Monday, February 20, 2012
This is currently my favorite explanation (conspiracy theory) for the analytic-continental divide.
[John] McCumber suggests that the scientistic work of the positivists took hold because, with its extremely narrow reduction of philosophy to mere linguistic and logical analysis, it could not be accused of harboring any dangerous political connotations. In the McCarthy era, this proved to be a valuable asset, in McCumber’s estimation, which is why he thinks analytic philosophy’s “dominance” is an “artifact” of the period. Insofar as they could portray themselves as scientists who conducted value-neutral research in the same fashion as physicists and mathematicians, analytic philosophers were able to sequester themselves from the messy world of political and cultural debate and, consequently, largely avoid Senator McCarthy’s searchlight. Philosophy in America became predominantly analytic, McCumber argues, because it refrained from interacting with the world that existed beyond its classrooms. Philosophy saved itself from the political chopping block by renouncing its former purview. But choosing the path of science over the path of wisdom was equivalent to performing an intellectual self-amputation. It “may have allowed” philosophy to “survive.” but “only as a reduced and reticent discipline.” Both the scope and imagination of American philosophy were seriously stunted as a result.

Pp. 193-4
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