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May 09, 2006

Comments

Rich Puchalsky

Anthony: "Where is this definition?"

You don't think that Kierkegaard is a continental philosopher, and that his work is part of continental philosophy?

What definition are you using? Not the standard one, that's for sure. No, I don't accept your simple assertion when it goes contrary to every other description of continental philosophy that I've seen.

"Nice crack about the theology degree."

It was in response to Adam's own: "I wouldn't say that I'm strictly a continentalist, either -- you know, the whole "theology" thing." Relax already.

Dave M: "since people seem to have moved on to whether Kierkegaard was a continental philosopher (as a pragmatist I say: preface your remarks, whether yea or nay, with an explanation of why it matters to you what we say)."

It matters because Anthony defines his efforts as a defense of continental philosophy vs analytic, and because Adam often implies that no one who is not a continental philosopher can usefully criticize a continental philosopher. I'm trying to see whether there's anything useful behind this.

Adam Kotsko

John, No, thrownness isn't just about death, nor is finitude.

Rich, I'm not sure if you know this, but Heidegger is pretty decisive for a wide range of 20th-century theologians -- Paul Tillich, Rudolph Bultmann, Karl Rahner, just to name the most important.

Anthony Paul Smith

"You don't think that Kierkegaard is a continental philosopher, and that his work is part of continental philosophy?

What definition are you using? Not the standard one, that's for sure. No, I don't accept your simple assertion when it goes contrary to every other description of continental philosophy that I've seen."

No, I didn't say that Kierkegaard wasn't a contiental philosopher, I said he doesn't belong to contiental philosophy exclusively. That should be apparent. As to whether or not Kierkegaard himself was a continentalist, well, he did live on the continent. But continental philosophy is a descriptive term that English speakers use so, no, he's not. Are you going to tell me what this standard definition is? I need a source Rich! Who standardized this definition?

Rich Puchalsky

Anthony: "No, I didn't say that Kierkegaard wasn't a continental philosopher, I said he doesn't belong to continental philosophy exclusively."

As I recall, you (or perhaps Adam) said that one could study Kierkegaard as an analytic historian of philosophy. To which I can only write once again that the essay discussed Kierkegaard's ideas within contemporary use. The claim wasn't that Zizek misread Kierkegaard as a historical text, it was that he misunderstood important concepts from Kierkegaard, and that his philosophy suffered from this misunderstanding. If you don't see the difference, then I really do have to conclude that you're just saying that no one from outside your subdiscipline can criticize anything within your subdiscipline. Which is OK, I suppose, but is very one-sided, given that people in your subdiscipline routinely criticize economics, politics, theology, etc.

Adam, yes I know about Heidegger and theology. One more time: you said that you weren't really a continental philosopher, since you were a theologian. I replied that your initial correction of John seemed rather more tentative and less knowledgeable than you're implying now, almost as if you didn't really know much better than John did. I was attempting to preempt your possible next response -- saying that you couldn't be expected to provide a detailed answer like Jeff Rubard's in this thread because you're a theologian -- by saying that I accept that as a theologian, you've studied this. Therefore, I suspect that lack of detailed knowledge of Heidegger is not the marker for lack of ability to do continental philosophy that you say that it is.

jholbo

Anthony, out of morbid curiosity: why would it follow from the fact that 'continental philosophy' is a term used by English speakers that Kierkegaard couldn't be denoted by the term?

Adam, you're probably right about the thrown-ness. I did know it wasn't a perfect equation, so I was being a bit glib. But I probably conceive of the topic a bit narrowly.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

Both Anthony and I have been using this term "continental philosophy" because we thought it was a known quantity. Apparently it's not. But this Heidegger thing does seem to be a fair way of distinguishing what something like "continental philosophy" means in an English-speaking environment -- that is, one way of being able to tell if a philosophy department is "continental" is whether Heidegger is foundational to the curriculum. That isn't to say that every Anglo-continentalist is a Heideggerian by any means, but no Anglo-continentalist can afford to simply ignore Heidegger -- which John largely does (and I'm sure many Anglo-continentalists envy his ability to do so).

