Phenomenology Pragmatism analytic Philosophy

Edmund Husserl, at the turn of our century, set himself the goal of establishing a rigorous science, that is a body of knowledge that is not based on any presuppositions. The slogan of his phenomenology is, “back to the things themselves,” by which he means back to what we are really given in experience, to the “phenomena” as he calls them. The task is to intuit clearly these phenomena and then to describe what we have seen in words. This task, as Descartes long since pointed out, is a thoroughly individual one: I cannot tell you what you experience, you must look for yourselves. The ultimate meaning of redness, for instance, is based on the experience of redness, and in the case of a person born blind, no teaching, no language could ever replace this direct intuition. Words, in phenomenology, are always secondary to intuition; they can be used to point our intuition in the right direction, or to tell us when we are looking at the wrong phenomenon, but they can never replace the need to look for ourselves. Husserl is, he claims, the real empiricist.

But the task of describing the given is complicated by the fact that we have inherited many philosophical dogmas which obscure our clear intuition of our experience. We therefore need to purify our inspections by means of “reductions,” that is, the suspension of any beliefs other than those we can justify from our experience. General concepts, physical objects, the world itself must not be just assumed; we must suspend belief in them until we can justify them on the basis of our experience.

This is the method we must follow in our study of the nature of time: suspend all speculative dogmas about the nature of time and our experience of it, then intuit the phenomenon itself, and finally describe what we intuit in words.

First we need to suspend philosophical interpretations of time: time as cyclic or linear; time as maya or illusion, time as emanation from the One.

Secondly, we must suspend scientific theories of time. Many assume that time is what is measured by clocks, that it goes on objectively at the same rate whether observed or not. Newton thought of time as an absolute quantity, a measurable attribute of God’s sensorium. Einstein says that time is a fourth dimension, mathematically similar to the other three, but relative in its quantity to the velocity of observers. Hawkins says that time starts with the big bang and was hugely accelerated during the first seconds of the universe. The phenomenologist, without denying any of these theories of cosmic, external or objective time, suspends belief in them in order to be able to achieve a pure description of how time is actually given to us in our experience

Descartes presents his cogito as a momentary experience valid only for the instant. Every moment of conscious life is an isolated, separate event, unrelated to the past and the future except by the creative power of God. Nothing in the present state of our consciousness intimates anything about the future, even that there is one. The world is created anew every moment by divine miracle.

For a lifespan can be divided into countless parts, each completely independent of the others, so that it does not follow from the fact that I existed a little while ago that I must exist now .For it is quite clear to anyone who attentively considers the nature of time that the same power and action are needed to preserve anything at each individual moment of its duration as would be required to create that thing anew if it were not yet in existence.

WE shall start by describing the experience of understanding a spoken sentence: “the cat is on the mat.” If we accepted the punctual dogma, then we have a dilemma. If we can hear only one word at a time, the sentence is incomprehensible. On the other hand, if, when we get to the last word, “mat,” we recollect all the previous words simultaneously. If we just have a jumble, we can make no sense of. Presumably if we recollect all the words at the end, we would have to run over them again in their temporal order to makes sense of them.

All these past words, however, are not given as homogeneously past, for then they would be just a senseless jumble. They maintain the order in which they were originally given. That is, when we get to “mat,” “the” is present as the immediate past which is sinking away, and “on” is present to us as the word which was the immediate past when “the” was the current word, and so on. The past remains present without becoming actually current.

A similar structure can be discovered if we describe the experience of a melody. Each note in a melody has a musical quality which depends on the place of the note in a sequence of notes. We do not hear a note as an objective frequency but as the musical quality that fits in at that point in the melody. Indeed moving the whole tune up an octave does not change the experience of the melody, although the objective frequency of every note is changed. Each note is heard in the context of the previous (and anticipated) notes. That is, the previous notes are still present to consciousness when we hear the current note, otherwise it wouldn’t be this note with this musical quality in this tune.


  • Charles S. Peirce (American -1839 – 1914)
  • Article “How to make our ideas clear”
  • Clarification of the meaning  of our ideas and conceptions .

” Pragmatism is a method of reflection having for its purpose to render ideas clear” It is not even a thing of truth, but merely a technic for ascertaining the meaning of conceptions.

Meaning of ideas are constituted by their conceived or anticipated effects.

Theory of Signs: Semiotics – four factors

  • 1. The sign itself : Example – the word’ Triangle’
  • 2. The object of the sign: Triangle as a designated object
  • 3. The interpretant of the sign: Explanation of the sign. Example- Triangle as a three sided plain figure
  • 4. The Mind: The interpreter who uses and interprets the signs

His theory of signs underlines his theory of cognition.

Correspondanc  theory of Truth
A proposition is true in so far as there is correspondance between the proposition considered as as sign  and the object to which the proposition refers.

Pursuit of truth is one of progressive approximation of to an ideal truth – an ideal which is never perfectly realized. Absolute or intuitive truth is unattainable.

” There are three things which we can never hope to attain, namely absolute certainty, absolute exactitude, absolute universality. “

Everything is knowable, though it is impossible to know every thing.AS knowledge progresses, we come to know more and more with ever increasing exactitude, though we can never know anything with absolute ceretaintity.

William James( 1842 –  1910)
Pragmatism is a test of the meaningfulness of our concepts and propositions Pragmatism is not only a theory of meaning, but likewise a theory of truth. It deals with the practical utility of ideas.

