In my old preface of 1934 I tried to explain--too briefly, I am afraid--my attitude towards the then prevailing situation in philosophy, and especially towards linguistic philosophy and the school of language analysts of those days. In this new preface I intend to explain my attitude towards the present situation, and towards the two main schools of language analysts of today. Now as then, language analysts are important to me; not only as opponents, but also as allies, in so far as they seem to be almost the only philosophers left who keep alive some of the traditions of rational philosophy.
Language analysts believe that there are no genuine philosophical problems, or that the problems of philosophy, if any, are problems of linguistic usage, or of the meaning of words. I, however, believe that there is at least one philosophical problem in which all thinking men are interested. It is the problem of cosmology: the problem of understanding the world--including ourselves, and our knowledge, as part of the world. All science is cosmology, I believe, and for me the interest of philosophy as well as of science lies solely in the contributions which they have made to it. For me, at any rate, both philosophy and science would lose all their attraction if they were to give up that pursuit. Admittedly, understanding the functions of language is an important part of it; but explaining away our problems as merely linguistic 'puzzles' is not.
Language analysts regard themselves as practitioners of a method peculiar to philosophy. I think they are wrong, for I believe in the following thesis.
Philosophers are as free as others to use any method in searching for truth. There is no method peculiar to philosophy.
A second thesis which I should like to propound here is this.
The central problem of epistemology has always been and still is the problem of the growth of knowledge. And the growth of knowledge can be studied best by studying the growth of scientific knowledge.