• Pfhorrest
    389
    For those who don't understand the question, here's a summary of the division I wrote in another thread recently, which prompted me to post this poll:

    In the early 20th century, philosophy in the English-speaking world became dominated by a group of philosophers who put very heavy emphasis on logic and empiricism, focusing almost all their philosophy on language and mathematics and leaving everything else either to be the work of the natural sciences or else denounced as utter nonsense. They emphasized philosophy as a professional academic discipline concerned with rigorous logical analysis of concepts. Like-minded philosophers from across continental Europe fled to Britain and America during the build up to WWII. Their way of thinking and its descendants are the Analytic branch of contemporary philosophy that still dominates in the English-speaking world of professional philosophy today (though not so much in other humanities departments).

    In contrast, all the rest of contemporary philosophy is "Continental", referring to the continent of Europe in juxtaposition to the islands of Britain, and by comparison to the Analytic tradition it focuses more on philosophy as an examination of the lived experience of being a person embodied in the world trying to figure out what to do and why.

    EDIT: One of the first responses below added some more good detail to the distinction, which I think it worth retro-quoting up here in the OP:

    The distinction is not just one of subject matter or the overall approach to subject matter, but very importantly, it's a difference of style, of methodological focus, and of expression preferences. Analytic philosophy tends towards tackling things with a relatively narrow focus, one thing at a time, with a preference for a plain, usually rather dry, more or less scientific and/or logical approach. Continental philosophy tends towards a much broader, "holistic" focus, where it tries to tie together many threads at once, with a preference for a far more decorative, looser/playful approach to language. Both sides tend to see the other side as approaching things in a way that doesn't really work/doesn't really accomplish what we're trying to accomplish as philosophers. Those with a continental preference tend to see analytic philosophy as too dry, too boring, too narrow, pointless, mind-numbingly laborious, etc. Those with an analytic preference tend to see continental philosophy as too flowery, inexact, sometimes incoherent, too ready to make unjustified assumptions, etc.Terrapin Station
    1. Do you lean more toward Continental or Analytic philosophy? (17 votes)
        Analytic
        24%
        Continental
        18%
        Yes
        24%
        No
        35%
  • Metaphyzik
    6
    interestingly enough, there is one philosopher who embodied both - Wittgenstein. The tractatus was an attempt at pure analytics. And this analytics movement kind of failed imho.... philosophy’s place in the humanities is no longer purported to be tied to properly defining language or mathematics logically anymore.....

    Then the philosophical investigations - Wittgenstein basically did an about face - truth is relative - if we all agree on something then it is true. That is an over simplification but relatively accurate (pun intended)

    So maybe the real question is about if either of those 2 categories still makes sense 100 years later? Philosophy of mind and the more scientific metaphysics are rife with all kinds of suppositions. The reality is that the grounding of truth is no nearer than it used to be, nor any further. Those categories are just for those who want to label themselves...

    An old continental philosophy still has an internal logic to it. And the old analytical philosophies do too. But so what? What is the next phase of philosophy? Where is it moving?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Your definition of analytic philosophy is much too narrow--you seem to basically be equating it with logical positivism/the Vienna Circle as a movement, while your definition of continental philosophy is too broad. It suggests a bias to say the least.

    Which I'm noticing more because for the most part I think that continental philosophy sucks. ;-)

    The distinction is not just one of subject matter or the overall approach to subject matter, but very importantly, it's a difference of style, of methodological focus, and of expression preferences. Analytic philosophy tends towards tackling things with a relatively narrow focus, one thing at a time, with a preference for a plain, usually rather dry, more or less scientific and/or logical approach. Continental philosophy tends towards a much broader, "holistic" focus, where it tries to tie together many threads at once, with a preference for a far more decorative, looser/playful approach to language. Both sides tend to see the other side as approaching things in a way that doesn't really work/doesn't really accomplish what we're trying to accomplish as philosophers. Those with a continental preference tend to see analytic philosophy as too dry, too boring, too narrow, pointless, mind-numbingly laborious, etc. Those with an analytic preference tend to see continental philosophy as too flowery, inexact, sometimes incoherent, too ready to make unjustified assumptions, etc.

    Most regulars here are far more continental-leaning. That jibes with most people here being self-taught (per another recent poll). A handful of continental philosophers--Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Sartre, for example, are far more well-known in general than any analytic philosophers. (Although Wittgenstein is the weirdo--he's basically a continental philosopher who got mixed up with the Vienna Circle). Part of the reason for the popularity is that continental philosophy has more of a "literary" or poetic quality to it--which is one of the problems with it in many analytic opinions. People with some interest in philosophy who are looking to guide themselves to philosophers to read will usually stumble on those famous continental folks first (well, in addition to Plato and Aristotle), and that leads them to other continental philosophers.

