Friday, July 22, 2011

Commentary on the Ends of Thought Entry "Why is Continental Philosophy So Bad?""

I have responded to comments over at the Ends of Thought blog. I like Roman a lot. He's been a good interlocutor in the past, and with that said, I respectfully think he tells a very oversimplified story about Continental philosophy. I argue for a principle of charity that is hermeneutic in nature since so many of the ways of the writing of Continental philosophy is tied to particular pedagogic aims. It is unfair to say that Continental philosophy is all bad, especially how it is framed. That's just a one-sided engagement that would never honestly see what is at work in a particular text. How about some examples?

Caputo writes texts that deconstruct themselves or Levinas avoiding epistemic frameworks altogether in order to describe how such a view would "reduce the other to the same." Irigaray uses language to avoid the gendered speech of Romance languages and alludes to the symbolism and metaphor of things like angels and mucous to talk about something that has never existed before (a wholly developed living subjectivity of women liberated from power structures). Could analytics buy into Irigaray's use of figurative expression, Levinas' avoidance of all Western discourses that subsume difference into the same, or Caputo's heuristic deconstructionistic style? There's a point sometimes to the ambiguity. Or my particular favorite, Heidegger's move to change our understanding of language to a form of poetics. These are all points worthy of our consideration as philosophers. We need not stray away from Heidegger, Irigaray, Levinas or Caputo to see if they have anything to say. It's about time that analytic philosophers learned to read hermeneutically, not the other way around. 

The example of Irigaray is interesting. The New APPS blog did not comment on Margaret Whitford's contributions to philosophy but only listed her as doing work on Irigaray. Irigaray is an awesome styled thinker. As I noted earlier, her writing is Nietzschean and provocative in its own way. It would never sate the appetite of your typical analytic, however, nor the basis of her writings stemming from Lacan. It would be as dismissed as easily as women have been in this profession. It is one thing to shore up and be honest about one's personal biases and taste. It is another to think that there is no redeeming value in the strategies of engagement some Continental writers have taken up.


Roman Altshuler said...

I'll respond more to your comment, but I certainly never claimed or implied that "Continental philosophy is all bad." I think there is a lot of good stuff there, and that it needs to be saved from irrelevance rather than being dug further and further into self-indulgent rambling.

I do think that much Continental philosophy is extremely obsessed with style without any clear explanation why, that there is an extreme focus on interpreting--or simply repeating--claims made by specific thinkers without an attempt to explain them to the uninitiated, and a "head in the sand" attitude regarding the painfully obvious fact that continental philosophy isn't the dominant game in town, and that there might be a reason for this. I've tried reading Caputo, but to be honest I got incredibly bored when he started talking about his signature. I've seen that self-important posturing in Derrida, and that was enough for me. I'm sure there's more in Caputo, but if you start out by talking about your signature, I think you are explicitly urging people who care about philosophy not to keep reading.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Well, if you did not intend that effect, then I wouldn't want to accuse someone of making a claim they didn't actually make. I will say that it comes off like that, and I can certainly meet you part way. I don't actually like reading Caputo; I stood in on a Continental philosophy religion seminar and as someone who thinks of himself as an ethicist, I tried to get through 'Against Ethics.' I made it pretty far and often became confused about how this was doing anything other than "posturing..." This may come from the fact that I take my cue from phenomenology and hermeneutics more than I do from the French appropriation of those same thinkers. See Gadamer vs. Derrida, and you'll know who I side with. However, I will try and give Caputo his due.

I think there are substantive reasons for the elected style of some thinkers, not all: Levinas, early Husserl Derrida, Heidegger (following Kisiel's reading), certainly Kierkegaard, definitely Nietzsche, and Sartre who stands in as both a playwright, novelist and being a bad Husserlian.

