Sunday, December 20, 2009

Continental

In the comments to a few posts I've pointed out that while my sympathies definitely lie with Analytic philosophy, I've developed an appreciation for Continental philosophy. It seems to me to leave far too much room for speculation, and thus of determining one's conclusions in advance, but nevertheless I think it has some value. If you have a high view of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, like I do, you simply can't ignore it.

Despite having a strong atheist history, in the last few decades Continental philosophy has taken a rather significant religious turn. It seems that despite their best efforts to avoid God (on their own terms) he just kept popping up. The significance of this was brought home to me recently when I looked through the titles in a series by Fordham University Press, called Perspectives in Continental Philosophy. I was led to it because I own volume 45, Is There a Sabbath for Thought? Between Religion and Philosophy, a collection of essays by William Desmond (I quoted one of them here for anyone who's interested). What struck me was how many of the titles in this series are explicitly about religion. Here are a few of the books that look most interesting to me at a brief glance:

After God: Richard Kearney and the Religious Turn in Continental Philosophy
Being Jewish/Reading Heidegger: An Ontological Encounter
Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity
Flight of the Gods: Philosophical Perspectives on Negative Theology
Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida
Overcoming Onto-theology: Toward a Postmodern Christian Faith
Phenomenology and the “Theological Turn”: The French Debate
The Question of Christian Philosophy Today
Rethinking Philosophy of Religion: Approaches from Continental Philosophy
Words of Life: New Theological Turns in French Phenomenology

Again, this is just a handful of the religious titles in this series -- a series not about Continental philosophy and religion, but just Continental philosophy. However, you should probably take all of this with a grain of salt since Fordham University is a traditionally Catholic school.

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4 comments:

Matko said...
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Matko said...

Can we determine where the starting point of continental tradition is?

I wouldn't tag Kierekegaard and Nietzsche as Continental philosophers but more as anticipators and influences on it like German Idealist or Marx. For me, the Continental tradition begins with Husserl's phenomenology in the same way the analytic traditions begins with Frege, Husserl's contemporary and correspondent. If we would include such philosophers like Marx or Hegel, then the analytic tradition would comprise peoples like Bentham, Mill, and Sedgwick. That would mean the analytic philosophy began all the way back into the 19th century, not just its later decades. I could be wrong, though. Blackwell's Companion to Continental Philosophy deals with direct post-Kantians, so my appraisal is possibly more of a subjective kind.

Regardless, a definitive continental philosopher of religion would be Martin Buber.

Jim S. said...

I don't think Husserl is intrinsically Continental; he could be used just as easily by analytic philosophers. Indeed, many analytic philosophers of science were influenced by Husserl (like Sellars, for example).

I take your meaning about Kierkegaard and Nietzsche being anticipators without necessarily being Continental themselves. But that's my point: Continental philosophy is almost a commentary on Nietzsche, kind of like how Whitehead said all philosophy was commentary on Plato. If you're interested in Nietzsche, Analytic philosophy doesn't have that much for you.

Matko said...

I don't think Husserl is intrinsically Continental; he could be used just as easily by analytic philosophers. Indeed, many analytic philosophers of science were influenced by Husserl (like Sellars, for example).

If one philosopher influenced another, it doesn't follow the former belongs to latter's tradition. Frege played a major influence in Husserl's rejection of then dominating pyschologism in mathematics. Does that make Frege a phenomenologist? Hume is a large star in the anglo-american tradition, but is he an analytic philosopher?