Analytic Philosophy: The History of an Illusion by Aaron Preston

By Aaron Preston

A unique, serious account of the origins and improvement of the dominant university of philosophy within the English-speaking global.

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Chapter 2 A Crisis within the Crisis: The Problem of Revisionist History A New Task for History The situation outlined in Chapter 1 calls for a careful investigation of AP’s nature. However, this metaphilosophical task cannot be accomplished without a concomitant historical inquiry. AP has been with us for roughly a century now, during which time it has undergone significant metamorphoses. Consequently, it would be misleading to define it in terms drawn solely from its current or recent state(s) – and doubly so since the very fact that AP exists as something to be discussed under a single name will forever be connected to the context in which that name entered the philosophical lexicon.

Now, if AP could give an account of itself and its standards that showed there was good reason for accepting the analytic model despite its ‘existential gap’, the crisis would be averted – or, rather, it would be shown that it is not AP that is in crisis, but the humanistic outlook that desires to have more from philosophy. If truth (or our best approximation to it) has unfortunate consequences, so be it. However, both AP’s nature and its standards, and thus also the reasons in support of them, currently defy articulation.

What they say is frequently informed by the TC. For instance, in 1996 – alongside Williams’ claim that ‘analytic philosophy’ no longer names anything philosophically distinctive – John Searle describes philosophy in the United States as so dominated by AP that dissenters feel the need to define themselves over against it (1). This dominance is not limited to America, he notes, but is a feature of academic philosophy in the Englishspeaking world at large, as well as in Scandinavia (1f). He describes the school as originating with Frege, Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein (and hence around the turn of the twentieth century), and as being perpetuated by the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle and the Oxford ordinary-language movement (2).

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