Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Continental Cont.

"For Gadamer, 'history' seems to mean the humanist cultural tradition of the educated European elite engaged in the endless process of reinterpreting great texts from the past." - Robert M. Burns -

I think we could replace Gadamer here with continental philosophers and history with philosophy. I think it would be an appropriate overgeneralized definition for continental philosophy. While there may be a plethora of "continental philosophers" outside the geographical region, the historical seat of this school of philosophy has its roots planted firmly on european soil. This is why I think I tend towards an analytical type of philosophy over that of the continental sort. That's not to say that the continental projects are a bust in my eyes. There were several compelling issues that continental philosophy deals with that I see as not only interesting but fundamental to us as philosophers.

For instance, Husserl talks about the disconnect between science and life-world. He says that science is dependent upon and yet ignorant of (or maybe blind to) this life-world which is characterized by "a determinate social and historical context (71)." The job of philosophy for Husserl is to point out that we are looking at the world through this lens of science and treating all objects (even humanity) as though they were same. This is the "crisis" for Husserl and the critical problem that philosophy needs to resolve. Our particular society and present (and/or historical) context needs to play a bigger part in our definition of ourselves.

Another aspect that I like about continental philosophy is that it allows us to be speculative or formative in the shaping of our own destinies. With the end of ends, so to speak, we become our own masters. There is certainly a very enticing idea in this concept and something that I, as a philosopher, would like to participate in.

However, my continued criticism of continental thought is that it still seems to me to be a reinterpretation of texts that have come before us. While I can appreciate that it's important to understand the context we live in and that from whence we came, there needs to be a disconnect there, too. We have to stop looking backwards sometimes so that we might look forward. If we project onto the infinite future (whether that exists or not) the trappings and finitude of the past through the very methods that we intend to free us, we restrict our opportunities to make new insights that lay beyond the existing texts. This sounds very much like one of the canned criticisms of continental thought made by the Analytical school. I'm not yet finding any reason to reject it.

1 comment:

  1. I think that you might be confusing Hermenutics with Continential Philosophy as a whole. And Hermenutics doesn't just reinterpret "texts" as in written documents, but rather sees everything as text, all the world and history of the world is a text to the Hermenutician.