Philosophical analysis is the techniques typically used by philosophers in the analytic tradition that involve "breaking down" (i.e. analyzing) philosophical issues. Arguably the most prominent of these techniques is the analysis of concepts (known as conceptual analysis).
While analysis is characteristic of the analytic tradition in philosophy, what is to be analyzed (the analysandum) often varies. Some philosophers focus on analyzing linguistic phenomena, such as sentences, while others focus on psychological phenomena, such as sense data. However, arguably the most prominent analyses are of concepts or propositions, which is known as conceptual analysis (Foley 1996).
Conceptual analysis consists primarily in breaking down or analyzing concepts into their constituent parts in order to gain knowledge or a better understanding of a particular philosophical issue in which the concept is involved (Beaney 2003). For example, the problem of free will in philosophy involves various key concepts, including the concepts of freedom, moral responsibility, determinism, ability, etc. The method of conceptual analysis tends to approach such a problem by breaking down the key concepts pertaining to the problem and seeing how they interact. Thus, in the long-standing debate on whether free will is compatible with the doctrine of determinism, several philosophers have proposed analyses of the relevant concepts to argue for either compatibilism or incompatibilism.
A famous author of conceptual analysis at its best is Bertrand Russell's theory of descriptions. Russell attempted to analyze propositions that involved definite descriptions (such as "The tallest spy"), which pick out a unique individual, and indefinite descriptions (such as "a spy"), which pick out a set of individuals. Take Russell's analysis of definite descriptions as an example.Superficially, definite descriptions have the standard subject-predicate form of a proposition. For example, "The present king of France is bald" appears to be predicating "baldness" of the subject "the present king of France". However, Russell noted that this is problematic, because there is no present king of France (France is no longer a monarchy). Normally, to decide whether a proposition of the standard subject-predicate form is true or false, one checks whether the subject is in the extension of the predicate. The proposition is then true if and only if the subject is in the extension of the predicate. The problem is that there is no present king of France, so the present king of France cannot be found on the list of bald things or non-bald things. So, it would appear that the proposition expressed by "The present king of France is bald" is neither true nor false. However, analyzing the relevant concepts and propositions, Russell proposed that what definite descriptions really express are not propositions of the subject-predicate form, but rather they express existentially quantified propositions. Thus, "The present king of France" is analyzed, according to Russell's theory of descriptions, as "There exists an individual who is currently the king of France, there is only one such individual, and that individual is bald." Now one can determine the truth value of the proposition. Indeed, it is false, because it is not the case that there exists a unique individual who is currently the king of France and is bald—since there is no present king of France (Bertolet 1999).
While the method of analysis is characteristic of contemporary analytic philosophy, its status continues to be a source of great controversy even among analytic philosophers. Several current criticisms of the analytic method derive from W.V. Quine's famous rejection of the analytic–synthetic distinction. While Quine's critique is well-known, it is highly controversial.
Further, the analytic method seems to rely on some sort of definitional structure of concepts, so that one can give necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of the concept. For example, the concept "bachelor" is often analyzed as having the concepts "unmarried" and "male" as its components. Thus, the definition or analysis of "bachelor" is thought to be an unmarried male. But one might worry that these so-called necessary and sufficient conditions do not apply in every case. Wittgenstein, for instance, argues that language (e.g., the word 'bachelor') is used for various purposes and in an indefinite number of ways. Wittgenstein's famous thesis states that meaning is determined by use. This means that, in each case, the meaning of 'bachelor' is determined by its use in a context. So if it can be shown that the word means different things across different contexts of use, then cases where its meaning cannot be essentially defined as 'married bachelor' seem to constitute counterexamples to this method of analysis. This is just one example of a critique of the analytic method derived from a critique of definitions. There are several other such critiques (Margolis & Laurence 2006). This criticism is often said to have originated primarily with Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations .
A third critique of the method of analysis derives primarily from psychological critiques of intuition. A key part of the analytic method involves analyzing concepts via "intuition tests". Philosophers tend to motivate various conceptual analyses by appeal to their intuitions about thought experiments. (See DePaul and Ramsey (1998) for a collection of current essays on the controversy over analysis as it relates to intuition and reflective equilibrium.)
In short, some philosophers feel strongly that the analytic method (especially conceptual analysis) is essential to and defines philosophy—e.g. Jackson (1998), Chalmers (1996), and Bealer (1998). Yet, some philosophers argue that the method of analysis is problematic—e.g. Stich (1998) and Ramsey (1998). Some, however, take the middle ground and argue that while analysis is largely a fruitful method of inquiry, philosophers should not limit themselves to only using the method of analysis.
