Future Pasts: The Analytic Tradition in Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Future Pasts: The Analytic Tradition in Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Future Pasts: The Analytic Tradition in Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Future Pasts: The Analytic Tradition in Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Synopsis

This collection of previously unpublished essays presents a new approach to the history of analytic philosophy--one that does not assume at the outset a general characterization of the distinguishing elements of the analytic tradition. Drawing together a venerable group of contributors, including John Rawls and Hilary Putnam, this volume explores the historical contexts in which analytic philosophers have worked, revealing multiple discontinuities and misunderstandings as well as a complex interaction between science and philosophical reflection.

Excerpt

Among contemporary philosophers there is a growing interest in recounting the history of philosophy in the twentieth century. The essays in this volume are meant to be contributions, from a variety of perspectives, to this growing historical consciousness. But they are intended to be more than that. Our decision to group together these particular contributions has been determined by our own conception of present difficulties facing a historical perspective on philosophy of the last hundred years. We intend the present volume to provoke discussion of the underlying outlooks and sensibilities that may—and do—inform current work on the history of recent philosophy. Controversies about how history ought to find its way into philosophical practice are, we believe, particularly acute when it comes to discussion of the recent past. It is, after all, especially hard to gain historical distance from a past one has partly lived through. Even more, attempts to write the history of philosophy tend to import with them current philosophical commitments and theories, a whole range of historically conditioned assumptions, some of them tacit, about what is and is not philosophically central— assumptions that are themselves products of this century.

In particular, it is difficult for contemporary scholars to assess the recent history of philosophy without running up against the tendency to impose ideology upon that history, invoking supposed distinctions between the so-called analytic and the so-called continental traditions, or between philosophy and science, or between metaphysics and antimetaphysics. Thus, for example, there is a widespread tendency to identify analytic philosophy with logical positivism, or, more precisely, with a scientistic interpretation of logical positivism. This identification leads to the view that analytic philosophy was founded on the assumption that mathematics and physics are the highest forms of knowledge, that metaphysics should and may be avoided altogether, that the nature of scientific method is the primary issue with which philosophers should be concerned, and that the historical, ethical, sociological, and psychological contexts in which science has been practiced are irrelevant to an understanding of its nature. Analytic philosophy is thus held responsible for having excluded central topics of traditional philosophy from the domain of philosophical discourse, replacing them with adherence to an ahistorical conception of . . .

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