The Dialogue of Reason: An Analysis of Analytical Philosophy

By L. Jonathan Cohen | Go to book overview
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Introduction: Analysis and Language


Summary : Analytical philosophy deserves a better rationale than it has so far
been given. Identifying it by the historical limits of participation in its
dialogue, we need to elucidate what holds this dialogue together: tenets,
methods, or problems?

PHILOSOPHY, as most philosophers would agree, aims at an explicit resolution of fundamental issues that would otherwise remain undiscussed. But this characterization, though it may roughly suffice to identify a familiar form of intellectual activity, is too vague to be philosophically illuminating. So among the fundamental issues that require philosophical resolution is the nature of philosophical enquiry itself. Of course excessive attention to this issue, as to any other methodological issue, may impede the progress of substantive enquiry. But from time to time philosophers undoubtedly owe their students, their critics, their colleagues, and themselves a relatively precise account--sometimes now called a 'metaphilosophy'--of the activity on which they take themselves to be engaged. Indeed, that activity stands just as much in need of a philsophical methodology, analysis, or rational reconstruction as does natural science or any other mode of intellectual enquiry. Philosophy is inherently self- critical.

But two very different kinds of metaphilosophy are possible-- aggressive and defensive.

The aggressive option is chosen when a metaphilosopher propounds reasons for finding fault with much or all of current philosophical practice within his intellectual community. Perhaps he also formulates a new programme and even takes some steps towards its execution. It is this aggressive option that has been exercised recently by anti-analytical philosophers like Rorty,1 for example, and

R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980.


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