Roman Altshuler has written two articles on the Ends of Thought blog about the analytic/continental divide that may provoke your interest:
Why is so much Continental Philosophy so Bad?
Why bother talking to analytic philosophers?
I found this via Philosophy Carnival on Noah Greenstein's blog.
From the latter article, relevant to our Heidegger discussion:
...Continental philosophers have to completely translate someone like Heidegger into analytic-speak and then relate the translation to clear, current problems in the analytic literature. That’s a lot of work! And for what? To get people who refuse to read Heidegger—obstinately, it seems—to accept that yes, maybe Heidegger had one good idea somewhere? At least, that’s what it can look like, and in light of this it isn’t surprising that so many continental philosophers want to retreat into an echo chamber of textual exegesis. Why bother to explain something, one might ask, to people who seem to have no interest in what you’re explaining, and who certainly won’t meet you halfway, but expect you to come to them?
...Ugliest of all, perhaps, a blurb from J.J.C. Smart on the back of the Edwards book claims that Edwards “explains clearly why those of us who are repelled by Heidegger’s style of philosophizing are right not to read him.” With garbage like this in the air, a Heidegger scholar might be excused for thinking that these here analytic fellows just aren’t worth talking to.
I saw the image and thought Red vs. Blue was somehow going to be tied in. Still fitting, I suppose, though I wonder who’s supposed to be who.
Mark Linsenmayer says
As destructive and stupid as the non-communication between different school of philosophy is, I find casting it as a spectator sport a la the metaphor appropriate for partisan politics kind of amusing.
Gary Geck says
Why is so much continental philosophy so good and why is it so many light years beyond anglophone analytical schools just now re-inventing some old wheels?
Ernest Prabhakar says
Where’s the Hegelian synthesis that will unify Contintental and analytic philosophy in a new coherent tradition? And will it be clear enough for a layperson to understand, or so exotic that only computers can comprehend?
Tom McDonald says
The disciplinary identity of philosophy is in question. So says McCumber in “Reshaping Reason”, where he makes a serious argument with evidence of trends pointing toward a sort of Hegelian synthesis in American philosophy to overcome the “Fantasy Island” of analytic thought and the “Subversive Struggle” of continental thought.
Fantasy Island and Subversive Struggle are McCumber’s well-reasoned nicknames for the two schools. Here are his two primary criticisms of the schools: (1) analytic thought traps itself in present tense language, ignoring the substantive insights of Hegel and Heidegger about the temporal present-past-future structure of thought or the subject; (2) continental thought dooms itself by pretending that it can continue to talk intelligibly while getting rid of the concept of true statements, irrespective of social construction (that’s why so much continental philosophy is bad).
McCumber gives to the analytic side that philosophy must cede ground to science on much of its old territory, but that there is one job (at least one, but he discusses others) only philosophy is uniquely situated to do, and that is the “situating” of knowledge itself.
It’s a very Hegelian idea: after science, philosophy becomes the practice of understanding — with new post-Fregean analytic conceptual tools, to be sure — the historical becoming and meaning of knowledge in the context of the present.
In contrast to Hegel, Heidegger’s contribution to temporalizing philosophy is recognized as especially relevant to the future, to questions of possibilities before us.
McCumber yet offers no specific solution to the problemitization of analytic truth by continental philosophy. But he does argue convincingly that a new group of American philosophers are coming up who are addressing the problem in a way to give hope for the future prospects of philosophy as a relevant discipline that might return to public engagement.
This includes for example the analytic-trained Robert Brandom who has been busy producing work yielding an extraordinary synthesis of Frege and Hegel.
Paul Redding is another notable philosopher who explains how analytic thought for its own internal dialectical reasons is having to reconsider Hegel against whom the discipline was superficially defined by Russell.
Here’s a link to McCumber’s book “Reshaping Reason: Toward a New Philosophy”
Where does Whitehead’s work fit in with what you are saying?
With respect to the analytic school, ANW’s early work in logic certainly speaks to his understanding of the need for robust consistency of meaning, so that one should, on this account alone, be disposed to seriously look into his later work.
