Monday, May 24, 2010

Being's Poem on philosophers failing to get along.
And to use a classic example: Carnap’s own mockery of some de-contextualized expressions from Heidegger cannot but affect the very philosophical process. By the same token, in spite of all these barrier-breaking attempts and talk in the ‘Continental’ side of the fence, they are still largely alienated from the activity of Analytic philosophers: Ray Brassier may bring Churchland and Quine into the pot, just as Rorty brought Heidegger and Hegel, but we just don’t see a Badiou bringing over Lewis, Williamson, Halpern, and most of contemporary analytic philosophy into these debates; any more than Williamson or Lewis bring Deleuze or Heidegger. Nobody who thinks Badiou or Derrida is of extreme importance seems to be paying much attention to problems about vagueness, which have stirred the epistemological herds and philosophy of language in the last few years. And those concerned with vagueness seem unaffected by Heidegger's suggestion that science doesn't think, or by Badiou's separation of onto-theologically invested constructivism and a philosophy geared towards the 'generic thinking' which transforms truth into a process initiated by subjective intervention and a split with knowledge. The divisions are then obviously reflected on 'general grounds': Badiou attacks analytic philosophy as advancing a contemporary form of sophistry; ideologically knit to democratic materialism. Chomsky claims Lacan is a self-aware charlatan. Ronell thinks the ‘analytic’ obsession with ‘clarity’ is symptomatic of a certain ‘technocratic’ arrest on thought, following Heidegger's split between thought/philosophy, or truth/knowledge, aletheia/techne, etc. Gail Fine or Gregory Vlastos do not read or care about Heidegger’s take on Plato.
I'm not too concerned that some academics are talking past each other, that's to be expected. But I wonder about the people who set up universities and fund them, expecting that the universities will teach the humanities or liberal arts. Are they aware that their philosophy departments are not teaching classic philosophers nor philosophy in general, but are instead teaching a very specialized subject that isn't recognizable as philosophy to most of those outside of that domain?
a very specialized subject that isn't recognizable as philosophy

That describes QuineCo fairly well, but the earlier analytical thinkers (even Carnap, however detested by cont. people) were not as reductionist or in love with science. Many cont. people forget that a figure like Carnap (and really Frege and Russell) was responding to classic philosophy (at least Hume, Kant, Hegel).

Carnap often quotes from Hume's ECHU--there seems to be a conty. meme that analyticals weren't doing philosophy--not exactly. They were doing non-idealist philosophy, relating it to modern science, and usually favoring physicalism of one sort or another (which is to say, those who object to physicalism might offer some counterarguments). For that matter, while Carnap does select a few brief quotes from Heidegger for his criticisms, they are fairly representative.

The conty. people generally refuse to engage with the criticism (ie, what does Hei.'s "nothing itself nothings" mean apart from a denial existence?? Reification, says Carnap (and his cronies) At least cop to the Hegelian overtones...(tho' Hegel stripped of history ) neo-Hegelians are often as guilty of a type of unthinking dogmatism as are Darwinians...Marx himself would not likely have approved of a Heidegger, or french postmods...))
This is only a blog, so I don't want to get into an exposition of what everyone said about whom, but I have read some Russell and some Vienna Circle. From that, my impression is that any reaching back to classic philosophy by them included the notion that now that Russell, et al, had reached back and clarified things for us, there is no need for future philosophers to look back; looking back is just for historians.

The other large problem with their attitude is the relabeling of the philosophy that's been going on for millenia as "continental". I suspect it's partially a case of going along with anti-German bigotry after two world wars. It makes more sense to name what they are doing as island, analytical, non-idealist, physicalist, anglocentric, or what have you. They may have pulled a coup in taking over the philosophy departments of major Anglo-American universities, but they're not fooling anyone else; except perhaps incoming philosophy undergrads who haven't figured out that the "philosophy" department they thought they enrolled in was hijacked by idealogues half a century earlier.

