This is a major, wide-ranging history of analytic philosophy since 1900, told by one of the tradition's leading contemporary figures. The first volume takes the story from 1900 to mid-century. The second brings the history up to date.
As Scott Soames tells it, the story of analytic philosophy is one of great but uneven progress, with leading thinkers making important advances toward solving the tradition's core problems. Though no broad philosophical position ever achieved lasting dominance, Soames argues that two methodological developments have, over time, remade the philosophical landscape. These are (1) analytic philosophers' hard-won success in understanding, and distinguishing the notions of logical truth, a priori truth, and necessary truth, and (2) gradual acceptance of the idea that philosophical speculation must be grounded in sound prephilosophical thought. Though Soames views this history in a positive light, he also illustrates the difficulties, false starts, and disappointments endured along the way. As he engages with the work of his predecessors and contemporaries--from Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein to Donald Davidson and Saul Kripke--he seeks to highlight their accomplishments while also pinpointing their shortcomings, especially where their perspectives were limited by an incomplete grasp of matters that have now become clear.
Soames himself has been at the center of some of the tradition's most important debates, and throughout writes with exceptional ease about its often complex ideas. His gift for clear exposition makes the history as accessible to advanced undergraduates as it will be important to scholars. Despite its centrality to philosophy in the English-speaking world, the analytic tradition in philosophy has had very few synthetic histories. This will be the benchmark against which all future accounts will be measured.
"I know of no sustained philosophical work that is as clear, deep, and incisive as these two volumes. There are several other excellent books on twentieth-century analytic philosophy, but Soames's is likely to become the standard. His ability to reconstruct arguments, to fill in inchoate arguments, and to detect what may have motivated or underlain some philosopher's position is amazing. . . . These are superb volumes by a superb philosopher."--A. P. Martinich, Journal of the History of Philosophy
"The writing and the organization are admirably clear and straightforward, exhibiting many of the virtues Soames claims for the tradition as a whole. . . . It is hard to imagine another work being produced which would deliver so much solid information on this dense and difficult subject matter in such easy form."--Charles T. Mathewes, Virginia Quarterly Review
"Because of its combination of sympathetic, illuminating exposition of the central doctrines and arguments of the analytic tradition and the hard-nosed critical evaluation to which they are subjected, this will surely be the standard history of analytic philosophy for many years to come."--Choice
Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century is a marvelous introduction to analytic philosophy. The two volumes unfold as a series of studies of some of the most important and influential philosophers in the analytic tradition. . . . It is a philosopher's history of analytic philosophy, with a careful and critical assessment of ideas about truth, morality, logic, mind, and meaning."--Alex Byrne and Ned Hall, Boston Review
"A history of analytic philosophy and an excellent piece of analytic philosophy in its own right. We can all benefit from Soames's discussion of the central issues that have shaped the subject and his assessment of what we have achieved and where we might have gone wrong."--Kit Fine, New York University
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Scott Soames: