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Could Anything Be Wrong With Analytic Philosophy?

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There is a growing feeling that analytic philosophy is in crisis. At the same time there is a widespread and prima facie attractive conception of analytic philosophy which implies that it equates to good philosophy. In recognition of these conflicting tendencies, my paper raises the question of whether anything could be wrong with analytic philosophy. In section 1 I indicate why analytic philosophy cannot be defined by reference to geography, topics, doctrines or even methods. This leaves open the possibility that analytic philosophy is a style of philosophizing (section 2). According to what I call a rationalist conception, the distinguishing feature of analytic philosophy is that it is guided by the ideal of rational argument. This conception implies that 'analytic philosophy' is an honorific title. In section 3 I point out that the rationalist definition yields a different extension for 'analytic philosophy' than commonly recognized. Section 4 defends the appeal to ordinary use in debates about the nature of analytic philosophy. Section 5 grants that there is an honorific use of the label, while also pointing out that the rationalist-cum-honorific conception is at odds with a more wide-spread and entrenched taxonomic practice. Section 6 alleges that the rationalist conception boils down to a 'persuasive definition' of analytic philosophy, and argues in favour of a more neutral philosophical taxonomy. Section 7 argues that analytic philosophy is an intellectual tradition held together both by lines of influence and by family-resemblances. The consequences for my topic are two-fold. First, there could obviously be something wrong with this intellectual tradition; secondly, the question whether there is something wrong needs to be raised separately with respect to individual phases or sections of that tradition.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007


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