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Philosophical analysis is any of various
techniques Technique or techniques may refer to: Music * The Techniques, a Jamaican rocksteady vocal group of the 1960s *Technique (band), a British female synth pop band in the 1990s *Technique (album), ''Technique'' (album), by New Order, 1989 *Techniques ( ...
, typically used by
philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, ...

philosopher
s in the analytic tradition, in order to "break down" (i.e. analyze) philosophical issues. Arguably the most prominent of these techniques is the analysis of
concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relationship with the bod ...

concept
s (known as conceptual analysis).


Method of analysis

While analysis is characteristic of the analytic tradition in
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existen ...

philosophy
, what is to be analyzed (the ''analysandum'') often varies. In their papers, philosophers may focus on different areas. One might analyze
linguistic Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
phenomena such as
sentences ''The Four Books of Sentences'' (''Libri Quattuor Sententiarum'') is a book of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), aca ...
, or
psychological Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known ...
phenomena such as
sense data The theory of sense data is a view in the philosophy of perception The philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of perceptual experience and the status of perceptual data, in particular how they relate to beliefs about, or knowledg ...
. However, arguably the most prominent analyses are written on
concepts Concepts are defined as Abstraction, abstract Idea, ideas or general Notion (philosophy), notions that occur in the mind, in speech, or in thought. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of thoughts and beliefs. They play an impo ...

concepts
or
proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is shared by all sentences with the same mea ...
s and are known as ''conceptual analysis'' (Foley 1996). Conceptual analysis consists primarily in breaking down or analyzing concepts into their constituent parts in order to gain knowledge or a better understanding of a particular philosophical issue in which the concept is involved (Beaney 2003). For example, the
problem of free will Free will is the ability to choice, choose between different possible courses of Action (philosophy), action unimpeded. Free will is closely linked to the concepts of moral responsibility, praise, Culpability, guilt, sin, and other judgements whi ...
in philosophy involves various key concepts, including the concepts of
freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and bein ...

freedom
,
moral responsibility In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, lan ...
,
determinism Determinism is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the ...
,
ability
ability
, etc. The method of conceptual analysis tends to approach such a problem by breaking down the key concepts pertaining to the problem and seeing how they interact. Thus, in the long-standing debate on whether
free will Free will is the capacity of agents to choose between different possible courses of action ACTION is a bus operator in , Australia owned by the . History On 19 July 1926, the commenced operating public bus services between Eastlake ( ...

free will
is compatible with the doctrine of
determinism Determinism is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the ...
, several philosophers have proposed analyses of the relevant concepts to argue for either
compatibilism Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism Determinism is the philosophical view that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprun ...
or
incompatibilism Incompatibilism is the view that a deterministic Determinism is the philosophical view that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from dive ...
. A famous example of conceptual analysis at its best is given by
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose know ...
in his
theory of descriptions The theory of descriptions is the philosopher Bertrand Russell's most significant contribution to the philosophy of language. It is also known as Russell's theory of descriptions (commonly abbreviated as RTD). In short, Russell argued that the ...
. Russell attempted to analyze propositions that involved ''definite descriptions'' (such as "The tallest spy"), which pick out a unique individual, and ''indefinite descriptions'' (such as "a spy"), which pick out a set of individuals. Take Russell's analysis of definite descriptions as an example.Note that this explication is only of a part of Russell's theory of descriptions and is quite brief and oversimplified. Superficially, definite descriptions have the standard subject-predicate form of a proposition. For example, "The present
king of France The monarchs of the Kingdom of France The Kingdom of France ( fro, Reaume de France, frm, Royaulme de France, french: link=no, Royaume de France) was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful ...
is
bald Hair loss, also known as alopecia or baldness, refers to a loss of hair Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. The human body, apart from area ...
" appears to be predicating "baldness" of the subject "the present king of France". However, Russell noted that this is problematic, because there is no present king of France (France is no longer a monarchy). Normally, to decide whether a proposition of the standard subject-predicate form is true or false, one checks whether the subject is in the extension of the predicate. The proposition is then true if and only if the subject is in the extension of the predicate. The problem is that there is no present king of France, so the present king of France cannot be found on the list of bald things or non-bald things. So, it would appear that the proposition expressed by "The present king of France is bald" is neither true nor false. However, analyzing the relevant concepts and propositions, Russell proposed that what definite descriptions really express are not propositions of the subject-predicate form, but rather they express existentially quantified propositions. Thus, "The present king of France" is ''analyzed'', according to Russell's theory of descriptions, as "There exists an individual who is currently the king of France, there is only one such individual, and that individual is bald." Now one can determine the
truth value In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, la ...
of the proposition. Indeed, it is false, because it is not the case that there exists a unique individual who is currently the king of France and is bald—since there is no present king of France (Bertolet 1999).