I think you diagnose the problem. These thinkers cannot be easily accessed by the uninitiated. I had problems coming into Continental philosophy straight from my metaethical background and so stood by and really read Husserl for three years prior to any other thinkers. However, simply because they are inaccessible than more dominant philosophy does not bespeak A) they should practice as the dominant philosophers do things and B) simply because another way of doing philosophy is dominant doesn't entail that it ought to be dominant. You cannot infer that the mainstream is in any sense right, but you can ask the historic reasons as to why the popularity over and beyond what Continental did.

Next, simply because you can understand analytic philosophy easier, doesn't mean that the uninitiated in analytic philosophy don't have a hard time either. I've seen people from the Great Books tradition enter a completely analytic department, and they've had to grapple with the same issues I did when coming here. The point is that analytic philosophy also has its cues, terms of style and formalist ways to frame the debate, often in its favor. A critical attitude to the popular game in town doesn't necessarily entail a "head into the sand" attitude either. Central to these methods, I argue, is its assumption that one must subsume a particular problem and write from the point of view of an epistemic subject, the point of view anyone would take up in relation to a problem. This is the perspective of justification, and it often ahistoricizes a problem without paying attention to the context of significance in relation to that problem. I think that is unwise personally. For starters, it assumes a level of universal access that people like Alcoff find contemptible in feminist epistemology for very similar reasons we might listen to Foucault about.

Roman Altshuler said...

I'm not sure where we disagree. I used to think that continental philosophy--even in its post 60s francophile guise--had something interesting and distinctive to offer. To some extent, I still think that, but I also think that what it requires is people who are willing to translate the interesting bits into a more neutral language, and who are willing to excise the posturing.

The Derrida/Gadamer debate is instructive, I think. Compare it with the Gadamer/Habermas debate, where you have viable, defended, philosophical positions. Then there is Gadamer/Derrida, in which the latter really just isn't a sincere interlocutor--this may well be performative, but if you reject norms of sincere discourse, then you open yourself up to the legitimate criticism that you are not worth engaging with. Frankly, I think Derrida, which often interesting, got trapped in his own popularity; nobody can write that much and have even a quarter of it be decent, and as he got older his self-censoring failed completely in the absence of external censoring. One of the most obnoxious features of his work, I think, was his frequent criticism of both his followers and his detractors for failing to understand him. But there are good reasons why people couldn't understand him--he didn't bother to put in the work to be understood.

I think that sort of approach set a lousy precedent; it creates a cult of personality, where certain figures are so revered that what they say--no matter how nonsensical, how self-indulgent, how full of crap--becomes something to ponder; the style gets imitated, as if it is a good in itself (incidentally, I have the same problem with Wittgensteinians who tried to write like the Master, so anglophone philosophy isn't immune from that complex).

Let me put it another way: there may be reasons to take up a particularly obscure and obfuscating style. One question to ask is whether those reasons are *philosophical* ones, i.e., whether the ideas can be conveyed without the stylistic trappings. If not, one might wonder: are the ideas themselves perhaps simply so unclear, so obscure, that they cannot be expressed any other way? That is often the case. But it absurd to build a cottage industry celebrating the "unsayable"; rather, the aim should be to find ways to say it.

Incidentally, note that my comments apply almost entirely to post '60s Francophone philosophy, and to some extent to later Heidegger; phenomenology, hermeneutics, and critical theory fall into a separate camp for me. The Germans, and the French up until the post-structuralist hostile takeover, really were concerned to say something and were not hiding behind rhetoric. I also place the fault, mainly, not with the French thinkers themselves, who to some extent were trying to articulate a vision of philosophy, though a rather disunified one, but their American readers, who became just a bit too enamored with the style precisely as a way to avoid doing hard thinking.

