Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Continental philosophy: bunk, tripe, or mere hogwash?

Reviews like this make me suspect that it is all three.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

stupid post. next!

Anonymous said...

I hear what you are saying. However, if there were an argument to that effect would be encouraging.

an ominous moderator said...

How about: I know it when I see it, and that's some right there?

Anonymous said...

When I'm asked by non-philosophers about continental philosophy, I tend to simply describe it as another subject, one ruled by an entirely different methodology and value system from the one that my branch of philosophy subscribes to. I am as qualified to assess it as I am to assess particularly difficult english literature; my untrained eye assumes that, like literature, its standards are aesthetic. Certainly it doesn't seem to adhere to the standards of logical structure and clarity by which I've been taught to judge analytic philosophy.

But I am genuinely curious for the opinions of continental philosophers. Do you feel that some of the above is accurate, if read in a descriptive, rather than normative, fashion? It's hard to ask honestly about this in non-anonymous settings, since something like an ominous moderator's opinions tend to be read into my questions...

Anonymous said...

Analytic philosophy: blind to history, pretentiously self-satisfied, pseudo-rationality...

(or as 10:38 said)

uturn said...

When that review came out I read a few sentences from it to my colleagues. We all had a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

I read a few sentences and found myself laughing too. I am willing to accept that there may be important claims at stake in certain areas of continental philosophy, but I find the writing in the piece mentioned unnecessarily opaque. Surely there are clearer and more precise ways to express these ideas.

swahl said...

Overgeneralize much there, ominous? You do open yourself up to a response as vapid as posting some analytic rubbish that has no meaning as well, you know. Or maybe you didn't know that?

Sincerely (ooh . . . I'll make that HEARTFELT to keep the stereotype going),


Shane Wahl

Anonymous said...

To write off continental or analytic philosophy is to quite simply act according to ignorance. (1.) Philosophy is a unique empirical entity. One cannot make a judgment from one review, what you've 'heard' about continental or analytic, etc. The only real way to judge is through an immersion in both schools of thought. That is hard, hard work. Nobody I know who has taken the plunge has come back and said, "yeah, that stuff is no good." (2.) To not see the many connections between the two is nothing short of blindness: I mean this historically and conceptually. (3.) In favor of continental: has anyone ever considered that a language which seeks to reduce to a more simple mode of expression (and avoid difficulty) might very well be missing some important content? There has been more than one occasion where I've read an analytic based article and thought, this is just too dry, something more could have been "given" to the topic. (4.) The fact that some individuals who might be on a search committee mock either school of thought is utterly disrespectful and makes me nauseous. Perhaps my dissertation adviser was correct: most philosophers secretly want to kill one another.

Anonymous said...

I made the previous comment about the poor prose in the article. Let me reply to the above (3) (which was my only complaint) since I think the article is excessively opaque and since I fail to see how this contributes to important content.

"This book demands an oscillating reading that returns back and forth between chapters, paragraphs, concepts, and phrases creating a disrupted and repeated engagement. There is a clearly discernable trajectory but there is also a looping return such that later insights recall, re-signify and rearticulate earlier observations. This returning is not a restating but a retrospective materializing of that which had already emerged."

Translation: Reading the book often requires examining earlier material. Later material builds on what came before.

Anonymous said...

"Nobody I know who has taken the plunge has come back and said, "yeah, that stuff is no good.""

(a) I have two people who've undergone this experience. Their their testimony does some work for me in this matter.

(b) Analytic philosophy is not a "school of thought" (do some homework; read Leiter's thoughts on this)

(c) Continental philosophy makes me nauseous to a much greater degree than the fact that "some individuals who might be on a search committee mock either"

Anonymous said...

OK, Shane Wahl: Why don't you go ahead and post "some analytic rubbish that has no meaning" from Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews?

uturn said...

I like it, anon 8:11, and I second the motion. I'll be curious to see what Shane Wahl can come up with.

actual_name said...

Anonymous 11:35 AM,

"Analytic philosophy: blind to history [...]"

This is like criticizing geology for being blind to what's going on in Irish literature (and just as idiotic).

In any case, Continental historians of philosophy are embarrassingly incompetent relative to their analytic counterparts (Chignell, Della Rocca, Garrett, Irwin, Kremer, Loux, Normore, etc.).

"[...] pretentiously self-satisfied [...]"

Oh, yeah; Hegel, Heidegger, and Derrida sure were humble guys.

" [...] pseudo-rationality."

Another idiotic comment. It's official: regardless of whether Continental philosophers can reason well, their defenders certainly can't.

Andrew Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Bailey said...

Before Shane Wahl posts an example of "meaningless analytic rubbish", there's a point worth making.

