TWENTIETH-CENTURY ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY. ON A RECENT ATTEMPT OF ITS GENERAL ACCOUNT
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Although analytic philosophy is a major movement shaping contemporary philosophy, there are not too many historical accounts of that movement which would be comprehensive, unified and sufficiently detailed. An impressive attempt to fill in this lacuna is the two-volume book 'Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century', modestly described by its author Scott Soames (renowned mainly for his work in the philosophy of language) as 'an introductory overview of the analytic tradition in philosophy covering roughly the period between 1900 and 1975'. The first volume discusses the philosophy of G.E. Moore, the most influential views of Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus', logical positivism (including emotivism in ethics and reaction against it), as well as the early philosophy of W.V. Quine. The second volume continues the story of analytic philosophy by providing an account of the later philosophy of Wittgenstein, the ordinary language philosophy and its demise, the philosophical naturalism of W.V. Quine, the theory of meaning of Donald Davidson, and finally Saul Kripke's seminal philosophy of language and its wide-ranging implications. The book contains also a short epilogue outlining the direction taken by analytic philosophy in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The two volumes of Soames' account of contemporary analytic tradition are packed with lucid, sophisticated and detailed discussions of various views of major thinkers of that tradition. However, besides these merits the book by Soames has several weaker points. It defines analytic philosophy in a rather loose and unspecific manner, as well as gives an arbitrarily selective and unbalanced account of its recent developments.
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