The central difference between the speculative, analytic and existential conceptions of philosophy is the way in which one comes to "know" and to "understand." In speculative philosophical inquiry, the philosopher literally poses questions and answers, problems and solutions; in other words, what is taking place is an attempt to identify the nexus between the mind and the external order of nature. Speculative philosophy is often idealistic in its orientation; it knows no egocentric predicament as is the case in existentialism, and recognizes no ego alone with its states or standing apart from the order of nature and from a society of minds. Speculative philosophy dismisses those problems that are sometimes called epistemological as to how the mind can know reality as such.
Conversely, analytic philosophy requires an understanding of the parts in order to achieve an understanding of the whole. A more personalistic method of philosophical inquiry, the analytic approach also includes the synoptic method. Together, these two methods analyze out the parts of experience and then relates these parts to the whole to which they belong. The "arrow of intelligibility" thus eventually flies back to the total person or experience from the parts. The method appeals to empirical coherence as its primary criterion.
The existentialist approach to philosophy focuses on the centrality of freedom and the ways in which one knows that one exists or "is." A strong emphasis on such constructs as individualism and the ways in which individuals experience (or "know") the self, others, and the world is present in this philosophical method. Freedom and responsibility are themes that are commonly addressed in the work of existentialists such as Sartre.
Based on the whole reading, the philosophical method that is most thoroughly discussed is the analytic. While existentialism and speculative inquiry are described in some depth, it appears o...