This project, funded by the Irish Research Council Senior Research Fellowship (2002-2003) provides a critical assessment of twentieth-century philosophy both in terms of its accomplishments and the problems it bequeaths to our current twenty-first century. In a number of recent publications, and focusing particularly on the theme of intentionality and the philosophy of mind, I have been emphasizing aspects of the contacts and continuities between the two major intellectual traditions or ‘styles’ of the last century, namely, analytic and Continental philosophy. These traditions are widely held to have developed separately, with opposing aspirations and methodologies, and, indeed, to be fundamentally hostile to one another. However, more careful scrutiny actually shows that these traditions emerge from common sources in nineteenth-century philosophy and address many of the same problematics, albeit with different emphases and modes of approach. I believe that, as the century begins to come into historical focus, it will be shown that the commonalities between the traditions are more significant that their opposition.
It is not widely recognised that the two most prominent twentieth-century movements, namely, analytic philosophy and phenomenology, both have their origins in a set of interrelated concerns, namely: the status of logic as a science (and its relation to mathematics); the nature and extent of the new science of psychology; and the challenge of naturalism to the traditional philosophical enterprise. These problematics are interrelated: John Stuart Mill and other prominent philosophers in the nineteenth century had explained logic in terms of psychology (so called ‘psychologism’). Frege and Husserl both rejected the explanation of logic in terms of psychology and strove to defend the independence of logical truths, although they parted company in terms of their evaluation of the form of the proposition and the role of mathematical formalisation in logic. Both Husserl and the Neo-Kantians were opposed to naturalism, and recent anti-naturalists have invoked many of the same arguments.
Very soon, problems with Gottlob Frege’s logicist project gave rise to the logical analysis of Bertrand Russell and the early Wittgenstein. Problems concerning the interrelation of logical concepts and their linguistic expression became central to the philosophies of Russell, the Vienna Circle and Wittgenstein. The so-called ‘linguistic turn’ in analytic philosophy also is paralleled in Continental philosophy, as Husserl’s focus on the life of consciousness gave way to the concern with language and interpretation found in the work of Heidegger, Gadamer, Derrida, and others. Phenomenology gave rise to hermeneutics and ultimately to deconstruction. In analytic philosophy, the confidence of the ordinary language philosophers was gradually eroded by recognition of the problems associated with radical translation, etc. I propose to track these themes as they develop and intersect across the twentieth century.
This project involves researching and writing a number of studies showing continuities between the work on analytic and Continental philosophers, e.g. in the area of intentionality (Brentano, Husserl, Chisholm, Dennett and Searle), and in the study of consciousness generally. Obviously, a key component of this research will be contact and collaboration with colleagues in the UK, Europe and the US.
As Principal Investigator I plan to bring together the results of my research in a series of articles, but one major result of this project will be a new book on twentieth-century philosophy, in collaboration with a team of international experts. This book was published by Routledge as The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy (2008).