On the continental side of things, Whitehead’s focus on the actualities of past/present/future and nature of causality in time predate and surpass Heidegger’s incomplete effort. Also, similarities of his thoughts on naturalism as organism also predate and surpass another existentialist, with those of Merleau-Ponty,. And finally, the wholehearted embrace of ANW’s process as prefiguring ‘difference’ for Deleuze – all these observations certainly point to a body of work that already addresses your concerns for the advance of philosophy in the 21st century.
Roman Altshuler brilliantly critiques analytic philosopher arrogance and bias, showing leading figures of that school to be truly hardly worth communicating with.. why even bother indeed.
But my beef with the continentals is their writing sucks for not just anal anglophone philosophy professors but vastly more for other people that are genuinely interested in some of these ideas we get wind of from weirdo Germans and Frenchman. Obviously philosophers in general care more about fighting each other and achieving recognition in their cloistered world than in engagement with the public.
At least English speaking philosophers are known to write books for non-academic specialists. Searle, Dennet, Putnam, Rorty, Chalmers, Chruchland, Nagel, Danto, ETC.
stable–I don’t know; I think there are different non-academic publics in anglophone worlds and in France. My understanding is that Deleuze’s film books, for example, were best-sellers. That’s unimaginable in the US. But I’m not convinced that Latour’s work isn’t accessible to a wider audience; Baudrillard’s certainly is. And Zizek, I think, generally strives for accessibility. On the other hand, I don’t think philosophers should write entirely for non-academic specialists; some of the best work will, I think, always be for the specialists.
Incidentally, thanks for the claim that I “brilliantly” critique “analytic philosopher arrogance and biast, showing leading figures of that school to be truly hardly worth communicating with”, but that wasn’t at all my aim; that’s just what it looks like from the quoted paragraph. I do think continental philospohers ought to get out of the preoccupation with text and spend more time working on problems together with their mainstream colleagues.
And last, I wouldn’t lump the “weird Germans and Frenchman” together. German and French philosophy have a great deal of overlap, of course, but also fairly distinct writing styles and problematics. The Germans also, in my (perhaps myopic) view strive for far more clarity and rigor, overall.
Gary–I used to think continental philosophy was light years ahead, and analytic philospohers were just reinventing wheels. But I think that’s overly simplistic. It’s true that analytic philosophy does sometimes get bogged down in saying the same thing over and over. But in part this is an institutional problem, having to do with the fact that even people with no orginal ideas are require to publish in order to get jobs and tenure, which means that there has to be a large market for unoriginal, repetitive work. That problem is certainly not exclusive to analytic philosophy! Much continental work involves repeating Heidegger and Derrida, harping on the same Hegelian themes, and so on.
I also think it’s a good idea to be extremely skeptical of the idea that continental philosophy is light years ahead. I think a lot of that is mere appearance. Once you sit down to try to really make sense of the ideas (as opposed to just relating bits of text to other bits of text), they often turn out to be extremely poorly worked out. Indeed, it is easy to be “ahead” if you don’t take the time to solidify foundations but press on despite weak premises and fuzzy reasoning.
Mark Linsenmayer says
Glad to have you weigh in here, Roman! Welcome!
Alex Ditchins says
I wish I would have known I got this great reply earlier. I’m always appreciative. Regarding the “Continentals” being accessible to general audience..well I’ve looked at Deleuze and Zizek and not seen hardly anything I can read and I imagine most others outside Europe. Zizek writes essays on politics and movies/pop-culture and social events that I love. I have “Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” which is great! As for lumping the Germans and French, while I admit I write sloppily in discussion threads and should be more precise. I’m confessing my crudeness and ignorance. I’m just this dude out here. I can only imagine how different those two are, albeit with their complicating overlaps..
I came back here to give props to the Partially Examined Life crew for their efforts increasing respect and promoting constructive, useful dialogue. I was just terribly disappointed when I read popular philosophy spokesman/author Julian Baggini’s (of the Philosopher’s Mag.) review of a Nigel Warburton history of philosophy for the masses book–
Baggini says Warburton did not include Husseral or Heidegger or anything on phenomenology in his book which dedicates 2 chapters to Kant and generally 1 chap. each to all “canonical” philosophers and Baggini gives praise to Warburton for his inclusiveness. It actually pissed me off. I’d grown to respect Baggini as just the sort that philosophy will benefit from. I liked his “What’s It All About?” book and various writings…
As a fan I felt let down. How can I trust a writer that in 2011 is still so parochial in his views?