Sunday, April 22, 2007

They're at it again

... over at Leiter Reports, with the analytic/continental thing. The impetus this time was a statement on the U. of Michigan Philosophy Dept. webpage explaining to students that (as the statement puts it):
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.


Colin said...

That was awesome, and I think more or less dead on. There are so many things that I can say about this topic, but it is 2:30 right now and I am finally tired, so hopefully tomorrow will come a more substantive reply. However, I think that there are many interesting things to be said about the role of the Pragmatists (or post-analytics) in the philosophical conversation. Short preview: last week a Major Figure in the analytic tradition (who just had a book came out, and who was featured somewhat prominently in the Soakal Hoax) spoke at a colloquium at my unnamed continentally focused program. Of course only one of the faculty that came was an actual continental scholar, and the others were (almost) all pragmatists. The q&a was fascinating: the two groups couldn't agree on terms, they both displayed shocking ignorance at the others tradition (the Major Figure hadn't read William James! and at least one of the pragmatists hadn't heard of vagueness) and I'm sure that everyone (ie the professors) left the talk feeling as if they had just waisted their time.

All I could think is that if the analytically trained pragmatists couldn't speak with the Major analytic Figure, what hope does analytic philosophy have of speaking with continental philosophy??

(that was going to be the end, but once I get started...) I'm also not sure if the analytics are aware (or I guess even care) how much their work is despised/trivialized by the continentals. One of the virtues of 'winning' is that you can be magnanimous. Where i come from reading Rorty is considered entering the dark side and someone like the Major Figure, well, (as one of my professors said) "they don't do philosophy, they're just logicians."

N. N. said...

I think I was born 40 years late. I sincerely dislike the brand of philosophy that has come to dominate in America (I wonder if the same is true of Britain), viz., Quinean naturalism. It seems to me that Wittgenstein and Ryle have been passed over without having had a chance to make their case. Perhaps it is possible to revisite these issues (I know, for example, that Hacker is trying with his crticisms of Quine and Dennett).

Duck said...

Colin: I certainly agree (not surprising given what I said) that contemporary pragmatism deserves close attention in this context. But as you saw, being a pragmatist (or phenomenologist, or Wittgensteinian) does not necessarily mean being open-minded or well-read. Indeed, one reason I described "post-analytics" as a "fractious coalition" is because a good portion of each subgroup is just as concerned with doctrinal purity (of their particular variety) as any traditional analytic (maybe this is because the blinkered scholars get jobs and the coalition-minded philosophers do not). This is going to take some time to sort out.

That's funny (if I read you correctly), that at continental departments as well, "reading Rorty is considered entering the dark side" (i.e. from the other direction). The poor guy can't win. Actually at my department, the Peircean pragmatist was harder on Rorty than the Davidsonian philosopher of language (who was finally able to get me to see how Rorty screws it up). The latter did warn me not to write a thesis on Rorty lest I fail to get a job ("nobody wants to hear about that stuff"). It's also funny that some pragmatist hadn't heard of vagueness. Rorty begins some recent paper by revealing that he hadn't either until some colleague told him it was the next big thing.

n.n.: As a quasi-post-Davidsonian I must give mad props (as the kids say nowadays) to my man Quine. The differences between him and Davidson (though of course crucial) are fairly subtle, and I can certainly understand why Davidson dedicates Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation to Quine ("without whom not"). But I hear you about "Quinean naturalism".

Thank you for posting that Hacker-Dennett exchange at your place. I haven't finished it, but, and I hate to say this in this context, I found what Dennett says there perfectly unobjectionable (so far). This is a product of a) not being very impressed with Hacker and his general strategy of "you can't say that because Grammar Forbids It", which is not what I get from Wittgenstein, and b) being perhaps too willing to cut Dennett major slack, probably because of his tireless efforts to undermine Cartesian intuitions in the philosophy of mind. He does go too far sometimes, but I didn't see it here. I know you disagree; maybe I will get back to this and you can tell me where I go wrong. But of course you know I am in 100% agreement that your typical analytic philosopher is either woefully ignorant of Wittgenstein or has failed to understand the consequences for what we are calling "Quinean naturalism" (where our paradigm instance is perhaps not Quine himself (nor, I would argue, Dennett), but, say, Leiter). And again, what I object to is not limited to naturalism so construed.

