Middle East Technical University, Ankara
Philosophy: The Server and The Patron of science
In the preface of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein
noted that the aim of his work is to set a limit to the expression of thoughts.
And the boundary between 'what can be said' and 'what cannot be said' can
only be drawn in language by stating clearly what can be said (1). Philosophy is
nothing but an investigation of the nature of proposition. Its main task
is to clarify thoughts from a logical point of view. Wittgenstein's
successors -although they diverge according to which Tractarian principles
they adopted- by and large admit the thesis that philosophy is
a critique of language. Aside from its great influence on the Vienna Circle,
Tractatus conferred analytic philosophy a linguistic orientation
that it did not have before.
Wittgenstein's picture theory of meaning, which constitutes the basis
of the logical positivist view that philosophy clarifies the meaning of
scientific statements, presupposes the analytic/synthetic distinction.
A proposition is
meaningful only if it is empirical and the one which can be inferred from
another but devoid of content is tautology. A sentence
which does not fall under one of these categories is nonsensical. Logical
positivists had firmly captured this doctrine. They asserted that the meaning
of a proposition is the method of its verification and there are necessary
propositions knowable a priori. These claims are, however, dogmas of empricism
for Quine. In Two Dogmas of Empiricism, he demonstrated that there
is no sentence which is true purely by virtue of its meaning and thus there
is no ground for the analytic/synthetic distinction. His rejection of analyticity
rests on the notion of indeterminacy of meaning. This notion, together
with his thesis of holism according to which a statement cannot be confirmed
if it is taken in isolation, suggests that " .... no statement is immune
to revision." (2)
On the basis of Quine's analysis, naturalists claim that philosophical
principles and methods should not differ from that of science. Philosophical
statements should be evaluated according to the rules and methods of empirical
sciences. Naturalism and Quine's theses have been criticized in many respects.
However, the controversial issue of the relationship of science and philosophy
still awaits a solution.
When we look at today's
philosophical landscape, we see that philosophy has a major division line
which separates analytic from the so-called continental philosophy. Each
one of these traditions has its own peculiar trends and approaches. The relationship of philosophy and science would not be clear without understanding the logic of this division. Is
there a unique conception of philosophy
shared by all its distinct trends or does each current of philosophy have
its own peculiar method and sense of philosophy? What is common among the
trends of each main tradition? These are the major questions to which we
shall try to find an answer in what follows.
Philosophers diverge in their attitude towards philosophy. Some presume that the divisions in philosophy exclude each other while others believe
that philosophy is primarily analytical. Dagfinn Follesdal (Dagfin Follesdal,
"Analytic Philosophy: What is It and Why should One Engage in It?" in H.
Glock, ed., The Rise ofanalytic Philosophy Oxford: Blackwell Publishers,
1997, p. 14), argues that analytic philosophy cannot be distinguished from
the other trends of philosophy on the basis of doctrines and problems that
it deals with or of its method of conceptual analysis. Argument and justification
are the fundamental traits of analytic approach and each philosophical
trend -whether it be phenomenology, existentialism or structuralism- is
more or less analytic according to the degree that it involves in argumentation
and justification. But Follesdal is in contradiction with himself unless
he specifíes the degree of involvement in argumentation and justification.
While he is propounding that argument and justification are distinguishing
characteristics of analytic philosophy, he is saying that every trend of
philosophy is indeed more or less analytic. This means that one cannot
distinguish analytic philosophy from other trends on the basis of argument
and justification because each current of philosophy, to an extent, has these
My thesis is that although there cannot be drawn a sharp boundary between
different trends of philosophy, it is divided into two main currents with
regard to its object and the way of treating that object, namely, analytic
and aesthetical philosophy. Even though there is no essential trait that
characterizes any one of these traditions, a family resemblance conception of general
qualifications of each one enables us to distinguish one from the other.
Contrary to Follesdal's claim, argument and justification are not two fundamentally
distinguishing characteristics of analytlc philosophy. Heidegger (Martin
Heidegger, Being and Time,New York: Harper and Row, Publishers,
1962, p. 128) provides a phenomenological justification for his concepts
of 'ready-to-hand' and 'present-at-hand' by arguing Descartes' conception of
the world. Similarly, Gadamer criticizes Wilhelm Dilthey's conception of human sciences as a ground for
his view of hermeneutics (Hans G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, Tubingen:
Mohr and Siebeck, 1975, p. 9).
(In fact, Follesdal writes that to an extent phenomenology
and hermeneutics have argumentative aspects but, as noted, in a
contradictory way.) Nor could any one of the other characteristics which
are, commonly, attributed to analytic philosophy, such as conceptual
analysis or ahistoricity by itself be sufficient to distinguish it from the other trends
of philosophy. Nevertheless, a distinction is plausible, as put above, on the basis of family resemblance conception of typical qualifications of analytic philosophy.