    However, admitting that you have a continental leaning is like admitting that you're a hipster--the stock move is to deny the term even really picks anything out, so we're unlikely to have many people select that answer.
  • Banno
    6.4k
    Analytic philosophical method is by now ubiquitous.

    Continental philosophy had more or less the right answers for the wrong reasons.

    SO the task at hand might be described as reaching continental conclusions using analytic method.

    So, I'll vote no.
  • Mark Dennis
    397
    Agree with this. The polling questions aren’t very well done. How can you answer yes or no to a binary choice between two options that aren’t yes or no? Why can’t Both be an answer?

    As I like to say; those who claim adherence to one camp over another, are adhering to being half a philosopher.
  • Wayfarer
    8.7k
    In the early 20th century, philosophy in the English-speaking world became dominated by a group of philosophers who put very heavy emphasis on logic and empiricism, focusing almost all their philosophy on language and mathematics and leaving everything else either to be the work of the natural sciences or else denounced as utter nonsense. They emphasized philosophy as a professional academic discipline concerned with rigorous logical analysis of concepts.Pfhorrest

    Agree with this characterisation. I don’t much like philosophy as it is understood in secular culture. To me the purpose of philosophy is practical and ethical and is aimed at what Platonism describes as anamnesis, the recollection of forgotten wisdom. There are some individual philosophers and works of philosophy that I appreciate in both camps but to me the expression ‘modern philosophy’ tends towards the oxymoronic. ;-)
  • 180 Proof
    364
    I voted No.

    Continental philosophy had more or less the right answers for the wrong reasons.

    SO the task at hand might be described as reaching continental conclusions using analytic method.
    Banno

    :up:
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    I'll gladly be half a philosopher if it means I don't write like Hegel . . . or Heidegger . . . or Derrida . . . etc.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    854
    Damned if I know. What formal training I had was analytic, and ordinary language, with pragmatism thrown in. Now some say pragmatism "bridges the gap" between the analytic and continental traditions, whatever that may mean. On my own I've been delving into ancient philosophy. Don't like much modern continental stuff; too obscure for my wordly, legalistic mind. Like Popeye, I am what I am and that's all that I am.
  • Pfhorrest
    389
    What is the next phase of philosophy? Where is it moving?Metaphyzik
    Well, I'm attempting to write a work of philosophy bridging things "from the meaning of words to the meaning of life", and to quote the introduction of that, "I aim to once again reconcile the linguistic abstraction (as well as the precision, detail, and professionalism) of the contemporary Analytic school, in which I was primarily educated, with the practical and experiential emphasis (as well as the breadth, holism, and personal applicability) of the contemporary Continental school." So, that's where I think we should be headed.

    Your definition of analytic philosophy is much too narrow--you seem to basically be equating it with logical positivism/the Vienna Circle as a movement, while your definition of continental philosophy is too broad.Terrapin Station

    That is the historical origin of the division: the positivists and their descendants vs their opponents and their descendants. As time wears on the distinction gets blurrier, so that historical split is where I chose to emphasize the difference. I did try to name some broad characteristics of both movements as well though, and I did miss an important one that you thankfully caught for me (the narrow vs wide focus).

    It suggests a bias to say the least.Terrapin Station
    My formal education is almost entirely in Analytic philosophy and I barely know any Continental stuff, so if anything my bias would be toward Analytic; but I try to bridge the gap between the two, so I voted Yes.

    A handful of continental philosophers--KantTerrapin Station
    Kant isn't a Continental philosopher, he predates the division and is pretty much the last philosopher claimed in common heritage by both sides of contemporary philosophy, marking the end of the core era of Modern philosophy that was characterized by the Rationalist vs Empiricist division instead.

    history-of-philosophy.png

    admitting that you have a continental leaning is like admitting that you're a hipsterTerrapin Station

    Pfft, hipsters are too mainstream. I didn't give a shit about what was popular before that was cool.

    SO the task at hand might be described as reaching continental conclusions using analytic method.Banno

    :up:

    How can you answer yes or no to a binary choice between two options that aren’t yes or no? Why can’t Both be an answer?Mark Dennis

    That's kind of a logic joke. "P or Q" is true if either P is true, or Q is true, or P and Q are both true, so if someone asks you "P or Q?" and at least one (or more) of them is true, "yes" is a valid answer. So that's where "both" fits. "No" is, likewise, "neither".

