Philosophy (from the Greek philo (love) and sophia (wisdom)) in British culture has undergone a series of revolutionary changes since 1960. Until recently, English language philosophy was dominated by analytic and linguistic philosophy based on works by Bertrand Russell, G.E.Moore, Wittgenstein and the ordinary language philosophy of Austin. The early logical positivist tradition rejected metaphysics as a genuine line of philosophical enquiry, arguing that its findings were speculative, inconclusive, unverifiable and, thus, meaningless. Instead, philosophy was allied with empirical science. Its task was identified as simply to derive meaning through the logical analysis of concepts and the language we use to express, apprehend and classify them. Oxford linguistic philosophy, spearheaded by Gilbert Ryle, A.J.Ayer and J.L.Austin, was ascendant in Britain until the mid-1960s.
   Before the second half of the century, this analytic approach shared almost no intersection with continental philosophy. The principle strands of continental thought concerned existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre), phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty), structuralism (Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Chomsky) and critical theory (Lukacs, Adorno, Marcuse). While radically divergent, such continental philosophers generally emphasized contextual relations of interdependence and the consequent requirement of appre-hending the structures of the world in their totality. These approaches, while far removed from the formal, abstract, atomistic methods of English language philosophy, challenged that model by introducing global context and the ‘linguistic turn’: the view that the world might be shaped by rather than make language.
   In consequence, Anglo-American philosophy is no longer restricted to mere conceptual analysis. Its convergence with continental philosophy has resounded throughout all the disciplines of social science in an attempt to come to terms with the particularity, complexity and undecidability of the many and varied social contexts in which we live. This constitutes a serious challenge to canonical philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes or Locke, for the death of universalism has injected the particularistic fringes of philosophy with new vitality while leaving mainstream philosophical disciplines such as metaphysics and epistemology either discredited, irrelevant or incredulous. The linguistic turn revolutionized the way in which we view the world and the place of philosophy within it. Most significantly, social and cultural worlds are no longer seen as external, real and analytically objective objects, but as something in which we participate. Philosophy is now regarded as part of our cultural enterprise rather than a mere examination of that culture.
   Engagement in philosophy no longer requires an ivory tower retreat and is part of any thoughtful, world-engaging enterprise. If philosophy dwells in the world itself, it asks only that we engage in the world, that we immerse ourselves in our particular culture, and that we perceive the meanings, values and possibilities in a multiplicity of diverse ways of life. This permits radical and intriguing questions from cultural fringes to have a legitimacy and a voice that was hitherto excluded or silenced.
   Further reading
    Bunnin, N. and Tsui-James, E.P. (1996) The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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