That is a Strange Review…

As Stuart Elden remarks regarding this review in borderlands of Nathan Widder’s Reflections on Time and Politics. Part of the problem, the writer maintains, is the

categorization of such work as ‘continental’, as if this term referenced a mere thematic instead of a tradition of phenomenological and hermeneutic methodology. Widder is no continental philosopher, not, at least, according to how I understand that distinction. Instead, Widder seems to be working through the problems of time and politics from a fairly conservative, analytic background, relying on linguistic and logical analyses of the work of key theorists on these topics.

Just last week one of my new colleagues, who truth be told was being more genial than this sounds, since this took place at a dinner party, argued that some esoteric point I was making about the word esoteric was “analytic” since, you know, I was defining the word. (Really? I was thinking through the history of the word and its etymology—few things strike me as more Continental. I believe we Continentalists–if there is a “we”–have even filed all the requisite trademarks and patents.) I’m not sure what the alternative was, but in any case, I hope to practice “linguistic and logical analyses” in my own work on time and politics–surely something to be discouraged among the young! In fact, what struck me about Widder’s book was precisely how it would be slammed by such a made-up analytic interlocutor. As I’m finding putting together my own book on topics similar to Widder, it’s really impossible to find a form that works for the topic of temporality, and Widder’s method is certainly one way to go.

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2 comments

  1. Yikes! Now do you get my frustration with some “Continentalists”? Apparently for Widder’s work to qualify as “Continental” he’d have to restrict himself to discussing what European philosophers have said about time and politics.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but agreed. (I think I would disagree with the temporality of that “now”–I already got it!) I’m not even sure, since my analytic superego definitely was telling me, as I was reading it, that this work was clearly not up to supposed analytic specs. (Of course, that’s a fantasy anyway–thus my reference to the big Other. All the people who argue for clear thinking and logic chopping never actually make the argument–they just point and mock.) Gone are the days where it was enough to claim something was ontotheology or patrilinear and have that stand as an argument, and I’m not sure that was the point. I mean, is a book haunted in large part by Deleuze’s writings on temporality really not Continental enough? Or was there just not enough talk of rhizomes?

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