As you know, Wittgenstein also thought he was born too late. But maybe you were born too early! And I must admit I keep forgetting about Ryle myself (I have Dilemmas somewhere, as well as The Concept of Mind). Maybe you can tell us what you like about him.

N. N. said...

I'm getting ready to watch my beloved Mavs in game 1, so I'll only make a brief comment tonight.

I am only about half way through The Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, so I havn't read the appendix on Dennett, but judging by the Hacker's response, as well as the exchange between Hacker and Dennett in the Q&A, I can't see how Dennett's "intentional stance" survives.

When I first listened to the audio, I thought Dennett's criticism was strong... until I heard Hacker's reply. I'll be interested to hear your opinion. Perhaps we can discuss it.

Go Mavs!

Duck said...

n.n.: Condolences on your (team's) loss, and best wishes for an early recovery.

N. N. said...


Thanks. My recovery is contingent on Wednesday night's result. If Dallas gets in an 0-2 hole heading to Oakland (avert!), this brilliant season will be in serious jeopardy.

I have read a little Davidson (the few articles in the Martinich volume when I was an undergraduate), but not enough to know much about him. How much of a Quinean is he? For example, does he rely on Quine's rejection of the analytic/synthetic distinction and notion of ontological commitment? Which is to say, does he accept Quine's holism and program of regimentation?

Clark Goble said...

Colin: "and at least one of the pragmatists hadn't heard of vagueness"

Huh? I can see one not embracing the Peircean form of pragmatism. Arguably Dewey or James still hold the popularity contest. But being that ignorant of Peirce?!? Wow.

Duck: "But as you saw, being a pragmatist (or phenomenologist, or Wittgensteinian) does not necessarily mean being open-minded or well-read."

This is a problem, but I wonder how understandable it is. I mean there's been a lot of significant philosophy in the 20th century. Can any person really be expected to be up on all of it? I mean I end up looking like an idiot most of the time someone starts speaking to me about Ethics or Aesthetics. Is it fair to expect folks to be this well read?

In physics we don't necessarily expect the guys doing acoustics to be able to follow heavy material science physics or string theory. Why do we expect the same in philosophy?

Of course the difference is that there isn't just a breaking into relatively closed groups in philosophy. There's also a factionalism about what counts as "real philosophy." Yeah in physics you'll have particle physicists competing against astronomers for resources. But it seems much worse in philosophy. I wonder if, at the end of the day though, it isn't still ultimately about resources.

Duck said...

n.n. (may I call you n.?), for an excellent intro to Davidson/comparison to Quine, see the comments (by Daniel) to this post over at Clark's place.

And here's Clark now! I'm not sure what you mean here, Clark; did Peirce say something particularly memorable about vagueness (see, I don't even know, and I had a whole course on it)?

I suppose you're right that we can't expect everyone to be up on everything (I certainly don't understand you when you talk about Derrida, for instance). I just get frustrated when what seems like it could be a fearsome anti-Cartesian coalition dissolves into squabbling over details, leaving the main enemy unscathed. But I suppose I'm as guilty as anybody (even though I'm *right* that we have to do it *my* way).

Daniel Lindquist said...

Hooray! I am being helpful!

I'm also interested in where Hacker is supposed to have stumbled in his exchange with Dennett -- I was rather impressed with Hacker's part. Enough to pick up a copy of "Insight and Illusion" at least. I should get back to reading that....

Duck said...

Seriously, Daniel, you explain Davidson's position better than I could. I'll get back to Hacker and Dennett later, when I get the chance. As for Insight and Illusion, just make sure you have the most recent edition.

Clark Goble said...

Yeah, Peirce's logic of vagueness is pretty key to his philosophy. His critical common-sensism and notion of abduction are completely dependent upon it.

In terms of the definition of vagueness I don't think Peirce's notion is that unique. (Here's an excerpt from him on his notion) What is more interesting is how it relates to his philosophy. I'd written a post on critical common-sensism where I went through part of it. It's tied up in his notion of sign as well.

N. N. said...


I'm sorry, I must not have expressed myself very well. I think Hacker mops the floor with Dennett, so much so that it's hard to see how Dennett's "inentional stance" survives Hacker's criticism.

As Duck says, make sure you've got the revised edition of Insight and Illusion. Hacker changes his mind between the editions on many important topics, and most of his changes are significant improvements.

