Historical Notes on Analyticity
These notes concern the history of the use of the term analytic and related terms (analysis, analytical, analyticity) in certain narrow technical senses, viz: those of the field which has been known for much of this century as analytic philosophy, and of the broader philosophical heritage on which analytic philosophy is based.
This heritage spans over 2000 years and includes works originally written in many different languages, including Greek, Latin, and German. English is really the only language I know well, and happens to be the main language in which analytic philosophy is now conducted.

What I am interested in here is mainly the meaning of the terms. The usage spans many languages and spans long periods of time during which these languages have continued to evolve. It is rare for philosophers to distinguish clearly between making a statement about the meaning of a word and making a philosophical claim involving a concept. So, we are going to find that there are many different meanings which have been attached to the words and most of them are not very clear.
The term analytic dates back to ancient Greece, though its meaning at that time differs somewhat from present usage.
Analytic as a kind of sentence (or of statement or proposition).
Analytic as a kind of Philosophy.
The term analytic dates back to ancient Greece, though its meaning at that time differs somewhat from present usage.
Plato is credited (by Proclus) with the invention of a method of proof known as analysis. This appears to be a kind of what we would now call backward or goal oriented proof, in which one begins with the proposition to be proven and works back by steps towards an acknowledged principle from which it can be proven. Since this method is observed in earlier Greek mathematics it is doubtful that it does originate with Plato. The term synthesis is also used, meaning roughly, a forward proof in which the proof begins with the axioms and proceeds toward the proposition to be proven. A third kind of proof known at that time was reductio ad absurdum.

Since proofs could be entertained from axioms which were not themselves necessary (or even true), this ancient distinction between analytic and synthetic proofs is orthogonal to the more modern distinction between analytic and synthetic statements.
Aristotle's Prior Analytic and Posterior Analytic are the core of his logic. Aristotle distinguishes analytic and dialectical proof.
Analytic as a kind of sentence (or of statement or proposition).
Leibniz clearly describes the distinction between necessary and contingent truths in his Monadology (para 33). He also claims that necessary truths can be established by analysis.
Neither Locke nor Hume used the same terms. Locke talks Of Trivial Propositions.
Kant certainly does use the words (or German equivalents), speaking Of The Difference between Analytical and Synthetical Judgements.
Analytic as a kind of Philosophy.
Analytic philosophy emerged at the beginning of this century from two revolutions in philosophy both of which had their epicentre at the University of Cambridge.

The origin begins with the rejection by two young Cambridge philosophers, G.E.Moore and Bertrand Russell, of the then British philosophical orthodoxy, a species of Hegelian idealism.

In the case of G.E.Moore this came in the form of a staunch defence of common sense and ordinary language against the abuses of philosophers. The kind of analysis involved here is analysis of ordinary language based on an appreciation of common usage, and the purpose of the new philosophy is to dispel the confusions created by the past failure of philosophers to pay proper attention to the meaning of ordinary language. This lead to some of the most influential work by English speaking philosophers in this century, e.g. the later work of Wittgenstein, and work by Oxford philosophers such as J.L.Austin and G.Ryle. This trend in contemporary philosophy has been labelled by some "linguistic philosophy" and has provoked acerbic criticism from outsiders (e.g. Gellner), as well as sustained opposition from other philosophical camps.
In the case of Bertrand Russell advances in logic were the source of the revolution, and the kind of analysis involved was logical analysis. The way to understand a sentence is to expose its logical structure by translating the sentence into formal logic (e.g. Russell's theory of types). This process would yield definitive answers to many of the most difficult philosophical problems. An example of this is the solution offered by Russell to the problem of how a sentence can be meaningful if it refers to something which does not exist, which came in the form of Russell's theory of descriptions (BUT see footnote).

This logical beginning to "analytic philosophy" was also the beginning of an influential line of philosophical work, including Wittgenstein's contributions to logical atomism and logical positivism, and many other contributions to logical positivism, e.g. Carnap, and in England, A.J.Ayer. The earliest work of Quine may also be placed in this tradition.

It is my impression that the ordinary language analysis trend has had a much more pervasive effect on the philosophy which is done in English speaking universities than the ideas of logical analysis. The logical revolution has been more significant this century in its impact on Mathematics and Computer Science, its impact on Philosophy remains slight.
Unfortunately this little sketch of the Russell's conception of analytic philosophy doesn't hang together properly for me, since I haven't found enough evidence of any systematic method in Russell's philosophy which he or anyone else could tag with this analytic label. Later the logical positivists pushed the exhaustiveness of the analytic/synthetic distinction, trying to make the case that metaphysics didn't fit in either and must therefore be nonsense. For them philosophy must surely then be concerned only with analytic truths and this gives a very definite (in my view, though others would demur) characterisation of philosophy which would justify the term analytic philosophy. Unfortunately there really haven't been any philosophers who stuck to analytic pronouncements, so that's not a very plausible explanation of the term, even from the logical side. For more on this topic see: Varieties of Philosophical Analysis"

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