Philosophy and Psycho-Analysis Critical Essays

John Wisdom

Material and Philosophical Analysis

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

With such issues clarified, one is ready to turn to an examination of what Wisdom means by analysis. A distinction must first be made between material analysis and philosophical analysis. To give a material analysis is simply to give a definition, such as “Wealth is defined as what is useful, transferable, and limited in supply.” A definition of wealth as riches would not be materially analytic, for it does nothing to render explicit the connotation of the word defined. A philosophical analysis is given by a rule for translating sentences about any abstraction (“the state”) into sentences about what it is an abstraction from (“the individual citizens”). A second distinction must be made between formal analysis and philosophical analysis. A formal analysis is the replacement of a sentence by another that more clearly indicates the form of the fact asserted: “Two horses passed him” means “A horse passed him and then another.” This would not be a material analysis because two is not an adjective, and it is not a philosophical analysis because it merely exhibits more clearly the structure of something whose structure was not clear. The distinction between the three types of analysis can be illustrated by the statement “Two men are good.” A formal analysis would be “A man is good and another man is good”; a philosophical analysis would be “A mannish pattern of states contains a high proportion of good ones and another mannish pattern does so also”; and a material analysis would be “A mannish pattern of states contains a high proportion of states likely to cause approval and another does so also.”

Analysis (philosophical analysis) cannot be understood without...

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