I'm also not sure why you think I take analytic philosophy to be unproblematic. There are lots of problems. But there are clear project involved: there are efforts to articulate problems and to respond to them. I'm not convinced that francophone continental philosophy still cares about articulating problems--more often, it's a matter of describing a purely subjective view, taking it as a "given" that needs to be addressed, refusing to clarify beyond some metaphorical language, and then whining that anyone who isn't taking this problem seriously is refusing to consider alternative ways of doing philosophy.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

We don't disagree too much considering the following,

"Let me put it another way: there may be reasons to take up a particularly obscure and obfuscating style. One question to ask is whether those reasons are *philosophical* ones, i.e., whether the ideas can be conveyed without the stylistic trappings. If not, one might wonder: are the ideas themselves perhaps simply so unclear, so obscure, that they cannot be expressed any other way? That is often the case. But it absurd to build a cottage industry celebrating the "unsayable"; rather, the aim should be to find ways to say it."

Insofar as you are interested in at least hearing that the "obfuscating style" is philosophical, then we can be on board, I think. I do think, however, there might be things that can't be said, but we can still talk about them. I think we can ask questions we don't have clear articulations about such as early Heidegger's famous dictum: the question is guided by what is sought. The opening of SZ demands that we ask a question we don't have clear access to, and so we have to work it out. Likewise, we need not remain in Western philosophy for a similar vein. The experiences of kensho and satori in Zen Buddhism are clearly beyond discursive understanding and yet we still go before a teacher who tries to explain metaphorically what we need to do. Thus, there are things or elements of experience in this world that demand an openness even to the point they might be ineffable from the very start, and hence this is why poetry and art give us such a headache to thematize.

In a very similar way, Derrida's critique of presence in Western metaphysics could only be gestured at and never shown in explicit formulation. If Derrida ever said what he said, he'd commit the sin of presence, and so he avoided it all costs. Now, it remains to be seen what measure of insight this offer us. I have a paper where I Husserlize Derrida's notion of play since I find it so incoherent. However, as Dastur once told me in person, we need only listen to past thinkers, we don't actually have to agree with them.

In conclusion, there are times where I think occlusion for the price of clarity should come with an openness to hermeneutic honesty. That might make for an interesting paper, revising Davidsonian charity with Gadamerian openness, even more ironic about they're own correspondence exemplifies, I think, that we all listen to the past. This includes listening to even analytics.

Roman Altshuler said...

There is a question about what "unsayable" is: is it something that, in principle, can never be said? Or is it a facet of experience that we still haven't quite developed a vocabulary to describe? If the latter, then sure, this is what philosophy does. Witness the debates about "the hard problem" in philosophy of mind! (Of course, some jump to conclusions to quickly, arguing that the current state of play shows us that we really have nothing to say, or that we should say it in entirely materialist terms, or whatever.)

My worry is about the first approach, the one where there is just something that is in principle unsayable. Not unsayable in the sense that you have to try really hard not to say it (honestly, I don't know what that whole bit about Derrida's critique of presence is; I suspect there's some overblown drama in Derrida, but I could be wrong). But unsayable in the sense that it just can't be said. At least some Zen stuff, from what little I've read, points to something like that. Honestly, I don't think that is, should be, or even can be philosophy's business. Something that cannot be clearly articulated lies outside the domain of philosophy. Maybe poetry or theology can deal with it, but that's a different issue, and I do worry about what happens to philosophy if we do go there: I think in a very real way standards have to slip, because what are the standards of "quality philosophy" or of "serious intellectual work" when the topic is one about which nothing can be said?

Carbondale Chasmite said...

I think for some phenomena we have a vocabulary to express some insights about the phenomenon, but we can't get anymore precise. There is some vagueness and that's the limit of the phenomenon in question. For instance, Levinas' description of the radical otherness of the Other. That phrase means something to me. Quite simply, the value in the other is so radically unique that no principle of individuation can provide that uniqueness other than the solely unique other in question. Levinas eschewed any type of representational thought. He felt to communicate this insight, to give it phenomenological expression, he had to avoid both the Heideggerian and Husserlian language. He still described this self-other relation, but he did so in a way preserving of radical otherness as a mode of givenness that both Heideggerian and Husserlian phenomenology could not describe. Again, it is the advent of a new language to communicate these insights about what is given and when you look at someone who lost their family in the Holocaust, again, you see the merits of innovative style and expression giving life to an insight that resonates with lived-experience.

