Often the task of analytic philosophy is to take statements in some potentially-problematic vocabulary and give them an explanation in terms of some preferred or unproblematic vocabulary. For example:

  • In a hypothetical society where only a hard scientific vocabulary were uncontroversial:
    • one would get pushback when making statements that refer to “feelings”,
    • but the concern could be addressed by explaining feelings in terms of brain chemistry.
  • If people in that society then became comfortable talking about feelings:
    • It would still be problematic to talk about “good” and “evil”,
    • but one might try to explain that calling something “evil” is when that thing makes the speaker feel bad.


From its own perspective, analytic philosophy was founded by Russell and Moore. It was rebelling against idealism, which culimated in Hegel and F. H. Bradley. (Kant was also thrown out of the anglophone canon, which moved from Leibniz -> J.S. Mill -> Frege, skipping the German idealists).

However, Rorty claims in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature that analytic philosophy is a neokantian enterprise because it attempts to situate formal logic and philosophy of language as “first philosophy”, as having a fundamental and ahistorical understanding of concepts / knowledge, such that it becomes the queen of the sciences.

Furthermore, analytic philosophy is methodologically Kantian due to its emphasis on understanding language semantically and the having knowledge epistemologically correspond to the two species of representation that Kant identified: 1.) sense experience and 2.) logically-elaborated, meaning-analytic reason-relations.


Brandom describes empiricism and naturalism as the two great programs of analytic philosophy.