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Analytical Philosophy

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Analytical Philosophy

Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century. In the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand, the vast majority of university philosophy departments identify themselves as "analytic" departments.[1]

The term "analytic philosophy" can refer to:

In this latter, narrower sense, analytic philosophy is identified with specific philosophical commitments (many of which are rejected by contemporary analytic philosophers), such as:

  • The logical positivist principle that there are not any specifically philosophical truths and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. This may be contrasted with the traditional foundationalism, which considers philosophy to be a special science (i.e. discipline of knowledge) that investigates the fundamental reasons and principles of everything.[7] Consequently, many analytic philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences.[8]
  • The principle that the logical clarification of thoughts can only be achieved by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions.[9] The logical form of a proposition is a way of representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a logical system) to display its similarity with all other propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.[10]
  • The rejection of sweeping philosophical systems in favour of attention to detail,[11] or ordinary language.[12]

According to a characteristic paragraph by Bertrand Russell:

"Modern analytical empiricism [...] differs from that of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume by its incorporation of mathematics and its development of a powerful logical technique. It is thus able, in regard to certain problems, to achieve definite answers, which have the quality of science rather than of philosophy. It has the advantage, in comparison with the philosophies of the system-builders, of being able to tackle its problems one at a time, instead of having to invent at one stroke a block theory of the whole universe. Its methods, in this respect, resemble those of science. I have no doubt that, in so far as philosophical knowledge is possible, it is by such methods that it must be sought; I have also no doubt that, by these methods, many ancient problems are completely soluble."[13]

Analytic philosophy is often understood in contrast to other philosophical traditions, most notably continental philosophy, and also Indian philosophy, Thomism, and Marxism.[14]

History

Late 19th-century English philosophy was dominated by British idealism, as taught by philosophers like F.H. Bradley and Thomas Hill Green. It was against this intellectual background that the founders of analytic philosophy, G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, articulated the program of early analytic philosophy.

Since its beginning, a basic principle of analytic philosophy has been conceptual clarity,[15] in the name of which Moore and Russell rejected Hegelianism, which they accused of obscurity and idealism.[16][17] Inspired by developments in modern logic, the early Russell claimed that the problems of philosophy can be solved by showing the simple constituents of complex notions.[15]

Russell, during his early career, along with collaborator Alfred North Whitehead, was much influenced by Gottlob Frege, who developed predicate logic, which allowed a much greater range of sentences to be parsed into logical form than was possible by the ancient Aristotlean logic. Frege was also an influential philosopher of mathematics in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. In contrast to Husserl's 1891 book Philosophie der Arithmetik, which attempted to show that the concept of the cardinal number derived from psychical acts of grouping objects and counting them,[18] Frege sought to show that mathematics and logic have their own validity, independent of the judgments or mental states of individual mathematicians and logicians (which were the basis of arithmetic according to the "psychologism" of Husserl's Philosophie). Frege further developed his philosophy of logic and mathematics in The Foundations of Arithmetic and The Basic Laws of Arithmetic where he provided an alternative to psychologistic accounts of the concept of number.

Like Frege, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead attempted to show that mathematics is reducible to fundamental logical principles. Their Principia Mathematica (1910–1913) encouraged many philosophers to renew their interest with the development of symbolic logic. Additionally, Bertrand Russell adopted Frege's predicate logic as his primary philosophical method, a method he thought could expose the underlying structure of philosophical problems. For example, the English word “is” has got three distinct meanings by predicate logic:

  • For the sentence 'the cat is asleep', the is of predication means that "x is P" (denoted as P(x))
  • For the sentence 'there is a cat', the is of existence means that "there is an x" (∃x);
  • For the sentence 'three is half of six', the is of identity means that "x is the same as y" (x=y).
  • For the sentence 'frank is hreinskilinn',the is is the abbreviation for Icelandic translation.

