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IdleRich
17-05-2006, 12:20 PM
This is something that I thought about when reading the K-Punk on Weed thread when an argument developed about the relative merits of science and philosophy. It occurred to me that the distinction was more to do with the divide between analytic philosophy and continental philosophy (theory).
Obviously I know nothing about this but as far as I can see (Im waiting to be corrected) the former seems to depend on logical argument and values clarity of expression while the latter is more to do with feelings and ideas that are not necessarily argued in a rational fashion (and even seems to be deliberately difficult to understand at times) as there is a belief that some things transcend logical treatment. My girlfriend (studying philosophy at present) says that this divide is very pronounced and that the analytic side dont consider the other lot as philosophers at all.
I notice that a lot of people on this board regularly quote names that I believe are related to theory and that is normally where my ability to follow the thread ends so I look to you lot for insight. I would like really to get some handle on what this divide is about, whether the continental philosophers have a similarly low opinion of the analytic philosophers and what riposte would be made to people who say that theory is just pseudo-philosophy made wilfully obscure so that no-one notices?
Cheers.

D7_bohs
17-05-2006, 12:50 PM
The divide definitely exists, and while, in a lot of philosophy departments there are people doing both, and therefore enforcing a modicum of politeness, it is undoubtedly true that many people on each side have a low opinion of the other.

Firstly, though, 'continental philosophy' is about as useful as 'black music' as a term; just as the latter means everything from New Orleans jazz to Grime, so CP generally means any or all of Phenomenology, critical Theory, Deconstruction/Post- structuralism and hermeneutics, along with whatever it is Zizek and Badiou do - disciplines which have as little in common with each other as any of them do with Analytic Philosophy; the only thing they do have in common is that they are not Analytic Philosophy.

So what is AP? is it all anglo- american philosophy? Strictly speaking I don't think it is; I think it is a fairly tightly defined tradition running in two parallel streams from Carnap and the Vienna Circle, on the one hand, and Russell and Wittgenstein on the other (you will note that only one of these is a native english speaker) - Nevertheless, other streams in English speaking philosophy, such as pragmatism, and the distinctively american philosophy of mind that runs from Sellars to McDowell, Rorty and Brandom tend to get lumped in with "Analytic Philosophy'

If there is a defining difference it's probably encapsulated in two things; one in Quine's sniffy comment 'you either do philosophy or history of philosophy' and two, in attitudes to Hegel. From the AP side, philosophy is more valuable the more it approaches scientific method and scientific truths are supposed to be timeless; thus AP considers truth to be discernable by the analysis of concepts; CP more often by a genealogical approach. For AP, Hegel is where it all goes wrong; for most CP, he is an essential starting point.

All that said, there are signs of tentative rapprochement; Brandom, McDowell and Rorty have all started a move from Kant to Hegel in Anglo- American thought, and Badiou and others, impatient with the retreat from politics and the return to ethics in the later Derrida and in Marion and others, have instituted a return to universalism and to science.

IdleRich
17-05-2006, 01:13 PM
Thank you D7_Bohs (by the way I notice that you - or else someone with the same name - has recently started posting on vinylvulture), that was pretty helpful, though obviously it leads on to a lot more questions.
What do you mean by a genealogical approach? What does Quine's comment mean?
I think that (part of) the problem that my girlfriend has with continental philosophy is that it is so hard to pin practitioners down to what they actually mean that it is perfectly possible for charlatans to exist and indeed be successful simply by bamboozling people with meaningless arguments (like that hoax that someone linked to in the K-Punk thread) whereas in "proper" philosophy that cannot happen because it is more intellectually rigorous. She would say that there are a lot of "emperor's new clothes" type philosophers around in universities, all quoting each other and building an edifice of nonsense.

johneffay
17-05-2006, 02:42 PM
in "proper" philosophy that cannot happen because it is more intellectually rigorous. She would say that there are a lot of "emperor's new clothes" type philosophers around in universities, all quoting each other and building an edifice of nonsense.

Just passing through at the moment, so I chuck this point in as for consideration/inflammation before I get really stroppy ;)

I agree in the main with D7_bohs, however one of the major distinctions between analytic and continental philosophy is that analytic philosophers think that it is somehow a bad thing that many continental philosophers are taken seriously by people outside their discipline, i.e. that people who are not philosophers find value in what they have to say. Conversely, continental philosophers see analytical philosophy as so viciously reductionist that it hardly merits the name 'philosophy'.

IdleRich
17-05-2006, 03:17 PM
Just found this article...

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/analytic.htm

Which is quite relevant and pretty much contains the points you have just mentioned as below:


Joheffay said "many continental philosophers are taken seriously by people outside their discipline, i.e. that people who are not philosophers find value in what they have to say."


Article says "whereas analytic philosophy has proved of little or no interest to the humanities other than itself, the impact of Continental philosophy has been enormous."

Although the next line (and I think that this is the bit that analytic people really have problems with) is:


"But there is also a great deal of humburg in the Continental tradition"

And regarding your other point


Johneffay said "Conversely, continental philosophers see analytical philosophy as so viciously reductionist that it hardly merits the name 'philosophy'"


Article says "Criticisms of "analytic" philosophy are familiar: arid, insular, boring, obsessed with logic-chopping, irrelevant. The criticisms are not without some truth."

But then this


"Whatever the limitations of "analytic" philosophy, it is clearly far preferable to what has befallen humanistic fields like English, which have largely collapsed as serious disciplines while becoming the repository for all the world's bad philosophy, bad social science, and bad history....When compared to the sophomoric nonsense that passes for "philosophizing" in the broader academic culture--often in fields like English, Law, Political Science, and sometimes History--one can only have the highest respect for the intellectual rigor and specialization of analytic philosophers"

I think this "sophomoric nonsense" is exactly what my girlfriend hates and what we get a lot of on dissensus. I do find it quite frustrating when people are quoting all these names as if it somehow demonstrates that they have attained a higher level of understanding (is that what he meant about "either study history or study philosophy"?), yet in many cases these quoters are unable to spell common words or construct the simplest sentences (I have to be careful myself now of course). It is this that makes me suspect that people are making a deliberate attempt to "blind me with science" rather than actively engage.

johneffay
17-05-2006, 04:31 PM
one can only have the highest respect for the intellectual rigor and specialization of analytic philosophers"

Except that most of what passes for analytic philosophy is regarded by other anlaytic philosophers as specious (the same is true of continental philosophy infighting). I'm not going to go into detail (you can easily verify this if you can be bothered) but, broadly the only thing that 'analytic philosophers' agree on is that continental philosophy is nonsense.

Anyhow, my main point is that the best continental philosophy is easily as rigorous as the best analytic philosophy. However, both camps have their fair share of people talking ill thought out rubbish.

In my experience, analytic philosophers who criticize continental philosophy fall into two camps:
1. People who have never enagaged properly with the material and who claim that it is ill thought out gibberish.
2. People who claim that it deals with a set of problems which are either uninteresting or badly posed (and therefore non-problems).

It is only the second group who are worth engaging.

Obviously this whole thing is heading in the direction of straw men at an alrming rate, but you will find these arttitudes in UK universities.

droid
17-05-2006, 04:40 PM
1. People who have never enagaged properly with the material and who claim that it is ill thought out gibberish.


I think Chomsky vs Lacan/'Post everything' falls into that camp... and whilst I have sympathy with his thoughts on the use of 'technical language' and that if an idea cant be expressed without resort to vague and complex terminology and self-reference it probably isnt worth expressing, I also feel that theres a whole world out there: aesthetics/literature etc, which are very diffcult to verbalise, and can only be described through the use of self made concepts and abstract theories...

Slothrop
17-05-2006, 05:10 PM
I agree in the main with D7_bohs, however one of the major distinctions between analytic and continental philosophy is that analytic philosophers think that it is somehow a bad thing that many continental philosophers are taken seriously by people outside their discipline, i.e. that people who are not philosophers find value in what they have to say. Conversely, continental philosophers see analytical philosophy as so viciously reductionist that it hardly merits the name 'philosophy'.
A big problem with this is that you tend to end up with a whole bunch of people who sat a critical theory module at university and then start using big words to make their personal opinions sound more important, and giving the whole thing a bad name.

