Friday, April 21, 2006

The Philosophy Wars

I am just getting my feet wet splashing around in philosophy-oriented blogs this week. Two somewhat related discussions are going on at Crooked Timber and Continental Philosophy. At Crooked Timber, Harry asked whether analytical philosophers should have looked up from their work to assist the humanities and social sciences in fighting off bad ideas drifting in from Europe in the late 20th Century:

With some very honorable exceptions, my sense was that we kept our heads down, identified ourselves in some way with the hard sciences and mathematics, and allowed those ideas to do their worst; all the time maintaining a sense of our own superiority because we weren’t fooled by that nonsense. I think that was, frankly, irresponsible, and that part of our mission as a discipline should have been to attempt to counter that influence.

I would say the majority of the commenters (99 comments when last checked) accept without question the notion that the ideas of continental philosophy are bad or, at least, bad philosophy. I certainly agree that most of the "theory" done in departments of literature in the '70s and '80s was bad continental philosophy but, as some commenters pointed out, bad work can be found in any department or discipline. I think it is unfortunate that no analytically trained philosopher seems to have taken the trouble to study and write about the work of Derrida or others until it was too late and half-baked Continental "theory" had become a tool of cutthroat careerism in US academic departments. Aspazia at Mad Melancholic Feminista provides her view of the ruined battlefield in I Am So Sick of the Analytic-Continental Feud.

The discussion at Continental Philosophy: Does Deconstruction Deny Truth? is much shorter, consisting almost entirely of a renunciation of Continental philosophy in its entirety and a series of complaints that links are not working. But it includes a thoughtful comment by Clark Goble who argues that Derrida's differance is similar to Heidegger's Being. Goble has his own helpful post on the subject over at Mormon Metaphysics, Derrida on Derrida.

I can't help noticing that one of the more thoughtful (that is, open to Continental philosophy) commenters on the Crooked Timber thread, Kevin Winters, also writes from a Mormon perspective at his very interesting site Latter-Day Philosophy. Is there a connection between Mormon thought and Continental philosophy?

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