How insular and removed from the mainstream these philosophy departments are can be demonstrated by walking into a bookstore or public library. The philosophy shelves will be filled with continental philosophers, and few, if any, books by the people who've control philosophy departments.

I'm fine with considering them philosophers, of a certain type. They're the ones who've become victims of their own arrogance.

Marx may not aprove of today's continental philosophers, even though they're the ones who might read his texts, but he'd be able to read large parts and recognize them as philosophy. He would mistaken Frege's or Russell's texts for mathematical treatises.
I agree to some extent, but it's not obvious to me that 20 century continental figures-- like Heidegger, or Sartre, or postmods-- should be assumed to be the real inheritors of Descartes and Kant (or even Hegel). I'm for students reading Kant at some point--but the original text with ample notes, not via the french-marxists. Kant wanted to be read by scientists, and certainly had an analytical aspect.

Russell however british-obnoxious had read Kant and Hegel, and science, etc. So his criticism of the content (say of Hegel's logic) while not perfect, still merits consideration, for a few minutes at least, as does Carnap/vienna circle thoughts on metaphysics (actually Carnap probably more gung ho for reductionism then Russell). And for that matter, the logicians were not the empiricists; early Russell, like Frege had a somewhat platonic aspect (in Witt.'s Tractatus as well). But politically speaking your points seem mostly correct--but I think that's due to a lack of historical knowledge as well. So have them read the greeks, Hegel's Phil of History, Marx, Carlyle or Spengler along with the Macro. econ, or think and grow rich, or Calculus for mafiosi, etc. (I don't think even bright college kids are up to Heidegger...)
All my college work was in sciences, maths and engineering - I would occasinally do an art or humanities class when I need to boost my grades - so I know what matters there. I never came across any sign that anyone from that side cared there was a philosophy department near by, whether the philosophy department thought they were on the scientists' side or otherwise. My undergrad advisor was a bit of an exception, he'd occasionally use words like phenomenological, but he was an old school rocket scientist - came over with von Braun - who could talk about Mozart concertos for hours. The rest of the faculty just cared whether something (equation, technique) worked or not. They were purely pragmatic. I think everyone should know everything - high school kids should learn calculus, Aristotle, and Wallace Stevens - and specialize later, but I realize its hopeless. As civilization grows, it requires more specialization, not less.

I also think that the philosophy departments pushing out traditional philosophy has not only hurt the legitimacy of thos departments, but also philosophy as a whole. Philosohy loses some of its rigor when it's hosted by literature departments. There wouldn't be a Sokal hoax at a proper philosophy journal.

I agree with Hedegger that you need ten years of Aristotle to tackle Nietzsche, and so on. It has come as a shock to me to realize how popular Heidegger has become. When I first stated to read him (mid 1980s, having exhausted Sartre), I thought ontology was only of interest to very specialized obsessives.
I agree with Hedegger that you need ten years of Aristotle to tackle Nietzsche, and so on. It has come as a shock to me to realize how popular Heidegger has become.

Actually, I don't agree. There should be some preparation--a year or so, perhaps. Too many wannabe-filosophes in college town take on Nietzsche, or Heidegger, or analyticals with little or no understanding of the tradition (or of the greek language, or even latin these days (small latin, less greek here)), but I don't think it's quite as mysterious as Herr Hei. suggested.

Heidegger's points re heritage often sound quite conservative-rightist, even reactionary--while he may have wanted to preserve Being, he's not exactly preserving historical or economic realism. He often sounds nearly like Kiekegaard did reacting to Hegel and the "Aufklarung", though with extra helpings of the ancient greeks (pre-socratics in particular, who Nietzsche praised precisely because they avoided the platonic rationality...). And like postmods Hei. seems to suggest the Aufklarung was a mistake--some of us politely disagree.
The ten years of Aristotle is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. If that was the case, plus N years to understand Nietzsche, etc., then grad school would be limited to geriatrics.

Heidegger was personally a conservative - the old ways are the good ways; typewriters are an abomination. I think his ontological insights can be understood in a liberatory fashion, as a way of understanding the old ways, and coming up with better practices.
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