with Alfred North Whitehead and published...

    • CHAPTER 7 LOGICAL CONSTRUCTIONS AND THE EXTERNAL WORLD
      (pp. 165-181)

      Up to now in our discussion of Russell, we have examined two quite different examples of logical or linguistic analysis—the theory of descriptions and the reduction of arithmetic to logic. Both were motivated in substantial part by philosophical considerations. The theory of descriptions allowed Russell to rid himself of his previous commitment to supposedly real, but nonexistent, objects such as Santa Claus and the round square. The reduction of arithmetic to logic was seen as indicating that one doesn’t need to posit the existence of any platonic, mathematical objects over and above sets, and as showing how our mathematical...

    • CHAPTER 8 RUSSELL’S LOGICAL ATOMISM
      (pp. 182-193)

      Up to now, we have talked about three main elements of Russell’s philosophy—his theory of descriptions, his reduction of arithmetic to logic, and his doctrine of logical constructions, in which his reductionist techniques are extended to the problem of knowledge of the external world. In 1918, he gathered these elements together in the sketch of a comprehensive philosophical system, which he presented in a series of eight lectures in London that were published under the titleThe Philosophy of Logical Atomism.¹ Unlike the earlier work we have examined, which was aimed at the resolution of specific philosophical problems (ontological...

  8. SUGGESTED FURTHER READING FOR PART TWO
    (pp. 194-194)
  9. PART THREE: LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN’S TRACTATUS

    • CHAPTER 9 THE METAPHYSICS OF THE TRACTATUS
      (pp. 197-213)

      We now turn to Wittgenstein’s celebrated development of logical atomism. In general, all atomist views can be seen as having a two-part structure. The first part, or atomic level, consists of doctrines about atomic facts and the metaphysical simples that make them up, together with theories about the relationship between these simple constituents of reality and the basic elements of language—atomic sentences and the linguistically simple expression that make them up. The second part of an atomist view consists of doctrines about non-atomic sentences and their relation both to atomic sentences and to non-linguistic reality. We saw that for...

    • CHAPTER 10 MEANING, TRUTH, AND LOGIC IN THE TRACTATUS
      (pp. 214-233)

      In the previous chapter we discussed Wittgenstein’s conception of metaphysical simples, and the way they combine to form atomic facts. We now turn to his views on truth, meaning, necessity, possibility, conceivability, and logic. As before, we begin with atomic sentences. These, we are told, are combinations of logically proper names that picture or represent possible states of affairs. In the Tractarian system, each name names exactly one object, which is its meaning, and each object is named by exactly one name. The way names are put together in an atomic sen tence represents a way in which the objects...

    • CHAPTER 11 THE TRACTARIAN TEST OF INTELLIGIBILITY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
      (pp. 234-253)

      At the end of the last chapter, we uncovered a problem with Wittgenstein’s identification of all necessity with logical necessity, discoverable by an examination of logical form alone. As we will see, this problem points to something deeper, involving the philosophically ambitious manner in which Wittgenstein used his doctrines about meaning. According to theTractatus, every meaningful statement S falls into one or the other of two categories: either (i) S is contingent (true in some possible worlds and false in others), in which case S is both a truth function of atomic propositions and something that can be known...

  10. SUGGESTED FURTHER READING FOR PART THREE
    (pp. 254-254)
  11. PART FOUR: LOGICAL POSITIVISM, EMOTIVISM, AND ETHICS

    • CHAPTER 12 THE LOGICAL POSITIVISTS ON NECESSITY AND APRIORI KNOWLEDGE
      (pp. 257-270)

      In this chapter, we begin our discussion of logical positivism. This movement in philosophy was unusual in that it became famous, even infamous, far beyond the confines of the professional philosophical community. One reason for this was that its proponents were effective communicators with a kind of missionary zeal. Another reason was their message, which featured shocking declarations about what was meaningful, and what was not, as well as bold attempts to dissolve ageold philosophical problems. In addition, logical positivism appealed to the scientific temper of the times. Reading the positivists, one gets the feeling that they thought that just...

    • CHAPTER 13 THE RISE AND FALL OF THE EMPIRICIST CRITERION OF MEANING
      (pp. 271-299)

      As we saw in the last chapter, analytic sentences were supposed by the positivists to express necessary truths that are knowable apriori simply by understanding and reflecting on the meanings of the sentences that express them. A sentence was regarded as contradictory if and only if it was analytically false—i.e., iff its negation was analytic. All other meaningful sentences were classified as synthetic, or empirical. The empiricist criterion of meaning focused on this last class of sentences.

      The guiding idea behind the criterion may be put as follows:

      A non-analytic, non-contradictory sentence S is meaningful iff S bears relation...

    • CHAPTER 14 EMOTIVISM AND ITS CRITICS
      (pp. 300-319)

      The emotivist theory of value is a well-known and influential philosophical view which, although an important part of logical positivism, was also conceptually detachable from it. It was part of logical positivism because several of its main tenets were supported by the verifiability criterion of meaning. It was detachable from positivism because it had other sources of support as well. As a result, it was able to survive, in one form or another, after classical verificationism had fallen by the wayside. Two leading emotivists that we will consider are A. J. Ayer, who presented his views in chapter 6 of...

    • CHAPTER 15 NORMATIVE ETHICS IN THE ERA OF EMOTIVISM: THE ANTICONSEQUENTIALISM OF SIR DAVID ROSS
      (pp. 320-345)

      W. D. Ross was a contemporary of A. J. Ayer and C. L. Stevenson. Like Ayer, he was a Fellow at Oxford. (He was also Provost of Oriel College.) Unlike Ayer and Stevenson, he was neither an emotivist nor a logical positivist. He believed that ethical sentences and judgments are true or false, and that those which are true state genuine facts. Thus, in trying to determine which moral principles we should accept, he took himself to be trying to determine which moral principles are true. However, because his views about the factual nature of moral judgments are largely independent...

  12. SUGGESTED FURTHER READING FOR PART FOUR
    (pp. 346-348)
  13. PART FIVE: THE POST-POSITIVIST PERSPECTIVE OF THE EARLY W. V. QUINE

    • CHAPTER 16 THE ANALYTIC AND THE SYNTHETIC, THE NECESSARY AND THE POSSIBLE, THE APRIORI AND THE APOSTERIORI
      (pp. 351-377)

      Willard Van Orman Quine taught at Harvard, first as an instructor, then as a professor, from 1936 until his retirement at age 70 in 1978, after which he continued to write and lecture on philosophy for more than twenty years. He began his academic life studying logic, and his first major philosophical publication was his well-known article, “Truth by Convention,” published in 1936. By the early ’40s he was an important figure on the philosophical scene, especially in America. With the publication in 1951 of his celebrated article, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” he became the dominant philosopher in America, which...

    • CHAPTER 17 MEANING AND HOLISTIC VERIFICATIONISM
      (pp. 378-405)

      In the last chapter, we examined the famous circle argument given in the first four sections of “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” As I presented the argument, its main lesson is that there is no way of explaining, or defining, what it is to be an analytic sentence that is consistent with two fundamental theses that were widely presupposed by defenders of analyticity at the time.

      T1. All necessary (and all apriori) truths are analytic. (For all sentences S, if S expresses a necessary (apriori) truth, then S is analytic.)

      T2. Analyticity is needed to explain and legitimate necessity (and aprioricity)....

  14. SUGGESTED FURTHER READING FOR PART FIVE
    (pp. 406-408)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 409-411)