20th century philosophy
Learning Objectives

After reading this lesson, you should be able to perform these tasks:

• Define existentialism, phenomenology, pragmatism, logical positivism, and philosophical analysis.

• Discuss the philosophical views of the pragmatists Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey.

• Explain the philosophical viewpoints of the logical positivists Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, and Alfred North Whitehead.

• Describe the philosophical views of the existentialists Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

• Summarize the philosophies of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl.

• Identify the philosophical analysis of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein.


This lesson is intended to be an overview of the philosophy of the twentieth century. It is designed to cover the main topics and philosophers of this time period.

Many of the elements of the three main periods of the philosophical movements of the 1800s (including utilitarianism, existentialism, socialism, and positivism) were brought into the twentieth century. Many of the philosophical movements of the 1900s were created during a century of unprecedented changes in politics, science, economics, and religion.

Two world wars and the breakup of the great European colonial powers had a profound effect on nations around the world. Many countries and cultures diversified and a movement of autonomy began to change the social landscape.

The advances in science have also altered society and civilizations. Dramatic improvements in healthcare have extended the life span of people from many countries. The philosophies of the twentieth century reflected many of these social changes.

There have been five major philosophical movements during the twentieth century:

• existentialism
• phenomenology
• pragmatism
• logical positivism
• philosophical analysis


Existentialism is a...

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