Sunday, 15 March 2015

Analytic Philosophy & Argument

It's a mistake to conflate positions within analytic philosophy with the attitude that most analytic philosophers have to (doing) philosophy itself.

It's not really necessary for all analytic philosophers to explictly accept, say, that “beliefs require justification”, “adding ad-hoc hypotheses to an idea is bad”, or “that philosophers must have knowledge of logical fallacies” - even if most of them do!

What makes analytic philosophy superior to other traditions (in my view) is very simple (i.e., not very sexy): the commitment to argumentation. I suppose that this is broadly related to the idea that “beliefs require justification”; though that's a particular position within epistemology (at least as it's expressed above).

All statements about analytic philosophy and other traditions will of course involve generalisations. You can't escape that. All I can do is give examples of what I mean.

I've read a bit of Continental philosophy. Most of it doesn't seem to take argument very seriously at all. In that sense it becomes more like literature, poetry or political rhetoric than philosophy. Indeed some philosophers (such as Jacques Derrida) have made this point themselves.

For example, I read an article by Jean Baudrillard which is really just one long list of statements (rather than a piece of augmentation). All those statements are also expressed in an extremely poetic manner. It can be said, however, that arguments (or chains of reasoning) might have led up to those statements; though they aren't contained in the text itself. (This is also true, at least to some extent, of Wittgenstein's Tractatus.)

Thus, again, I would say that argumentation (as well as little rhetoric) sums up analytic philosophy. Not a commitment to specific positions within philosophy.

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