What is philosophy?
The word “philosophy” has many different meanings. Sometimes people tell you about their philosophy of life. They usually mean something like their deepest and most abiding beliefs. This is certainly an acceptable usage of the word in ordinary language but it is a broader conception of philosophy than that which will preoccupy us in this book. Herein, “philosophy” will generally refer to a certain academic discipline.
Of course, like many academic disciplines, philosophy can be approached in a number of different ways. That is, there are many different schools of philosophy, such as existentialism, phenomenology, marxism, deconstructionism, and so on. Though related in various respects, the different schools of academic philosophy often have different aims and emphases. The type of philosophy that we will be exploring in this book is often called analytic philosophy. In fact, the title of this book could be accurately expanded as the Analytic Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction. This book is an introduction to some of the major techniques and central problems of the analytic philosophy of art.
But what is analytic philosophy? It is a school of philosophy primarily practiced in the English-speaking world. Thus, it is sometimes called “Anglo-American” philosophy, though that is a somewhat misleading label because it is not by any means the only form of academic philosophy in the English-speaking world. However, it is a very prominent school, some might say the dominant school, of English-speaking philosophy, and it has exerted considerable influence throughout the twentieth century. But this is only to suggest the “where” and the “when” of analytic philosophy. The “what” remains to be explained.
This school of thought is called analytic philosophy. So a natural first question is: “What exactly does this school of philosophy analyse?” Simplifying drastically, we might say that what analytic philosophy analyses are concepts. That is why it is sometimes also called conceptual analysis. Though by this point in history, many philosophers would argue that this