Philosophical tradition that emphasizes the logical analysis of concepts and the study of the language in which they are expressed. It has been the dominant approach in philosophy in the English-speaking world from the early 20th century. With respect to its problems, methods, and style, it is often contrasted with Continental philosophy, though the significance of the opposition has been widely challenged. Analytic philosophers have differed regarding the nature of so-called “ordinary” language and the methodological value of appeals to ordinary usage in the logical analysis of concepts. Those known as formalists hold that, because ordinary language is potentially a source of conceptual confusion, philosophy and science should be conducted in a logically transparent formal language based on modern mathematical, or symbolic, logic. Those known as informalists reject this view, arguing that attempts to “improve” ordinary language in this way inevitably oversimplify or falsify it, thereby creating conceptual confusion of just the sort that the formalists are concerned to avoid. Three figures conventionally recognized as founders of the tradition are Gottlob Frege, G.E. Moore, and Bertrand Russell. Other major figures include Ludwig Wittgenstein, A.J. Ayer, Rudolf Carnap, J.L. Austin, W.V.O. Quine, and David Lewis (1941–2001). Seealso logical positivism; Vienna Circle.
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