I understand the worry that if I wrote like Levinas or used the locution at a conference "the radical otherness of the Other" and you were in the front row, you might be suspicious that I've simply invented a term that doesn't do any "real work." What type of work is it doing? That's what you're wondering. Is that just self-indulgent ramble?

Now incidentally, if you know anything of Jewish theology, the self-other relation is Judaic. Levinas seems a little guilty of masking it and calling it phenomenology of moral experience. We'll leave that for a different time.

But why shouldn't philosophy give expression to the unsayable? Perhaps, it might be better to put it like this. Do you think that philosophy is so stagnant that it could never innovate the resources or language to communicate the unsayable? If nothing can be said, then there are reasons to conclude that, and perhaps it is explaining that nothing can be said which philosophy should take on. This is the case of Maimonedes and God. For Maimonedes, no positive attribute could be claimed of God since we cannot understand him at all--an interesting conception of God called negative theology. Should Maimonedes have ever written about God in the first place, or the ineffability at all? Should he, barring your concern for clarity, never written at all? Does his concern for the God which nothing can be said about not occupy his reflective concern? What happens to the search for wisdom if we must anticipate what the phenomenon is with such clarity that it cannot astonish us on its own? That's highly un-phenomenological and if there is a label to describe my brazen attitudes, it is the word "phenomenological."

I think you get what I mean by asking these questions. Even more to the point, the move to poetry in Heidegger is a stunningly poignant point. To conceive of philosophy and language as poetry undermines clarity. That much I will concede, but such an openness to language and the ability to experience the world allow for the communication of things unseen, unclear and often vague. Shouldn't philosophy be more than this? This is especially revealing in your previous post, "Something that cannot be clearly articulated lies outside the domain of philosophy. " Anxiety, death and temporality might be such things and while traditional epistemic schemas or moral philosophies might not have the ability to broach such vague and unclear phenomena, phenomenology can.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Now, here is the confession. I just get nervous about a philosophy so obsessed with clarity that it removes all possibility of talking about that which astonishes and moves us (or traumatizes), such as the sublime or God. This would result in what Quine called a dessert ontology, and it is so far removed from having any real practical weight or meaning to lived experience that at that point, the reversal of your concern enters upon analytic heels instead of a Continental thinkers.

The interesting implication of a philosophy that in principle only abides by what I will in analytic parody call Altschuler's thesis: 1. Something that cannot be clearly articulated lies outside the domain of philosophy. If we abide by 1, then we could never really ever enact the phenomenological reduction to get at what having an experience means. Experience would take on the already decided character of the prior assumptions, and for the Husserlian, this will mean an entire mode of access is cut off from view, a promulgation of the "natural attitude" if you will. Since the urge for clarity cuts up the phenomenon prior to its self-showing in a very real phenomenological way, there can be no disclosure in experience.

Now, you'll have to concede some measure of plausibility on behalf of phenomenology to me in order to even accept this worry. More to the point, I want a conception of philosophy that moves effortlessly across thresholds and boundaries while preserving the necessity of phenomenological description to get at how we live through phenomena. I want analyses of historicity, art work and communal fellow-feeling and God all at the same time. I want a philosophy that preserves first and foremost how we live through the world. I think that is where wisdom starts, and you'll notice that religion, art, poetry produce objects of meaning that disclose and do a good job of never wholly disclosing in their entirety Yet, they do gesture, provoke, and challenge established meanings, and perhaps, even produce new meanings on top of that. Philosophy should pay attention to that since for me that is the standard of rigor by which I measure philosophy.

Roman Altshuler said...

