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Open Wide, Analytic Philosophers, the Airplane Is Coming in to Land

February 28, 2009

baby-plane-spoonIn A Philosophy of Political Myth, Chiara Bottici quite elegantly makes an important criticism of analytic philosophy, suggesting that it is to some extent infantile:

When Herbert Marcuse criticised the fact that philosophy had been reduced to the analysis of sentences such as “the broom is in the corner,” he was not just pointing to the dangers of political conformism that such one-dimensional thinking implies. He was also pointing to the fact that what is analysed is not the language that we actually use in our lives, with all its complexities, but desegregated atoms of language. These—he observed—are, in the best case, baby talk: sentences such as “he saw a robin,” or “I had a hat” are far from being representative of our language. Yet much of contemporary analytic philosophy is still devoted to this kind of analysis. The problem here is not only that by taking fragments of common language as a guide to the research there is a great risk of remaining trapped in the postiive acceptance and reification of single historical forms; it is also that these fragments represent such a limited part of our language that to take them as unique objects of enquiry cannot but be misleading for an understanding of what human language is about. (emphasis mine; citations removed)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Roland permalink
    February 28, 2009 10:20 pm

    Brilliant. They really are wankers, as I have always supected.

  2. March 1, 2009 8:23 am

    Reminds me why I could never have a scholarly or political discussion with my analytical philosopher mates without it ending in shouting and swearing. They really haven’t come far since the day when Hume sat around counting one white swan, two white swans, three white swans…

  3. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    March 1, 2009 11:17 am

    While I think Bottici is right about this criticism, I’ll admit that there are some philosophers who would probably consider themselves “analytic” that I do still like—Hilary Putnam and Ian Hacking for instance.

  4. Chiara Bottici permalink
    June 16, 2009 7:40 am

    thank you for your comments!
    In the quotation above, I just wanted to recover Marcuse’s insight on the impossibility to reduce our language to such fragments as ” the broom is in the corner”.
    Yet, I also like some philosophers who would probably consider themselves “analytic” (in 2003 I was writing an article on the collapse of the fact/value dichotomy that I have thrown away when I discovered Putnam’s book) and I even must confess that, to my great surprise, some people criticised my work as too analytical. So I came to believe that perhaps there might be some confusion about what today “analytic” means…

  5. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    June 16, 2009 9:01 am

    Hi Chiara! Yes, there’s no doubt people would probably fight to the death about what “analytic philosophy” is. And those guys like Putnam are much better than the “the cup is on the table” crowd!

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