The Birth of Analytic Philosophy

Authored by: Michael Potter

The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy

Print publication date:  March  2008
Online publication date:  October  2008

Print ISBN: 9780415299367
eBook ISBN: 9780203879368
Adobe ISBN: 9781134424030


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Analytic philosophy was, at its birth, an attempt to escape from an earlier tradition, that of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), and the first battleground was mathematics. Kant had claimed that mathematics is grounded neither in experience nor in logic but in the spatio-temporal structure which we ourselves impose on experience. First Frege tried to refute Kant’s account in the case of arithmetic by showing that it could be derived from logic; then Russell extended the project to the whole of mathematics. Both failed, but in addressing the problems which the project generated they founded what is nowadays known as analytic philosophy or, perhaps more appropriately, as the analytic method in philosophy. What this brief summary masks, however, is that it is far from easy to say what the analytic method in philosophy amounts to. By tracing the outlines of the moment when it was born we shall here try to identify some of its distinctive features.

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