Russell sought to resolve various philosophical issues by applying such definite distinctions, most famously in his analysis of definite descriptions in "On Denoting."[19]

Ideal language analysis

From about 1910 to 1930, analytic philosophers like Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein emphasized creating an ideal language for philosophical analysis, which would be free from the ambiguities of ordinary language that, in their opinion, often made philosophy invalid. This philosophical trend can be called "ideal-language analysis" or "formalism". During this phase, Russell and Wittgenstein sought to understand language, and hence philosophical problems, by using formal logic to formalize the way in which philosophical statements are made. Ludwig Wittgenstein developed a comprehensive system of logical atomism in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. He thereby argued that the world is the totality of actual states of affairs and that these states of affairs can be expressed by the language of first-order predicate logic. Thus a picture of the world can be construed by means of expressing atomic facts in the form of atomic propositions, and linking them using logical operators.

Logical positivism

Main article: Logical positivism

During the late 1920s, '30s, and '40s, Russell and Wittgenstein's formalism was developed by a group of philosophers in Vienna and Berlin, who were known as the Vienna Circle and Berlin Circle respectively, into a doctrine known as logical positivism (or logical empiricism). Logical positivism used formal logical methods to develop an empiricist account of knowledge.[20] Philosophers such as Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach, along with other members of the Vienna Circle, claimed that the truths of logic and mathematics were tautologies, and those of science were verifiable empirical claims. These two constituted the entire universe of meaningful judgments; anything else was nonsense. The claims of ethics, aesthetics and theology were, accordingly, pseudo-statements, neither true nor false, simply meaningless. Karl Popper's insistence upon the role of falsification in the philosophy of science was a reaction to the logical positivists.[21] With the coming to power of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism in Germany and Austria, many members of the Vienna and Berlin Circles fled Germany, most commonly to Britain and America, which helped to reinforce the dominance of logical positivism and analytic philosophy in the Anglophone countries.[22]

Logical positivists typically considered philosophy as having a very limited function. For them, philosophy concerned the clarification of thoughts, rather than having a distinct subject matter of its own. The positivists adopted the verification principle, according to which every meaningful statement is either analytic or is capable of being verified by experience. This caused the logical positivists to reject many traditional problems of philosophy, especially those of metaphysics or ontology, as meaningless.

Ordinary language analysis

After World War II, during the late 1940s and 1950s, analytic philosophy took a turn toward ordinary-language analysis. This movement had two main strands. One followed in the wake of Wittgenstein's later philosophy, which departed dramatically from his early work of the Tractatus. The other, known as "Oxford philosophy", involved J. L. Austin. In contrast to earlier analytic philosophers (including the early Wittgenstein) who thought philosophers should avoid the deceptive trappings of natural language by constructing ideal languages, ordinary language philosophers claimed that ordinary language already represented a large number of subtle distinctions that had been unrecognized in the formulation of traditional philosophical theories or problems. While schools such as logical positivism emphasize logical terms, supposed to be universal and separate from contingent factors (such as culture, language, historical conditions), ordinary language philosophy emphasizes the use of language by ordinary people. The best-known ordinary language philosophers during the 1950s were Austin and Gilbert Ryle.

Ordinary language philosophy often sought to disperse philosophical problems by showing them to be the result of misunderstanding ordinary language. See for example Ryle (who attempted to dispose of "Descartes' myth") and Wittgenstein, among others.

Contemporary analytic philosophy

Although contemporary philosophers who self-identify as "analytic" have widely divergent interests, assumptions, and methods—and have often rejected the fundamental premises that defined the analytic movement before 1960—analytic philosophy, in its contemporary state, is usually taken to be defined by a particular style[4] characterized by precision and thoroughness about a narrow topic, and resistance to "imprecise or cavalier discussions of broad topics."[23]

In the 1950s, logical positivism was influentially challenged by Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations, Quine in "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", and Sellars in Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Following 1960, Anglophone philosophy began to incorporate a wider range of interests, views, and methods. Still, many philosophers in Britain and America still consider themselves to be "analytic philosophers."[1][4] Largely, they have done so by expanding the notion of "analytic philosophy" from the specific programs that dominated Anglophone philosophy before 1960 to a much more general notion of an "analytic" style, characterized by precision and thoroughness about a narrow topic and opposed to "imprecise or cavalier discussions of broad topics".[23] This interpretation of the history is far from universally accepted, and its opponents would say that it grossly downplays the role of Wittgenstein in the sixties and seventies.