    Now some say pragmatism "bridges the gap" between the analytic and continental traditions, whatever that may meanCiceronianus the White

    I've found that seeming true myself, though there is a lot of variation within pragmatism so it's kinda hard to pin down. Some neopragmatists can get awfully relativistic, but I wholeheartedly embrace a form of pragmatism myself that, like Banno said above, basically uses Analytic-like means to pursue Continental-like ends, being very dry, practical, and precise, by asking what exactly are we trying to do here and why, what use would an answer to this philosophical question be in actually living our lives, as a manner of clarifying what exactly we're even asking and how to go about answering it. Pragmatism kind of evolved outside of the Continental-Analytic schism itself, principally in America so in the shadow (and so influence) of Analytic philosophy's dominance of the Anglophone world, but still apart from it, and so sharing more concern for things the Analytics cast aside as nonsense and the Continentals continued to pursue.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    I voted "no" as I think it's a lame dichotomy. As caricatures I refer to the two traditions as the Anal Tradition and the Incontinent Tradition. :wink:

    :cool:
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Kant isn't a Continental philosopher,Pfhorrest

    Kant is commonly considered the start of the division.

    Here's a practical example reflecting that: see the first section of this anthology--
    https://www.amazon.com/Companion-Continental-Philosophy-Simon-Critchley/dp/0631218505 (You can use the "Look Inside" function)
  • 180 Proof
    364
    :up:

     I refer to the two traditions as the Anal Tradition and the Incontinent Tradition. — Janus
    :lol:

    I wholeheartedly embrace a form of pragmatism myself that, like Banno said above, basically uses Analytic-like means to pursue Continental-like ends, being very dry, practical, and precise, by asking what exactly are we trying to do here and why, what use would an answer to this philosophical question be in actually living our lives, as a manner of clarifying what exactly we're even asking and how to go about answering it.Pfhorrest

    :clap:
  • Pfhorrest
    389
    Kant is commonly considered the start of the division.Terrapin Station

    That sounds like more or less what I said. Kant is the most recent common ancestor of both Analytic and Continental philosophers, and is studied extensively within contemporary Analytic philosophy departments (like I was educated in) as basically the apex of Modern philosophy, after which we skip all of the intervening Continental stuff and move right on to 20th century Analytic works. He's "not a Continental philosopher" in the same way that Plato isn't; which isn't to say that Continentals don't trace back to either of them, but that neither are exclusive to their branch of the contemporary divide.

    I refer to the two traditions as the Anal Tradition and the Incontinent Tradition. :wink:Janus

    I just now on my third re-read caught how clever this is.
  • bert1
    312
    I like the analytical style, but I think most analytical philosophers are wankers. If I knew any continental philosophy I'm sure I think they were wankers too. I think I think philosophers are wankers. Certainly everyone on this forum is. Except maybe pfhorrest and TGW, who I wish would come back. I like philosophers though, even the black ones. Guess that makes me a cunt.

    EDIT: wallows isn't a wanker
  • Mark Dennis
    397
    That's kind of a logic joke. "P or Q" is true if either P is true, or Q is true, or P and Q are both true, so if someone asks you "P or Q?" and at least one (or more) of them is true, "yes" is a valid answer. So that's where "both" fits. "No" is, likewise, "neither".Pfhorrest

    Thank you haha flew over my head there! Should have a discussion on humour soon.

    Did you get a chance to read the last link I sent you to the philosophical-feeling piece?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    Kant is considered the start of the division a la being the first continental-style philosopher, where other continental philosophy carried on in his wake, at least initially.

    The schools I went to and that I'm familiar with, even though they're analytic-oriented, require you to be familiar with Kant, Hegel, Marx, Husserl, Heidegger, etc. They're not a huge focus, but they're too historically important to just ignore altogether.
  • Echarmion
    979
    Kant is considered the start of the division a la being the first continental-style philosopher, where other continental philosophy carried on in his wake, at least initially.Terrapin Station

    What's specifically "continental-style" about Kant? It seems to me he'd be among the more "analytic" philosophers of his time.
  • ZhouBoTong
    535
    @Pfhorrest@Terrapin Station

    Thank you both. I had googled these terms with mixed results. Between your 2 summaries I am feeling better informed. Still probably too ill-informed to get involved in the discussion, but I will be following along better as I read from the shadows.
  • Marchesk
    2.9k
    The polling questions aren’t very well done. How can you answer yes or no to a binary choice between two options that aren’t yes or no? Why can’t Both be an answer?Mark Dennis

