A PHILOSOPHICAL LEXICON FOR CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS, #4: “Analysis.”

By Robert Hanna

“Young Woman With a Book [Reading Philosophy],” by Alexander Deineka (1934)
“A Philosopher Reading” (Wellcome Collection)

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APP Editor’s Note:

You can download or read a complete .pdf of the basic working draft of this philosophical lexicon HERE.

But since it is a work-in-progress, this does not preclude ongoing elaborations or revisions of the working draft, that appear only in the online installments.

After the series is finished, then a complete revised-and-updated version of the basic working draft will be made available for universal sharing.

Here are four preliminary remarks about the lexicon.

First, all terms in boldface have a definition or explication somewhere on the list.

Second, all of these definitions are, to some extent, controversial, precisely because they imply a certain philosophical point of view, or set of presuppositions, that not all philosophers share.

Third, entries marked with an asterisk* indicate a particularly controversial definition, and also include a brief description of the controversy, in italics.

Fourth, some entries also include a philosopher’s name in parenthesis, if that definition is closely historically associated with a formulation that was original to that philosopher.

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PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS IN THIS SERIES:

#3: “Acts.”

#2: “Abstract.”

#1: Introduction, & Other Preliminaries.

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Analysis: It is relatively commonplace amongst those who study the history of classical Analytic philosophy to distinguish between two different types of analysis:

(i) decompositional analysis, and

(ii) transformative analysis.

Decompositional analysis is the logical process of

(i.1) decomposing analytic propositions (or corresponding facts) into explanatorily or ontologically atomic, primitive, or simple items (e.g., concepts, intensions, or properties) that are mind-independently real yet also immediately and infallibly apprehended with self-evidence, and then

(i.2) rigorously logically reconstructing those propositions (or facts) by formal deduction from general logical laws and premises that express logical definitional knowledge in terms of the atomic, primitive, or simple constituents.

When decompositional analysis picks out atomic, primitive, or simple items that occur at the same semantic or ontological level as the relevant propositions or facts, then it’s non-informative — e.g.,

Bachelors are unmarried adult males.

But when decompositional analysis provides an explicit representation (aka “the analysans”) that picks out simples that occur at a lower and more basic semantic or ontological level than the thing being analyzed (aka “the analysandum”), then it’s informative — e.g.,

Water is H2O.

By contrast, transformative analysis is the logical process of

(ii.1) reductively explaining one class of propositions, facts, concepts, intensions, or properties, in terms of a distinct and more basic class of propositions, facts, concepts, intensions, or properties,

(ii.2) even if these lower and more basic semantic or ontological items aren’t simples.

Unlike decompositional analysis, transformative or reductive analysis is always informative — e.g.,

Numbers are nothing but sets of all sets whose elements can be put into a bijective (= two way, symmetric) one-to-one correspondence with one another.

Transformative or reductive analysis, if successful, shows that the higher level items are either strictly identical to (see identity) or logically supervenient upon (see supervenience) some corresponding lower level items.

But there is also at least one other kind of analysis: conceptual analysis.

Conceptual analysis is critical, creative reasoning using concepts, when it is specifically addressed to classical or typical philosophical problems.

As such, conceptual analysis also includes the logical process of

(iii.1) non-contingently identifying distinct propositions, facts, concepts, intensions, or properties, and also

(iii.2) non-contingently discriminating between inherently different propositions, facts, concepts, intensions, or properties.

Like decompositional analysis, however, conceptual analysis can be either non-informative, e.g.,

Cats live on or near the surface of the Earth,

or

Cats don’t grow on trees,

or informative, e.g.,

Cats are living organisms,

or

Dead cats aren’t living cats.

But in both cases, conceptual analysis is non-reductive.

ELABORATION

During the period from 1900–1940, classical neo-Kantian philosophy in Germany and France and British neo-Hegelian philosophy (carrying over somewhat into the USA — see, e.g., T.S. Eliot’s Harvard PhD dissertation on F.H. Bradley, and the philosophy of Josiah Royce more generally[i]) both came to a more or less bitter end.

Slamming the door behind the idealists, and triumphantly (indeed, even triumphalistically) replacing them, and just as often also taking up their vacated university positions, a group of Young Turk avant-garde philosophers carrying the banner of the new tradition of classical Analytic philosophy came onto the scene, following on from Gottlob Frege (as it were, The Founding Grandfather), but led by G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, the young Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Vienna Circle Logical Empiricists/ Positivists (especially Rudolf Carnap), and W.V.O Quine.[ii]

Nor were they were culturally unique or unaccompanied, since classical Analytic philosophy also stood in an important elective affinity with the rise of high modernism, especially in the applied and fine arts and the formal and natural sciences.[iii]

At the same time, the classical Analytic philosophers were engaged in a serious intellectual competition with phenomenology, especially Husserlian transcendental phenomenology[iv] and Heideggerian existential phenomenology.[v]

Simultaneously, however, there was also an emerging organicist movement in philosophy, including Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory in 1896, Creative Evolution in 1907, Samuel Alexander’s Space, Time, and Deity in 1920, John Dewey’s Experience and Nature in 1925, and especially A.N. Whitehead’s “philosophy of organism” in Process and Reality in 1929.