Even Zizek, whose main commitments are Lacan and Hegel, can't ignore Heidegger -- and he knows Heidegger's work pretty much backwards and forwards, because he started off as a Heideggerian before he went to Paris to study psychoanalysis. (For instance, The Fragile Absolute is in large part a book about Heidegger.)

The centrality of Heidegger also seems to me to be a good way of distinguishing between Anglo-continentalism proper and Theory, but I'd have to think that through a little more.

Anthony Paul Smith

"As I recall, you (or perhaps Adam) said that one could study Kierkegaard as an analytic historian of philosophy."

That was Adam. Contrary to popular belief, we are not the same person. Should I wait for you to actual deal with what I said or are you going to continue to criticize me for what Adam thinks?

"The claim wasn't that Zizek misread Kierkegaard as a historical text, it was that he misunderstood important concepts from Kierkegaard, and that his philosophy suffered from this misunderstanding. If you don't see the difference, then I really do have to conclude that you're just saying that no one from outside your subdiscipline can criticize anything within your subdiscipline."

I'm not sure I quite get the difference, but your conclusion doesn't follow. I'm not saying that one can't criticize from outside, but I don't think John's way of doing so is all that helpful. He thinks Zizek should get his shit right on every thinker he uses, I don't care if Zizek does. I'm interested in the creative work, not the scholarship as such. Maybe there is problems with this, but there are certainly problems with a scholasticism as well. I'm willing to accept that, I haven't seen John being willing to accept anything like this (it looking like relativism and all to him).

But, please, by all means share with me the standard definition. I'm not sure why you haven't. It must be really easy to quote from whatever standardized text it is in. If you're worried about it affecting my spirit, and that is kind of you, I assure you I'm a big boy and can take it. You shouldn't hold it from me, even if you think it will hurt, for I should know this standard definition. Also, while you're at it, could you please clarify what subdisipline I work in for me? That would be helpful for my CV. I do hope you don't say theory (since, I'm assuming, you've never actually read anything I've written).

Seriously, perhaps you'd find this very short introduction helpful?

John,

Please, I'm begging you, stop. I don't know the standard definition of continental philosophy yet (Rich won't share!) and as soon as I do I'll revisit Kierkegaard and find out if he matches this definition. It's kind of funny, I think back in the 60's Kierkegaard was called a Christian existentialist and before that I think he was called a moron. He's also been called an irrational philosopher, a religious philosopher, a protestant theologian, a forerunner of God is dead theology, a forerunner of Neo-Orthodox theology, an anti-philosopher, an anti-Hegelian (that's how he was described in my non-continental freshman text). My point is that Kierkegaard belongs to a lot of traditions, not that he isn't a continental philosopher (I think it's anachronistic to call him such, you disagree, bully for us!). I don't know how many more times I have to say it before you realize that I'm not saying anything all that bizarre.

Doctor Slack

As an aside, this old Jodi Dean post about The Parallax View and Zizek's theorization of a "parallax Real" should be of interest.

Going back a bit (sorry, I haven't had the chance to check the thread until now), Rich claimed:

Zizek doesn't do this except in a form of performative-by-assertion sense

Hmmmm....

because there's no thesis and no contradictions, just a sort of extended ramble spiced up by constant references to short circuits and deadlocks and so on

Okay. I've been watching the "Higher Eclecticism" threads on and off for a little while now --I know the term hasn't come up, but this is basically an instance, it seems to me-- and what's mainly struck me about them is the frequency with which the above pattern shows up: a performative assertion about someone's writing being "performative-by-assertion" (or something similar), followed by a sweeping contention that the writing of such-and-such involves no visible arguments (or more specifically in this case, "no thesis" and "no contradictions"). Often these claims just seem not to connect with the work of the writers they're being applied to, as with Zizek and his application of dialectic in this case -- but I wonder if there isn't some specific sample of Zizek's writing that might substantiate this particular instance, and if Rich can point me to it. (Unfortunately I don't have a copy of The Parallax View to hand.) There are enough of Zizek's articles on-line that it shouldn't be too hard to find a reasonably representative instance.

Doctor Slack

Oh, and good post by Dave M.

