What Is Continental Philosophy?

You do not get to philosophy by reading many and multifarious philosophical books, nor by torturing yourself with solving the riddles of the universe . . . philosophy remains latent in every human existence and need not be first added to it from somewhere else.

- Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental-Analytic split in Western philosophy. Around the beginning of the last century, philosophy began to go down two separate paths, as thinkers from Continental Europe explored the legacy of figures including Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, while those educated in the English-speaking world tended to look to more analytically-inclined philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege. But the divide between these two schools of thought is not clear cut, and many philosophers even question whether the term 'Continental' is accurate or useful. The Analytic school favours a logical, scientific approach, in contrast to the Continental emphasis on the importance of time and place. But what are the origins of this split and is it possible that contemporary philosophers can bridge the gap between the two?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on The Continental-Analytic Split

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Many philosophers at leading American departments are specialists in metaphysics: the study of the most general aspects of reality such as being and time. The major work of one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, is “Being and Time,” a profound study of these two topics.  Nonetheless, hardly any of these American metaphysicians have paid serious attention to Heidegger’s book.

The standard explanation for this oddity is that the metaphysicians are analytic philosophers, whereas Heidegger is a continental philosopher.  Although the two sorts of philosophers seldom read one another’s work, when they do, the results can be ugly.  A famous debate between Jacques Derrida (continental) and John Searle (analytic) ended with Searle denouncing Derrida’s “obscurantism” and Derrida mocking Searle’s “superficiality.”...

Continue reading Gary Gutting's article: Bridging the Analytic-Continental Divide

Further Reading

Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes the following movements: German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.

It is difficult to identify non-trivial claims that would be common to all the preceding philosophical movements. The term "continental philosophy", like "analytic philosophy", lacks clear definition and may mark merely a family resemblance across disparate philosophical views. Simon Glendinning has suggested that the term was originally more pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or disliked by analytic philosophers...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Continental Philosophy

Bonus Webcomic

The Bar Fight - Existential Comics

Related Topics

 CamusCritical Theory | FreudHegelIdeology | KantKierkegaardMarxism | Nietzsche | Philosophy

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