[hist-analytic] A Dry Martini: Analytic Philosophy -- Method _and_ Content

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Feb 19 19:20:29 EST 2009

"Suppose I say I attend the APA, to  tease
the intelligentsia,  with a glass of a dry 
martini in my right  hand"
apres S. R. B. 


I was browsing a list of publications and  came across one by Chomsky repr. 
in a book entitled something to the effect,  "Inference, Explanation, and other 
frustrations" (UC/Berkeley, 1992 ed. Earman.  

And 'frustration' kept me thinking. So I'd post to the forum:  

... and _then_ there's the idea that 'analytic philosophy' (so-called)  is 
not to do with "content" but with "method". Ain't _that_ frustrating?! But  it's 
the post-analytic credo!

In a way, the 'post-analytic' [sic -- I use  the term as a noun] is right. He 
says that any theory about the _content_ is  laden ('theory-laden', even) by 
a theory about _methodology_.

While  people like Grice (as R. B. Jones reports in his webpages -- 
specifically his  commentary on Grice on 'conceptual analysis and the province of 
philosophy' now  in WOW) would say that they are ever so willing to engage in the 
conceptual  elucidation of _any_ concept you name, how many _actual_ cases of 
such  generosity of spirit do we have in the literature!?

The one I can think  of is Grice's engaging description of what Shropshire 
may have meant when he  said,

"Hey, the soul is  immortal -- a chicken runs around after the head's chopped 
off,  no?"

Grice's elaboration on this may be viewed as an analysis of the  concept, 
'the soul is immortal'. It involves:

--- analysis of what we  mean by 'soul'? Not necessarily. Operational 
replacement: 'animation': ability  to move. 

--- anaysis of what we mean by 'generation' and corruption? Not  necessarily. 
Operational replacement: the 'body' as _placement_ of the  soul.

etc. I wish I could paste Shropshire's reasoning, but it's pdf and  I guess 
I'm too lazy today to copy it out!

But I'd be curious as to what  other notions one may think as 'not really 
_received_' philosophically speaking,  but which _have_ received a sort of 
'philosophical analysis'.

On the  other hand, it may be said -- and Grice was proud in saying this -- 
that, you  get together a bunch of talented philosophers (like Grice, Austin, 
Strawson,  Warnock, Urmson, Nowell-Smith, Hare, Hart, Pears, -- to name the 
ones he lists  in 'Reply to Richards') and you'll _bound_ (Grice uses words to 
this effect) to  find some _diversity_ of views.

By this he was opposing to the typically  'Continental' (he thought -- :-)) 
view that "Oxford philosophy" was  _monolithic_. And he _is_ right: we have 
within view the determinist, the  libertarian, the mechanist, the causalist, the 
... and this variety for any  "philosophy of" you can name!

---- If 'method' and 'content' are indeed  _separable_ then perhaps as 
historians of analytic philosophy we should also be  able to separate ourselves from 
the 'dogmas' not of empiricism but of the Middle  Class! I think it was 
somewhere I read (but then I'm reading too much about  verista opera) that it's the 
middle class or burgeoisie that is to blame. New  sensitivities, realism, 
positivism, etc. This was okay au fin de siecle. But  then came the Vienna 
Circlers and not happy what with Comte had _said_ about  'positivism' came with a 
"new", 'logical' one! 

Unfortunately,  'verificationism' fares none any better! Why, look at what 
Popper says about the  _priority_ of *falsificationism* rather! (But then he 
would rather be seen dead  than described as one 'engaged in philosophical [i.e. 
conceptual]  analysis'!

Fascinating history, analytic philosophy -- who said it was  _dry_? (Not 
Bayne, although he did mention a dry martini,  no?)



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