I'm reading the IEP article on analytic philosophy. The author argues that analytic philosophy originated around the turn of the twentieth century as G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell broke away from what was then the dominant school in the British universities, Absolute Idealism.

From my basic training in mathematics, I believe I know partially what analytic philosophy might be. But I have no idea what absolute idealism might be, nor can I speculate about the other possible styles in philosophy. Is there a short article or book which shows what is the difference of thought in the philosophical schools? Perhaps by writing some famous problem in different styles?

3 Answers 3


'Styles' is not the usual way to describe philosophical systems. Jules Vuillemin has written a short and rather technical book What are Philosophical Systems (Cambr. UP 1986) which comes close to such an approach as he used different 'manners' of predicating to classify philosophies and he even managed to construct his taxonomy as an a priori schema (summarised at p.128, shortly before the end).

What this technical exercise boils down to is well known: 4 types or styles of philosophy are thought to be possible as monism or dualism are combined with idealism and materialism. So there are pure idealism or pure materialism and also idealistic dualism and materialistic dualism. At the end of antiquity the 4 ways have already been explored as, e.g., Platonism, Atomism, Peripatetism and Stoicism.

In modern times this schematic division is seen as German idealism (Hegel, Fichte) v/s French materialists (Holbach, LaMettrie) and Cartesians v/s British empiricists.

According to Vuillemin, skepticism and eclectism are secondary methodological stances that should be seen apart from basic fourfold division.

Today the leaning toward idealism is seen as a 'continental' style while its alternative is the so called 'analytic philosophy'.

Otherwise, the shortest presentation of philosophical styles is given by various answers to the question 'why did the chicken cross the road'.


An example of a famous and philosophically influential British Idealists prior to Russell and Moore is Francis Herbert Bradley.

His treatment of logic: The Principles of Logic was published contemporaneously with Frege's Grundlagen and today is considered "archaic".

You can see also F.H. Bradley: Logic.

For a detailed comparison, you can see:


Some days ago the following question was asked which refers to the opposition of Moore and Russell against idealism:

Is it thought that analytic philosophy is in decline after the linguistic turn?

One answer links to an essay of Hacker, which says:

Analytic philosophy, understood as a phase in the history of ideas, originated in Cambridge in the late 1890s with the revolt, by the young Moor e and Russell, against the neo-Hegelian Absolute Idealism that had dominated British philosophy in th e last third of the nineteenth century.

Hence it was the idealism in the tradition of Hegel. The latter was part of German idealism, which was advocated also by Fichte and Schelling.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .