Histories of analytic philosophy in the United States have typically focused on the reception of logical positivism, and especially on responses to the work of the Vienna Circle. Such accounts often call attention to the purportedly positivist-inspired marginalization of normative concerns in American philosophy: according to this story, the overweening positivist concern for logic and physics as paradigms of knowledge displaced questions of value and social relations. This article argues that the reception framework encourages us to mistake the real sources of the analytic revolution in post-war philosophy. These are to be found in debates about intentional action and practical reasoning – debates in which ‘normative’ questions of value and social action were in fact central. Discussion of these topics took place within a transatlantic community of Wittgensteinians, ordinary languages philosophers, logical empiricists, and decision theorists. These different strands of ‘analytical’ thinking were bound together into a new philosophical mainstream not by a positivist alliance with logic and physics, but by the rapid development of the mathematical and behavioural sciences during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath. An illustrative application of this new framework for interpreting the analytic revolution is found in the early career and writings of Donald Davidson.
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