George Edward Moore, usually cited as G. E. Moore, was an English philosopher. He was, with Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gottlob Frege, one of the founders of the analytic tradition in philosophy. Along with Russell, he led the turn away from idealism in British philosophy, and became well known for his advocacy of common sense concepts, his contributions to ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, and "his exceptional personality and moral character". He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, highly influential among the Bloomsbury Group, and the editor of the influential journal Mind. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1918. He was a member of the Cambridge Apostles, the intellectual secret society, from 1894 to 1901, and the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club.
Metaphilosophy is "the investigation of the nature of philosophy". Its subject matter includes the aims of philosophy, the boundaries of philosophy, and its methods. Thus, while philosophy characteristically inquires into the nature of being, the reality of objects, the possibility of knowledge, the nature of truth, and so on, metaphilosophy is the self-reflective inquiry into the nature, aims, and methods of the activity that makes these kinds of inquiries, by asking what is philosophy itself, what sorts of questions it should ask, how it might pose and answer them, and what it can achieve in doing so. It is considered by some to be a subject prior and preparatory to philosophy, while others see it as inherently a part of philosophy, or automatically a part of philosophy while others adopt some combination of these views. The interest in metaphilosophy led to the establishment of the journal Metaphilosophy in January 1970.
The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length philosophical work by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that was published during his lifetime. The project had a broad goal: to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science. It is recognized by philosophers as a significant philosophical work of the twentieth century. G. E. Moore originally suggested the work's Latin title as homage to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus by Baruch Spinoza.
Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analytic philosophy, concentrating on the philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics. Though largely ignored during his lifetime, Giuseppe Peano (1858–1932) and Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) introduced his work to later generations of philosophers.
Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:
The Critique of Pure Reason is a book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in which the author seeks to determine the limits and scope of metaphysics. Also referred to as Kant's "First Critique", it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Critique of Judgment (1790). In the preface to the first edition, Kant explains that by a "critique of pure reason" he means a critique "of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all knowledge after which it may strive independently of all experience" and that he aims to reach a decision about "the possibility or impossibility of metaphysics".
A definite description is a denoting phrase in the form of "the X" where X is a noun-phrase or a singular common noun. The definite description is proper if X applies to a unique individual or object. For example: "the first person in space" and "the 42nd President of the United States of America", are proper. The definite descriptions "the person in space" and "the Senator from Ohio" are improper because the noun phrase X applies to more than one thing, and the definite descriptions "the first man on Mars" and "the Senator from some Country" are improper because X applies to nothing. Improper descriptions raise some difficult questions about the law of excluded middle, denotation, modality, and mental content.
Logical atomism is a philosophy that originated in the early 20th century with the development of analytic philosophy. Its principal exponent was the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. It is also widely held that the early work of his Austrian-born pupil and colleague, Ludwig Wittgenstein, defend a version of logical atomism. Some philosophers in the Vienna Circle were also influenced by logical atomism. Gustav Bergmann also developed a form of logical atomism that focused on an ideal phenomalistic language, particularly in his discussions of J.O. Urmson's work on analysis.
Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the early 20th century with the increasing professionalization of the discipline and the rise of analytic and continental philosophy.
The theory of descriptions is the philosopher Bertrand Russell's most significant contribution to the philosophy of language. It is also known as Russell's theory of descriptions. In short, Russell argued that the syntactic form of descriptions is misleading, as it does not correlate their logical and/or semantic architecture. While descriptions may seem fairly uncontroversial phrases, Russell argued that providing a satisfactory analysis of the linguistic and logical properties of a description is vital to clarity in important philosophical debates, particularly in semantic arguments, epistemology and metaphysics.
The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy during the early 20th century, the most important characteristic of which is the focusing of philosophy and the other humanities primarily on the relations between language, language users, and the world.
Hilary Kornblith is an American philosopher. He is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and one of contemporary epistemology's most prominent proponents of naturalized epistemology.
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Peter Michael Stephan Hacker is a British philosopher. His principal expertise is in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. He is known for his detailed exegesis of the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his outspoken conceptual critique of cognitive neuroscience.
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The Latin phrases a priori and a posteriori are philosophical terms popularized by Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. However, in their Latin forms they appear in Latin translations of Euclid's Elements, of about 300 BC, a work widely considered during the early European modern period as the model for precise thinking.
Joseph Zalman Margolis is an American philosopher. A radical historicist, he has published many books critical of the central assumptions of Western philosophy, and has elaborated a robust form of relativism.
The axiom of reducibility was introduced by Bertrand Russell in the early 20th century as part of his ramified theory of types. Russell devised and introduced the axiom in an attempt to manage the contradictions he had discovered in his analysis of set theory.
The aspects of Bertrand Russell's views on philosophy cover the changing viewpoints of philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), from his early writings in 1896 until his death in February 1970.
Following the developments in formal logic with symbolic logic in the late nineteenth century and mathematical logic in the twentieth, topics traditionally treated by logic not being part of formal logic have tended to be termed either philosophy of logic or philosophical logic if no longer simply logic.