American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century

In Dermot Moran (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 204 (2008)
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This selective overview of the history of American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century begins with certain enduring themes that were developed by the two main founders of classical American pragmatism, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839--1914) and William James. Against the background of the pervasive influence of Kantian and Hegelian idealism in America in the decades surrounding the turn of the century, pragmatism and related philosophical outlooks emphasizing naturalism and realism were dominant during the first three decades of the century. Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, however, the middle third of the century witnessed the rising influence in America of what would become known as “‘analytic philosophy’,” with its primary roots in Europe: in the Cambridge philosophical analysis of Moore, Russell, and Wittgenstein; logical empiricism and positivism on the continent; and linguistic analysis and ordinary- language philosophy at Oxford. This overview stresses the persistence of pragmatist themes throughout much of the century, while emphasizing the mid-century transformations that resulted from developments primarily in analytic philosophy. These combined influences resulted at the turn of the millennium in the flourishing, among other developments, of distinctively analytic styles of pragmatism and naturalism.

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James O'Shea
University College Dublin


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