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theory of intellect

n spirit, style, and focus, analytic philosophy has strong ties to the tradition of empiricism, which has characterized philosophy in Britain for some centuries, distinguishing it from the rationalism of Continental European philosophy. In fact, the beginning of modern analytic philosophy is usually dated from the time when two of its major figures, Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) and G.E. Moore (1873–1958), rebelled against an antiempiricist idealism that had temporarily captured the English philosophical scene. The most renowned of the British empiricists—John LockeGeorge BerkeleyDavid Hume, and John Stuart Mill—have many interests and methods in common with contemporary analytic philosophers. And although analytic philosophers have attacked some of the empiricists’ particular doctrines, one feels that this is the result more of a common interest in certain problems than of any difference in general philosophical outlook.

Most empiricists, though admitting that the senses fail to yield the certainty requisite for knowledge, hold nonetheless that it is only through observation and experimentation that justified beliefs about the world can be gained—in other words, a priori reasoning from self-evident premises cannot reveal how the world is. Accordingly, many empiricists insist on a sharp dichotomy between the physical sciences, which ultimately must verify their theories by observation, and the deductive or a priori sciences—e.g., mathematics and logic—the method of which is the deduction of theorems from axioms. The deductive sciences, in the empiricists’ view, cannot produce justified beliefs, much less knowledge, about the world. This conclusion was a cornerstone of two important early movements in analytic philosophy, logical atomism and logical positivism. In the positivist’s view, for example, the theorems of mathematics do not represent genuine knowledge of a world of mathematical objects but instead are merely the result of working out the consequences of the conventions that govern the use of mathematical symbols.