I confess that, when Levinas talks about the radical otherness of the other, he is not describing something that I have access to, and when Levinasians use such language, as if it were somehow unproblematic, I cringe. And I do think that there is a break--between rigorous phenomenology that aims at essences, or at intersubjective phenomena, and phenomenology that appeals to purely subjective phenomena that cannot be conveyed in language. The latter really doesn't, I think, have a place in philosophy. There is always a reasonable question: why should I accept that you are giving an accurate description of an experience if that experience is not open to me? And why should I take your talking about such an experience seriously? Should I just trust that Levinas is talking about something real, even if it seems inaccessible to me? The correct response on my part would seem to be to simply ignore Levinas, since I cannot engage someone who appeals to something not available to me and yet insists that it really is there! And in the context of this discussion, we can put it this way: if you are appealing to an experience that you claim everybody shares, and yet other quite good philosophers are strongly suspicious of your claims (and plenty of phenomenologists are very suspicious of Levians), you have no reason to complain that others are belittling or ignoring your work: you are incapable of explaining its value to them!

You argue against my suggestion thus: "Experience would take on the already decided character of the prior assumptions, and for the Husserlian, this will mean an entire mode of access is cut off from view, a promulgation of the "natural attitude" if you will." I think this is Levinasian posturing--there is no good reason to accept it. The basic idea is that there are some things--things of interest to philosophy--that cannot be said clearly, and in fact to say them clearly would be to rob them of their surprisingness, or their uniqueness, or their awe. What. Ever. The idea that stating something or explaining something necessarily subsumes it to the Logic of the Same just doesn't ring true.

Maimonides is interesting here, by the way. Aside from the question of his connection to philosophy, you read him as attempting--through philosophy--to direct us to God's majesty, to the domain of the unsayable as the awe-inspiring. But Maimonides also has at least two points. A negative one, which argues that those who do think of God as having attributes, are mistaken and perhaps guilty of idolatry. And a positive point: that if we are to think of God, we must think of God's *actions* rather than His attributes; and we do that by studying physics and metaphysics! So if anything, negative theology is meant to direct us toward the realm of what *can* be said, toward the realm of philosophy.

Finally, I think you are completely ignoring the distinction between the in principle unsayable (e.g., the attributes of God in Rambam), and that which is unsayable only because we have yet to develop a vocabulary for it--which is thus open to phenomenological inquiry. You want phenomenology to address the former, which strikes me as a dead end--the unsayable cannot be said; it can at best be pointed to. So I don't buy your picture of phenomenology--and I think, again, here we find the difference between Husserlian phenomenologists and those who want to point to aporias and stop there. Philosophy is about understanding. If you want philosophy to focus on what in principle cannot be understood, to become more like poetry... well, that's your ship to sail, but please don't sail it under the flag of philosophy!

Carbondale Chasmite said...

I am not posturing with Levinas. I am being as charitable as I can hermeneutically to him as an example to the larger points of style and composition that has outlined your criticism and my rejection of that criticism. For the record, I am thoroughly convinced that presupposing your ontology prior to the showing of the phenomenon vitiates givenness. To dispose of that insight is to abandon phenomenology altogether and the radical givenness of the other has a real point. If I know someone's essence and what does not qualify as an essence, if I can point out who a Jew is and who is not -- like the Law of German Blood and Honor -- then I can use them or worse. You know what follows and I need not even label that event. There's a real structure being pointed out in Levinas and the larger avoidance of the reduction of the same, as you have some familiarity with this phrase, is exemplified in a real concrete situation. Having your father and brothers shot by the SS might make you rethink a few things, including if the key insight is not to subsume everything that is different into a representational order that nullifies difference, or in more plain English "being treated like a Jew" under the Nazi regime.

