Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy
The history of twentieth-century analytic philosophy is marked by the rapidity with which major movements suddenly appear, flourish, lose their momentum, become senescent, and eventually vanish. Examples include idealism, in its absolutist and subjectist variants, sense-data theory, logical atomism, neutral monism, and logical positivism. There are, of course, exceptions to this pattern. In ontology, various forms of materialism continue to enjoy widespread support, and naturalized epistemology as developed by W. V. O. Quine and expanded by his followers shows no signs of abatement. Indeed, if anything, the tremendous prestige of science has intensified in the twentieth century. Scientism, which P. S. Churchland has defined as the notion that “in the idealized long run, the completed science is a true description of reality: there is no other Truth and no other Reality,” is today widely espoused in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind.
Contemporary philosophers have reacted to the impact of science principally in three different ways, two of which are forms of scientism. The more radical of the two asserts that if philosophy has a function, it must be something other than trying to give a true account of the world. A variant of this view holds that philosophy should deal with normative or value questions, while science engages in wholly descriptive activity. A second, less radical reaction is to maintain that philosophy, when done correctly, is just an extension of science. According to Quine, for example, there is a division of labor among scientific investigators—including philosophers— and their tasks and problems, though compatible, are somewhat different. Finally,