Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cogburn on the Analytic-Continental Divide

John Cogburn has posted at NewApps on the Analytic-Continental divide and says a lot of good things.

Particularly, he notes that most responses to the divide are to subsume continental into analytic philosophy. He also makes a comment about the differences in training that also apply to many Americanist philosophers, who are almost always historians as well:

"But instead, let me just note three differences in training between continental philosophers and analytic philosophers: (1) Continental philosophers tend to learn far more history, (2) Continental philosophers are vastly more likely to have deeper knowledge of certain important parts of history such as German Idealism and the long history of Phenomenology through Germany and France at least (any reader of Beiser or Moran will argue that this is the greatest deficiency in analytic philosophy, since so much of this material is highly relevant to analytic philosophers' on-going concerns), (3) (more complicated, because there are important counterexamples, movements, and indeed countries in both camps) Continental philosophers are less likely to absolutely segregate history of philosophy (which tries to figure out what the philosopher believed) from philosophy (which tries to discern the truth)."

I would add that because of (3), many analytics have a peculiar take on historiography, because it is common for them to read the history of philosophy from the standpoint of what is true in it from a contemporary standpoint

Coming from a minority tradition, American philosophy, I am particularly sensitive to how other traditions appropriate American thought and do not realize that they are appropriative, especially since the very names of some of the sub-traditions, e.g., "pragmatism," have also been appropriated. I have had more than a few people tell me that pragmatism is about "what works," which makes me cringe as they knowledge often goes little beyond that, but they think that's the sum of the tradition. Likewise, when someone says that Dreyfus is the end-and-be-all of Heidegger study, which Cogburn discusses, I just stare.

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