What is Continental Philosophy?

I don’t know. Todd May, one of my philosophical heroes as activist and thinkers, has a post up about removing himself from the Pluralist Guide and writes:

I find it ironic that those who accuse analytic philosophy of logic-chopping would resort to such a rhetorical strategy…. It is the continuation of a siege mentality that becomes more anachronistic by the day.

I couldn’t agree more on the point about the anachronism. (The rest I won’t comment on.) I came out of two heavily Continental schools (SUNY Stony Brook and DePaul), and I remember well the siege mentality some profs had. But I think this is purely generations–and in fact was localizable to a certain era of people working on Heidegger, Derrida, and a few others. But none of that has been true for at least ten years, not because Anglo American (the word analytic is itself anachronistic by many decades) philosophers have found an abiding love for SPEP-type programs, but because I haven’t heard any continental-type person under a certain age even use “logic chopping” as a phrase for supposed “analytic” philosophy.

What was the last article you read in epistemology or philosophy of mind that was logic chopping in the old sense? Moreover, when two dominant subsets of what gets called Continental philosophy involve those studying Badiou and his use of set theory and the other being the speculative realism inspired, in part, by his student Quentin Meillassoux, it’s hard to maintain with a straight face that Anglo American philosophy involves a certain mathematical and/or scientific mindset and Continental doesn’t. This is all the more the case since the most prominent “Derridean” of my generation (more or less), Martin Hägglund, writes consistently on evolutionary theory, while Adrian Johnston, the Lacanian heir-apparent, works through recent neuroscientific work and is as apt to quote Stephen J. Gould as he is some obscure German idealist.

That’s not to say there isn’t some “divide,” but I think the discussions of teams and logic chopping, etc., is an anachronism, not because people still use old ways of thinking about this, but because it’s not something that concerns anyone of my generation and younger. “Logic chopping” belongs up there with “groovy” for being able to identify the age of someone without need of a license or birth certificate.

(I was going to stop there, but some anecdotal (lack of) evidence: when I was coming up through DePaul in the 2000s, it had passed from the era of focusing on studies of Heidegger. By the middle of the decade, most doctoral students were working on the history of philosophy, critical race theory, and/or feminism—and thus practiced a “plague on both your houses” approach to both previous incarnations of continental and Anglo American philosophy. That has receded a bit at DePaul since I left, but the point is made: the siege as often as not comes from within.)

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4 comments on “What is Continental Philosophy?

  1. Scu says:

    I honestly had not heard the phrase logic chopping before reading the Todd May’s post.
    Also, that thread is insane. And other words.

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  3. [...] this post, a friend wrote in… What is logic chopping? I have asked six people roughly my age in the [...]

  4. sk says:

    yes, that thread is insane. i started and deleted about a thousand posts post-scu’s. i simply cannot understand 1) how we are all supposed to “know” that the spep resolution does not say what it actually says and 2) how spep-ers are evil clowns, but that we are don’t know what ad hominem is (and we are therefore overreacting, the mad effeminate losers that we are) and 3) why there is no analysis, ever, of power in all of this. it’s like people arguing about the “existence” of race: it’s objectively real, biological, natural! no it’s social and therefore totally subjective! without ever getting to the damned point.
    phew. been carrying that around for awhile. also, your parenthetical is spot on. except less critical race theory, and more postcolonial and queer theory.

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