By the way, I left a question for you over at Clark's blog.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to returning to this discussion as I feel my life is practically defined buy it. I'm not sure how people at analytic programs realize the bizarre pressures that students at continental programs are under. I imagine that at an analytic program continental philosophy can just be ignored, in continental programs analytic philosophy is this looming shadow, always something to be dismissed. Also none of the 'top' grad programs are in play so it means that students apply to very odd schools--and these are the top programs. Bleh, this is getting overly confessional.

I did want to quickly clear up the vagueness issue. I don't think that the Major Analytic Figure was referring to Peirce, much more likely is that he was referring to Lewis, Williamson, Fine etc. Not exactly the purview of the pragmatist.

Dave: Yeah, poor Rorty, he just can't get a break. Despite this, I do think that the post-analytic work being done on continental philosophy is a Good Thing. It may be ignored by mainstream analytical world as well as the more dogmatic of continental philosophers, but the more that is done to cross the divide the better. Also I think that it can produce some very interesting scholarship. Rorty's work in Essays on Heidegger is very interesting and I have been enjoying Wheeler's Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy (have you read it?).

Regarding Leiter. It is so interesting/bizarre/surreal his questioning the existence of the analytically trained continental philosopher when he is one! This is a bit of an exaggeration as I don't think that Neitzche is fully the domain of the Continentals anymore, however his work on defining Continental Philosophy is so ridiculously analytic it's not even funny.

Also, I'm curious Dave if the atmosphere at Columbia is amenable to post-analytic thought? (I completely understand if you don't want to answer).

Daniel Lindquist said...

Duck: Aww, you're sweet. Almost makes me regret opting for law school over graduate work in philosophy. (On the other hand, N.N.'s recent post on Wittgenstein posts helped reassure me that I'm probably taking the safer path. Kinda curious why the University of East Anglia suddenly wants Wittgensteinians, though -- they placed two of the eight ads N.N. found!)

N.N.: Sorry, it seems that I was the one who wasn't sufficiently clear -- I want to know why Duck is siding with Dennett against Hacker, since I agree that Hacker seems to dominate that exchange. I reread/skimmed Dennet's post-discussion article this afternoon, and it seems to me that Dennett's often missing the point -- he's eager for a constructive philosophy which can link the mental to the physical, and he thinks the way to go about this is to build up the mental piece-by-piece from non-mental facts (by slowly moving from non-intentional things which are "so dumb they can be replaced by machines" to pseudo-intentional things, to slightly-less-pseudo-intentional things, until eventually you have fully-intentional minds). On the other hand, a great deal of the criticisms he mentions (of other cog-sci folk, earlier in his career) do hit their mark pretty nicely -- if Duck hasn't gotten too far into the paper, then it's easy to see what he could be liking here. But I don't see what those have to do with Hacker.

I did like how Dennett's last footnote called Hacker a creationist; that seemed to be about the tone Dennett was going for in the essay as a whole.

(One thing that leaped out at me: on page 17, Dennett acts as if it's obvious "how a model of the brain as having a consultable 3-D model of the world would be well on the way to explaining how a creature with just such a brain could see." If it's supposed to be mysterious how I can see, then why isn't it mysterious how my brain can "consult" a 3-D model? And how am I (or at least the bundle of organs which is me at the personal level) supposed to go from consulting the model to seeing that which the model is based on? Dennett said that a philosopher would be as good a person as anyone to point out why this was supposed to be obviously helpful in explaining perception, but he didn't do the job himself; Hacker's claim was that no one can do this, because it isn't helpful -- I would've thought the way to counter this would be to show how it's helpful, rather than "show how it's helpful" until you get to a point where it has to be obvious that it is. It seems to me that Dennett is not the way to get away from Cartesianism, though he's certainly more interesting than, say, Fodor.)

Also, yes, I got the second edition of "Insight and Illusion." Couldn't find a copy for less than $50 online, but that's what interlibrary loans are for.

Kevin Winters said...

Nice post, from a new reader of the blog (thanks, Clark, for linking to it). If you haven't read it, get your hands on Simon Critchley's Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. There he argues that so-called continental and analytic philosophers have a common genesis in Kant, though one tends to focus more on the Critique of Pure Reason and the other on the Critique of Judgment. Here's a good quote:

"Much of the difference between analytic and Continental philosophy simply turns on how one reads Kant and how much Kant one reads. That is, whether one is solely preoccupied with the epistemological issues of the First Critique or Critique of Pure Reason (1781), or by the greater systematic ambitions of the Third Critique or Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790)" (17)."

