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on May 21, 2006
This is the second of Scott Soames's two-volume history of analytic philosophy. Together these volumes illuminate the most important developments in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language and ethics from 1900 until 1975. In the first volume the contributions of Moore, Russell, Wittgenstein and Quine, among others, are covered. The second volume covers more of the contributions of Wittgenstein and Quine, and the contributions of Ryle, Grice, Davidson and Kripke, among others.
Soames carefully explains the theories of these philosophers, and clearly sets forth their arguments. He critically evaluates their arguments, showing their successes and their failures. The volumes are also very well organised, with each chapter including a nice outline and each part concluding with suggestions for further reading. What emerges is a work that is comprehensive and detailed, insightful and original.
As Soames explains, some important philosophers are not covered and some material from the philosophers that are covered is not discussed. These volumes are also controversial for not engaging with the secondary literature and for some of the interpretations offered; some of the debate can be followed online.
The intended audience of these volumes is primarily upper-level undergraduates, graduates and professional philosophers. While Soames would also like others to gain from these volumes, I think that those who have not had some exposure to analytic philosophy will find them difficult. As a graduate student in philosophy, these volumes have been of great help to me, filling in some major gaps in my education.
I think that Soames's volumes will illuminate the classics of analytic philosophy for generations of philosophers and philosophy students, and may become classics themselves. I highly recommend both volumes.
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on March 22, 2006
This is the first attempt I know of to tell a really comprehensive story about 20th-century analytical philosophy. Despite little or nothing on Frege, Tarski, and other important figures, Soames gives a coherent and convincing overview. Not everyone will delight in his assessment of Kripke's importance, and one might wish for wider coverage of the mid-century giants. Still, Soames is typically thorough and lucid in his analysis. So, while the conclusions are disputable, the value of the work is not.
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on September 8, 2006
Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century: The Age of Meaning is the second of Scott Soames' two volume series on 20th century analytic philosophy.

These two volumes provide the best overview of analytic philosophy that I have come across. In Vol. 2 Soames discusses the later-Wittgenstein, Quine, Kripke et al (a look at the on-line table of contents may be helpful). He provides insight regarding the context within which these thinkers wrote, as well as an overview and assessment of their key works/ideas. Opposed to the first volume that examines relatively broad thinkers (e.g. Moore and Russell), the current volume is much more in the weeds of mid-twentieth century linguistic philosophy - esoteric hairsplitting that may strike readers from outside of the field as meaningless (and a bit silly).

Overall, the two volumes are of high quality. I recommend them to all students of analytic philosophy. Depending on one's interests volume 2 may not be as appealing as its' predecessor. It should be noted that this is not an introductory text, some background in philosophy is probably required to maximize its' value.
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on February 8, 2011
This book was reccomended to me by my undergraduate philosophy professor after I graduated with my BA in philosophy. In attempting to get ready for grad school this book has been extremely helpful in getting a grasp on the history of analytic philosophy as well as a good grasp on phil of language.
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on March 24, 2010
This book has many clever and interesting arguments and will be thought provoking for anybody who reads it. However the book seriously misrepresents or misinterprets some of the philosophical figures it covers. Misinterpretation by itself is not a sin. But what is objectionable about the misinterpretations here is that they seem to come with an almost total ignorance of some of the best, most meticulous historical research on the figures discussed in the book. The author might claim that meticulous historical research is not his goal. Rather, his goal is to present a certain unifying picture and teleology for the history of analytic philosophy. But these two goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive (though they might be in fact, in which case so much the worse for teleology). Whether or not you think teleology has a place in history of philosophy, surely you must agree that good historical research does. And such research is just what this book is missing.
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on March 8, 2006
Having left my studies of analytical philosophy many years ago - a fervent Wittgensteinian and ardent admirer of J.L. Austin - I had been looking for a way to learn what has happened since I left. It's the kind information that doesn't get into the newspapers and magazines. Soames' book fills the bill nicely, tracing the large patterns of development and at the same time working through key arguments and controversies in some decent detail. It's no replacement for a series of courses and careful reading of original texts, of course, but neither is it glib or patchy. It serves an important purpose to provide perspective on a subject that has developed to a great degree within academic journals. I haven't yet discussed it with Eccles, Bluebottle or Major Bloodnok.

(Oops, I must have omitted to give this a rating in stars, causing it to show as a one-star rating by default. I've now, belatedly, adjusted it to four stars.)
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