Rich Puchalsky

doctor slack, I'm going to have to necessarily point you to one of Zizek's more popular writings because they're more easily quoteable, but you say that you don't mind an article on-line. OK, how about a good Zizek bit from "A Plea for Leninist Intolerance" at http://www.lacan.com/zizek-plea.htm (a classic Zizek-as-Nelson-Muntz piece, check out his disses of cultural studies, queer theory, academic leftism, etc.):

"So how are we to respond to the eternal dilemma of the radical Left? Should one strategically support center-left figures like Bill Clinton against the conservatives, or should one adopt the stance of "It doesn't matter, we shouldn't get involved in these fights-in a way, it is even better if the Right is directly in power, since, in this way, it will be easier for the people to see the truth of the situation?" The answer is the variation of old Stalin's answer to the question "Which deviation is worse, the rightist or the leftist one?" They are both worse. What one should do is adopt the stance of the proper dialectical paradox. In principle, of course, one should be indifferent toward the struggle between the liberal and conservative poles of today's official politics. However, one can only afford to be indifferent if the liberal option is in power. Otherwise, the price to be paid may appear much too high [...]"

There is no dialectical paradox here, only a gesture towards one. Zizek states forthrightly that the stance of "let the Right be in power, it will be easier for people to see the truth" is the wrong one. That doesn't mean that the radical left should devote itself to Clintonism as its goal, of course. But Zizek can't be seen to be saying something this simple without a "look at my dialectical paradox!" flourish -- which is OK, really, it's part of his joke.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

The dialectical paradox: You should be indifferent, but your indifference in fact depends on one particular side being in power -- so indifference depends (paradoxically!) on a preference for a particular side.

You could have gotten the same message by reading the sentences immediately following the one where he talks about embracing the dialectical paradox.

It would appear that we're even: "my" side doesn't know what you mean by "argument," and "your" side doesn't know what we mean by "dialectic."

What we need to theorize is this very non-communication/missed encounter itself!

Adam Kotsko

I second Anthony's recommendation of Critchley's "Very Short Introduction," by the way. As its title indicates, it's "very short," so this isn't a case of being a dick and saying, "Say, why don't you read Ulysses and get back to me..." I think it would be helpful in clarifying the actual meaning of the word "continental philosophy" in English-speaking philosophy circles -- and no, it doesn't just mean "philosophy written by people in continental Europe."

Doctor Slack

Okay, but looking at that piece, I see an entire article devoted to the problem of achieving a synthesis of a problematic "old" with the conditions of an antithetical "post-modern" (supposedly characterized by "Denkverbot") in order to produce something genuinely "new," a more authentic kind of freedom of thought that exceeds what Zizek takes to be the superficial and debilitating engagements offered by the current liberal-democratic political consensus or "ideological coordinates." (Whoever mentioned the thoroughgoing importance of Althusser here is surely right, BTW.)

One can agree or disagree with this, or with various parts of his argument and some of his specific assertions. His ultimate point of course is not that complex, but then the ultimate point of most philosophy rarely is ("aha! it's simple!" is another theme of the "Higher Eclecticism" debates that leaves me cold, as though Descartes just shouldn't have bothered with all that verbiage on the way to cogito ergo sum). But I just don't see where you get the idea that the dialectic is merely a "flourish" here rather than the whole basis of the argument Zizek is making.

Rich Puchalsky

So you're agreeing with Anthony that Kierkegaard's work isn't part of continental philosophy, Adam? Interesting. How much do the two of you know about this field that you are ostensibly defending? Neither of you actually work in it, do you?

But rather than argue over an introductory book that I don't have, question whether the Father of Existentialism can be said to be not continental (maybe existentialism isn't part of continental philosophy, according to whatever odd definition you're using), or point out that continental philosophy is defined by what people actually teach and so on, why don't you do the public service of correcting the inaccurate information in wiki? Just edit the page to remove the clearly erroneous information in the first paragraph, and let's see whether your edits stay.

Adam: "The dialectical paradox: You should be indifferent, but your indifference in fact depends on one particular side being in power -- so indifference depends (paradoxically!) on a preference for a particular side."

But this isn't paradoxical at all, Adam. It's the same calculation made by every radical leftist who has reluctantly decided that there is really a difference between what Zizek wittily refers to as leftist and rightest deviations. I wonder whether your understanding of what Zizek writes is really as good as you think it is?