An important feature of
analytic philosophy is the subject/object or signifier/signified
distinction -the subject treats the object of study in a synchronic
relationship of present. Its main concern is directed upon 'what
can be said.' It concentrates on the empirical or factual via language.
In addition, it underscores
logical relations among propositions and accepts ordinary language as
given when analyzing its own particular problematic
concepts. A work of philosopher bears the stamp of analytic if it possesses
some of these qualifications.
Heidegger directed philosophers' attention to aesthetics by pointing
at the similarity between the
philosopher's and the poet's activity; poetic naming is an 'act of
establishing.' the existent 'shines out' or is 'known as existent'
when it is named. This emphasis on the cognitive rather than the hedonic
aspects of aesthetic experience becomes the leading
characteristic of the continental philosophy. The identification of ethics and aesthetics
as one and its transcendence have also been stated in Tractatus (L.Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.421). For
Wittgenstein aesthetics yields reasons and in doing so it does not differ from ethics
and philosophy. In G. E. Moore's words: "... he [Wittgenstein] said that the same sort
of 'reasons' were given, not only in Ethics, but also in Philosophy".(G.
E. Moore, "Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-33" in H. Osborne, ed., Aesthetics
London: Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 88)
The trends of philosophy which underline the
primacy of aesthetic experience more or less share the following
properties. The aesthetic
philosophy mainly concerns with the problem of the self; the subject and
the object of study are one and the same thing - the self's own experience.
It is historical and constructive. It creates new meanings by renaming
the entities of its own tradition. It is not interested in this or that
particular truth but the transcendental one. The ethical and aesthetical
coincides in this transcendence -the experience of that which is beyond
appearance. J. N. Findlay expresses that "what emerges from all I am saying
is the absoluteness of aesthetic values, but also their higher-order character;
they attach to things through features of cognition..."( J. N. Findlay,
"The Perspicuous and The Poignant: Two Aesthetic Fundamentals" in ibid.,
p. 104; G.E. Moore, "Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-33" in ibid., p. 87).
Because of this transcendence, of this absoluteness, the works of aesthetic philosophy do not
exclude each other; they take place side by side. Although one appears in the context of a critique of the other,
justification which presupposes agreement is not important in aesthetic
appeals to Wittgenstein:
... the fact that we go to see 'King Lear' by no means
proves that that experience is agreeable, that fact 'is about the least
important thing you can say about it.'(Moore, "Wittgenstein's
Lectures in 1930-33" in ibid., p. 87.)
A work of aesthetic philosophy defines its object of study as becoming
and thus escapes to give conclusive grounds for its claims; it enounces
its purpose as providing a better understanding of ourselves which is also
stated as the goal of a work of art (0 R. K. Elliot, "Aesthetic Theory
and The Experience of Art" in ibid., p. 157). The division of philosophy
as analytic and aesthetic clarifies its relation with science. Analytic
philosophy deals with the meaning of scientific statements but not only
for the sake of clarification. It guides and guards science when sientific
claims have complex implications that exceeds the boundaries of empirical
The issue of
reality of sub-atomic particles in physics, for instance, is disputed from
the point of view of the realist and instrumentalist approaches of
philosophy. In addition, analytic philosophy discloses the logical
relations among scientific statements
and tries to make them as much precise as possible.
It suggests criteria for assessment of scientific
assertions. This is not, however, a one-way relation. By its empirical
findings, science provides inputs for philosophical discussions which aim
at a deeper understanding of reality. Consider Quine's notion of 'stimulus
meaning.' It rests upon the 'stimulus' concept of psychology. And inasmuch
as philosophy employs findings of science as the basis of its
clarifications, its statements are not immune to revision. However, the
akinness of scientific and philosophical statements in terms of
revisability does not amount to the sameness of philosophy and science
with respect to their methods and objects of study. Anaytic philosophy
differs from science in that its primary
method is logico-linguistic analysis.
Aesthetic philosophy is not concerned with the
empirical findings of science in the sense mentioned above.
it is in relation with science in that it gives science its basic concepts
such as existential psychology and the critical theory of sociology. Heidegger
The transcendental 'generality' of the phenomenon of care
and of all fundamental existentialia is, on the other hand, broad enough
to present a basis on which every interpretation of Dasein which is ontical
and belongs to a world view must move... (Heidegger, Being and Time, p.
Like science, aesthetic philosophy is directly interested in experience;
unlike science, it is oriented towards the transcendental -not empirical- experience
and alludes that its claims have 'absolute universality.' And it aims
at a new synthesis with its distinct trends through a historico-critical
method. Thus, while aesthetic philosophy provides science the necessari
conceptual tool for its advancement, analytic philosophy mainly has a role
of removing difficulties confronted in science and endeavors to make its
procedures and statements precise.
(1) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, London:
Routledge, 1922, 4.115.
(2) Willard Van Orman Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" in T.M.Olshewsky, ed., Problems in
the Philsophy of language, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.,
1969, p. 414.