 Analytic philosophy

Analysis has always been at the heart of philosophical method, but it has been understood and practised in many different ways. Perhaps, in its broadest sense, it might be defined as a process of isolating or working back to what is more fundamental by means of which something, initially taken as given, can be explained or reconstructed. The explanation or reconstruction is often then exhibited in a corresponding process of synthesis. This allows great variation in specific method, however. T

If asked what ‘analysis’ means, most people today immediately think of breaking something down into its components; and this is how analysis tends to be officially characterized. In the Concise Oxford Dictionary, for example, ‘analysis’ is defined as the “resolution into simpler elements by analysing (opp. synthesis)”, the only other uses mentioned being the mathematical and the psychological  And in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, ‘analysis’ is defined as “the process of breaking a concept down into more simple parts, so that its logical structure is displayed”

The term “Analytic Philosophy” was applied during the twentieth century to the dominant philosophical tradition in English speaking academia, and has been applied retrospectively to the philosophical tradition stretching back through millenia before it.

There is more than one story about its origins. Frege, Russell and Moore are often credited, one recent account centering around Russell may be found in . Dummet gives a completely different story, not claiming to be exhaustive, in his book on origins of analytic philosophy. The  two quite different kinds of development in philosophy occurred at the beginning of this century.

The first was a considerable advance in our understanding of logic, which makes it possible to settle conclusively most disputes about the validity of deductive arguments. This coincides with the introduction of formal notations into logic, and therefore with a partial separation of logic from the language of ordinary discourse.

The second was an important change of attitude toward language. The hitherto widespread (if covert) practice of inferring prescriptions about usage in the course of philosophical deliberation was deprecated. It was displaced by the view that language is a settled institution, facts about which are part of the tools of a philosopher, and which can and should be used to refute any philosophical theory which cannot be adequately expressed without some nicer distinction than can be put without linguistic innovation.

The opportunities presented by developments in our undertanding of logic contributed to logical atomism and were consistent with logical positivism, but have been largely cast aside by the wave of philosophy which has remained firmly embedded in natural languages, largely untouched by formal technique, and oblivious to fatal defects in its methods.

Analytic philosophy emerged from, or at least, in the same period as, the revolution in logic which took place around the end of the 19th Century. Since that time philosophers have had available to them the techniques which would enable them, if deductive reasoning were their model, to place their discipline on a firm and certain foundation.

What characterizes analytic philosophy as it was founded by Frege and Russell is the role played by logical analysis, which depended on the development of modern logic. Although other and subsequent forms of analysis, such as linguistic analysis, were less wedded to systems of formal logic, the central insight motivating logical analysis remained.

What was crucial in the emergence of twentieth-century analytic philosophy, however, was the development of quantificational theory, which provided a far more powerful interpretive system than anything that had hitherto been available. In the case of Frege and Russell, the system into which statements were ‘translated’ was predicate logic, and the divergence that was thereby opened up between grammatical and logical form meant that the process of translation itself became an issue of philosophical concern. This induced greater self-consciousness about our use of language and its potential to mislead us, and inevitably raised semantic, epistemological and metaphysical questions about the relationships between language, logic, thought and reality which have been at the core of analytic philosophy ever since

The school of analytic philosophy has dominated academic philosophy in various regions, most notably Great Britain and the United States, since the early twentieth century. It originated around the turn of the twentieth century as G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell broke away from what was then the dominant school in the British universities, Absolute Idealism

Analytic philosophy (sometimes, analytical philosophy) is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century. In the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand the overwhelming majority of university philosophy departments self-identify as “analytic” departments.

Insofar as broad generalizations can be made, analytic philosophy is defined by its emphasis on clarity and argument, often achieved via modern formal logic and analysis of language, and a respect for the natural sciences.

The historical roots of analytic philosophy can be summarily characterised in three broad strokes:

1.Frst, the positivist view that there are no specifically philosophical truths and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. This contrasts with the traditional foundationalism, deriving from Aristotle, that views philosophy as a special sort of science, the highest one, which investigates the fundamental reasons and principles of everything. As a result, analytic philosophers have often considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences.

2.Second, the view that the logical clarification of thoughts can only be achieved by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions. The logical form of a proposition is a way of representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a logical system) to display its similarity with all other propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.

3. Third, a rejection of sweeping philosophical systems in favour of close attention to detail. Among some (but by no means all) analytic philosophers, this rejection of “grand theory” has taken the form of a defence of common sense and ordinary language against the pretensions of metaphysicians.

When Moore and Russell articulated their alternative to Idealism, they used a linguistic idiom, frequently basing their arguments on the “meanings” of terms and propositions. Additionally, Russell believed that the grammar of natural language often is philosophically misleading, and that the way to dispel the illusion is to re-express propositions in the ideal formal language of symbolic logic, thereby revealing their true logical form. Because of this emphasis on language, analytic philosophy was widely, though perhaps mistakenly, taken to involve a turn toward language as the subject matter of philosophy, and it was taken to involve an accompanying methodological turn toward linguistic analysis. Thus, on the traditional view, analytic philosophy was born in this linguistic turn. The linguistic conception of philosophy was rightly seen as novel in the history of philosophy. For this reason analytic philosophy is reputed to have originated in a philosophical revolution on the grand scale—not merely in a revolt against British Idealism, but against traditional philosophy on the whole.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.