Many philosophers and historians have attempted to define or describe analytic philosophy. Those definitions often include a focus on conceptual analysis: A.P. Martinich draws an analogy between analytic philosophy's interest in conceptual analysis and analytic chemistry, which "aims at determining chemical compositions."[24] Steven D. Hales described analytic philosophy as one of three types of philosophical method practiced in the West: "[i]n roughly reverse order by number of proponents, they are phenomenology, ideological philosophy, and analytic philosophy".[25]

Scott Soames agrees that clarity is important: analytic philosophy, he says, has "an implicit commitment—albeit faltering and imperfect—to the ideals of clarity, rigor and argumentation" and it "aims at truth and knowledge, as opposed to moral or spiritual improvement [...] the goal in analytic philosophy is to discover what is true, not to provide a useful recipe for living one's life". Soames also states that analytic philosophy is characterised by "a more piecemeal approach. There is, I think, a widespread presumption within the tradition that it is often possible to make philosophical progress by intensively investigating a small, circumscribed range of philosophical issues while holding broader, systematic questions in abeyance".[26]

A few of the most important and active fields and subfields in analytic philosophy are summarized in the following sections.

Philosophy of mind and cognitive science

Main article: Philosophy of mind

Motivated by the logical positivists' interest in verificationism, behaviorism was the most prominent theory of mind in analytic philosophy for the first half of the twentieth century. Behaviorists tended to hold either that statements about the mind were equivalent to statements about behavior and dispositions to behave in particular ways or that mental states were directly equivalent to behavior and dispositions to behave. Behaviorism later became far less popular, in favor of type physicalism or functionalism, theories that identified mental states with brain states. During this period, topics in the philosophy of mind were often in close contact with issues in cognitive science such as modularity or innateness. Finally, analytic philosophy has featured a few philosophers who were dualists, and recently forms of property dualism have had a resurgence, with David Chalmers as the most prominent representative.[27]

John Searle suggests that the obsession with linguistic philosophy of the last century has been superseded by an emphasis on the philosophy of mind,[28] in which functionalism is currently the dominant theory. In recent years, a central focus for research in the philosophy of mind has been consciousness. And while there is a general consensus for the global neuronal workspace model of consciousness,[29] there are many views as to how the specifics work out. The best known theories are Daniel Dennett's heterophenomenology, Fred Dretske and Michael Tye's representationalism, and the higher-order theories of either David M. Rosenthal—who advocates a higher-order thought (HOT) model—or David Armstrong and William Lycan—who advocate a higher-order perception (HOP) model. An alternative higher-order theory, the higher-order global states (HOGS) model, is offered by Robert van Gulick.[30]

Ethics in analytic philosophy

Main article: Ethics

Philosophers working in the analytic tradition have gradually come to distinguish three major branches of moral philosophy.

  • Meta-ethics whose function is the investigation of moral terms and concepts
  • Normative ethics whose function is the examination and production of normative ethical judgments
  • Applied ethics whose function is the investigation of how existing normative principles should be applied in difficult or borderline cases, often cases created by the appearance of new technologies or new scientific knowledge.

Normative ethics

The first half of the twentieth century was marked by skepticism toward, and neglect of, normative ethics. Related subjects, such as social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and philosophy of history, moved to the fringes of English-language philosophy during this period.

During this time, utilitarianism was the only non-skeptical approach to ethics to remain popular. However, as the influence of logical positivism began to wane mid-century, contemporary analytic philosophers began to have a renewed interest in ethics. G.E.M. Anscombe’s 1958 Modern Moral Philosophy sparked a revival of Aristotle's virtue ethical approach and John Rawls’s 1971 A Theory of Justice restored interest in Kantian ethical philosophy. At present, contemporary normative ethics is dominated by three schools: utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontology.

