Philosophers disagree profoundly about what the best way to do philosophy is.That's true enough, and philosophy students should indeed be aware of this if they're not already. The rest of the statement gives the UM department view of what this difference is. It's pretty much the same as the standard line we've heard before from Leiter et al (Leiter calls it "one of the more sensible things I've seen written about this topic"), and I was going to let it go, but in the comments to my last post Colin asks nicely what my view is, so let me try to say a few things.
First go read the statement if you haven't (it's reposted whole at the Leiter link, plus comments). As it points out, Michigan is an analytic department, so it's not surprising that the statement reads like a press release from the winner of an election, newly magnaminous in victory, and professing hope that winners and losers can heal the breach and work together in the future (on the winner's terms, naturally):
The much-discussed ‘analytic/continental’ divide was an artifact of the conviction, held by many English and American philosophers into the 60’s and 70’s, that analysis was the only way of doing philosophy. As this conviction becomes less widely held, and as analytic philosophers expand their areas of interest, the distinction is becoming less and less significant -- with the result that even predominantly analytic departments like Michigan generally offer courses covering all the major ‘continental’ figures.See, we're overcoming our old closed-mindedness about that other stuff; we even teach it! But as we know if we've seen this before, when "analytic" philosophers give up the notion that "analysis [is] the only way of doing philosophy", what this means is that they no longer believe that what they do is characterized by a particular philosophical method of "analysis." Instead, what they do is characterized more generally as "valuing clarity and precision in formulating philosophical positions, and scrutinizing arguments carefully" -- or, as Leiter tends to put it, simply philosophy done well. The only thing preventing others from overcoming that artificial divide and doing philosophy well themselves, then, is their apparent preference for gnomic obscurity, or perhaps simple charlatanry (like ... well, you know, the usual suspects). And now that we know this, we can go ahead and teach "continental" philosophers ourselves (at least those, like all of those listed -- Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Foucault -- who are safely dead); but properly now, i.e. formulating their positions clearly and precisely, and scrutinizing them carefully (instead of, I don't know, "interpreting" them like a holy text or something).
So you have to read between the lines of this purposely bland statement to see what's going on. But "continental" philosophy is not the only kind of philosophy condescended to here. Pragmatism is certainly not "continental" philosophy; so it is either relegated to the history books, on the one hand, or folded in with analytic philosophy on the other (after all, officially anyway, the only good pragmatists are scientific realists). Or check out the threefold division of earlier analytic philosophers: some looked for "definitive resolutions" to philosophical problems, some merely for making them clear; but others -- well, "still others [believed] it would show these questions to be ill-formed ‘pseudo-problems.’" Ah yes, cousin Ludwig – rather a black sheep, I'm afraid; but nobody really reads him anymore, so not to worry. Anyway, that just shows what a big tent we "analytics" have; no rigid orthodoxies here!
As should surprise no one, then, the statement is predictably self-serving baloney. But as Colin mentioned in his comment, I myself come from an analytic background. What then should we "analytics" say about other methods/practices/traditions? Well, that's a hard question to answer. I'll have to put most of it off; but let me say a few things. First, for all my abuse of it, the statement is quite right that "analytic philosophy" no longer names a particular method, or even a bunch of people who all read each other's work. Instead it names a bunch of people who were trained by, or who were trained by people who were trained by, an earlier bunch of people who either shared a method or simply read each other's work. Some of these people have very different attitudes toward other kinds of philosophy than, say, Carnap did. So the "analytic/continental split" is indeed "becoming less and less significant" in that sense.
So while Rorty may have been right a quarter-century ago to complain that analytic departments were those in which the answer to the question of "who is going to teach Hegel and Nietzsche?" was "no one" or "the German department" (or "the English/comp lit department"), this is less so nowadays, even in smaller departments. And in non-pedagogical contexts we see much more interaction: McDowell reaches out to Hegel and Gadamer; Habermas is big on Putnam and Brandom (himself a big Hegel fan); Andrew Bowie aligns Davidson with Schelling and Schleiermacher; Jeff Malpas merges Davidson with Heidegger and Gadamer; the Cavellians are all over Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Emerson, and the Romantics; and of course the interest of cognitive scientists in phenomenologists like Merleau-Ponty is old news.
All this is to the good (not like I agree with – or even understand – all of these people, of course). But I would have to agree with Leiter that the overwhelming majority, as well as the trend, in "analytic philosophy" (now understood, again, as the various heirs of a once much more unified "tradition"), continues to regard not only most continental figures, but also the collaborators I mentioned, as inimical or irrelevant to a naturalist program they regard as central to it (if perhaps not constitutive of it as a method would be) -- that is, unless they can be read as naturalists themselves (as Leiter does Nietzsche, as a sort of proto-Quine).
Indeed, one commenter on Leiter's post suggests that a more relevant "split" might be between realists and anti-realists, or between naturalists and their opponents. And while the former seems inadequate (leaving out as it does, well, the rest of us), the latter may indeed be as important as Leiter suggests; but it works better, I think, when we see it as a split within "analytic philosophy" (again broadly construed). On the one side, in the ascendant, we have not only overt naturalism like Leiter's, but any other sort of incorrigibly Cartesian or dualistic view, however manifested: residual metaphysical realism (whether in metaphysical, epistemological, or semantic contexts), resurgent a priori metaphysics, hard-core empiricism, whatever. This of course is most of "analytic philosophy," and I find myself more and more thinking about letting them have the term. On the other side, scattered and demoralized, we have (neo-)pragmatists, (certain) Wittgensteinians, (some) phenomenologists, and others, which I suggest can be grouped in an unfortunately but unavoidably loose and fractious coalition which some have called "post-analytic". The term invites misunderstanding and is somewhat pretentious, but it does at least have the virtue of reflecting both a shared "analytic" background (if such there be) and a somewhat tentative search for new directions, including, possibly, a move toward other, non-analytic areas.
But I'm not wedded to it (the term). I just think that we need something like that to capture my sense that someone like Kit Fine (or James Pryor, or Jason Stanley, etc., etc.) and I, while both "philosophers," aren't even practitioners of the same discipline, let alone members of the same "school"; yet at the same time our differences might very well be traceable back to a wrong turn (or a failure to turn) that one or the other of us (or his main influences) made in the past, such that we can each see ourselves as having the same (ultimate) forebears -- or even to specific doctrines on which we disagree.
So "continental" philosophy need not even enter into it, in this sense. For all I've just said, I still find it much easier to read Pryor and Williamson than, say, Badiou or Zizek. In other words, there's a difference between reading texts such as the latter, which, due to their alien provenance, are painfully opaque, and reading texts which are painfully wrong-headed (even if thereby equally confusing). This means that even while seeing most analytic philosophy as stuck in the mud, "post-analytics" (that still looks funny) should be seen not as crossing over a DMZ to the other side, as much as looking wistfully out the window of a house divided.
So that's my rant. Beat that, Colin ... if you can.