Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Work in Continental Philosophy

Every so often, B. Leiter posts on areas of work being done in different philosophical fields, and I feel it is about time the question gets put to Contiental Philosophy: What is some of the exciting work being done in Continental Philosophy? I feel I want to know what people are doing in Continental Philosophy. So, if you visit this blog and happen, like me, to be a graduate student in philosophy, then tell us the area you're working on.

For instance, I have noted a dearth of Continental phenomenology amongst those appealing to moral phenomenology in Anglo-American ethics. Essentially, the definition of phenomenology offered is something more in line with a Nagel-ian what-is-it-like-to-be-X. As such, there is no broad knowledge of a consciousness as taking on an object in the Husserlian sense. Instead, phenomenology is only the "seems" part of the seems/is distinction often found in philosophy of mind. As such, I've proposed to take a look at questions of Anglo-American ethics. I want to see what undergirds these traditional problems -- such as a conception of practical reason or the incommensurability of values. I argue that the phenomenological reduction whence employed in looking at such problems can better guide our ethical theorizing.

In recent years, I know that the debate on how to take Heidegger has been raging in regards to whether or not Heidegger's phenomenology amounts to a form of transcendence or is it better understood as an existential phenomenology. But again, these are areas of scholarship that are currently beyond me right now.

So what are the current areas of continental philosophy that are intriguing to many?


Roman Altshuler said...

Hey, I think you mentioned the big areas! Are there others? I admit to being largely ignorant of what's going on in Francophone non-phenomenological circles, though it seems to me that the deconstruction fixation is dying down. The rest seems to be pretty stable; at least, it's not clear that any particular area is getting hotter.

The most exciting work, it seems to me, is on the phenomenology/cog sci/analytic phil of mind side of things. Alva Noe's book was obviously a major mover in this; but stuff by Shaun Gallagher and Sean Kelly, among others, is big. As I'm sure you know.

There's also--it seems to me--a rising interest in getting Heidegger into the analytic debates about ethics, philosophy of action, and practical reason. Maybe I'm just more attuned to this because it's my area, but lately I've been seeing it everywhere and meeting a lot of graduate students working on it. I think Steven Crowell is the most obvious established figure here at the moment, though Dreyfus's influence is also significant.

But it seems like I'm just pointing out variations on the themes you already mentioned. Maybe these are the hottest areas, or maybe it's just that those are the areas that analytic/continental hybrid people are most likely to notice.

I fully agree with you about the weirdness of phenomenologists not really getting into the analytic ethics game, especially with how much the word "phenomenology" gets thrown around. (At the APA, Dermot Moran gave a great paper critiquing Searle's conception of phenonemology through Husserl.) And yes, I just said that I think there's interest in bringing Heidegger into this game (though not so much on normative ethics as on meta-ethics), but it's generally Heidegger qua Heidegger, not Heidegger qua phenomenologist, if that distinction makes sense.

Vancouver Philosopher said...

I've noted that much of the attention a friend of mine that does cog sci is in Heidegger's idea that subjectivity is an embedded process, mapping onto the world in its becoming. This insight somehow is really significant, and I do admit that philosophy of mind is not my area. I cannot judge the interest, but I think you are right that it is probably Dreyfus' book on the inability for computers to think that got this Heidegger/phil of mind ball rolling.