Jon Cogburn recently posted a comment by Douglas Kellner regarding “analytic” and “continental” philosophy. I have highlighted some of the more interesting parts:
. . .I found a broad range of continental philosophy attractive. And yet I was not happy with the division of Anglo-American philosophy into continental vs. analytical perspectives. While much that passes for analytical philosophy today is abstract, academic, and often useless, much that parades as continental philosophy is dogmatic posturing and pretentious gibberish. But both the tools of conceptual analysis and perspectives of continental philosophy can be applied together in specific tasks and projects. Philosophy, in my optic, is both analysis and synthesis, deconstruction and reconstruction. Consequently, I would defend pluralistic perspectives that draw on the best work on all traditions.
. . . .Ironically, many of those who I consider the top philosophers of my generation have left philosophy departments, raising some serious questions about the contemporary institutional status of philosophy. On the whole, it seems like contemporary American philosophy seems frozen, in a state of paralysis. While the dominant analytical philosophy suffers from theoretical sclerosis, a hardening of the categories, and undergoing a slow public and academic death, the situation of continental philosophy is also dispiriting. In the 1980s, it looked as though contemporary philosophy was entering a frutiful state of pluralism with a blossoming of continental philosophy, mutating into “Theory,” crossing over into every discipline. On the philosophical frontlines, there was also a reappropriation of Dewey and pragmatism, of other strands of American philosophy, as well as the move into new fields such as feminism, African American and Latino philosophy, philosophy of technology, environmental philosophy, philosophical media studies, and the philosophy of electronic culture and communication. These trends continue within the broader philosophical-intellectual world, but often not in philosophy departments, and they have been pushed to the margins of the academic discipline of philosophy.
Most distressing, not only has reaction and retrenchment set in with analytic philosophy, but continental philosophy is segregating itself into circles in which specific philosophers are revered as the Voice of Truth, of the revered Word. Thus the ontotheological dimension of philosophy that Derrida decried has its Renaissance in schools of contemporary philosophy.
After I read this, I thought this passage by Graham Harman was particularly apropos:
…the followers of both Heidegger and Derrida share an uncommon resistance to stating the teachings of their masters in the form of an actual thesis: indeed, these followers imply quite openly that anyone who tries this is a ham-fisted blunderer who merely inscribes himself in the very discourse that has already been overcome–or whatever. One senses a deep rooted fear of criticism in this strange wish to be utterly impregnable, to turn the enemy’s weapons back against the enemy rather then meeting them openly with equal and dissimilar force (Guerrilla Metaphysics, 111).
While Harman was making a broader point about Derrida’s essay (monograph!) “White Mythologies,” one could easily substitute a variety of philosophers into this passage. Just saying…
Anyway, Kellner concludes by offering up a vision of “living” philosophy:
Living philosophy, however, is always synthesis, always in motions, always taking in the novel, absorbing challenging ideas, trends, and theories, constantly developing and reshaping philosophy, in dialogue with other disciplines and contemporary culture and experiences.
Yet, while I agree with this comment it made me feel kind of funny. Either I’m just kind of dim-witted or up until now I’ve just been very naive, for Kellner’s comment about living philosophy strikes me as, well, obvious. Not so obvious to those “State Philosophers”–on both of the so-called analytic and continental “sides”–I suppose…