Meta-ethics

Twentieth-century meta-ethics has two roots. The first is G. E. Moore's investigation into the nature of ethical terms (e.g. good) in his Principia Ethica (1903), which identified the naturalistic fallacy. Along with Hume's famous is/ought distinction, the naturalistic fallacy was a central point of investigation for analytical philosophers.

The second is in logical positivism and its attitude that statements which are unverifiable are meaningless. Although that attitude was adopted originally as a means to promote scientific investigation of the world by rejecting grand metaphysical systems, it had the side effect of making (ethical and aesthetic) value judgments (as well as religious statements and beliefs) meaningless. But since value judgments are obviously of major importance in human life, it became incumbent on logical positivism to develop an explanation of the nature and meaning of value judgements. As a result, analytic philosophers avoided normative ethics, and instead began meta-ethical investigations into the nature of moral terms, statements, and judgments.

The logical positivists held that statements about value—including all ethical and aesthetic judgments—are non-cognitive; that is, they make no statements that can be objectively verified or falsified. Instead, the logical positivists adopted an emotivist position, which held that value judgments expressed the attitude of the speaker. Saying, "Killing is wrong", they thought, was equivalent to saying, "Boo to murder", or saying the word "murder" with a particular tone of disapproval.

While non-cognitivism was generally accepted by analytic philosophers, emotivism had many deficiencies, and evolved into more sophisticated non-cognitivist positions such as the expressivism of Charles Stevenson, and the universal prescriptivism of R. M. Hare, which had its foundations in J. L. Austin's philosophy of speech acts.

These positions were not without their critics. Phillipa Foot contributed several essays attacking all these positions. J. O. Urmson's article "On Grading" called the is/ought distinction into question.

As non-cognitivism, the is/ought distinction, and the naturalistic fallacy began to be called into question, analytic philosophers began to show a renewed interest in the traditional questions of moral philosophy. Perhaps most influential in this area was Elizabeth Anscombe, whose landmark monograph "Intention" was called by Donald Davidson "the most important treatment of action since Aristotle", and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of moral psychology. A favorite student and close friend of Ludwig Wittgenstein, her 1958 article "Modern Moral Philosophy" introduced the term "consequentialism" into the philosophical lexicon, declared the "is-ought" impasse to be a dead end, and led to a revival in virtue ethics.

Applied ethics

A significant feature of analytic philosophy since approximately 1970 has been the emergence of applied ethics—an interest in the application of moral principles to specific practical issues.

Areas of special interest for applied ethics include environmental issues, animal rights issues, and the many challenges created by advancing medical science.[31][32][33]

Analytic philosophy of religion

As with the study of ethics, early analytic philosophy tended to avoid the study of philosophy of religion, largely dismissing (as per the logical positivists view) the subject as part of metaphysics and therefore meaningless.[34] The collapse of logical positivism renewed interest in philosophy of religion, prompting philosophers like William Alston, John Mackie, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Merrihew Adams, Richard Swinburne, and Antony Flew not only to introduce new problems, but to re-open classical topics such as the nature of miracles, theistic arguments, the problem of evil, (see existence of God) the rationality of belief in God, concepts of the nature of God, and many more.[35]

Plantinga, Mackie and Flew debated the logical validity of the free will defense as a way to solve the problem of evil.[36] Alston, grappling with the consequences of analytic philosophy of language, worked on the nature of religious language. Adams worked on the relationship of faith and morality.[37] Analytic epistemology and metaphysics has formed the basis for a number of philosophically-sophisticated theistic arguments, like those of the reformed epistemologists like Plantinga.

