Friday, February 8, 2008

Assumptions About Doing Continental Philosophy

For the first time ever, I am making my base assumptions of how to proceed in Continental Philosophy (CP herein, CP-ers for “Continental Philosophers”). Here's how I think to navigate the Divide and renew interest in CP. This is basically a rant internalizing the healthy criticism I have received from many Analytics.

For me, philosophy comes down to arguments and an analytic attitude to know when someone is feeding you sophistry or genuine arguments. Essentially, what this means is that one can view CP in this way and defy all pigeon-holing from those that think CP is nonsensical. This amounts to rethinking CP canon with such authors as like Blanchot and Derrida. One doesn't dismiss them from not making sense. Instead, I recommend that CP-ers learn to write and do philosophy analytically. Unknown to many analytic philosophers, there is a history of dialectic argumentations in CP-ers that is never fully illuminated by how they are often approached by CP-ers ourselves.

The approach CP-ers take when writing on these CP thinkers often fail to push forward an argument clearly available for analysis. As CP-ers, this may make our case harder to make, but there are others doing good work in CP that are overlooked. For instance, Follesdal's JPHIL 1966 article on Husserl's Notion of Noema is a classic piece in Husserl scholarship, appears in J PHIL and meets all the expectations of good philosophical writing. In fact, I argue this piece should be emulated as a way of doing CP. The success of CP turns on CP-ers having the ability to explain CP in terms of arguments. For instance, a good CP-er and scholar of Levinas should be able to put Levinas' thought into the context of a dialectic. If one is a defender of his, then one will have to argue why ethics is a first philosophy and that my encounter with the other is transcendent. The better one can achieve mastery over what arguments are made in CP, the better CP will be in the future.

Finally, the fact that CP-ers want to talk to Analytics but can't do it effectively is another piss poor sign that something has gone seriously wrong. This is what I bring to the table other than being an Ethicist. Being schooled in the Analytic tradition allows me to know where other people are coming from, see arguments and work within a framework as the rest of the profession. I assume this is the best way to work, and my work on Heidegger and Husserl has benefited tremendously from these base assertions.

The insistence of argumentation is pushing those interested in CP to do actual philosophy. Such assertions are consistent overall with the pedagogical assumptions in teaching critical thinking, and the ideals we strive to emulate for in writing in our courses in every philosophy department worldwide. I would never TA a course in which the instructor attempted to emulate Derrida-like reasoning in its approach to writing. Yet, I would be very interested to TA a course in which Derrida's points were presented as arguments even though this last point of presenting his ideas would have him turning in his grave.

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