Philosophical Tribalism


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. Continue reading