Criticism

While the method of analysis is characteristic of contemporary
analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality ...
, its status continues to be a source of great controversy even among analytic philosophers. Several current criticisms of the analytic method derive from W.V. Quine's famous rejection of the
analytic–synthetic distinction The analytic–synthetic distinction is a semantic distinction, used primarily in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowle ...
. While Quine's critique is well-known, it is highly controversial. Further, the analytic method seems to rely on some sort of definitional structure of concepts, so that one can give necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of the concept. For example, the concept "bachelor" is often analyzed as having the concepts "unmarried" and "male" as its components. Thus, the definition or analysis of "bachelor" is thought to be an unmarried male. But one might worry that these so-called necessary and sufficient conditions do not apply in every case.
Wittgenstein Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( ; ; 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian Austrian may refer to: * Austrians, someone from Austria or of Austrian descent ** Someone who is considered an Austrian citizen, see Austrian nationalit ...
, for instance, argues that language (e.g., the word 'bachelor') is used for various purposes and in an indefinite number of ways. Wittgenstein's famous thesis states that meaning is determined by use. This means that, in each case, the meaning of 'bachelor' is determined by its use in a context. So if it can be shown that the word means different things across different contexts of use, then cases where its meaning cannot be essentially defined as 'married bachelor' seem to constitute counterexamples to this method of analysis. This is just one example of a critique of the analytic method derived from a critique of definitions. There are several other such critiques (Margolis & Laurence 2006). This criticism is often said to have originated primarily with Wittgenstein's ''
Philosophical Investigations ''Philosophical Investigations'' (german: Philosophische Untersuchungen) is a work by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The book was published posthumously in 1953. Wittgenstein discusses numerous problems and puzzles in the fields of semanti ...
''. A third critique of the method of analysis derives primarily from psychological critiques of
intuition Intuition is the ability to acquire without recourse to conscious ing. Different fields use the word "intuition" in very different ways, including but not limited to: direct access to unconscious knowledge; unconscious cognition; inner sensing; ...
. A key part of the analytic method involves analyzing concepts via "intuition tests". Philosophers tend to motivate various conceptual analyses by appeal to their intuitions about thought experiments. (See DePaul and Ramsey (1998) for a collection of current essays on the controversy over analysis as it relates to intuition and
reflective equilibrium Reflective equilibrium is a state of balance or coherence among a set of beliefs arrived at by a process of deliberative mutual adjustment among general principles and particular judgments. Although he did not use the term, philosopher Nelson Go ...
.) In short, some philosophers feel strongly that the analytic method (especially conceptual analysis) is essential to and defines philosophy—e.g. Jackson (1998), Chalmers (1996), and Bealer (1998). Yet, some philosophers argue that the method of analysis is problematic—e.g. Stich (1998) and Ramsey (1998). Some, however, take the middle ground and argue that while analysis is largely a fruitful method of inquiry, philosophers should not limit themselves to only using the method of analysis.


See also

*
Analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality ...
*
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English ...


Notes


References

* Bealer, George. (1998). "Intuition and the Autonomy of Philosophy". In M. DePaul & W. Ramsey (eds.) (1998), pp. 201–239. * Beaney, Michael. (2003). "Analysis". ''The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy''
link
. * Bertolet, Rod. (1999). "Theory of Descriptions". Entry in ''The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy'', second edition. New York: Cambridge University Press. * Chalmers, David. (1996). ''The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. * DePaul, M. & Ramsey, W. (eds.). (1998). ''Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry''. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. * Foley, Richard. (1999). "Analysis". Entry in ''The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy'', second edition. New York: Cambridge University Press. * Jackson, Frank. (1998). ''From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. * Margolis, E. & Laurence, S. (2006). "Concepts". ''The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy''
link
. * Ramsey, William. (1998). "Prototypes and Conceptual Analysis". In M. DePaul & W. Ramsey (eds.) (1998), pp. 161–177. * Stich, Stephen. (1998). "Reflective Equilibrium, Analytic Epistemology, and the Problem of Cognitive Diversity". In DePaul and Ramsey (eds.) (1998), pp. 95–112. * Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953). ''Philosophical Investigations''.


External links

*
"Concepts"
- an article by Margolis & Laurence in the ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (section 5 is a good, but short, presentation of the current issues surrounding conceptual analysis in philosophy).

- an article by Aaron Preston in the ''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy''.

by Jerry Fodor - a review of C. Hughes's book ''Kripke: Names, Necessity and Identity'' at the London Review of Books (Fodor goes into several issues regarding the philosophical method of analysis). {{Authority control Analysis A priori Aesthetics Analytic philosophy Aptitude Concepts Concepts in aesthetics Concepts in epistemology Concepts in ethics Concepts in logic Concepts in metaphilosophy Concepts in metaphysics Concepts in the philosophy of mind Concepts in the philosophy of science Critical thinking Deductive reasoning Empiricism Epistemology Ethics History of education History of logic History of philosophy Intellectual history Intellectualism Logic Metaphilosophy Metaphysics of mind Ontology Philosophical concepts Philosophical logic Philosophical methodology Philosophical theories Philosophy of logic Philosophy of science Philosophy-related lists Principles Rationalism Reasoning Skepticism Theories Theories of truth Truth