Thursday, February 16, 2006

Question On The Rigour Of Analytic And Humanistic Philosophy

Thinking about responding to Mr Pender’s recent post – ‘On allegory and meaning’ – I considered the use of allegory and analogy (I’ll agree that, as techniques, they have their place, though I often wonder if they are used when other techniques may conveyed their message more precisely [which seems to imply that I think less of them than other techniques, though I can think of no legitimate basis for this position]).

This set me wondering on a different question; why is it that ‘analytic’ philosophy is considered more rigorous? Perhaps this perception is purely subjective (it was part of my initial response to Mr Pender), but their seems to be a general view that analytic philosophy is more intellectually rigorous in its arguments and presentations than ‘humanistic’ (or Continental, if you will) philosophy. Is there that much of distinction – in terms of rigour – between high calibre works in either tradition? Or is it simply a bias on the part of the anglophile/Anglophone analytic tradition?

4 comments:

Pete said...

This is no doubt, a much clearer rendering of the problem at hand (well done MH).

My initial response here is to say that while analytic philosophy can and does, clearly justify each step taken in any given argument, continental philosophy can be seen as not always doing so and hence is less rigourous. Example: Some of the steps taken in arguments by existentialists seem to be based on little more than metaphor with poor justifications for the choice of the particular metaphor in use.

BUT....it also strikes me that when one makes the effort to look, it doesn't take too long before one can find examples from the analytic tradition that are also miserable failures in such terms. The immediate example that comes to mind is A.J. Ayer's comments in 'Language, Truth and Logic', where he dismisses all metaphysics as nothing more than witchcraft.

Hence at this stage I'd have to side with the idea that this notion of rigour is simply a bias of the analytic tradition.

michael said...

1669 STURMY Mariner's Mag. Summary N2b, Not to take the just rigour of the Law of England,..but take reasonable satisfaction. (from the OED)

Possibly this division could be applied to the analytical and continental schools? I do think there is a difference in the manner in which the two schools argue that is chiefly based on the amount of storytelling in the style. And it seems to me that stories imply a demand only for 'reasonable satisfaction', while austere logic demands 'the just rigour of the Law'.

Thus I claim that rigour is not simply a bias, but is the result of a different aim.

michael said...

Do I take it, from the lack of response, that people either don't know or don't care to what degree of convincment they are trying for?

T. Scrivener said...

One cannot prove that analytic philosophy is more "tight" in the abstract, you actually have to read it. Hence debating which style has more rigour is a waste of time.

As to A.J Ayers comment, he uses that metaphor but spends much of the book provided a principled justification for it, there's the difference.