As a rather hardcore Heideggerian looking into philosophy PhD programs (got a BA in philosophy and currently working on a MA in psychology), I'm also in a bind with what to do. I am careful not to be dismissive of analytic philosophy because I am well aware of my ignorance and am not comfortable throwing out generalizations that may be highly inadequate (I've been on the receiving end of such things too many times to want to do it to others). I am also more than willing to do more work in so-called analytic philosophy, but I'm affraid that, entering some programs, my own views will be dismissed or suppressed and the sole purpose of my attending would be seen (by my professors) as a conversion process to their way of doing philosophy. In my favor, I have been extra vigilant on trying to find ways of talking about Heidegger that do not depend on using his jargon, which can be disorienting (like analytic philosophy is an easy read either, without being 'inducted' into its vocabulary).

Duck said...

Hi Kevin, and welcome! I think I commented on your blog on a previous Leiter-inspired occasion. I do have the Critchley book, and if the placemark is any indication, I read it up to p. 106 (pretty good for me). I should finish it, as I do remember it as good. That's a good quote about Kant. For example, it's a good way of getting at why I find myself sort of in the middle (i.e. on the middle edge of the analytic side, but still no small distance away from the continent): I have read the CJ, or at least the first half (which is all that is ever assigned in aesthetics classes), but I am certainly much more concerned with the epist. and met. issues in the first one. On the other hand I think most of my analytic colleagues don't get out of it what I do (or would like to). I am unique in this, I think, but my favorite Kant book is Arthur Collins's Possible Experience, about which I should post (I'll add it to the list of such things): very stripped down and ready for anti-Cartesian (eg pragmatist) application. And of course we (McDowell and Brandom, though I don't really find myself in synch with the latter) like to do the same to Hegel too.

Of course it depends on what exactly you want to do in philosophy, but my sense is that a lot of analytic departments don't feel threatened by continental philosophy at all and would welcome students who are into it. Colin asked about Columbia/Barnard (where I went). It's an analytic department, but Taylor Carman is there, as well as Frederick Neuhauser (still there I think) and a number of others who are at least interested even if they don't specialize. As for students, in the class ahead of me was someone writing on Kierkegaard and Schelling (now at Cornell). So I wouldn't really worry about the problem of "induction" (heh heh); but I'm sure there are places where that isn't true. A better worry is whether to go at all, given the unlikelihood of gainful employment whatever you study.

Colin, it is true that some people at analytic departments (students and professors) do ignore continental philosophy, but others do not. I have Wheeler's book, and I like the bit about "conservative deconstruction," but I haven't spent enough time with it to understand the Davidson-Derrida connection. May I assume that his construal of Derrida is not completely off base? I expect we will revisit this issue at the Valve soon enough, so maybe I should dig that book up. I'll just re-recommend Martin Stone's "Wittgenstein on Deconstruction" in Crary and Read, The New Wittgenstein.

As your qualification suggests, I don't think that Leiter is well described as a "continental philosopher" at all. Everyone gets to talk about the history of philosophy no matter what their background, and as you say, Leiter's Nietzsche is as analytic as a nineteenth-century philosopher can get (which is why I called him a proto-Quine). I do like some "analytic" work in 19th C. continental philosophy -- Maudemarie Clark, Lanier Anderson (very bright guy), Christopher Janaway -- even if I don't agree with all of it. Leiter is an extreme case (and even he's not completely wrong). I think that what might have been disputed in that thread is the existence of analytically trained "continental philosophers" in the other senses -- stylistic, etc. And that could be right. It depends on how you feel about people like Cavell (love him myself) and his fans (like Stephen Mulhall or Timothy Gould) -- maybe they qualify.

Clark, thanks for the Peirce links. Someday.

Daniel, I took the two listings for East Anglia to indicate not that they wanted two Wittgensteinians but that the first guy (if they hired anyone at all) moved on or didn't work out -- so that's really one position. Same for the other duplication (Kenyon College?).

Anonymous said...