However, there do seem to be[1] an adequate range of contradictory views in continental philosophy, all of them meticulously argued, that you can pick your school of philosophy to justify your existing prejudices. I come from a scientific background, so I've got kind of high expectations for this sort of thing, but if you're arguing that we should follow a course of action based on the conclusions of your argument I sort of like to see something resembling scientific method, ie falsifieability, peer review and so on.

[1] in my very limited experience

D7_bohs
17-05-2006, 05:18 PM
Quine's comment is based on the thought that philosophy if it is real philosophy produces insights that are 'true' the way Newton's laws are 'true' - in other words, independently of the situation in which you hold it to be true, whereas he would think that philosophers - or 'philosophers' - from other traditions would hold that philosophical truth presupposes a wider cultural context , and that 'truth' is simply a name for the most plausible current description of a state of affairs, but one which has no claim to a-historical permanence; 'a mobile army of metaphors' in Nietzsche's phrase. This is not to say that Nietzsche or anyone else in the european tradition doesn't think there are judgments which are necessarily true;- 'bachelors are unmarried men' and so on - its just such judgments are not a model of philosophical truth, and further they aren't even interesting.

Quine would hold that most European philosophy is concerned with ever more tenuous exegesis of the history of philosophy - 'genealogy' - rather than rigorous examination of the truth content of concepts; the difficulty being of course, that as even most analytic philosophers can see, concepts only mean what they mean in a social or linguistic context. Nevertheless, even as Sellars and then McDowell reach towards an Hegelian Holism - but without the history - they refuse to abandon a concept of scientific truth that always trumps anything available within the 'space of reasons' (the place where most of us live).

As for Analytic philosophers having more efective bullshit detectors, that's probably true, but at the price of excluding perfectly valid human concerns from the domain of philosophy. Similarly, the migration of CP to the wider humanities does produce a lot of bad philosophy from people without any real training in the area, but its proliferation has more to do with academic ambition than with the discipline itself; good Continental philosophers are just as rigorous as the analytics.

Slothrop
17-05-2006, 05:25 PM
Quine's comment is based on the thought that philosophy if it is real philosophy produces insights that are 'true' the way Newton's laws are 'true'
It's a side point, but Newton's laws aren't true. They're quite useable and give a very accurate description of what we observe in a fairly wide variety of situations, but they definitely aren't true. I suspect that most physicists who've thought about the matter wouldn't describe even their current best theory as 'true' - they'd only claim that it's an accurate model and has not yet been falsified.

IdleRich
17-05-2006, 05:32 PM
"one can only have the highest respect for the intellectual rigor and specialization of analytic philosophers"

"Except that most of what passes for analytic philosophy is regarded by other anlaytic philosophers as specious"
I don't really how the second line relates to the first. Just because people disagree doesn't mean that they are not applying intellectual rigour. The point is that people can at least understand what each other are saying (or trying to say) and then can argue the merits or otherwise of the point - this is the case in any discipline surely?


"In my experience, analytic philosophers who criticize continental philosophy fall into two camps"
I would say that Louise (my girlfriend) doesn't fit into either of the groups that you have described. During her MA in Aesthetics she tried to engage with continental philosophy through her tutor and also through acquaintances who had recently graduated in the discipline. Her frustration with the subject grew due to their inability to articulate any of the ideas in a reasonable manner, or in fact, at all. Possibly this is due to the low calibre of the people in question or possibly it was down to the fact that the ideas they were trying to convey were simply "ill thought out gibberish". If it was indeed due to the people then that in turn raises the question of why people of such low calibre can be (relatively) highly regarded in the field.
It seems to me that the statement "It is only the second group who are worth engaging" smacks of an unwillingness, quite literally, to engage. You are pre-supposing the method that anyone may have used to reach the conclusion.


"Anyhow, my main point is that the best continental philosophy is easily as rigorous as the best analytic philosophy"
What I'm asking really is, if that is so then why don't the analytic philosophers think so? Why is it that all Philosophy departments in major universities in the UK and the US are overwhelmingly analytic whereas continental philosophy is taught more in departments such as film or sociology?

tryptych
17-05-2006, 05:54 PM
All that said, there are signs of tentative rapprochement; Brandom, McDowell and Rorty have all started a move from Kant to Hegel in Anglo- American thought, and Badiou and others, impatient with the retreat from politics and the return to ethics in the later Derrida and in Marion and others, have instituted a return to universalism and to science.

There's also the Wittgenstienian take on Heidegger that Dreyfus, Blattner and Haugeland have been pushing for some time now, and more recently the moves from philosophers of cognitive science to embrace Husserlian phenomenology (Varela and Petitot). They seem to have the same problem as McDowell et al - so far but no further. Which can be deeply frustrating when reading them.


I would say that Louise (my girlfriend) doesn't fit into either of the groups that you have described. During her MA in Aesthetics she tried to engage with continental philosophy through her tutor and also through acquaintances who had recently graduated in the discipline. Her frustration with the subject grew due to their inability to articulate any of the ideas in a reasonable manner, or in fact, at all. Possibly this is due to the low calibre of the people in question or possibly it was down to the fact that the ideas they were trying to convey were simply "ill thought out gibberish". If it was indeed due to the people then that in turn raises the question of why people of such low calibre can be (relatively) highly regarded in the field.

I would have thought trying to do aesthetics without a solid background in continental philosophy would be difficult...

But here the problem is that they failed to "articulate their ideas in a reasonable manner" - I'm guessing that here she meant "in a manner reasonable to an analytic philosopher". I would imagine that those on the other side were frustrated at the inability of an analytic philosopher to engage with the material in a reasonable manner, too.

I don't think it's to do with the calibre of the people - just the different yardsticks used to judge ideas in the two sub-disciplines. Continental philosophy is learnt and taught in a completely different way - "in my end is my beginning" and all that. I personally found the learning curve very steep, when I moved from doing mostly analytic to mostly continental. Hegel for weeks was terrible, awful - how could anyone write so badly when trying to get ideas across, I thought? The whole thing's just a mess, contradictory, wilfully obscure.

It's only once you've taken the time to really understand the ideas, and the terminology, and the arc of the project as a whole that it suddenly snaps into sense.

IdleRich
17-05-2006, 06:13 PM
Brief reply to that one 'cause I've got to rush off to find somewhere to watch the footie but


I would have thought trying to do aesthetics without a solid background in continental philosophy would be difficult..."
Her first degree was philosophy, then Ma in aesthetics, now bphil or dphil or whatever it's called prior to phd. Without any background in CP she got a distinction in the Ma despite a total breakdown in relations with her tutor. The problem was that he was unable to answer her questions as he was unused to the level of philosophical rigour required when dealing with someone of her background. He was also young and (I think) too proud to admit when he didn't know something and would then seek refuge with replies such as "yes and no" or "in a sense" when this was not a worthwhile answer (if it ever can be). This came to an end when he (spitefully I would say) specifically wrote on her dissertation "I do not feel this deserves a distinction" but was fortunately overruled by the other marker and moderators (obviously this is nothing to do with a continental/analytic divide, I mention it merely because he was a wanker and it makes me angry).


"But here the problem is that they failed to "articulate their ideas in a reasonable manner" - I'm guessing that here she meant "in a manner reasonable to an analytic philosopher". I would imagine that those on the other side were frustrated at the inability of an analytic philosopher to engage with the material in a reasonable manner, too."
Well, obviously this is where the disagreement is but I don't think anyone ever accused her in not trying or being unable to engage, it's just that her constant questions revealed that they didn't really know anything and were trying to pull the wool over her eyes. The problem was probably the people, it seems as though you might (might!) do a better job. I'll get her to read this and see what she thinks.

tryptych
17-05-2006, 06:39 PM
Well, obviously this is where the disagreement is but I don't think anyone ever accused her in not trying or being unable to engage, it's just that her constant questions revealed that they didn't really know anything and were trying to pull the wool over her eyes. The problem was probably the people, it seems as though you might (might!) do a better job. I'll get her to read this and see what she thinks.

What I meant was that I thought this way too, that continental philosophy was a load of bollocks, without any substance, obfuscatory etc... being told you are "asking the wrong questions" and "yes and no" happened a lot to me too. But once I got to grips with it a bit better, I came to understand why those responses were sometimes appropriate.

