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Contemporary philosophy

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Contemporary philosophy is an expression used to designate the different philosophical currents born of modernity.

Contemporary philosophy has germinated in the nineteenth century, from the Emmanuel Kant’s works. He had elaborated a theory of knowledge based on the categories of the understanding and in particular on the synthetic a priori judgments.

The discovery of non-Euclidean geometries during the nineteenth century (Lobatchevski, Bolyai, Riemann) undermines these foundations already questioned by Bolzano. The knockout to the Euclidean geometry will be carried at the beginning of the twentieth century by Albert Einstein, who shows that the geometry describing our world is not Euclidean.

This causes a crisis of the foundation of mathematics, that axioms can not be based on intuition, on the “seeds of truth” (innate certainties) dear to Descartes and Kant. The logical positivists will affirm that all truths can only come from experience, the “a priori evidences” saying nothing, and being only tautologies.

This crisis began in Vienna around Brentano, a professor who teaches Frege and Husserl. From these last two authors were born the two major branches of contemporary philosophy: analytic philosophy (initiated by Frege) and phenomenology (invented by Husserl), also known in the terms of continental philosophy.

Two major currents

It is possible to understand contemporary philosophy as the set of two major currents, analytic philosophy and phenomenology. However, it should be pointed out that reducing contemporary philosophy to this dualism of thought movements does not allow us to account for the philosophy of a Hannah Arendt or a John Rawls.

Analytic philosophy

Rather Anglo-Saxon, it proposes to clarify the language by logical analysis and to decompose the notions used. It evolved towards the theory of knowledge (positivist inspiration) with Carnap and Popper, and towards the philosophy of language with Wittgenstein and philosophers like Searle.


Also called continental philosophy, it tries to respond to the crisis of mathematics by a “return to things themselves” (in the words of Husserl), that is, to phenomena or experiences of consciousness. It is a question of putting the world “in brackets” (not pronouncing on it, on its existence, suspending all our beliefs) in order to concentrate on appearing, on what presents itself to consciousness. It is not a purely naive point of view: on the contrary, the phenomena must be despoiled of their naive beliefs. In the course of the twentieth century, there will be all sorts of phenomenologies: religious, existential (Heidegger, Sartre), perception (Merleau-Ponty), and so on.

A minor trend: philosophical practice

The practice of philosophy in the form of quasi-psychotherapeutic and non-academic activities is found in authors such as Oscar Brénifier, Michel Tozzi and Michel Weber.

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