Now keep in mind. I only drew on Levinas as an example where the boundary policing happens if we are committed to a clear and distinct conception of clarity and meaning in our language. I think Levinas oversimplifies intentionality and turns Husserl into a thinker of modernity. This was a common French reading of Husserl, even from Levinas who first introduced elements of Husserl's thought into France.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

The point of aporias was never to simply stop there and even Husserl has the concept of a limit phenomenon. I do think that phenomenology can touch upon experiences that are prima facie ineffable and what in principle cannot be said now. The hope that the reduction might clarify things in addition to putting us into contact with the phenomenon themselves without presupposing too much about what is in principle capable of being revealed. There may be structured experiences out there that are often looked at within the natural attitude without proper attention to how the first-person perspective lives through them. I just happened to have a wider conception of what can be given. Causal mechanisms in my neural network will never explain what it is like to love my wife or find an art object beautiful. This type of thinking is only problematic with its general positing character when that is all that we are capable of seeing. The fact that you are having a sustained conversation about the limits of phenomenology means that you are at least open to this type of work, but I'm sure you know analytic philosophers that do not seek to understand how things are revealed in lived-experience but have already cut up the world into categories. These categories sometimes, but not always, hinder an in depth analysis of the phenomenon to such an extent that we can within two minutes of hearing these categories already come up with the logical anticipated objections of the stated position.

Beyond that, however, you'll find that perhaps there is a limit to the type of givenness that one could take up in Husserl. For Husserl, the emotions are founded on perceptual intentionality. They are not their own modes of givenness unlike Scheler. Scheler provides an interesting analysis of value tied to experiencing intentional feeling. In the same way, I think Levinas does point to something real, namely, the radical singularity of the face-to-face encounter. In your words, he finds the vocabulary to express it. It's up to you if you find any redeeming quality in it.

Roman Altshuler said...

I guess I'll just note that it's emphasizing the "radical otherness" of the other that leads to things like genocide in the first place--this was, of course, Levinas's view. But it is also, I suspect, something to say in favor of the Same.

But here is, I think, a pretty basic problem: there is a strong divergence, among people who've read Levinas carefully and know the context, on whether his view of the Other is even coherent. There isn't really a philosophical debate there; it's more a question of whether or not the basic intuition speaks to you. And I think philosophy ought to strive for more than that. Dermot Moran had a nice way of putting it, suggesting that "rather than revealing things in the phenomenological sense, Levinas's thought appears to levitate above them, completely preoccupied with its own self-referential system." (Intro to Phenom, 353) I should think we want less, not more, of that in philosophy, continental or otherwise.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Is that the same work where Moran states that Levinas's "metaphorical exuberance" is a cause of "his philosophical irresponsibility"? Simon Glendinning writes of equal frustration when he says,

"I do not know how many times I've picked up the 'great book' [Totality and Infinity] only to put it down again in a kind of bewildered is hard not to have sympathy with anyone who feels that, without having read very far at all, they have already read far enough."

It was equally frustrating that in seminar that we had to write clearly about Levinas. I picked up any commentary I could find. I put a lot of work into those writings. I tried to decipher them. I even had lunch with an English PhD student confessing that I have trouble trying to get at the core of the text. He shrugged his shoulders and told me. "That's your problem. Isn't it? There is no core." Needless to say, I didn't understand why the hell not?!

The only way I could personally deal with his writings was to think through the Preface to TI. In it, he confesses he's trying to describe a type of moral intentionality. Then, it hit me. Let's stick to writing about that. Let's see his work as articulating a structure of experience that requires its own independent type of intentionality and simultaneously this had to be a critique of Husserl somehow.

Personally, I almost lost it in that seminar. On several occasions, I wanted to simply go back to my Aristotle and Ross. How could I critique value and ethics from the standpoint of phenomenology when the main towline of moral phenomenology, Levinas, hadn't done it at all? I was there once, and still am on a personal level. Yet, I made it through. I struggled. I guess that's the real point. I'm a wholehearted enthusiast of Gadamer's belief that various strands of traditions (and the reification of analytic and Continental philosophy fosters a belief in traditions as you well know).