D7_bohs
17-05-2006, 07:11 PM
It's a side point, but Newton's laws aren't true. They're quite useable and give a very accurate description of what we observe in a fairly wide variety of situations, but they definitely aren't true. I suspect that most physicists who've thought about the matter wouldn't describe even their current best theory as 'true' - they'd only claim that it's an accurate model and has not yet been falsified.

proof again that philosophers should never talk about science..(well, unless they're philosophers of science, i guess)

johneffay
17-05-2006, 07:34 PM
I don't really how the second line relates to the first. Just because people disagree doesn't mean that they are not applying intellectual rigour.
Indeed, but that isn't quite what I meant. You will find all too many disagreements within analytic philosophy [AP] which are based on the claim that one's opponents are not intellectually rigorous. This is not unique to AP, but the point is that, many of the arguments about language use, obfuscation, etc. which AP directs against CP, it also deploys internally. This goes right to the core of AP; for example the arguments about what it is exactly that is demonstrable via symbolic logic. I should stress that I'm not trying to slag off AP: It is neither better nor worse in this respect than many other disciplines in the humanities (sits back and awaits abuse from analytic philosophers who think they are doing science :p ). However it is the stance of some in witihin AP to CP that I find objectionable.

Your girlfriend's experience sounds very poor. Good continental philosophy tutors should be perfectly able to articulate their ideas in a reasonable manner even (and this is the key to all disciplines) if they have to spend some time making the specialised terminology, etc. accessible to their students. There is no denying that some tutors hide behind terminology because they cannot properly articulate the ideas, but this is not the fault of the terminology. I could supply you with horror stories about my own education in moral philosophy at the hands of analytic moral philosophers who had less engagement with the world at large than my dog, but I'm sure you get the point.


What I'm asking really is, if that is so then why don't the analytic philosophers think so? Why is it that all Philosophy departments in major universities in the UK and the US are overwhelmingly analytic whereas continental philosophy is taught more in departments such as film or sociology?

Jobs for the boys. University departments are little empires riven by power struggles. AP has philosophy departments in major universities as its strongholds (often tied to other subjects such as politics and economics). Some of the brightest stars in CP can't get jobs in them, and so migrate to other departments where they build their own strongholds.

Padraig
17-05-2006, 07:57 PM
Idlerich: This came to an end when he (spitefully I would say) specifically wrote on her dissertation "I do not feel this deserves a distinction" but was fortunately overruled by the other marker and moderators (obviously this is nothing to do with a continental/analytic divide, I mention it merely because he was a wanker and it makes me angry).

But isn't this really an institutional issue, concerning which there are also a plethora of philosophies, from Foucault to Agamben: whether University departments are full of "wankers" or not is hardly relevant here as it deflects the larger problem onto some convenient "wanker" scapegoat. Is your anger directed at the wanker or at the institution? :-)

I've also been surprised by the persistence of this "parallactic gap" or near-unbridgeable chasm between so-called analytical and continental philosophy, given that its largely rooted in ideological entrenchments that those who subscribe to such arbitrary distinctions are often reluctant to admit ...

IdleRich
18-05-2006, 10:13 AM
"There is no denying that some tutors hide behind terminology because they cannot properly articulate the ideas, but this is not the fault of the terminology"
Of course. That whole episode was a digression from the main point really.
The reason I bring up CP being taught in film departments (or whatever) rather than philosophy departments is because I think that may be where the problem arises. Louise found that studying aesthetics with some people from an art background and some people from a philosophy background was problematic because of the pseudo-philosophy espoused by (a lot of) the people who had studied art. In general they had been able to make meaningless but clever sounding statements that didn't stand up when scrutinised (not meaningless simply because it was CP but because it didn't mean anything) because their tutors in the past had been unwilling or unable to subject it to any kind of scrutiny. They thought that they were doing philosophy but they weren't.
The effects of this are clear when you go to a gallery for some new artist and see the press-release explaining their work, nine times out of ten it is absolute nonsense. Why should they be able to get away with this? It's no wonder that people hate conceptual art when a lot of it really is chancers trying to see what they can get away with.
Who were the artists who "marked" press-releases like in an exam with condescending comments? That was a brilliant idea, but I'm straying off the subject.

D7_bohs
18-05-2006, 10:23 AM
Weirdly had a conversation about this yesterday with someone who teaches in an art college and is doing a philosophy PhD; we both agreed that artists generally make an appalling mess of philosophy simply to spice up their catalogues, and further, that art educators are culpable, since they teach a hodge- podge of 'theory' because its easier to teach than either art history or aesthetics; and artists buy it because an art ignorant public finds it easier to read and parrot a pastiche of continental philosophy, than to look at a piece of art properly.

IdleRich
18-05-2006, 10:28 AM
100% spot on.

Ned
18-05-2006, 12:07 PM
I would have thought trying to do aesthetics without a solid background in continental philosophy would be difficult...

There is an analytic aesthetic tradition too you know. What's ridiculous is when the two traditions tackle the same question (e.g. 'Are an author's intentions relevant to the interpretation of a literary work?') at the same time but refuse to listen to each other.

For me the main distinction between the two is that analytic philosophy ultimately aims at truths about the universe whereas continental philosophy aims at truth about human beings and society - and naturally the latter invites a different style of reasoning from the former. Whether you prefer one or the other will depend on what you think the purpose of philosophy is.

dHarry
18-05-2006, 02:50 PM
At the risk of committing a cardinal sin of pseudo-CP (name-dropping ;) ), take Deleuze as a CP case in point: his pre-Guattari history of philosophy work has a concatenating effect where each work builds on the insights of the previous. This can be disorienting in itself when reading these head-spinning works in isolation, but by the time of Capitalism and Schizophrenia with Guattari he feels finally free enough of the burden of philosophical history to go a little crazy. If this is where most people come in to his work and don't have the same resources (20+ years worth of reading, teaching and writing on Hume, Kant, Leibniz, Hegel, Bergson, Nietzche...) to draw on, their appreciation of the issues will inevitably be more shallow.

On the other hand D&G did intend CaS to be a punk-style rupture with the past, so in a sense this may not matter - they stress doing/making over meaning/interpretation anyhow. So just as post-punk diverged between the avant-garde and reductive three-chord thrash, so D&G-influenced stuff varies between name-dropping pseudo-theory and serious philosophy, with many points in between.

D&G's thesis in What Is Philosophy? is that philosophy is the creation of concepts and a fundamental creative activity of human thought - the other two being science and art. To expect philosophy approach the condition of science, maths or logic is therefore simply misguided (and they have some fun mocking the limited range of logic's subject matter e.g. "some cows are brown" etc!).

A more general point is that like AP, CP tends to question the foundations of thought, knowledge, the self etc but unlike AP, not in the name of pre-supposed ideals like truth or humanism, but to also investigate what shapes and guides these pre-suppositions. And CP also tends to see the self-questioning and development of a concept or theory as a valid process, rather than submitting a thesis to a rigorous interrogation with a true/false judgement as the goal. Their point tends to be that thought is an adventure and a creative constructivism and must account for its internal inconsistencies and aporias, the non-thought in thought (just as music grapples with disharmony, noise, silence, and found sound as well as "pure" melody and form, or physics investigates the outer and inner limits of space-time, sub-atomic matter, anti-matter etc).

I'd be interested in hearing Louise's AP-motivated questions that she couldn't get answered adequately, to see if some folks around here might attempt to do so.

Slothrop
18-05-2006, 03:32 PM
A more general point is that like AP, CP tends to question the foundations of thought, knowledge, the self etc but unlike AP, not in the name of pre-supposed ideals like truth or humanism, but to also investigate what shapes and guides these pre-suppositions. And CP also tends to see the self-questioning and development of a concept or theory as a valid process, rather than submitting a thesis to a rigorous interrogation with a true/false judgement as the goal. Their point tends to be that thought is an adventure and a creative constructivism and must account for its internal inconsistencies and aporias, the non-thought in thought
How does this square with the fact that CP tends to have concrete political / cultural implications?

IdleRich
18-05-2006, 04:48 PM
"At the risk of committing a cardinal sin of pseudo-CP (name-dropping)"
I don't mind someone saying a name as an example if they are using it to expand an argument or explain something rather than to shut down a debate and make themselves look clever.
I guess that this is part of the issue really, everyone would have a problem with such pseudo-continental philosophy (apart from the pseuds themselves). The problem is that this is so prevalent that some people have begun to wonder if there is anything there other than pseudo-philosophy.

"I'd be interested in hearing Louise's AP-motivated questions that she couldn't get answered adequately, to see if some folks around here might attempt to do so."
I will have to ask her for that. I believe (but could be wrong) that they were questions to do with her dissertation so they may be quite specific to that and irrelevant here...or they may not.

