People savor the aphorisms of Nietzsche, the essays of Schopenhauer, the philosophical novels of Sartre. They read the dialogues of Plato (and they would doubtless read the dialogues of Aristotle too, had Western civilization not been so careless as to mislay them). Some even claim to enjoy the more daunting treatises in the philosophical canon. “When I have a leisure moment, you will generally find me curled up with Spinoza’s latest,” Bertie Wooster swankily announces in one of P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves” novels.
Now let me narrow my query: Does anybody read analytic philosophy for pleasure? Is this kind of philosophy literature? Here you might say, “Certainly not!” Or you might say, “What the heck is analytic philosophy?”
Allow me to address the latter reply first. “Analytic” philosophy is the kind that is practiced these days by the vast majority of professors in philosophy departments throughout the English-speaking world. It’s reputed to be rather dry and technical — long on logical rigor, short on lyrical profundity. Analytic philosophy got its start in Cambridge in the first decade of the 20th century, when Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore revolted against the rather foggy continental idealism prevailing among English philosophers at the time. Under their influence, and that of Ludwig Wittgenstein (who arrived in Cambridge in 1912 to study with Russell), philosophers came to see their task as consisting not in grand metaphysical system-building, but in the painstaking analysis of language. This, they thought, would enable them to lay bare the logical structure of reality and to put all the old philosophical perplexities to rest.
Full piece at The New York Times