Analytic philosophy of religion has also been preoccupied with Ludwig Wittgenstein, as well as his interpretation of Søren Kierkegaard's philosophy of religion.[38] Using first-hand remarks (which was later published in Philosophical Investigations, Culture and Value, and other works), philosophers such as Peter Winch and Norman Malcolm developed what has come to be known as contemplative philosophy, a Wittgensteinian school of thought rooted in the "Swansea tradition," and which includes Wittgensteinians such as Rush Rhees, Peter Winch, and D. Z. Phillips, among others. The name "contemplative philosophy" was first coined by D. Z. Phillips in Philosophy's Cool Place, which rests on an interpretation of a passage from Wittgenstein's "Culture and Value."[39] This interpretation was first labeled, "Wittgensteinian Fideism," by Kai Nielsen but those who consider themselves Wittgensteinians in the Swansea tradition have relentlessly and repeatedly rejected this construal as caricature of Wittgenstein's considered position; this is especially true of D. Z. Phillips.[40] Responding to this interpretation, Kai Nielsen and D.Z. Phillips became two of the most prominent philosophers on Wittgenstein's philosophy of religion.[41]

Political philosophy

Liberalism

Current analytic political philosophy owes much to John Rawls, who in a series of papers from the 1950s onward (most notably "Two Concepts of Rules" and "Justice as Fairness") and his 1971 book A Theory of Justice, produced a sophisticated and closely argued defence of a broadly liberal egalitarian account of distributive justice. This was followed in short order by Rawls's colleague Robert Nozick's book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, a defence of free-market libertarianism. Isaiah Berlin also departed lasting influence on both analytic political philosophy and Liberalism with his lecture the Two Concepts of Liberty.

Recent decades have also seen the rise of several critiques of liberalism, including the feminist critiques of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, the communitarian critiques of Michael Sandel and Alasdair MacIntyre (though it should be noted both shy away from the term), and the multiculturalist critiques of Amy Gutmann and Charles Taylor. Although not an analytic philosopher, Jürgen Habermas is another important—if controversial—figure in contemporary analytic political philosophy, whose social theory is a blend of social science, Marxism, neo-Kantianism, and American pragmatism.

Consequentialist libertarianism also derives from the analytic tradition.

Analytical Marxism

Another development in the area of political philosophy has been the emergence of a school known as Analytical Marxism. Members of this school seek to apply the techniques of analytic philosophy, along with tools of modern social science such as rational choice theory to the elucidation of the theories of Karl Marx and his successors. The best-known member of this school is Oxford University philosopher G.A. Cohen, whose 1978 work, Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence is generally taken as representing the genesis of this school. In that book, Cohen applied the tools of logical and linguistic analysis to the elucidation and defense of Marx's materialist conception of history. Other prominent Analytical Marxists include the economist John Roemer, the social scientist Jon Elster, and the sociologist Erik Olin Wright. The work of these later philosophers have furthered Cohen's work by bringing to bear modern social science methods, such as rational choice theory, to supplement Cohen's use of analytic philosophical techniques in the interpretation of Marxian theory.

Cohen himself would later engage directly with Rawlsian political philosophy to advance a socialist theory of justice that stands in contrast to both traditional Marxism and the theories advanced by Rawls and Nozick. In particular, he points to Marx's principle of from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Communitarianism

Communitarians such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, and Michael Sandel advance a critique of Liberalism that uses analytic techniques to isolate the key assumptions of Liberal individualists, such as Rawls, and then challenges these assumptions. In particular, Communitarians challenge the Liberal assumption that the individual can be viewed as fully autonomous from the community in which he lives and is brought up. Instead, they push for a conception of the individual that emphasizes the role that the community plays in shaping his or her values, thought processes and opinions.

Analytic metaphysics

Main article: Metaphysics

One striking break with early analytic philosophy was the revival of metaphysical theorizing in the second half of the twentieth century. Philosophers such as David Kellogg Lewis and David Armstrong developed elaborate theories on a range of topics such as universals, causation, possibility and necessity, and abstract objects.

