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Philosophy Today Philosophy 1 Spring, 2002 G. J. Mattey.

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1 Philosophy Today Philosophy 1 Spring, 2002 G. J. Mattey

2 The Great Divide Most contemporary philosophers follow one of two approaches –“Continental” philosophy –“Analytic” philosophy Continental philosophy is more influential on the European continent Analytic philosophy is predominant in the major research universities in the English-speaking world

3 Analytic Philosophy Analytic philosophy developed from attempts in the early 20 th century to make our concepts precise The model of this procedure was science Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) was a leading positivist, who held that what is not analytic or scientifically verifiable is meaningless Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) eventually held that analyses do not yield precise results and held that philosophy is merely therapeutic

4 Analytic Philosophy Today Emphasis in contemporary analytic philosophy is on language and meaning, and meaning is understood as a relation between language and objective reality Thus, understanding the structure of language is what reveals the structure of reality We now have powerful symbolic tools to aid us Saul Kripke (1940- ) led a revival of metaphysics by making hyper-scientific concepts precise

5 Continental Philosophy Immanuel Kant’s “Copernican revolution” made the human point of view primary This revolution was carried on German philosophers in the 19 th century, culminating in Nietzsche In the early 20 th century, Edmund Husserl invented “phenomenology” This was developed by Martin Heidegger and Sartre into “existentialism”

6 Continental Philosophy Today Work in phenomenology and existentialism continues to be done The main thrust in continental philosophy today follows Nietzsche –Michel Foucault (1926-1984) understood knowledge as practice, and practice as based on relations of power –Jacques Derrida (1930- ) promotes “deconstruction” and opposes “logocentrism”

7 Academic Culture Clash Analytic philosophers accuse continental philosophers of sloppy, or even meaningless, thinking Continental philosophers accuse analytic philosophers of petty narrowness and detachment from real human concerns

8 Roots of the Clash The clash between contemporary continental and analytic philosophers is foreshadowed in the clash between the Sophists and Socrates The Sophists emphasized the use of language as a tool to further human interest, but not as revealing an objective reality Socrates demanded an account of the real form which provides the meaning of the use of concepts

9 Formal Philosophy Symbolic logic allows the formulation of philosophical statements and arguments in a rigorous, unambiguous format –Leibniz was the first philosopher to try this –Russell’s 1905 “On Denoting” showed its great potential Probability calculus is a formalization of principles of inductive reasoning –Decision theory is based on probability calculus

10 What Analytic Philosophers Do Conceptual analysis is done in the style of the Euthyphro –E.g., knowledge is justified true belief that is not accidental Philosophical theories are constructed in the style of Utilitarianism or Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals Much activity is directed at the question of the possibility of analysis and theorizing

11 Reflective Equilibrium Mill posed the problem of the analysis of ethical judgments –We need to know what right and wrong are before we can judge an act right or wrong –But scientific method requires that we know particulars first Nelson Goodman proposed a solution –Begin with our beliefs about particulars –Determine how well they conform to general beliefs –Reflectively adjust the two kinds of beliefs until they reach a state of equilibrium

12 Issues in Metaphysics Most current issues in analytic metaphysics are the same as the classical issues –Are universals and numbers real, or are concrete particulars the only reality? –Is causality only constant conjunction or a real relation? –Can things be other than what they actually are, or are they determined to be what they are?

13 Supervenience Many philosophers are attracted to the view that the human mind is a material entity But there are problems in explaining mental activity as identical to brain states, etc. A proposed solution is that mental activity supervenes on physical states of the body –Two brain states of the same type cannot differ with respect to the associated mental activity

14 Issues in Epistemology How should knowledge be analyzed? Should we approach knowledge inside-out (Descartes, Hume, Russell) or outside-in, so that human knowledge is a natural development to be studied scientifically? How do we make sense of the persuasive power of philosophical skepticism?

15 Contextualism We seem to assume that we have knowledge ordinarily but take back that assumption when thinking of skeptical arguments This can be explained by claiming that we have knowledge in the ordinary context but lose it in the skeptical context This is similar to Hume’s view that we have belief in the ordinary context and lose our confidence when thinking of skeptical arguments

16 Issues in Ethics Ethical investigations tend to be centered on one of three levels –Meta-ethics concerns questions about the nature of moral values and how they can be known –Ethical theories include utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Aristotelian-style virtue ethics –Moral problems (e.g. abortion) are discussed in their own right or in relation to theories

17 The Difference Principle John Rawls has proposed a conception of justice as fairness –In the case of distributive justice, justice is fair distribution of the goods of society But what is fair? –We should conceive of ourselves as in a position of ignorance regarding our position in society –In such a position, it would be reasonable for each of us to require that if a distribution is unequal, it must help the least advantaged

18 Progress? Has analytic philosophy made any progress? Philosophical problems, analyses and theories are subject to much more sophisticated and detailed treatment They tend, however, to be examined piecemeal, and not as part of a broader theoretical context Philosophers seem as far from agreement on more basic issues as they ever have been, even with all the new tools at their disposal

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