Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good Quote

Since much of my life rests on two divides. On the first, it is America and Canada, and this comes only since I have resided in Canada for the last 2.5 years. The second is, of course, invoked by the imagery of my blog's title, and that is the analytic/continental Divide. I found this quote a while back and wanted to share it with you. It comes from Gary Gutting's review of Leiter's Future of Philosophy over at the NDPR. I've been wondering if Leiter's newest edited anthology by Oxford University Press is a product of Gutting's deadly accurate criticism.

I agree that there is no fruitful analytic-Continental division in terms of substantive doctrines distinctively characteristic of the two sides. But it seems to me that we can still draw a significant distinction between analytic and Continental philosophy in terms of their conceptions of experience and reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy reads experience in terms of common-sense intuitions (often along with their developments and transformations in science) and understands reason in terms of formal logic. Continental philosophy, by contrast, typically sees experience as penetrating beyond the veneer of common-sense and science, and regards reason as more a matter of intellectual imagination than deductive rigor. In these terms, Continental philosophy still exists as a significant challenge to the increasing hegemony of analytic thought and, as such, deserved a hearing in this volume.

Babette E. Babich's Essay on the Analytic/Continental Divide

This essay is far-reaching and well-accomplished. It spells out methodological difficulty of the stylistic propensity of our philosophical climate with a keen eye to Heidegger and Nietzsche. Very good.

Here's the link:


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Philosophical Gourmet Report Tirade

Brian Leiter is now approaching the two year point where he uses 469 nominated evaluators to speak for a profession of 10,000 philosophy PhDs in North America, and countless numbers elsewhere. I cannot help but this is really an unfair evaluation process since it really doesn't do justice to the work or contribution of philosophers in general. I've always wondered why the current Continental Philosophy list never included the following schools:

1. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
2. Depaul University
3. Duquesne University
4. Villanova
5. University of Oregon
6. Middlesex University (in the UK)
7. Marquette University
8. University of Ottawa (Canada)
9. University of Guelph (Canada)

You can compare the 2006 - 2008 rankings on Leiter's page with the Society of Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy's website.

Good programs in Continental philosophy are specialized programs that offer chances to study texts in the original language, groups that informally study the texts of the European tradition, have foreign exchange programs with sister-universities in Europe and have more than just the typical "token" Continental in an overwhelmingly analytic department. In fact, this is upsetting since many schools proferred as places to study Continental philosophy like Cambridge, I imagine, do not have the same resources that, say, Penn-State University or New School University have to develop good solid Continental philosophers.

Don't get me wrong. There are several good recommendations on the list of the PGR's breakdown. I just don't imagine that 469 people can speak for the work done by 10,000. Instead, we should all follow the advice of the APA statement on rankings which encourages aspiring graduate students to seek out Graduate Directors of programs. Leiter's list becomes more of a developed high school popularity contest than truly representing the interests of European philosophers. Moreover, such a mainstream conception of philosophy tends to overlook really unique programs where one can study marginalized areas outside mainstream philosophy. There are some good programs in Indian philosophy at the University of New Mexico, University of Hawaii and perhaps Temple University--these schools are only taken seriously by evaluators insofar as they are good places to do Indian philosophy, but will never approach what is valued as mainstream philosophy. I think such perceptions pernicious to a discipline that is rooted in the "love of wisdom."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Julia Annas and Moral Phenomenology

In a recent article, Phenomenology of Virtue (March 2008), Julia Annas wants to know how to distinguish the content of what it is to be virtuous from what it is to be less-than virtuous. For her and myself, there must be a content to the experience of being a virtuous person. For her, this follows that virtue ethics makes claim about what type of people we ought to be, and the methodology of doing ethics in this way assumes what I also take for granted as a phenomenology--there is content in how we experience phenomena in the first-person-perspective. Both the virtue ethicist, and the phenomenologist meet on these assumptions about the subject/moral agent as an experiencer of subjective content in relation to having an experience.

In her view, she suggests Aristotle's answer that the virtuous person finds being virtuous pleasant is the solution to what the phenomenology of virtue consists. While I make no claims about her substantive proposal. Her suggestion might just be the case. She grounds her interpretation of Aristotle's answer in a very closely familiar Heideggerian way. She invokes notions of practical involvement, the exercise of being absorbed in our world through the work of social psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's "flow experience." This proposal sounds very, very, very Heideggerian to me. Consider this part of the text that captures of the core of the view:

Defensible forms of virtue ethics, in my opinion, hold that virtues are acquired
and exercised in a way which is relevantly similar to the acquisition and
exercise of practical skills. The person learning to be brave will need to ask
herself, when faced by a situation in which someone needs to be rescued, what
would be a brave thing to do here, or what a brave person would do
here...Someone who is, as we say, truly or really brave, the mature brave
person, will respond to the other person's need for rescue without having to
work out what a brave person would do, or what would be a brave action here. not
only do we not need to suppose that such thoughts occur, we can see how they
might, in the brave person, actually inhibit the needed response (p. 24)

I'm going to think about this for a while, but I anticipate this interpretation will come close to Heidegger's construal of Dasein as "being-in."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Ethics of Christmas: Readers make Comments

I wanted to throw this out there since, yes, I'm updating my philosophy blog on Christmas Eve. No life, I know, I know. Anyway, here's the question:

If you accept a moral prohibition on lying (as many normative theories lend themselves, I believe), then what about participating in the deception of children for Christmas?

Give a bunch of answers, as I'm curious what people's intuitions are.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nietzsche Reading Group in Vancouver

For those that follow my blog close by...I'll be starting up a Nietzsche or Heidegger reading group. No one is thrilled at the stigma of reading Heidegger out in the open, but some of you are into the naturalist readings of Nietzsche through Brian Leiter. Many analytic philosophers have been looking to Nietzsche as a speculative naturalist. I'm thinking of focusing on this:

Nietzsche and Morality, ed. Brian Leiter