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Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics and logic since before Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), though analysis as a formal concept is a relatively recent development.[1]

Adriaen van Ostade, "Analysis" (1666)

The word comes from the Ancient Greek ἀνάλυσις (analusis, "a breaking up", from ana- "up, throughout" and lysis "a loosening").[2]

In this context, Analysis is the opposite of synthesis, which is to bring ideas together.

The following concepts are closely related to this basic idea:

Some definitions

  1. The process of breaking up a concept, proposition, or fact into its simple or ultimate constituents. Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. 2nd ed, 1999, ed. Robert Audi.
  2. Resolution into simpler elements by analysing. 2. (Maths) Use of algebra and calculus in problem-solving. Concise Oxford Dictionary. 1976, ed. J.B. Sykes.
  3. The isolation of what is more elementary from what is more complex by whatever method. Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology. 1925, ed. James Mark Baldwin, Vol. I
  4. The original Greek sense [was] a ‘loosening up’ or ‘releasing’. Geometry assumes a proposition to be true and searches for another known truth from which the proposition may be deduced. Physical science resolves complex wholes into their elements. A Kant Dictionary, 1995, by Howard Caygill.
  5. The process of breaking a concept down into more simple parts, so that its logical structure is displayed. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. 1996, Simon Blackburn
  6. Philosophical analysis is a method of inquiry in which one seeks to assess complex systems of thought by ‘analysing’ them into simpler elements whose relationships are thereby brought into focus. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1998, entry under ‘Conceptual Analysis’ by Robert Hanna


  1. Michael Beaney (2012). "Analysis". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Michael Beaney. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  2. Douglas Harper (2012). "analysis (n.)". Online etymological dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved 23 May 2012.