"To expect philosophy approach the condition of science, maths or logic is therefore simply misguided"
Seems like that's the disagreement in a nutshell. Where you stand on that is going to be which one you go for in the end. The problem is that if you say logic doesn't matter at all then you are allowing people to say pretty much anything. And if everything is equally valid then it's equally meaningless isn't it? Or is that argument flawed because it depends on logic?
Someone earlier in the thread (Slothop?) said something about how if theories are applicable to reality (and it seems to be a big theme that CP is) then they ought to be testable, falsifiable etc I would have also thought that you would want them to follow some kind of logic.

johneffay
18-05-2006, 05:16 PM
For me the main distinction between the two is that analytic philosophy ultimately aims at truths about the universe whereas continental philosophy aims at truth about human beings and society - and naturally the latter invites a different style of reasoning from the former. Whether you prefer one or the other will depend on what you think the purpose of philosophy is.
I think this is far too hasty. Not all AP aims at truths separate from human beings and society (e.g. certain branches of philosophy of language), and there are huge tracts of CP which are concerned with philosophical questions which are claimed to be much more fundamental than human beings and society (insert your favourite philosophy of nature here).

Consequently, I don't think this is why you find a different style of reasoning between the two; rather I believe that it is more about a fundamental difference in how the two camps approach the same material. The best way to see this is by reading AP and CP accounts of key philosophical texts (Plato and Kant are particularly good examples): the entire idea of what it is to read a text properly is different. If I can be allowed a far too hasty move of my own, I would suggest that AP strip-mines texts in order to extract and test the core of the argument, whereas CP lays as much value on the way in which the text is written and how the argument is itself constructed.


How does this square with the fact that CP tends to have concrete political / cultural implications?
Oddly, I seem to find myself in the role of defender of AP, but I feel it only fair to point out that you will not find a single analytic philosopher (and not many continental philosophers) who does not think that AP has profound concrete political/cultural implications.

D7_bohs
18-05-2006, 09:28 PM
Oddly, I seem to find myself in the role of defender of AP, but I feel it only fair to point out that you will not find a single analytic philosopher (and not many continental philosophers) who does not think that AP has profound concrete political/cultural implications.

its a point Simon Critchley is fond of making - AP actually has a much sturdier tradition of leftist political engagement than CP, and I can't - off- hand - think of any AP philosophers for whom their commentators are continually called upon to apologise for in the manner of Heideggerians. The likes of Hilary Putnam - whose voice and manner are reputedly the model for Prof. Frink in the Simpsons - is as austerely analytic as they come but also a long standing Trotskyite activist; Carnap and all of the Vienna Circle, Russell and even, in his own way, Wittgenstein were all lefties; whereas, though it often assumed that CP is on the side of the angels, leaving aside Heidegger, it's notable how few of the big names were ever active politically (exceptions would be Foucault, Lyotard and Badiou)

D84
19-05-2006, 09:56 AM
When I did my undergraduate BA degree the philosophy department at that university was actually split in two (probably the only one in the world so split) into this very demarcation.

According to the various stories I heard from more clued up students the split was purely ideological in the 60s or 70s. The Continental school was headed by an American lecturer who apparently moved to Sydney, Australia because of the (deserved) opprobium he garnered when dobbing in fellow academics as being communists was no longer regarded honourable.

He lectured my 1st year course in Continental Philosophy which was hardly edifying as he'd invariably end up hectoring the lecture hall, spitting and frothing etc. So I stuck with the other school for the another year (Spinoza and Epistemology - I wanted to know more about the "universe" by metyaphysics... very undergrad motives but fascinating enlightening courses nonetheless).

I did a web search on his name and it seems he's involved in some school of "management philosophy"...

So it probably makes sense if you want to cut down on student activism in one of the country's supposedly top unis you make sure the "French" stuff is taught by someone with that kind of a background.

Once I finally joined the "work-force" and discovered what my colleagues denoted as "The Horror" I remembered the scraps I picked up then and wish I had paid more attention. Having done "analytic" philosphy though hasn't hurt in getting to grips with it now albeit in what might perhaps be a half-arsed way.

Ned
19-05-2006, 10:02 AM
its a point Simon Critchley is fond of making - AP actually has a much sturdier tradition of leftist political engagement than CP, and I can't - off- hand - think of any AP philosophers for whom their commentators are continually called upon to apologise for in the manner of Heideggerians. The likes of Hilary Putnam - whose voice and manner are reputedly the model for Prof. Frink in the Simpsons - is as austerely analytic as they come but also a long standing Trotskyite activist; Carnap and all of the Vienna Circle, Russell and even, in his own way, Wittgenstein were all lefties; whereas, though it often assumed that CP is on the side of the angels, leaving aside Heidegger, it's notable how few of the big names were ever active politically (exceptions would be Foucault, Lyotard and Badiou)

Yeah but there's a difference between being political engaged while also being a philosopher, and being politically engaged as a result of your philosophy. Surely the latter is much more common in CP than in AP. None of e.g. Frege's important work had anything to do with politics, even though in his private life he might have had strong political beliefs.

Eric
19-05-2006, 02:10 PM
When I did my undergraduate BA degree the philosophy department at that university was actually split in two (probably the only one in the world so split) into this very demarcation.



Hahaha!! I like this. I assume you're joking about it being the only one in the world right ... ?





He lectured my 1st year course in Continental Philosophy which was hardly edifying as he'd invariably end up hectoring the lecture hall, spitting and frothing etc.

I have more sympathy for people like this than I used to. I spent the day today trying to explain to undergraduates how to define entailment in terms of sets of possible worlds ... (analytic analytic) To paraphrase Ol Dirty Bastard: 'Enough to make a lecturer go CRAAAAAAAZY!!!'

Eric
20-05-2006, 06:12 AM
But somewhat more seriously I wonder if there isn't so much a *hostile* split as it just being a matter of each group being rather uninterested in the other's work. I know a lot of analytic philosophers and few of them have any respect for e.g. Bourdieu (who comes up as an exemplar; I haven't heard of most of the other people the *theoreticalists* here mention, perhaps because I'm not a philosopher myself). My feeling is that people are stuck reading the classics in CP in their graduate work not many analytic people bother to keep going afterward. (Much like the split between formal and 'informal' linguistics perhaps.) Do continental types bother to read analytic work either?

johneffay
20-05-2006, 03:02 PM
But somewhat more seriously I wonder if there isn't so much a *hostile* split as it just being a matter of each group being rather uninterested in the other's work.

I'm not sure which paper they were taken form, but these letters (http://glueboot.blogspot.com/2006/04/mike-l-engages-in-chav-mentality.html) give a fair indication of the level of hostility in evidence in quite large parts of UK academia.


Do continental types bother to read analytic work either?

Some do; most don't. However, even when they do, they tend to read AP in a different way to analytic philosophers. The same is true the other way round, of course.

Eric
20-05-2006, 03:22 PM
OK fair enough. I hear lots of statements like this or like some of this. But it's not clear to me that it indicates a hostile split *among philosophers* just among people who think that 'engagement' with people like Derrida is causing the standard of work in their disciplines to go down the drain. These could be construed as fighting words, but its not clear to me that they really are; isn't it the case that we're talking in many cases about people who 'engage' at a superficial level as discussed earlier in the thread?

I can see how in many cases more shall we say empirically minded historians would have problems with people who were more interested in deconstruction. The same doesnt hold true for people in English departments though, it seems to me.

glueboot
21-05-2006, 08:48 PM
To be honest, anyone who thinks that the situation isn't hostile is pretty ignorant of the current climate in UK philosophy. It's not only hostile but it's often malicious, I've seen phd positions threatened, jobs undermined, and attempts to get rid of entire programs purely because they don't fit in with the standard of what the hegemony think philosophy should be. And alot of it is incredibly underhand and devious. More and more continental philosophers are moving out of philosophy departments just because the climate is so poisonous. Which is a bit of a problem since the number of philosophy undergrads has increased so much and they're being taught incredibly dry philosophy which doesn't answer any of the questions with which they approached their degree.

johneffay, they're taken from the guardian I think. Also, have you really finished your blog? It's very sad.

