Introduction: what is continental philosophy?
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Introduction: what is continental philosophy? book
This book is a “contemporary introduction” to “continental philosophy.” Another book to be published in the same series will be a “contemporary introduction” to “AngloAmerican philosophy.” The separation of these two topics accurately reflects a longstanding division between rival factions in philosophy departments in the US and UK. Originally, the Anglo-American/continental distinction was simply geographical, the term “continental” referring to contemporary or recent philosophical happenings on the European continent. But over the years the distinction has acquired metaphilosophical connotations, that is, it has come to be thought of as a distinction between competing conceptions of the philosophical enterprise itself. Today, Anglo-American philosophy is typically equated with analytic philosophy, since a majority of the members of AngloAmerican philosophy departments describe themselves as working within the analytic “tradition.” Conversely, the label “continental” is applied not only to European philosophers, but to the significant minority of Anglo-American philosophers who see themselves as continuing the continental “tradition.” Each of these traditions has its own legacy: analytic philosophers address problems that have been bequeathed to them by thinkers such as Mill, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine, and Davidson; while continental philosophers take up the inheritance of Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida. To identify oneself as a member of the House of
Analytic or the House of Continental is to ally oneself with one of these two branches of a common family tree. What makes the division between these two houses resemble the English Wars of the Roses is not only the fact that Anglo-American philosophers have used the analytic/continental distinction to divide themselves into two separate factions; but the fact that the division has taken the form of an institutional struggle over who has the right to inherit the title of Philosopher.