Analytical Philosophy: History, Representatives and Main Characteristics

The analytical philosophy it is based on the use of conceptual analysis of language through formal logic. Its creators were Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and others, and argued that many problems of the philosophy of that time could be solved through the rigorous and systematic reflection of the application of concepts and the use of language.

The analytical philosophy arises at the end of the XIX century and at the beginning of the XX century. He underwent some changes with the passage of time, and during the mid-twentieth century is shown as an answer to the need to establish clear and critical arguments, focusing on the details used to establish concepts and statements.

Analytical philosophy Bertrand Russell, one of the representatives of the analytical philosophy

This philosophy had its maximum reception in the Anglo-Saxon world, especially in countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, although it also took shape in the hands of some Scandinavian philosophers, and even in Germany and Austria.

Currently, analytical philosophy has merged with other philosophical branches, leading to its limits are not as clear as in its beginnings, so it is more difficult to try to define the current conceptual analysis without arguing or contradicting the original characteristics of this current.


  • 1 History
  • 2 Main characteristics
  • 3 The importance of checking
  • 4 The 4 main representatives of analytical philosophy
    • 4.1 1- Gottlob Frege
    • 4.2 2- Bertrand Russell
    • 4.3 3- Alfred North Whitehead
    • 4.4 4- Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • 5 References


Analytical philosophy, also known as conceptual analysis, begins to take shape when the nineteenth century is about to end.

This is because the natural sciences (biology, physics, chemistry) had advanced in such a concrete and safe way that many of the contemporary philosophers felt some displacement before which they wanted to respond shrewdly.

The main themes of philosophy-mind, language, the world, the ego-were slowly losing their reputation, as many demanded from the philosophers demonstrations of objectivity and truth in the arguments they proposed.

The representatives of philosophy decided then that, because the truths in philosophy could not be justified empirically or naturally, the creation of a priori conceptual analysis would allow them to eliminate the need for justification before the natural sciences.

This philosophical current takes shape when Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead generate, from the mathematical and logical advances of the German Gottlob Frege, what is known as Frege's logicism.

With this they determined what would be the beginning of a more rigorous and logical approach towards the establishment of arguments, theories and truths.

With the passing of the century other analytical philosophers appeared, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap and many of the members of the Vienna Circle, who built their own sub-currents of this new way of philosophizing.

Each substream always emphasized the use of an analytical method that could result in a priori concepts, necessary and, therefore, irrefutable.

Main characteristics

Due to the theoretical differences between the representatives of the analytical philosophy, it is impossible to establish absolute characteristics that define it.

However, the most important aspects of this philosophical current are the following:

- The importance of the study of language and the conceptualization of theories and arguments. Depending on the time, this rigorous study was focused on both formal logic and ordinary language.

- Its approach to the type of scientific research used in the natural sciences. He tried to get closer to physics and biology than to his ontological aspects. According to its most well-known representatives, these ontological aspects were impossible to verify and, therefore, lacked importance.

- The distancing from the metaphysical and ontological tradition. Evident in subcurrents as logical positivism, which established that many of the most common problems in philosophy, such as metaphysical statements, were impossible to dissect analytically, so they were not treated in analytic philosophy.

- Its connection with logical empiricism, which held that the scientific method provides the only valid form of knowledge.

- His opposition to philosophical currents that were considered traditional, such as continental and oriental philosophy. In a philosophy with as much scientific influence as this there was no place for phenomenology or idealism.

The importance of checking

The analytical philosophy established very clearly his desire to get closer to the methods of testing the natural sciences in an attempt not to be devalued or ignored.

In a world where empiricism and scientific research was rapidly increasing its territory, the unprovable ideas of ontology and metaphysics must be eliminated.

In this way, analytical philosophy could then establish conceptualizations and arguments that could not be refuted from the scientific point of view.

For this, the conceptual analysis established logical empiricism and a priori knowledge as the main bases of this current, with the intention that its validity would be more solid.

The 4 main representatives of analytical philosophy

1- Gottlob Frege

Known as the father of analytical philosophy, this German brought important advances to the intellectual community, such as the need for a more rigorous and specific approach in the philosophical field.

He worked extensively in the field of mathematics and logic, and developed the semantic and logical conceptualization of important notions.

2- Bertrand Russell

This English philosopher founded analytic philosophy from the works of Frege, after rebelling against the idealism that reigned within philosophy. Russell tried to eliminate philosophical assumptions that lacked verification, such as those concerning metaphysics.

Russell proposed creating a hierarchical language that would help eliminate self-reference, since only then could this be valid.

He was in favor of the idea that the world gives all meaning to language, and elaborated the theory of logical atomism.

3- Alfred North Whitehead

English philosopher and mathematician, creator of Frege's Logicism with Russell. He tried to show that mathematics can be reduced to fundamental logical principles. He was a teacher and, later, a great friend and colleague of Russell.

4- Ludwig Wittgenstein

He was a pupil of Russell. The Austrian Wittgenstein focused more on the creation of the ideal language, one that did not present the ambiguities that are so easily found in ordinary language.

Later, he established logical positivism or neopostivism, with which he supported the idea that mathematics and logic were tautologies while science could be verified empirically.


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