By the end of World War II, the early Cold War, and the period of the sociopolitical triumph of advanced capitalism and technocracy in the USA, classical Analytic philosophy had triumphed in a social-institutional sense; organicist philosophy had virtually disappeared except in a vestigial form, as an aspect of American pragmatism; and existential phenomenology and all other kinds of non-Analytic philosophy, under the convenient and pejorative catch-all label, “Continental Philosophy,” gradually became the social-institutional Other and slave of Analytic philosophy.[vi]

By 1950, Quine’s devastating critique of the analytic-synthetic distinction in “Truth by Convention,” “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” “Carnap and Logical Truth,” and Word and Object effectively ended the research program of classical Analytic philosophy and initiated post-classical Analytic philosophy.

In the early-to mid-1950s, post-classical Analytic philosophy produced a Wittgenstein-inspired language-driven alternative to Logical Empiricism/Positivism, ordinary language philosophy.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, powered by the work of H. P. Grice and Peter Strawson, ordinary language philosophy became conceptual analysis.[vii] In turn, during that same period, Strawson created a new “connective” — that is, holistic — version of conceptual analysis, that also constituted a “descriptive metaphysics.”[viii]

In the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, Strawson’s connective version of conceptual analysis gradually fused with Donald Davidson’s non-reductive naturalism about language, mind, and action (sometimes rather misleadingly called semantics of natural language), John Rawls’s holistic method of “reflective equilibrium,” and Noam Chomsky’s psycholinguistic appeals to intuitions-as-evidence, and ultimately became what can be called The Standard Model of mainstream post-classical Analytic philosophical methodology, by the end of the 20th century.[ix]

In the late 1990s and first two decades of the 21st century, a domestic critical reaction to The Standard Model, combining direct reference theory, scientific essentialism and modal metaphysics,[x] yielded recent and contemporary Analytic metaphysics.[xi]

In contemporary mainstream post-classical Analytic philosophy, co-existing and cohabiting with The Standard Model and Analytic metaphysics, is also the classical Lockean idea that philosophy should be an “underlaborer” for the natural sciences, especially as this idea was developed in the second half of the 20th century by Quine and Wilfrid Sellars, and their students, as the materialist or physicalist (whether eliminativist, reductive, or non-reductive) and scientistic doctrine of scientific naturalism, and again in the early 21st century, in even more sophisticated versions, as experimental philosophy, aka “X-Phi,” and the doctrine of second philosophy.[xii]

More precisely, scientific naturalism includes four basic theses:

(i) anti-mentalism and anti-supernaturalism, which says that we should reject any sort of explanatory appeal to non-physical or non-spatiotemporal entities or causal powers,

(ii) scientism,[xiii] which says that the exact sciences are the paradigms of reasoning and rationality, as regards their content and their methodology alike,

(iii) materialist or physicalist metaphysics, which says that all facts in the world, including all mental facts and social facts, are either reducible to (whether identical to or “logically supervenient” on) or else strictly dependent on, according to natural laws (aka “naturally supervenient” or “nomologically supervenient” on) fundamental physical facts, which in turn are naturally mechanistic, microphysical facts, and

(iv) radical empiricist epistemology, which says that all knowledge and truths are a posteriori.

So, to summarize, scientific naturalism holds first, that the nature of knowledge and reality are ultimately disclosed by pure mathematics, fundamental physics, and whatever other reducible natural sciences there actually are or may turn out to be, second, that this is the only way of disclosing the ultimate nature of knowledge and reality, and third, that even if everything in the world, including ourselves and all things human (including language, mind, and action), cannot be strictly eliminated in favor of or reduced to fundamental physical facts, nevertheless everything in the world, including ourselves and all things human, is metaphysically grounded on and causally determined by fundamental physical facts.

Generalizing now, the central topics, or obsessions, of the classical Analytic tradition prior to 1950 were meaning and necessity, with special emphases on

(i) pure logic as the universal and necessary essence of thought,

(ii) language as the basic means of expressing thoughts and describing the world,

(iii) the sense (Sinn) vs. reference, aka Meaning (Bedeutung) distinction,

(iv) the conceptual truth vs. factual truth distinction, (v) the necessary truth vs. contingent truth distinction,

(vi) the a priori truth vs. a posteriori truth distinction, and

(vii) the analytic vs. synthetic distinction.

Correspondingly, a common and profoundly embedded thread running through all of these sub-themes is the following rough-and-ready multiple identity (or at least necessary equivalence):

So, a very useful way of characterizing classical Analytic philosophy from late 19th century Frege to mid-20th-century Quine, is to say that it consisted essentially in the rise and fall of the concept of analyticity.

By vivid contrast to classical Analytic philosophy, however, the central commitment, and indeed dogmatic obsession, of post-classical Analytic philosophy since 1950 until today at 6am, continues to be scientific naturalism, centered on the dual doctrines of logically-driven mathematization and natural mechanism.