1. Regarding Wheeler: I would say that it is quite accurate, if somewhat limited. I mean, Derrida is hard. Hard hard hard. But I have found that understanding him at least partially through the later Wittgenstein, Quine and Davidson has allowed some of his wackier sounding claims to make more sense. I have used re-encoded some of Wheeler's points into Derrida-speak and have only been lauded for my comments in class. That said, it does really only treat Derrida as a philosopher of language, which of course he is, but his work on politics and art are no less important in his oeuvre. So it's good, but limited.

2. It is certainly good to know that at some (very) good analytic departments there is not prejudice against continentally trained undergrads. You are certainly not the first person to tell me that, but that has yet to stop me from worrying. I ask about Columbia because grad application are coming up and it is probably (definitely) my first choice for reasons having little to do with flavors of philosophy.

3. I just finished a big paper on Merleau-Ponty and meant to read the Taylor Carman, but I ran out of time. I have heard good things though.

4. Well now we get to the real crux of the matter: what is meant by the term analytically trained continental philosopher. I think that from the continental perspective the term is used to denote philosophers who were trained in analytic programs but are raiding the continental tradition for scholarship. I am certainly willing to concede that Leiter isn't (mainly because Nietzsche has an unstable place in the history of philosophy), I would suggest that Carman is, Wheeler might be etc. Do you have a different conception of what the term means?

4. I also liked the Critchley however I don't think that his conception of the history of Continental philosophy -or- its nature is widely held. I'm not completely sure why, but it might have something to do with the shadow of Kant that crosses the entire book. Continental philosophy, like the pragmatists, are typically not willing to give Kant quite that much credit. Obviously this isn't to say that Kant is ignored, far from it, but there might be some idolatry in the Critchley. Also, his skepticism if differance echoes Rorty's and for that reason alone I don't think is particularly well thought of.

Kevin Winters said...

On Kant, I would say it depends on the "Continental" you are referring to. Heidegger, at least in his early and middle work, used Kant quite a bit. Paul Ricoeur did similar in his early/pre-Heideggerian work. I wonder how much the analytic interpretation of Kant gets in the way of more Continental thinkers spending more time with him.

In relation to Critchley's understanding of Continental philosophy, I would say that at least the primary Continentals were unconcerned with such academic interests. I think George Steiner, in an interview for a short Heidegger documentary, put it best: "And to those who say, 'Look, this isn't philosophy,' I say fine. I'm not terribly interested in the supermarket label; call it what you will. Are you able to cope? Are you able to live with its completely new, radical grasp on the world?"

Anonymous said...

OK, I would actually like to (partially) rescind my Kant comment: I think that Kevin is quite right regarding his influence among among many Continentals including Heidegger and Ricoeur, bu also Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl etc. That Kant has, to some extent, been monopolized by analytics is quite true and probably does go along way towards explaining why continental philosophers are sometimes unwilling to recognize his influence.

I am not that familiar with Steiner's work, but I think that quotes like that are part of what stands in the way of an analytic/continental rapprochement. Heidegger is doing philosophy, and even if it reads differently from anyone else, it is still philosophy, same with Gadamer, same with Derrida. I was reading a review of the Wheeler that said that Wheeler was trying to turn Derrida into just another analytic philosopher. Obviously comments like that are ridiculous. They both insult analytic philosophers and reify continental philosophy in an entirely inappropriate way; a way serves to fuel the conception of continental philosophy as religion. Again (I hope) obviously ridiculous.

Time to complain about Leiter and specifically the PGR. Something that I noticed recently as I was trolling for places to apply is that the 19th Century Continental Philosophy, the 20th Century Continental Philosophy and feminist philosophy categories are disproportionately full of schools that were either 'inserted by board' or 'based on 2004 rankings.' To me this suggests that not enough of their own reviewers are familiar with the programs in these specialties to make the rankings meaningful. I suspect that this will not change as long as the SPEP/IAPL groups are kept from participating in the rankings. This is bad from any number of angles not least is that it gives potential grad students an incorrect picture of the state of those specialties.

I would say that the most important problem, though, is that it violates (what I take to be) the purpose of the PGR: the tempering of the old boys network with peer review. Obviously any grad school that is good in Continental Philosophy will have teachers who are cognizant of Lieter's biases and will therefore be informing their students of said biases. Thus, of course, perpetuating the old boys network.

Ben W said...

The introduction to the copy of Speech and Phenomena I attempted to read earlier this year attempted to cast it as a work of phil of language, and referred to Wittgenstein. As far as I know it wasn't a recent reissue but the first appearance of the translation.