Among the developments that led to the revival of metaphysical theorizing were Quine's attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction, which was generally taken to undermine Carnap's distinction between existence questions internal to a framework and those external to it.[42]

Metaphysics remains a fertile area for research, having recovered from the attacks of A.J. Ayer and the logical positivists. And though many were inherited from previous decades, the debate remains fierce. The philosophy of fiction, the problem of empty names, and the debate over existence's status as a property have all risen out of relative obscurity to become central concerns, while perennial issues such as free will, possible worlds, and the philosophy of time have had new life breathed into them.[43][44]

Science has also played an increasingly significant role in metaphysics. The theory of special relativity has had a profound effect on the philosophy of time, and quantum physics is routinely discussed in the free will debate.[45] The weight given to scientific evidence is largely due to widespread commitments among philosophers to scientific realism and naturalism.

Philosophy of language

Philosophy of language is another area that has slowed down over the course of the last four decades, as evidenced by the fact that few major figures in contemporary philosophy treat it as a primary research area. Indeed, while the debate remains fierce, it is still strongly under the influence of those figures from the first half of the century: Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.L. Austin, Alfred Tarski, and W.V.O. Quine.

In Naming and Necessity, Kripke influentially argued that flaws in common theories of proper names are indicative of larger misunderstandings of the metaphysics of necessity and possibility. By wedding the tools of modal logic to a causal theory of reference, Kripke was widely regarded as reviving theories of essence and identity as respectable topics of philosophical discussion.

Another influential philosopher, Pavel Tichý founded Transparent Intensional Logic, an original theory of the logical analysis of natural languages – the theory is devoted to the problem of saying exactly what it is that we learn, know and can communicate when we come to understand what a sentence means.

Philosophy of science

Main article: Philosophy of science

Reacting against the earlier philosopher of science Karl Popper, who had suggested the falsifiability criterion on which to judge the demarcation between science and non-science, discussions in philosophy of science in the last forty years were dominated by social constructivist and cognitive relativist theories of science.[dubious ] Thomas Samuel Kuhn is one of the major philosophers of science representative of the former theory, while Paul Feyerabend is representative of the latter theory. Philosophy of biology has also undergone considerable growth, particularly due to the considerable debate in recent years over evolution. Here again, Daniel Dennett and his 1995 book Darwin's Dangerous Idea stand at the foreground of this debate.[dubious ]

Epistemology

Main article: Epistemology

Owing largely to Gettier's 1963 paper "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?", epistemology saw a resurgence in analytic philosophy over the last 50 years. A large portion of current epistemological research aims to resolve the problems that Gettier's examples presented to the traditional justified true belief model of knowledge. Other areas of contemporary research include basic knowledge, the nature of evidence, the value of knowledge, epistemic luck, virtue epistemology, the role of intuitions in justification, and treating knowledge as a primitive concept.

Aesthetics

Main article: Aesthetics

In the wake of attacks on the traditional aesthetic notions of beauty and sublimity from post-modern thinkers, analytic philosophers were slow in taking on analyses of art and aesthetic judgment. Susanne Langer[46] and Nelson Goodman[47] addressed these problems in an analytic style in the 1950s and 60s. Rigorous efforts to pursue analyses of traditional aesthetic concepts were undertaken by Guy Sircello in the 1970s and 80s, resulting in new analytic theories of love,[48] sublimity,[49] and beauty.[50]

See also

Notes

References

  • Aristotle, Metaphysics
  • Geach, P., Mental Acts, London 1957
  • Kenny, A.J.P., Wittgenstein, London 1973.
  • Template:Iep
  • Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Further reading

  • The Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein
  • Dummett, Michael. The Origins of Analytical Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.
  • Hirschberger, Johannes. A Short History of Western Philosophy, ed. Clare Hay. ISBN 978-0-7188-3092-2
  • Hylton, Peter. Russell, Idealism, and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Soames, Scott. Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century: Volume 1, The Dawn of Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Passmore, John. A Hundred Years of Philosophy, revised ed. New York: Basic Books, 1966.
  • Weitz, Morris, ed. Twentieth Century Philosophy: The Analytic Tradition. New York: Free Press, 1966.

External links

  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • DMOZ

Template:Positivism

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