Gadamer's transformative engagement with traditions uses the language of enduring or suffering. You have to suffer tradition before it can speak to you for self-understanding. Pedagogically, I've always felt that is what is missing from undergraduates, the ability to suffer the qualitative depths of the humanities. I guess all I am saying, even with all the turgidity in his writings, I still think there is an articulation of an experience. The poetic and quasi-mystical style pertains to his simultaneous interest in Talmudic scholarship. The insight is shareable though. In its core, I'd define the otherness insight several propositions:

1. The other/person is completely irreducible even to the point that persons defy representation in any philosophical system.

2. A phenomenological description of persons must respect the irreducibility expressed in 1 above.

3. An ethics must start at the same place expressed by 1 and 2.

4. Levinas only observes this irreducibility and he ignores other levels of phenomenological description of moral experience. For me, these include values and agency.

By the way, others do it better. Scheler's ethical personalism can articulate the same insights and there's even a full-fledged system to generate some action-guidance.

Roman Altshuler said...

I have a sense I won't get to Scheler any time soon... there are just too many traditions to suffer, and I do need to occasionally write things, and not simply suffer... Frankly, on a personal level, I do have problems with the irreducibility of persons thesis. I'm much more fond of the Kantian view of personhood. But also, I've just never been struck by the idea that people are so very unique and irreducible; it's always seemed like we are all more or less the same, and more or less reducible. What's irreducible about us is perhaps best captured impersonally--that no one can take one's death away from one, or that the mineness of my being cannnot be shared, or that I am obligated by myself by my own self-legislated law. In other words: uniqueness is completely abstract, and reducible to shared structures. But that's just me. Talk of the Other always just seems like, well, really abstract talk with no grounding in (at least) my experience. (One of many reasons, by the way, to be skeptical of the claim that continental philosophy grounds itself in lived experience in a way analytic philosophy doesn't; I think Williams, Raz, McDowell, Velleman, and plenty others are perfectly grounded in lived experience; there are just very different ways of interpreting and thematizing that experience--and those ways are, by and large, abstractions in every tradition.)

Carbondale Chasmite said...

I think you're right for very good reasons; philosophy of action and moral theory always had to talk about the normative question as Korsgaard said. This means it is highly "phenomenological" often without being explicitly aware of it. This is why I spent so much of my analytic training in ethics.

That also reminds me where Kierkegaard in the Postscript said that ethics preserves the perspective of subjectivity. This is clearly also true of Kant in which the question of normativity refers to “What I ought to do?” To be a Kantian means to put the dignity of persons front and center. This is why Scheler starts there in agreement with Kant.

And, to be blunt, philosophers never really have to agree on anything. It's the discussions where we meet, where we find we have more to learn. It's Socratic humility and a pinch of dialogical understanding a la Gadamer. That's the beautiful part about what we do. Isn't it? We will always have colleagues and friends that disagree with us. Hopefully, I’ve persuaded you that at some level there might be some redeeming talk about the other, and we’ve tried to work out what a serious engagement with Continental philosophy would look like. On your part, it is the attempt to communicate why insights germane to the Continental tradition should matter beyond simply being obsessed with exegetical analysis, and I’ve suggested that part of that obsession is actually bound up with historically concrete matters. I’ve suggested that phenomenology can articulate experiences that in principle might be ineffable, although they are still “given”, and you’ve offered reasons to be suspicious of that view. Both of us agree that the best part of the Continental tradition that have insights to share about concrete matters is phenomenological over the philosophical inertia in post-structuralism in Derrida. I agree.

On a personal level, I've never liked the Kantian conception of agency or freedom. It seems a little pie-in-the-sky for me to accept the full blown contra-causal freedom of the will. It's seems always too abstract. It's like Other-talk is to you. I prefer a conception of self that has a variety of capacities that it exercises and through the practice it gets better at its own capacities. Someday, I plan on trying to tie my love for Kierke, Aristotle and the phenomenologists somehow.

The irreducibility of Dasein might compare to the level of the person. There are shared experiences that underlie each structure.