Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.


Analytical philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD091-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Philosophical analysis is a method of inquiry in which one seeks to assess complex systems of thought by ‘analysing’ them into simpler elements whose relationships are thereby brought into focus. This method has a long history, but became especially prominent at the start of the twentieth century and, by becoming integrated into Russell’s development of logical theory, acquired a greater degree of sophistication than before. The logical positivists developed the method further during the 1930s and, in the context of their anti-metaphysical programme, held that analysis was the only legitimate philosophical inquiry. Thus for them philosophy could only be ‘analytical philosophy’.

After 1945 those philosophers who wanted to expand philosophical inquiries beyond the limits prescribed by the positivists extended the understanding of analysis to include accounts of the general structures of language and thought without the earlier commitment to the identification of ‘simple’ elements of thought. Hence there developed a more relaxed conception of ‘linguistic analysis’ and the understanding of ‘analytical philosophy’ was modified in such a way that a critical concern with language and meaning was taken to be central to it, leading, indeed, to a retrospective re-evaluation of the role of Frege as a founder of analytical philosophy. At the same time, however, Quine propounded influential arguments which suggest that methods of analysis can have no deep significance because there is no determinate structure to systems of thought or language for the analytical philosopher to analyse and assess. Hence some contemporary philosophers proclaim that we have now reached ‘the end of analytical philosophy’. But others, who find Quine’s arguments unpersuasive, hold that analytical philosophy has virtues quite sufficient to ensure it a role as a central philosophical method for the foreseeable future.

Citing this article:
Baldwin, Thomas. Analytical philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD091-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles