Monday, January 16, 2012

Leiterite Headaches: Crochetedly Ole' Critchley

There is a really, really deep-seated hatred of not what we might call "Continental philosophy" but Simon Critchley. Leiter hates him. He abhors him, and the 'Party Line Continental' approach to philosophy. In a devastatingly characteristic fashion, Leiter writes

The actual reality is this:  there are a group of philosophers in the Anglophone world--at about a dozen PhD-granting programs in the US (basically the "SPEP universe"), and at a handful of places in the UK--who are marginalized from and not very knowledgeable about the main tendencies in Anglophone philosophy over the last fifty years, but who are deadly serious about Heidegger and who need to justify their existence to university administrators.  Even though there are now literally hundreds of philosophers at the major "analytic" departments that award PhDs who work on the Continental traditions in philosophy (including Heidegger), these SPEPPies need to perpetuate the illusion of two different "camps" so they can explain why the folks in "their camp" aren't taken seriously outside their network...

I don't mean to prod, but there is no nice way to say this. Having a like for Heidegger's philosophy is no different than doing a dissertation on, say, Kantian practical rationality, and then having to face the anonymous administrator. At the end of the day, administrators don't seem to get that the humanities in general are necessary for civilization. They simply and often think that you can't get rid of everything else except the English department because employers want students to write well. They just happen to have the name of the language everyone needs to be writing well, and so they are the only humanities to be left at the end.

Moreover, Leiter does admit that Party-Line Continentals are "marginalized from and not very knowledgeable about he main tendencies in Anglophone philosophy over the last fifty years." However, I think this patently false. I know several younger Heidegger scholars that don't fit this bill and have come from "SPEPpie" institutions. Lauren Freeman's article on moral particularism and Heidegger is exceptionally revealing. Steven Crowell's reading Heidegger and Korsgaard is intriguing. So, it is very possible to come from these schools, have a background in the tendencies of Anglo-phone philosophy and seriously reject those approaches. It's allowed to happen.

Again, there is some good work being done at SPEP just like good papers in epistemology are given at the APA.

At serious issue is the hermeneutic character of Heidegger's thought, and what this means for anyone that thinks philosophy arrives at some privileged insight. If Heidegger is right, then there are no more immutable truths revealed at the end of the day. It is in these ramifications of section 31 and 32 inside Being and Time that incur the most wrath when we think about the methods we use in philosophical reflection.


enowning said...

It seems that for some schools matter more than philosophy.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Indeed. As long as I get to write tomes like a wizard, I'm cool though I do want to say something like "Can't we all just get along."