D7_bohs
22-05-2006, 08:03 AM
To be honest, anyone who thinks that the situation isn't hostile is pretty ignorant of the current climate in UK philosophy. It's not only hostile but it's often malicious, I've seen phd positions threatened, jobs undermined, and attempts to get rid of entire programs purely because they don't fit in with the standard of what the hegemony think philosophy should be. And alot of it is incredibly underhand and devious. More and more continental philosophers are moving out of philosophy departments just because the climate is so poisonous. Which is a bit of a problem since the number of philosophy undergrads has increased so much and they're being taught incredibly dry philosophy which doesn't answer any of the questions with which they approached their degree.

johneffay, they're taken from the guardian I think. Also, have you really finished your blog? It's very sad.

Yeah, I've heard stuff about certain depts. that backs this up.

Perhaps a model that would explain the difference between the two appraoches to the discipline would be something like this; old- time jazzers had great difficulty seeing anything in Rock n' Roll beyond cretinous repetition and ham- fisted 'blues' theft; those who grew up with rock in any or all its forms have difficulty seeing anything in jazz beyond affectless noodling.

Each works with very similar basic musical material, but differ decisively in terms of what is valued; Jazz goes for invention, harmonic sophistication and technical virtuosity and so on; what it doesn't value particularly are things like lyrical invention or frank emotional appeal; irony and distance are built into jazz. Rock on the other hand while not necessarily uninventive or unsophisticated can do its job with an immediacy and an apparent unsophistication that would appear as clumsy and naive from a jazz viewpoint.

Ap and CP similarly appear to work with the same basic raw material - the same set of philosophical FAQs; the good, the true and the beautiful - but, like competing artistic genres, internal schematic demands shape the treatment of these questions, such that the results can seem mutually incomprehensible and antagonistic.

I would hold that each, in the end, needs the other ; while the extremes - the Warwick 'consciousness gang' v. the D and G fan club - may have little to say to each other, at numerous places, already detailed in this thread - the approach to Hegel in Mc Dowell and Brandom, the Dreyfus Heidegger, and from the other side, Jay Bernstein reading of Adorno informed by 'Analytic' epistemology and ethics - profitable and necessary interaction can take place. Each, without the other, tends to a pole from outside the discipline; AP becomes a branch of cognitive science, or, as ethics, a minor managerial disciplne; CP moves towards - not very good - literature.

D84
23-05-2006, 03:54 AM
Hahaha!! I like this. I assume you're joking about it being the only one in the world right ... ?
Hm, goes to show how much I know about this stuff... Maybe it was the only one in Australia?

My memory is a bit sketchy to be honest. But I'm pretty certain that there was a general vibe of mild embarrassment among most staff and students that university politics had split the school, which has since reunited, into this arbitrary demarcation.

Philosophers have been talking about social issues since Socrates if not earlier.

Do European universities split their philosophy departments?

Would it be true to guess that calling it "Continental" philosophy implies that this is an English if not British fad?

Interesting quotes, Glueboot. I guess the obsession with things French in these Anglo-American schools, when much other "continental" philosophy is German, as those letter writers point out, indicates - at least to my mind which hasn't been in a philosphy classroom for about a decade - to the fear of French-style student activism among university powers that be.

I am back at uni now finishing a different degree and it is amazing how much influence the corporate world has in uni life once you step outside the Arts faculty...


I have more sympathy for people like this than I used to. I spent the day today trying to explain to undergraduates how to define entailment in terms of sets of possible worlds ... (analytic analytic) To paraphrase Ol Dirty Bastard: 'Enough to make a lecturer go CRAAAAAAAZY!!!'
Yeah fair point: there were 18-19 year olds having conversations etc while he was trying to lecture. On the other hand, other lecturers managed to hold students' attentions without resorting to such extreme measures.

Eric
23-05-2006, 04:22 AM
Hm, goes to show how much I know about this stuff... Maybe it was the only one in Australia?

My memory is a bit sketchy to be honest. But I'm pretty certain that there was a general vibe of mild embarrassment among most staff and students that university politics had split the school, which has since reunited, into this arbitrary demarcation.



Actually it seems to be me that doesn't know what's happening in the field, or at least in Australia. I thought you meant an informal split, not one actually implemented in administration. That is extreme for sure and I would suppose atypical in any country. (?)




Yeah fair point: there were 18-19 year olds having conversations etc while he was trying to lecture. On the other hand, other lecturers managed to hold students' attentions without resorting to such extreme measures.

I guess that would be the dividing line between good teaching and lunacy :) Hopefully I still fall on the side where one would like to be.

johneffay
23-05-2006, 10:27 AM
I guess the obsession with things French in these Anglo-American schools, when much other "continental" philosophy is German, as those letter writers point out, indicates - at least to my mind which hasn't been in a philosphy classroom for about a decade - to the fear of French-style student activism among university powers that be.

That would be great if it was true; unfortunately the reality is rather more prosaic. The French obsession is fuelled by the fact that it was French thinkers who were reading the major German thinkers and producing interesting work on them. This is especially true in the case of Heidegger and Hegel, who Anglo-American philosophers would only mention in order to slag off.

Of course, the AP/CP split isn't all that old: Due to the teachings of people such as McTaggart and Bradley, Hegelianism was massively in vogue at Oxbridge at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Bergson also enjoyed a period of great popularity over here. In fact, it could be be argued that AP was actually initiated by Russell and co. as a reaction against what we would now recognise as CP strains in philosophy departments...

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 10:51 AM
T

Of course, the AP/CP split isn't all that old: Due to the teachings of people such as McTaggart and Bradley, Hegelianism was massively in vogue at Oxbridge at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Bergson also enjoyed a period of great popularity over here. In fact, it could be be argued that AP was actually initiated by Russell and co. as a reaction against what we would now recognise as CP strains in philosophy departments...

good point - think it's fair to say too that 19th/ early 20th c american philosophy was a great deal more 'German' than in later incarnations

Ned
23-05-2006, 12:33 PM
I should just point out that you can still study Nietzsche, Hegel and (until last year) Heidegger at Cambridge, which has probably the most narrow-mindedly analytic philosophy faculty in the world. Obviously you're expected to handle them with the intellectual equivalent of long iron tongs, but it could be worse.

foret
23-05-2006, 02:14 PM
I should just point out that you can still study Nietzsche, Hegel and (until last year) Heidegger at Cambridge, which has probably the most narrow-mindedly analytic philosophy faculty in the world. Obviously you're expected to handle them with the intellectual equivalent of long iron tongs, but it could be worse.

are you at cambridge? i was thinking of studying philosophy there, it looks interesting even if the preponderance of dry anglo-analytic philosophers is a little discouraging. are there any philosopher who no longer align themselves as 'continental' and 'analytic'. it seems an absurd rupture in some respects.

Slothrop
23-05-2006, 02:14 PM
Backpedalling a little


Oddly, I seem to find myself in the role of defender of AP, but I feel it only fair to point out that you will not find a single analytic philosopher (and not many continental philosophers) who does not think that AP has profound concrete political/cultural implications.
Yes (well, maybe, given the subsequent discussion, and not really the point I was making), but AP doesn't deny that it should be held up to the standards of a science. Since the 'standards of a science' are broadly speaking a way of checking that something that you claim applies to the real world actually does apply to the real world, is there a reason that I should act on (say) a CP critique of consumer capitalism?

IdleRich
23-05-2006, 02:33 PM
Yeah, I still want to see an answer to that question and the one I asked earlier (if I can be allowed to quote myself)


"The problem is that if you say logic doesn't matter at all then you are allowing people to say pretty much anything. And if everything is equally valid then it's equally meaningless isn't it? Or is that argument flawed because it depends on logic?
Someone earlier in the thread (Slothop?) said something about how if theories are applicable to reality (and it seems to be a big theme that CP is) then they ought to be testable, falsifiable etc I would have also thought that you would want them to follow some kind of logic."

John Doe
23-05-2006, 03:21 PM
Backpedalling a little

Yes (well, maybe, given the subsequent discussion, and not really the point I was making), but AP doesn't deny that it should be held up to the standards of a science. Since the 'standards of a science' are broadly speaking a way of checking that something that you claim applies to the real world actually does apply to the real world, is there a reason that I should act on (say) a CP critique of consumer capitalism?


I think you are coming at this question from the wrong angle completely. You have a rather reductive view of science and what can be 'scientifically verifiable' for a start (but leave that aside as it's a completely different debating point) and you seem hung up on the point that 'philosophy' or 'philosophic claims/judgements' should be somehow 'measurable' or 'quantifiable' in a (reductively defined) 'scientific' method. (Certain aspect of AP - I'm thinking of the discipline of logic - may well aspire to the status of scientific verifiability, but whether it achieves this is entirely another question.) But what of certain key concepts absolutely central to our culture and society that are entirely shaped by, and in the realm of, philosophical debate - such as justice.