    Sounds rather continental.
  • 3017amen
    837
    There's a lot more to it, but here's a quick synopsis that everyone here can relate to:

  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    What's specifically "continental-style" about Kant?Echarmion

    Read that section of the Blackwell Companion that I referred to.
  • Echarmion
    979
    Read that section of the Blackwell Companion that I referred to.Terrapin Station

    Were you referring to the introduction or the first essay? I read the parts of the former that were available, and it didn't seem to consider Kant a continental philosopher.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    Holy moley. So why, in your view, was the entire first section of that continental philosophy companion about Kant/"The Kantian Legacy"? They just wanted to ramble on with some off-topic stuff before getting to the main subject matter?
  • Echarmion
    979
    Holy moley. So why, in your view, was the entire first section of that continental philosophy companion about Kant/"The Kantian Legacy"? They just wanted to ramble on with some off-topic stuff before getting to the main subject matter?Terrapin Station

    Because Kant is the jumping-off point for continental philosophy?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Because Kant is the jumping-off point for continental philosophy?Echarmion

    Why wouldn't Hume be? A lot of Kant's work was in response to Hume, after all.
  • Echarmion
    979
    Why wouldn't Hume be? A lot of Kant's work was in response to Hume, after all.Terrapin Station

    Why not pick any random philosopher? The first essay in the companion you cited isn't titled "Hume's legacy".
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Why not pick any random philosopher? The first essay in the companion you cited isn't titled "Hume's legacy".Echarmion

    This is the water that I'm trying to lead you, a horse, to.

    They didn't just pick any random philosopher, and there's a reason that the first section (not just essay) is "The Kantian Legacy."

    If it's because "Kant is the jumping-off point for continental philosophy" somehow despite not being a continental philosopher in their estimation, how does that work rather than picking some other philosopher, like Hume?

    Or think, man.
  • Pfhorrest
    389
    If I may offer an analogy:

    If we were going to write a history of the evolution of humans in particular, not the evolution of all life but just the speciation of the human species, we would logically start with the most recent common ancestor of humans and their closest relatives. We would then describe how some group of that MRCA over time evolved into the origins of the lineage that ends up with humans eventually. To do so is not, however, to claim that MRCA as exclusive to the human lineage; a similar history of bonobo evolution would begin with that same MRCA.

    Similarly, a history of Continental philosophy would logically start with the "most recent common ancestor" of both Continental philosophy and its closest "relatives", and then show how some group of that "MRCA" evolved into the Continental branch of contemporary philosophy. But a similar history of Analytic philosophy would begin likewise, starting with Kant as the branch point between Continental and Analytic, the last point of common agreement, and then following early anti-Hegelians etc opposing the way the what-would-be-called Continental school was developing until it came to a head with the Vienna Circle, and the subsequent evolution of Analytic philosophy since then.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    a similar history of Analytic philosophy would begin likewise,Pfhorrest

    A history of analytic philosophy wouldn't begin with Kant. It would begin with Moore and Russell, or sometimes it would go back to Frege.

    There are earlier philosophers for whom it would make sense to say are more of an analytic bent (and whom we could say were admired and emulated by analytics philosophers--although we might just as well mention folks like George Boole, Francis Bacon, etc. there), but there's not a continuous tradition until we get at least to Frege if not Moore/Russell.
  • Pfhorrest
    389
    Would you then argue that Analytic philosophy is an offshoot of Continental philosophy, if everything from Kant onward minus everything from Frege onward is Continental? Frege's immediate philosophical ancestor was a Continental?

    Consider also other forks in philosophical tradition, like Platonists vs Aristotelians. Both claim everyone up to Socrates in their philosophical heritage, and Aristotle was a student of Plato, but the Aristotelian tradition does not incorporate many Platonic views, but rather opposes many of them. It seems to me, looking back over the history of philosophy, that every schism works that way: at some point everyone agrees on everything up to some philosopher or school of philosophy, but then things start trending in one direction from there, that other people find contentious, and eventually rebel against.

    The presocratic schism between Ionians and Italiotes traces back to a common agreement on Thales, then the Ionians following after Thales' student Anaximander, and the Italiotes following after Anaximander's student Pythagoras. The classical era had the common agreement up to Socrates and then a split between his student Plato and Plato's student Aristotle. I'm not aware of a clear schism in the medieval era, thanks probably to the unifying influence of the Church. But then out of that Descartes began the Modern era with Rationalism, and then Empiricism emerged in rebellion against that. Those were united together under Kant, and what would be called the Continentals continued after him, until the Analytics rejected most of their work since him and went on to do their own thing.
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