Philosophical Revolutions: About


The early twentieth century witnessed the birth of three new philosophical schools: Analytic Philosophy, Phenomenology and Pragmatism. Continuing to codify distinct intellectual discourses, writing styles and methodologies, these schools still determine the intellectual landscape of contemporary academic philosophy. (1) The Analytic School was born out of a rejection of the then dominant German Idealist and Neo-Kantian approaches. Its founders, Gottlob Frege in Germany and Bertrand Russell in the UK, followed by the peripatetic Ludwig Wittgenstein, revolutionised philosophical methodology by introducing into philosophical discourse the formal vocabulary of mathematical logic and by insisting on the essential continuities between philosophy and the natural sciences. (2) Meanwhile, a second contemporaneous revolution was taking shape. Edmund Husserl, followed by his student Martin Heidegger, attempted to shift philosophical discourse away from both the idealist emphasis on mere ideas and the purportedly objective discourse of science towards the phenomenological experiences of the mind. The history of philosophy in the twentieth century has often been written as an account of the differences between the Analytic and Phenomenological approaches and their overt or covert mutual hostility. (3) What is often left out of this telling is the relationship between these two European philosophical revolutions with a third momentous philosophical event: the birth of Pragmatism, the indigenous philosophical revolution of the United States. Pragmatism possesses a distinct intellectual temperament that seems to lie equidistant between the analytic respect for the sciences and the phenomenological emphasis on lived experience. Managing to sustain a productive dialogue with Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology, Pragmatism as a disciplinary formation might helpfully be positioned between these European schools.



The present project will thus examine the central role of Pragmatism in the formation and development of Analytic philosophy and Phenomenology. The years 1895-1935 are taken as seminal. Providing a detailed historical and theoretical analysis, a primary focus is the mutual influence as well as antagonism between key figures of each tradition – Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Edmund Husserl and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Specifically, emphasis will be placed on: (1) the relationship between James and Husserl (2) the Cambridge reception of pragmatism (Russell and Moore’s reception understood as more critical than Wittgenstein’s) and (3) the relationship between pragmatism and logical positivism. Without negating the important differences between these figures, one central aim is to highlight and assess their productive interactions. As our project surveys a complex intellectual territory, this focus on individual figure and relationship will usefully change the terms of the debate. Sweeping historical narrative will be informed by close textual and biographical analysis. Our working hypothesis is that a detailed analysis of this intellectually momentous triangulation will reveal the history of twentieth century philosophy as much more than a simple narrative of antagonism between scientistic and humanistic intellectual orientations. Rather, a rich tapestry of mutual influence and shared assumption is to be discovered







The American Voice in Philosophy project is supported by:

  • The IRCHSS (“New Ideas” Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences)
  • UCD School of Philosophy
  • The International Journal of Philosophical Studies
  • UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies.
  • Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy
  • UCD Seed Funding

Principal Investigators

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