Are you seriously suggesting that there could ever be a scientifically verifiable concept of what is just that could, transparently, be validated (or not) by some sort of scientific test that could measure its application to the 'real' world? Of course not. The idea's a non-sequitur. As such, it completely undermines your argument...

First post. Nice feeling to get the first out of the way... :)

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 03:26 PM
Not sure how to quote from two previous posts, so this is in reply to slothrop and idle rich, respectively.

The minute you bring the idea of the 'real world' into things you open a whole philosophical can of worms - indeed the original can of worms. For many - maybe most - philosophers from both traditions 'the real world' has, in Nietzsche's phrase 'at last become a fable'. Trying to test our expereince of the world against the world itself is doomed to incoherence, since the only access we have to the world is through our experience of it. This is not to deny that there is a world out there independent of our knowledge or experience of it, but we have no access to it. This position would be, broadly, shared by philosophers as diverse as Husserl, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Sellars, McDowell, Derrida; either in that form or in some linguistic version of the same thing - that we construct a world out of what we can say about it - Language would be logically prior - though not temporally prior - to thought for a lot of the names above. Thus, the idea of a scientifc method testing theories or concepts against the 'real world' is a fiction; correspondence with the real world is a way of saying a concept has a high level of consisitency with the other concepts that make up our world view. In Rorty's phrase we strive towards better, richer descriptions of the world - a collection of shared meanings - rather than towards correspondence with that which is definitively outside our experience. That's not to say that AP doesn't tend towards a certain - sometimes, to my mind,naive - scientism; but it just means that they hold that science is a rich way of describng experience with strong predictive power; not that it represents a god's eye view.

Idle rich, CP has a rich logical tradition from Kant onwards, through Hegel and Husserl; it just doesn't limit itself to the sterile discovery of tautology that analytic logic is content with. A = A is true, but not very informative; Hegel's discovery of the equivalence of being and nothing is a great deal more interesting.

CP in most of its forms is hostile to the elevation of scientific truth as a benchmark for every kind of truth; Adorno critique of instrumental reason, Heidegger's crit of technology, Derrida v. logocentrism are all versions of this; and this is where it is most valuable, i think - the thread on target culture on the politics board will illustrate the shortcomings of such instrumental thinking - the idea of quantification as the true measure of things.

IdleRich
23-05-2006, 03:35 PM
"CP has a rich logical tradition from Kant onwards, through Hegel and Husserl"
My question was asked in response to Dharry's post below.


"To expect philosophy approach the condition of science, maths or logic is therefore simply misguided"
Is that statement wrong or is there some way that a philosophy can have a rich logical tradition without approaching the condition of logic?

IdleRich
23-05-2006, 03:44 PM
"the discipline of logic - may well aspire to the status of scientific verifiability, but whether it achieves this is entirely another question"
Surely the idea of logic is more fundamental than scientific verifiability? I would have thought that you use logic in verifying something scientifically.
What I'm asking in both these posts is, are there times when logic doesn't apply? If it doesn't then how do you reason?

Slothrop
23-05-2006, 03:45 PM
Not sure how to quote from two previous posts, so this is in reply to slothrop and idle rich, respectively.

The minute you bring the idea of the 'real world' into things you open a whole philosophical can of worms - indeed the original can of worms. For many - maybe most - philosophers from both traditions 'the real world' has, in Nietzsche's phrase 'at last become a fable'. Trying to test our expereince of the world against the world itself is doomed to incoherence, since the only access we have to the world is through our experience of it. This is not to deny that there is a world out there independent of our knowledge or experience of it, but we have no access to it. This position would be, broadly, shared by philosophers as diverse as Husserl, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Sellars, McDowell, Derrida; either in that form or in some linguistic version of the same thing - that we construct a world out of what we can say about it - Language would be logically prior - though not temporally prior - to thought for a lot of the names above. Thus, the idea of a scientifc method testing theories or concepts against the 'real world' is a fiction; correspondence with the real world is a way of saying a concept has a high level of consisitency with the other concepts that make up our world view. In Rorty's phrase we strive towards better, richer descriptions of the world - a collection of shared meanings - rather than towards correspondence with that which is definitively outside our experience. That's not to say that AP doesn't tend towards a certain - sometimes, to my mind,naive - scientism; but it just means that they hold that science is a rich way of describng experience with strong predictive power; not that it represents a god's eye view.

Sorry, my use of 'real world' was misleading. I think I mentioned this upthread re Newton - to me (and, I think to most scientists who have thought seriously about it) 'scientific rigour' doesn't imply claims to be a God's eye view so much as an aspiration to and a means of testing for strong predictive power relative to what we observe. Does, for instance, the political part of the Frankfurt School make such claims, or is that part of scientism and thus rejected?

Obviously, in social theory, testing for predictive power is going to be much harder and less conclusive (in fact, it starts to get harder as soon as you get away from physics), since, as you pointed out, it's a lot harder to find relevant things to measure. But there are some parameters - Marxism as it was set down by Marx, for instance, predicts revolts by the proletariat as an inevitable consequence of industrial capitalism, and so presumably needs to be altered in some way in view of the fact that most of the world's industrial capitalist systems are still going strong...

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 03:56 PM
Surely the idea of logic is more fundamental than scientific verifiability? I would have thought that you use logic in verifying something scientifically.
What I'm asking in both these posts is, are there times when logic doesn't apply? If it doesn't then how do you reason?

I think you can reason without logic; which is not the same thing as reasoning 'illogically' - obviously if i claim to have seen a square circle then i am being illogical, since the concept of the predicate excludes the subject of the proposition, but if I see you beating a child and i say 'stop!, that's wrong' , it would be hard to prove that the concept of wrong definitively - logically - excluded beating a child without an appeal to usage or custom or 'thick' meaning - a century ago beating a child for theft might have been considered justifiable, even the right thing to do. Nevertheless, if you were to contend that, because i couldn't prove that what you were doing was logically wrong, you were going to continue right on doing it, it would be a strange jury that would decide that you'd won the argument.

The same holds for judgments like 'this is beautiful' or 'thet's a good book' ; it is possible to reason about such things - otherwise what would we all be doing on this board - but such reasoning, while rarely 'illogical' in the sense of contradicting itself, is not 'logical' either in the sense of provong anything by appeal to the analyticity of an argument.

IdleRich
23-05-2006, 04:09 PM
"I think you can reason without logic; which is not the same thing as reasoning 'illogically'"
OK, fair enough, that's what I'm asking really. If you are "allowed" to be illogical I would begin to have problems - or at least want to see an explanation of how that could work/mean anything.

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 05:00 PM
Sorry, my use of 'real world' was misleading. I think I mentioned this upthread re Newton - to me (and, I think to most scientists who have thought seriously about it) 'scientific rigour' doesn't imply claims to be a God's eye view so much as an aspiration to and a means of testing for strong predictive power relative to what we observe. Does, for instance, the political part of the Frankfurt School make such claims, or is that part of scientism and thus rejected?

Obviously, in social theory, testing for predictive power is going to be much harder and less conclusive (in fact, it starts to get harder as soon as you get away from physics), since, as you pointed out, it's a lot harder to find relevant things to measure. But there are some parameters - Marxism as it was set down by Marx, for instance, predicts revolts by the proletariat as an inevitable consequence of industrial capitalism, and so presumably needs to be altered in some way in view of the fact that most of the world's industrial capitalist systems are still going strong...

That's quite a complex question with relation to the Frankfurt School; for Adorno - who is the only figure from that milieu I know well enough to talk about - there was a clear distinction between his philosophical work and his social theory. There's an often overlooked Nietzchean edge -as well as a un- Marxist pessimism - to his philosophy, as well as a challenging style; it's safe to say that he didn't believe in the inevitability of a workers victory; what hints he gives of a life beyond domination have an unworldly, messianic edge (though, mind you, so does Marx sometimes).

As a social theorist, Adorno was concerned with analysis only, though its safe to say his prognosis was not optimistic.... as for Marxism needing adjustment in the light of the continued rude health of capitalism; this has been a concern of westerm marxists since the '20s; most would I think concede the failure of Marx's historical determinism, while attesting to the strength of his analysis, particularly of the twin concepts of alienation and reification, concepts taken from Marx, and mediated through Lukacs which were central to the Frankfurt school project.

