What is Analytic Philosophy?
In the early 20th century, a new generation of thinkers came to believe that European philosophy had reached a dead end. Reacting to what they held was the obfuscatory language and non-sensical direction of post-Kantian philosophy, Cambridge philosophers Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore set out to revolutionize philosophy through a fundamental rethinking of its methods and purposes. Their work, and its outgrowths in the philosophies of mathematics, language, and mind, coalesced into the tradition we now call “analytic philosophy.” It was this tradition that became hegemonic in 20th-century Anglo-American philosophy, creating along the way its despised other, so-called “continental philosophy.” To its practitioners, analytic philosophy was a refreshing return to the Enlightenment values of rationality, clarity, and scientific rigor. To its skeptics, it was an abandonment of the perennial questions of philosophy—about beauty, about the meaning and value of existence, about how to live individually and collectively—questions many analytic philosophers regarded as mere “pseudo-problems” to be dismissed or dissolved rather than answered.
This class will survey some of the major works within the tradition of analytic philosophy in an attempt to understand its origins, trajectory, and fate, and to (re-)assess its value and significance for philosophy more generally. We’ll trace its development from Russell’s “logical atomism” through Carnap’s “logical positivism” to Quine’s dissolution of the analytic/synthetic distinction and Donald Davidson’s work on truth and meaning—concerning ourselves along the way with question of the proper relationship of philosophy to science in particular and to culture more generally.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
July 06 — July 27, 2021