Analytic and Linguistic Philosophy

Analytic and Linguistic Philosophy, 20th-century philosophical movement, dominant in Great Britain and the United States since World War II (1939-1945), that aims to clarify language and analyze the concepts expressed in it. Although no specific doctrines or tenets are accepted by the movement as a whole, analytic and linguistic philosophers agree that the proper activity of philosophy is clarifying language or concepts. The aim of this activity is to settle philosophical disputes and problems, which, it is argued, originate in linguistic confusion.
Some analytic and linguistic philosophers are primarily concerned with clarifying the meaning of specific words or phrases as an essential step in making philosophical assertions clear and unambiguous. Others are more concerned with establishing a criterion that will distinguish between meaningful and nonsensical sentences. Still others are interested in creating formal, symbolic languages that are mathematical in nature. Many philosophers associated with the movement also focus on the analysis of ordinary, or natural, language as the key to resolving philosophical puzzles.
English philosophers G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell were the founders of contemporary analytic and linguistic philosophy. For Moore, philosophy was first and foremost analysis. The philosophical task involved clarifying puzzling propositions or concepts. Russell, strongly influenced by the precision of mathematics, was concerned with developing an ideal logical language.
Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein became a central figure in the movement with his first major work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921). The world, he argued, is ultimately composed of simple facts. To be meaningful, statements about the world must be reducible to linguistic utterances that have a structure similar to the simple facts pictured.
A group of philosophers and mathematicians in Vienna, Austria, in the 1920s initiated the movement known as logical positivism. According to the positivists, the task of philosophy is the clarification of meaning, not the discovery of new facts or the construction of comprehensive accounts of reality. The positivists divided all meaningful assertions into analytic propositions, which include the propositions of logic and mathematics, and empirically verifiable statements, which include all statements about the world that can be verified, in principle, by sense experience.
Wittgenstein later repudiated many of his earlier conclusions and initiated a new line of thought, arguing that once attention is directed to the way language is actually used in ordinary discourse, the variety and flexibility of language become clear. Propositions do much more than simply picture facts. This recognition led to the concept of language games. As part of this concept, the meaning of a proposition must be understood in its context- that is, in terms of the rules of the language game of which that proposition is a part.
The commitment to language analysis as a way of pursuing philosophy has continued as a significant contemporary dimension in philosophy, with numerous schools of thought. The view continues to be widely held that attention to the logical structure of language and to how language is used in everyday discourse can often aid in resolving philosophical problems.