To try and answer your question, I would guess that most social theorists from a western marxist perspective would hold that the methods of the human sciences were weakly predictive, and to attempt to formulate laws on the basis of social theory would be to commit the crime Kant calls 'illicit subsumption' ' the illegitimate extension of a category or categorial judgment beyond its territory.

IdleRich
23-05-2006, 05:28 PM
You posit this as an example of reasoning without logic:


"if I see you beating a child and i say 'stop!, that's wrong'"
Which seems to be true and doesn't resort to using logic.
But is that reasoning? Just saying "that is wrong" is simply a statement (which may well be true in this case) but I thought that reasoning is movement from one statement to another and my question would be how do you do this without logic?

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 05:58 PM
You posit this as an example of reasoning without logic:


Which seems to be true and doesn't resort to using logic.
But is that reasoning? Just saying "that is wrong" is simply a statement (which may well be true in this case) but I thought that reasoning is movement from one statement to another and my question would be how do you do this without logic?

Ok - I guess I meant that to support my initial 'that is wrong' would involve things like ' it is socially unacceptable' 'it will damage the child, make her afraid and distrustful' 'it makes society a worse place for everyone if things like this happen' and so on; all of which demand that you accept the reason in order to accept the conclusion 'this is wrong' in the manner of if' it will damage the child', then'this is wrong' ; but not as watertight hypothetical judgments such as if ' x=2' then '2x =4'; you have to accept 'this will damage the child' and that damaging children is wrong, before accepting this is wrong; this has the form of logical proposition, but and certainly some of its argumentative strength derives from this, but it also relies on other resources; affectivity, custom, rhetoric and so on ....

Ned
23-05-2006, 07:03 PM
Nevertheless, if you were to contend that, because i couldn't prove that what you were doing was logically wrong, you were going to continue right on doing it, it would be a strange jury that would decide that you'd won the argument.

This isn't reasoning without logic, it's as logical as can be:

Premise 1: Causing pain is wrong
Premise 2: Beating a child causes pain
therefore
Premise 3: Beating a child is wrong
and
Premise 4: You shouldn't do things that are wrong
Conclusion: You shouldn't beat a child

Logic will only fail you way further down the line, when you have to justify a foundational claim like: 'Pain is bad'.


Idle rich, CP has a rich logical tradition from Kant onwards, through Hegel and Husserl; it just doesn't limit itself to the sterile discovery of tautology that analytic logic is content with. A = A is true, but not very informative; Hegel's discovery of the equivalence of being and nothing is a great deal more interesting.

Logic has to be tautological otherwise it wouldn't be useful, there's no point criticising AP on that basis. All that Hegel stuff is much more metaphysics than logic.

By the way Foret yes I am at Cambridge, it's a nice university but really not the place to study philosophy.

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 07:27 PM
and
Premise 4: You shouldn't do things that are wrong


.

always with the 'ought' ...... surely by definition 'wrong' means 'things that you shouldn't do'? so i don't really see what this step does

the problem is that you can't get from fact to value unless you smuggle in a value at the very beginning...

Ned
23-05-2006, 07:33 PM
always with the 'ought' ...... surely by definition 'wrong' means 'things that you shouldn't do'? so i don't really see what this step does

the problem is that you can't get from fact to value unless you smuggle in a value at the very beginning...

Well not every moral theory would agree with that premise, even though it looks tautological. But anyway yes, I agree, you do have to smuggle in value somewhere, but the only point I'm trying to make is this sort of vague anti-AP idea of 'reasoning without logic' is incoherent.

D7_bohs
23-05-2006, 07:54 PM
i guess 'reasoning without logic' is not quite right....... I need to think about how to describe what i do mean

later ....

'reasoning without logic' looks ridiculous now, of course; went back over the thread to see if I picked the phrase up from someone else along the way, but no such luck; the shame is mine...

what i getting at wasn't particularly directed at AP - I was trying to answer Idle Rich's question about the priority of logic and show that certain kinds of reasoning were not expressible entirely as logically consistent propositions, but could, neverthe less represent viable forms of rationality - which is not the same as being 'without logic' of course.

johneffay
23-05-2006, 09:22 PM
Logic has to be tautological otherwise it wouldn't be useful, there's no point criticising AP on that basis. All that Hegel stuff is much more metaphysics than logic.

This is simply defining your term to suit your argument. The 'Hegel stuff' has a long tradition as a form of logic (albeit related to metaphysics), which can be shown to be a direct outgrowth of Kantian logic, which can itself be shown to be, etc. Consequently, if Hegelian logic has value, logic does not need to be tautological to be useful.

That said, I agree with you that to criticize AP's use of tautological logic simply on the basis that it is tautological is something of a non-starter.

IdleRich
24-05-2006, 10:09 AM
"'reasoning without logic' looks ridiculous now, of course; went back over the thread to see if I picked the phrase up from someone else along the way, but no such luck; the shame is mine..."
Not sure if that is entirely true. DHarry said something about how philosophy shouldn't aspire to logic, you said that CP has a rich tradition of logic. I asked how those comments fitted together and I think that you found yourself in the position of defending what DHarry said.
The reason I started this thread (hopefully with a relatively open mind) is that I'd heard from my girlfriend that CP often seems to depend on people using name-dropping and deliberately obscure arguments to blind people to unreasonable leaps of logic - ie a lack of rigour in the argument, what Dharry said seemed (indirectly) to bear this out. Which is why I asked (roughly), how, if you are not using logic to discuss your ideas, can you progress from one to another or value one over another?
What I'm saying I guess, is, just because you are dealing with concepts or ideas that are abstract or based on feelings doesn't mean that you cannot then argue about them rationally.

IdleRich
24-05-2006, 10:20 AM
Ned said


Quote:
"Idle rich, CP has a rich logical tradition from Kant onwards, through Hegel and Husserl; it just doesn't limit itself to the sterile discovery of tautology that analytic logic is content with. A = A is true, but not very informative; Hegel's discovery of the equivalence of being and nothing is a great deal more interesting. "
Although you attribute this to me I was actually me quoting D7-Bohs. In fact I don't really know what you mean when you say


Logic has to be tautological otherwise it wouldn't be useful, there's no point criticising AP on that basis
I understand a tautology to be like a truism is that correct? So why does logic have to be tautological? I have no background in philosophy at all so I'm just asking for an explanation here.

Ned
24-05-2006, 10:35 AM
I understand a tautology to be like a truism is that correct? So why does logic have to be tautological? I have no background in philosophy at all so I'm just asking for an explanation here.

(I wasn't trying to attribute anything to anyone in particular?) Anyway logic has to be independent of, and prior to, our empirical knowledge of the universe. The only things we can be sure of before we start making observations are - ignoring the Kantian hinterland for a moment because I don't know much about it - things that are tautologous/true by definition, like A=A (which is just like 'a bachelor is an unmarried man'), and anything derived from a tautology is also a tautology. But the important thing to note is that just because something's a tautology, that doesn't mean it can't be a surprising truth, because once you start manipulating tautologies in complex ways you get non-obvious results.

IdleRich
24-05-2006, 11:08 AM
OK, I thought that that must be what you were saying. That makes sense.

D7_bohs
24-05-2006, 11:15 AM
(I wasn't trying to attribute anything to anyone in particular?) Anyway logic has to be independent of, and prior to, our empirical knowledge of the universe. The only things we can be sure of before we start making observations are - ignoring the Kantian hinterland for a moment because I don't know much about it - things that are tautologous/true by definition, like A=A (which is just like 'a bachelor is an unmarried man'), and anything derived from a tautology is also a tautology. But the important thing to note is that just because something's a tautology, that doesn't mean it can't be a surprising truth, because once you start manipulating tautologies in complex ways you get non-obvious results.

This from Kant on the limitations of the domain of formal logic;
'That logic should have been thus successful is an advantage which it owes entirely to its limitations, whereby it is justified in abstracting ..... from all objects of knowledge and their differences, leaving the understanding nothing to deal with save itself and its form (....) logic, therefore, as a propaedeutic, forms as it were only the vestibule of the sciences; and when we are concerned with specific modes of knowledge, while logic is indeed presupposed in any critical estimation of them, yet for he actual acquiring of them we have to look to the sciences properly and objectively so- called' (KRV B.ix)


Kant wants philosophy to move out of the vestibule and into the light of being a science on a firm footing and for that its requires knowledge of objects and their differences - in this case the 'objects' being the conditions of the possibility of objects and the experience of objects - knowledge which must be guided by logic but cannot be build exclusively from such material.