NOTES

[i] See, e.g., B. Kuklick, The Rise of American Philosophy (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1977).

[ii] See R. Hanna, Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 2001).

[iii] See J.C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Conditions Have Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1999); A. Janik and S. Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973); The Vienna Circle, “The Scientific Conception of the World,” in S. Sarkar (ed.), The Emergence of Logical Empiricism: From 1900 to the Vienna Circle (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996), pp. 321–340, also available online at URL = <http://www.manchesterism.com/the-scientific-conception-of-the-world-the-vienna-circle/>; P. Galison, “Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism,” Critical Inquiry 16 (1990): 709–752; G. Reisch, How the Cold War Transformed Philosophy of Science: To the Icy Slopes of Logic (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005); and J. Isaac, “Donald Davidson and the Analytic Revolution in American Philosophy, 1940–1970,” Historical Journal 56 (2013): 757–779.

[iv] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “Transcendental Idealism, Phenomenology, and the Metaphysics of Intentionality,” in K. Ameriks and N. Boyle (eds.), The Impact of Idealism (4 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013), vol. I, pp. 191–224.

[v] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “Kant in the Twentieth Century,” in D. Moran (ed.), Routledge Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 149–203, at pp. 149–150, also available online in preview at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/2915828/Kant_in_the_Twentieth_Century>; and R. Hanna, The Fate of Analysis: Analytic Philosophy From Frege to The Ash-Heap of History (2020 version), ch. IX, available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/41899807/The_Fate_of_Analysis_Analytic_Philosophy_From_Frege_To_The_Ash-Heap_of_History_2020_version_>.

[vi] See, e.g., R. Rorty, “Philosophy in America Today,” in R. Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1982), pp. 211–230; J. McCumber, Time in the Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era (Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 2001); T. Akehurst, “The Nazi Tradition: The Analytic Critique of Continental Philosophy in Mid-Century Britain,” History of European Ideas 34 (2008): 548–557; T. Akehurst, The Cultural Politics of Analytic Philosophy: Britishness and the Spectre of Europe (London: Bloomsbury, 2011); A. Vrahimis, “Modernism and the Vienna Circle’s Critique of Heidegger,” Critical Quarterly 54 (2012): 61–83; A. Vrahimis, “Legacies of German Idealism: From The Great War to the Analytic/Continental Divide,” Parrhesia 24 (2015): 83–106; McCumber, The Philosophy Scare; S. Bloor, “The Divide Between Philosophy and Enthusiasm: The Effect of the World Wars on British Attitudes Towards Continental Philosophies,” in M. Sharpe et al. (eds.), 100 Years of European Philosophy Since the Great War (Cham, CH: Springer, 2017), pp. 201–213; J. Katzav and K. Vaesen, “On the Emergence of American Analytic Philosophy,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (2017): 772–798; J. Katzav, “Analytic Philosophy, 1925–1969: Emergence, Management and Nature,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (2018): 1197–1221; and A. Vrahimis, “Russell Reads Bergson,” in M. Sinclair and Y. Wolf (eds.), The Bergsonian Mind (London: Routledge, forthcoming), also available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/41702088/Russell_Reads_Bergson>.

[vii] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “Conceptual Analysis,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 10 vols., ed. E. Craig (London: Routledge, 1998), vol. 2, pp. 518–522, available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/11279103/Conceptual_Analysis>.

[viii] See P.F. Strawson, Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (London: Methuen, 1959); and P.F. Strawson, Analysis and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992).

[ix] See, e.g., F. Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).

[x] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “A Kantian Critique of Scientific Essentialism,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58 (1998): 497–528; R. Hanna, “Why Gold is Necessarily a Yellow Metal,” Kantian Review 4 (2000): 1–47; R. Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature (Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), chs. 3–4; and R. Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, vol. 5) (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015), section 4.5, also available online in preview HERE.

[xi] The leading figures of Analytic metaphysics include David Lewis, David Chalmers, Kit Fine, John Hawthorne, Theodore Sider, and Timothy Williamson; and some of its canonical texts are Lewis’s On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), Sider’s Writing the Book of the World (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), Chalmers’s Constructing the World (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012), and Williamson’s Modal Logic as Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2013).

[xii] See, e.g., W.V.O. Quine, “Epistemology Naturalized,” in W.V.O. Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 69–90; W. Sellars, Science, Perception, and Reality (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963); J. Knobe and S. Nichols (eds.), Experimental Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008); and P. Maddy, Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007).

[xiii] On the crucial distinction between science and scientism, see R. Hanna, “The End of Mechanism: Kant, Science, and Humanity,” (September 2019 version), available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/40331297/The_End_of_Mechanism_Kant_Science_and_Humanity_September_2019_version_>; and also S. Haack, Science and its Discontents (Rounded Globe, 2017), available online at URL = <https://roundedglobe.com/books/038f7053-e376-4fc3-87c5-096de820966d/Scientism%20and%20its%20Discontents/>.

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Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.