True, there is nonsense to be found in the writings of some recognizably analytic philosophers.

When an analytic philosopher starts mumbling about bare particulars, de re modality, tropes, the identification of mind and world, merely possible objects, immanent universals, or analyticity (to pick a few controversial examples in M&E--some of which have proved be decidedly non-nonsense!), the philosopher gets called on it. Hardcore. Someone will inevitably ask, `What does that even *mean*?' This is a healthy impulse, I think.

In short, we analytic philosophers call each other out on the bullshit. I hope the same can be said for non-analytic philosophers. Can it?

dubious said...

I would think that a good philosopher (analytic or continental) would recognize that there is good philosophy and bullshit philosophy in both analytic and continental philosophies. Taking one example and generalizing to the whole is clearly fallacious, so there's needless shitting on continentals here.

But the deeper mistake here is that it is not the review's "ideas" that are under scrutiny, but its "rhetoric." If the language is bad, which it does need a lot of shoring up, then change the language. But the ideas are interesting. So criticize what you are actually criticizing and stop using a red herring. Continental philosophy does not equal the language it uses to express its ideas.

Shane Wahl said...

I am not going to post anything from an article. Why?

1. Because I called doing so "vapid" (which it is) and I don't want to join the ranks of the original poster.

2. Because I am not stupid enough to do so on a philosophy blog that may be frequented by people on SCs.

3. Because I am sure that by "meaningless" we are talking about two different things (which, by the way, is quite funny given this conversation). You probably mean the language is essentially meaningless (along the lines of the criticized review above). I was thinking that the "continental's" response would be to find something meaningless in terms of actual human concerns, historical context, etc. To do so would be as ridiculous as to actually construct a post entitled "Continental philosophy: bunk, tripe, or mere hogwash?" and knowingly invite an INANE discussion.

Anonymous said...

By Shane's criteria:

Meaningful: "I'd love a beer, I haven't had one all week."

Meaningless: "Some analytic philosophy is meaningless rubbish."

Whoops.

Anonymous said...

Oh snap!

Anonymous said...

Why would you waste time dissing something so utterly marginal and powerless? Do you have small penises?

Anonymous said...

Ok, the review is an awful read. But, is it an example of 'Continental philosophy'? It strikes me as graduate school post-modernese more than anything else.
To be sure, Heidegger and Hegel are tough reads, but they didn't write like that. I'm not even sure why Hegel is lumped into this group.
So, what do we mean by the rubric 'continental philosphy'?
Chris

Anonymous said...

Technically, if it is bunk and tripe, it cannot also be mere hogwash.

Sorry to be so analytic. No, wait; I'm not.

Anonymous said...

I think 'bunk' (from 'bunkum') and 'hogwash' both mean 'nonsense.' So it could be both bunk and nonsense, although why we need to say it twice is another question.

An interesting question is whether nonsense can be 'tripe,' meaning 'poor, offensive, or worthless.' I can see nonsense as being worthless. I can't see how it could be of poor quality in itself. It could be offensive if presented as meaningful to those who are invested in meaningfulness. (At least, they could take offense.)
Chris

Anonymous said...

Are Continental Philosophers seriously supposed to defend their (our) orientation and discipline from bludgeoning, mindless attacks?

I won't do it. But I tend to think of the principal difference between Continental and Analytic orientations as one of tone. The first is often sonorous... low... slow... (think the adults in Peanuts). The second is like relentless twittering (think the chipmunks on crystal meth).

That's about as serious as I'm gonna get with this (and anyone who's taken the time to read the Searle/Derrida exchanges will get just how serious that is).

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks this is a stupid post, is probably stupid themselves. To put it more bluntly, they are probably a continental philosopher. The continental philosopher knows that he lacks the intellect to think within a system of logic that requires precision. Since he knows he will fuck up, he decides to simply criticize logic as being bourgeois and shallow, so he can fuck up as much as he wants. Also, he knows he has nothing good to say, so he must write in the most turgid, unreadable, and obfuscatory way, so that no one who reads it figures out he is a complete charlatan, because no one can understand a damn thing he says. This results in turgid tomes filled with turgid tergiversations such as "Being and Time", which was written by a Nazi. Most Nazi philosophers were continental philosophers--ever wonder why? And don't say because Germany is part of continental Europe.
Quite simply, continental philosophy just isn't philosophy, and it should not be considered philosophy. It should be considered an obscure form of experimental literature, and some of it should even be considered Nazi propaganda.
To end on a clarifying note, philosophy is meant to discover knowledge and truth about the outside world by examining language and using logic. It is meant to establish firm and lasting foundations in the sciences, and provide big picture solutions to puzzling questions. Continental "philosophy" does none of this, and is thus an abomination to the discipline.

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