Analytical Philosophy - History, Philosophy and Methodology of Natural Sciences

Analytical Philosophy

In the XX century. The star of analytical philosophy rose brightly on the philosophical sky. Scientifically, it became a reaction to the paradoxes of set theory, which jeopardized the future not only of mathematics, but also of physics. As a savior from paradoxes, logic was chosen that was supposed to provide a consistent understanding of any language. Analytics was understood, first of all, as a logical analysis of the language.

The founders of the new philosophy were J. Moore, G. Frege, B. Russell and L. Wittgenstein. None of them gravitated toward physics. It seemed that the initiative had finally passed to logic. But when they attempted to build an analytical philosophy in a systematic way - and the best of all succeeded Wittgenstein - they remembered about physics. According to Wittgenstein, language describes physical facts, logic expresses the common features of facts and language. About physics, it was not accidental. Science describes the facts, and they are asked in the most clear form, they say, it is physics. A sample of clear philosophizing was asked. We had to check its potential. In this connection, in the 1930s, the Gt. the neo-positivists, representatives of the third wave of positivism, the Germans R. Carnap and G. Reichenbach distinguished themselves with their philosophical talent more than others. It is significant that both paid close attention to the philosophy of physics. As a philosopher of physics, G. Reichenbach became particularly famous. He managed to create significant works. He substantively considered the conceptual structure of the special and general theory of relativity, as well as quantum mechanics. He paid particular attention to the concepts of space, time, causality and probability. His neopositivistic draft of the philosophy of physics included the following provisions:

1) all the conclusions of the physical theory, in the final analysis, are verified experimentally (the principle of verification);

2) in the physical theory there are provisions that are themselves unverifiable: they are, for example, mathematical propositions, conditional definitions of the measurement scales; in the same physical theory they are in coordination with the results of the measurement, and therefore they are verified;

3) physical theory describes physical reality (the principle of reality);

4) physics gives decisive importance to the processes of causing;

5) careful physical analysis excludes conventionalism.

Of course, Reichenbach, who died early in life (1953), had to be satisfied with the level of physics he had found. So, in quantum mechanics, he thoughtfully considered only two interpretations, Copenhagen and logic (the logical preparation affected). The main minus of his works to the author is seen in insufficient attention to the development of physical knowledge and to its pluralism. Contrary to his opinion, these experiments do not allow avoiding pluralism. Be that as it may, thanks to Reichenbach, the neo-positivist project of the philosophy of physics sounded loud and expressive.

Neo-positivism was brought to the United States, to a country of philosophical pragmatism, once invented by C. Pearce, W. Jace and J. Dewey, Europeans. There was no pragmatism in neo-positivism. Naturally, he was waiting for a pragmatic criticism. The most authoritative herald was W. Quine. Let's list the main provisions of his neo-pragmatic analytical philosophy, contrasting them with neo-positivist positions and noting the degree of their relevance:

1. Quine denies the first philosophy, speculative philosophy. But neopositivists also arrive.

2. The most indisputable reason for philosophizing is the behavior of people (and not physical reality, as neopositivists thought.) This is more true for axiological sciences than for physics. According to the author, the basis of philosophizing is the scientific theory, the stability of which attaches to the coordination of all the conceptual transitions to which they are involved. Already within the framework of the theory, the nature of both physical objects and forms of human behavior is determined. Quine correctly noted that the objects were originally theoretical, i.e. appear in the theory.

3. The reference is impossible (that is, it can not be considered like neopositivists, that physics describes physical reality.) From the author's point of view, Quine understands the reference, i.e. the correlation of some objects with their notation, is simplified. In the structure of any theory it is possible to isolate its object and language level, establishing a correspondence between them and understanding this correspondence as a reference.

4. The thesis of the non-determinism of the translation, according to which it is impossible to relate various translations to the content common to them, for it does not exist. In fact, Quine declares himself a supporter of pluralism. According to the author, it takes place because of the problem nature of any knowledge.

5. The whole of modern science is a single whole, in which, in principle, it is impossible to distinguish separate parts (for example, mathematics, logic, physics.) Quinsky holism, i.e. the absolutization of the whole, contradicts the state of modern science, in which the different areas of knowledge are quite successfully distinguished.

In the opinion of the author, in every possible way conjuring a speculative philosophy, Quine himself did not escape it. This is the lot of all philosophers who do not follow the meta-scientific approach. As a result, they certainly precede their philosophizing with speculative assumptions. To avoid this fate, neither neopositivists nor non-pragmatic analysts like Quine were able to do so.

Quine was primarily a logician. By virtue of this, he could not realize his project in relation to physics. As far as the author is aware, in its entirety, none of the philosophers of physics realized the Quine project. Nevertheless, many American authors vigorously proclaim their pragmatic orientation. In particular, this makes such an authoritative author as P. Suppes.

He notes that pragmatism offered a fundamentally new and extremely relevant understanding of the foundations of physics. In this regard, Suppes leads three arguments, which he regards as decisive.

First, both theorists and experimenters avoid all fundamentalism, in particular mathematical or epistemological sense. The Supreme Court recognizes the experiment. Secondly, in physics, the emphasis is on practice. Thirdly, there is a fundamental agreement between physicists on a wide range of issues, which means that there are no club interests in physics. He completes the three decisive arguments by singling out 11 features of the physical experiment, which he regards as a typically pragmatic search activity, saturated with problematic aspects and elaboration of new goals.

According to the author, the arguments of Suppes are not convincing in everything. He does not sufficiently take into account the specifics of different types of sciences. Pragmatism, in the person of its founding fathers, proclaimed an orientation toward practical matters. Say, every scientist seeks to achieve certain goals and, therefore, is a pragmatist. But what exactly are the goals pursued by scientists? Really different. The physicist, in the final analysis, seeks to explain the nature, the objects of which do not have value orientations and, therefore, do not set themselves any goals. This alone is enough to not assert the undivided dominance of pragmatism in physics. On the other hand, the activity of a physicist is really goal-oriented. Its main goal is the improvement of physical theories.


1. Within the framework of analytical philosophy two projects of understanding the essence of physics are developed, neopositivistic and non-pragmatic. They both deserve attention.

2. The neopositivists emphasize experiment and induction. They underestimate deduction and abduction.

3. Neoprammatics do not sufficiently take into account the difference between physics as a natural science discipline and axiological sciences.

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