Analytic philosophy is difficult to define it is not so much a specific doctrine as a loose concatenation of approaches to problems. As well as having strong ties to scientism - the notion that only the methods of the natural sciences give rise to knowledge it also has humanistic ties to the great thinkers and philosophical problems of the past. Moreover, no single feature characterizes the activities of analytic philosophers. Undaunted by these difficulties, Avrum Stroll investigates the "family resemblances" between that impressive breed of thinkers known as analytic philosophers. In so doing, he grapples with the point and purpose of doing philosophy: What is philosophy? What are its tasks? What kind of information, illumination, and understanding is it supposed to provide if it is not one of the natural sciences? Imbued with clarity, liveliness, and philosophical sophistication, Stroll's book presents a synoptic picture of the main developments in logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics in the past century. It does this by concentrating on the individual thinkers whose ideas have been most influential. Major themes in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy include:
* the innovation of mathematical logic by Gottlob Frege at the close of the nineteenth century and its independent development by Bertrand Russell;
* the impact of advancements in science on the world of philosophy and its importance for understanding such doctrines as logical positivism, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and eliminative materialism;
* the refusal by such thinkers as Wittgenstein, Moore, and Austin to treat logic as an ideal language superior to natural languages; and
* a conjecture about which, if any, of the philosophers discussed in the book will enter the pantheon of philosophical gods.
Along the way, Stroll also examines the theories of Rudolf Carnap, W.V.O. Quine, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, Hilary Putnam, Saul Kripke, John Searle, Ruth Marcus, Patricia and Paul Churchland.