Philosophical Tribalism (and Remorse)

I’ve been reading through some of the essays in Postanalytic and Metacontinental: Crossing the Divide this morning (NDPR review here).  While I’m hoping to say some more about those essays later on, (for one, there is a particularly excellent essay about transcendental reasoning) a remark early on in the introduction made me chuckle.  Discussing two approaches to the analytic-continental divide, a deflationary view (which calls into question the distinction altogether) and the more essentialist position (which insists on the two ‘houses’), the editors note:

However we characterize or dismiss the distinction in theory, in practice it has for many years been very much a feature of the day to day activities of contemporary philosophers.  Academic philosophers, journals, conferences, publication series and even entire publishing houses, all now often live entirely within on or the other tradition. in some cases, the result is that continental philosophers have effectively been consigned to other disciplines, like comparative literature. More usually, philosophers simply inhabit their own tradition without attending to the other–perhaps looking at or attending occasional papers from the other side out of collegial politeness or personal loyalty, and often regretting it when they do (3-4). Continue reading

Disciplinary Tribalism or Slice and Dice?

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a historian suggests that on the whole thinkers like Hegel, Freud and Marx are no longer being taught, and if they are being taught it is only outside of each thinkers discipline.  So the broad claim is that Hegel, for the most part, is not taught in philosophy departments, Freud is barely spoken of in psychology departments and Marx won’t be found in any course offerings through the economics department. The author of the article, Russell Jacoby, suggests

The divorce between informed opinion and academic wisdom could not be more pointed. If educated individuals were asked to name leading historical thinkers in psychology, philosophy, and economics, surely Freud, Hegel, and Marx would figure high on the list. Yet they have vanished from their home disciplines. How can this be?  A single proposition can hardly explain the fate of several thinkers across several fields. However, general trends can inform separate disciplines. For starters, the ruthlessly anti- or nonhistorical orientation that informs contemporary academe encourages shelving past geniuses. Continue reading

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