And later ' what I call applied logic .... is a representation of the understanding and of the rules of its necessary employment in concreto, that is, under the accidental subjective conditions which may hinder or help its application ...... it treats of attention, its impediments and consequences, of the source of error, of the state of doubt, hesitation and conviction etc' (A 54/ B 79)

I don't want to bludgeon anyone with quotes, but i think that sets out a lot better than i could do the point i was trying to make about the limits of the domain of formal logic without doubting its validity within that domain.

Eric
25-05-2006, 03:51 PM
OK. Taking a hint from discussion on other threads (gasp ack) let me be a bit confrontational. :) Maybe before I do I should say a bit about my background; I am not a philosopher but use tools from analytic work daily in my research. With analytic work I can see what the goal is and I can see that there are useful results being obtained---though some would surely see these as dry and uninteresting (probably the vast majority of undergraduate philosophy majors cited above, who by the way are probably shocked at what people have them doing by the time they have got through their degrees). I can't say I feel the same about CP. I don't know if the reason is that I'm ignorant (though surely this is part of it) or wilful obscurantism. But I am sure that it's fairly easy to find statements by analytic people of what the project is, and i don't know that it's so easy to find similar things by the CP types people love so much here. So my question is: what is the goal anyway??? What are people trying to do? And I hope that people won't tell me that I have to slog through Derrida or Bizet or something for 10 years to come close to being able to understand the answer. If the project is worthwhile it should be statable and explainable to outsiders. IMO.

johneffay
25-05-2006, 04:42 PM
As with AP, there is no one goal that CP aims at. In fact, most of the big questions which CP addresses are the same as those of AP (or the Anglo-American tradition at any rate). Here are a few:
Is there such a thing as objective reality which we can access?
What is truth and can we successfully test for it?
Are there such things as persons?
How do we recognise and judge art?
How can we live a moral life?

I could multiply the examples, but I'm sure you get the point. Where AP and CP differ is in how one approaches these questions, or (sometimes) whether they are well formed in their specifics, or in fact answerable by philosophy. You should bear in mind that whilst some Analytic philosophers will often make claims to the effect that their discipline is much more modest than CP and addresses specifics rather than 'big questions', they are certainly not saying that they have ignored these questions; rather that they have thought about them and concluded that philsophy is not equipped to answer them (if they can be answered at all).

It might also be worth pointing out that AP and CP a have lot more in common than not. If this were not the case, I doubt you would see all the mud-slinging, etc. I have never seen the same venom expended upon Eastern philosophy, for example.

foret
25-05-2006, 05:22 PM
By the way Foret yes I am at Cambridge, it's a nice university but really not the place to study philosophy.

is that what you are studying (i assume....)

Ned
25-05-2006, 11:12 PM
Yes I am, for another few weeks. In the middle of finals at the moment.

Ned
06-06-2006, 11:36 AM
Article on this topic by Richard Rorty (http://www.stanford.edu/%7Errorty/analytictrans.htm)

IdleRich
06-06-2006, 02:15 PM
Interesting if slightly patronising/sarcastic essay. He originally seems to be describing the divide between continental and analytic philosophy in very different terms from the way we were talking about it earlier although it comes more into line towards the end - I guess he's just approaching it from a different angle. On the other hand he seems to claim a lot of people that APs wouldn't have problems with as CP.
One criticism my girlfriend always makes of continental philosophy is the way that when someone can't answer a question they try and get out off the hook by denying that the question can be asked in that way (in fact she read some of this thread and got frustrated by what she saw as some people's attempts to do just that). Obviously that can be valid at times if the question really can't be asked that way, seems a bit weak though as a default tactic. Although Rorty obviously wouldn't agree:


"My first impulse, upon being told of a philosophical puzzle, is to try to dissolve it rather than to solve it: I typically question the terms in which the problem is posed, and try to suggest a new set of terms, terms in which the putative puzzle is unstatable."

D7_bohs
06-06-2006, 02:38 PM
Rorty is nothing if not patronising, nearly all of the time (though he can be funny with it)

re your quote at the end; this would seem as good a summary of the methods of such redoubtable AP figures as Wittgenstein and Austin as anything else - I wouldn't think it's necessarily a CP tactic - more likely to just ignore the question and introduce a lot of terms you don't understand....

Ned
06-06-2006, 02:48 PM
I think there's a divide within AP between people who want to reduce the number of philosophical puzzles (e.g. Wittgenstein) and people who want to increase them (practically everyone else).

IdleRich
06-06-2006, 02:57 PM
"re your quote at the end; this would seem as good a summary of the methods of such redoubtable AP figures as Wittgenstein and Austin as anything else - I wouldn't think it's necessarily a CP tactic - more likely to just ignore the question and introduce a lot of terms you don't understand...."
I was just surprised that he admits, or actually is proud of, the fact that when he is asked a question (which I would say is what he means when he says "set a puzzle") his response is automatically to question the terms in which it is proposed - presumably whatever they are - and then say "you can't ask that question". That seems intellectually dishonest to me.

OldRottenhat
06-06-2006, 08:41 PM
I was just surprised that he admits, or actually is proud of, the fact that when he is asked a question (which I would say is what he means when he says "set a puzzle") his response is automatically to question the terms in which it is proposed - presumably whatever they are - and then say "you can't ask that question". That seems intellectually dishonest to me.

Well, not necessarily. Questions have implied premises and if those premises are contradictory then the question isn't meaningful - it's common practice to examine the terms of any proposition in order to see what assumptions are being smuggled in and whether they are valid. If I ask you "what kind of fish is a raven?", you're perfectly justified in saying that the question can't meaningfully be asked.

IdleRich
07-06-2006, 09:31 AM
I agree that it is valid to question the assumptions made in "setting a puzzle" and sometimes it is valid to reject them (as in your example) - what I take exception to is that from reading Rorty's quote it seems that he will always (this is what I meant by automatically) try and reject them whatever they are, in another words to treat every question as "what kind of fish is a raven?". This is what I mean by intellectual dishonesty.

tryptych
08-06-2006, 01:20 PM
I agree that it is valid to question the assumptions made in "setting a puzzle" and sometimes it is valid to reject them (as in your example) - what I take exception to is that from reading Rorty's quote it seems that he will always (this is what I meant by automatically) try and reject them whatever they are, in another words to treat every question as "what kind of fish is a raven?". This is what I mean by intellectual dishonesty.

Well, sometimes there are some assumptions that are so fundamental that they are the premise for any question you could ask within, for instance, the framework of AP.

I'd say something like the assumption of subject/object distinction...

tryptych
08-06-2006, 01:36 PM
One criticism my girlfriend always makes of continental philosophy is the way that when someone can't answer a question they try and get out off the hook by denying that the question can be asked in that way (in fact she read some of this thread and got frustrated by what she saw as some people's attempts to do just that).

I don't think anyone here speaking for CP "can't answer" the questions asked - it's just that they can become meaningless within the premises of CP.

This is a pretty prime example of why there's a conflict - AP says "answer these questions on my terms", CP says "sorry I can't, those terms arn't valid" and you're locked into stalemate. I'm sorry if she's frustrated by that, but as I said before, I'm starting to find it equally frustrating that she insists on demanding her questions be answered - especially when it's implied that any attempt to question the premises of said questions is "intellectually dishonest" or seen as wriggling out the challenge.

IdleRich
08-06-2006, 01:52 PM
"Well, sometimes there are some assumptions that are so fundamental that they are the premise for any question you could ask within, for instance, the framework of AP.
I'd say something like the assumption of subject/object distinction..."
This argument is self-defeating. By the very act of questioning an assumption you are framing a question in which that assumption isn't made.

IdleRich
08-06-2006, 01:58 PM
"especially when it's implied that any attempt to question the premises of said questions is "intellectually dishonest" or seen as wriggling out the challenge."
You've misunderstood what I've said. If you read it again properly you will see that I've no problem with someone questioning a premise at any given time, what I'm saying is dishonest is to state before you have heard the question and before you know what premises are used that you will challenge them whatever they are. Surely you see the difference, I don't understand why I've had to reiterate that twice now.