Adam Kotsko

Rich, Indifference depends on not being indifferent! It's a pretty clear-cut paradox!

Adam Kotsko

Also, Rich, If your strategy for undermining the presumed authority of Anthony or me to speak about continental philosophy is to ask us questions, then refuse to accept any answer we offer, I doubt anyone's going to seriously question that he and I know what we're talking about. The personal insinuations here are tiresome. (And please don't claim that similar insinuations are being made about John -- I'm just clarifying that he is not, in fact, what he has never claimed to be and that he does not have a heavy investment in philosophical figures and movements that, in fact, he does not have a heavy investment in.) Yes, continental philosophers often work with Kierkegaard, but he is also simply a prominent figure in the history of philosophy -- i.e., the heritage shared by "both sides" from before people were forced to choose (to speak grossly) either Husserl or Frege.

Doctor Slack

But this isn't paradoxical at all, Adam.

Ummm, Zizek's larger point is that the "Denkverbot" of the current ideological coordinates proceeds by offering an illusion of choice, and thus that one options is only superficially preferable to the other in the short term. If he is correct, what he offers up as paradox is indeed a paradox. If he is not correct (and I don't think he is) then what's needed is a refutation of the larger point, not an attempted dismissal of his "flourishing."

Doctor Slack

I really don't want seem to be piling on to Rich or anything here (particular since I find the "am I continental or not" aspect of things a lot less interesting), but:

How much do the two of you know about this field that you are ostensibly defending? Neither of you actually work in it, do you?

When Adam talks about what "continental philosophy" mean in English-speaking philosophy circles, I mostly take him to mean "what is the 'continental philosophy' that is typically derided in circles that take themselves to be proprely 'analytical'?" (I also take Anthony's point to be somethinig rather similar.) If in fact this is roughly what they mean, then their assertion that Kierkegaard is not in this restricted sense "continental" is indeed correct.

As intellectual challenges go, BTW, "let's see if your edits last in the Wiki" is really the kind of thing that makes the baby Jesus cry. But maybe it just seems that way to me because I've seen so many horrorshows on WikiPedia.

Doctor Slack

Sorry about the typos.

Rich Puchalsky

doctor slack: "When Adam talks about what "continental philosophy" mean in English-speaking philosophy circles, I mostly take him to mean "what is the 'continental philosophy' that is typically derided in circles that take themselves to be proprely 'analytical'?" (I also take Anthony's point to be somethinig rather similar.)"

Yep, I agree. This is exactly what I've been writing about with the bits about Theory (i.e., the part of continental philosophy "that is typically derided in circles that take themselves to properly 'analytical') being a subset of continetnal philosophy. Adam and Anthony, having disagreed that Theory proper really means anything, are now trying to redefine continental philosophy as Theory. This allows Anthony to elide the difference between what is derided and the academic-politics struggle that he writes about, Adam to pretend that anyone who disagrees with Theory just doesn't get continental philosophy at all.

Now, the paradox thing. Adam writes: "Rich, Indifference depends on not being indifferent! It's a pretty clear-cut paradox!" But of course Zizek is not saying that the radical leftist that he criticizes is actually indifferent, nor that he or she should be. Zizek is saying that in the short term, as Doctor Slack writes, one option is preferable to the other -- more than "superficially", by the way, he refers to "the catastrophic consequences of the German Communist Party's decision in the early thirties not to focus on the struggle against the Nazis". So Adam is just misreading Zizek, I think, in the particular sense in which Zizek seems to want to be misread by certain readers.

Doctor Slack's characterization of the paradox as "the "Denkverbot" of the current ideological coordinates proceeds by offering an illusion of choice, and thus that one options is only superficially preferable to the other in the short term" is closer, but still not quite there. Zizek writes his usual Leninist-Kierkegaardist bit: "Lenin is for us not the nostalgic name for old dogmatic certainty; quite on the contrary, to put it in Kierkegaard's terms, the Lenin we want to retrieve is the Lenin-in-becoming, the Lenin whose fundamental experience was that of being thrown into a catastrophic new constellation in which old coordinates proved useless and who was thus compelled to reinvent Marxism. Recall his acerbic remark apropos of some new problem: "About this, Marx and Engels said not a word." The idea is not to return to Lenin, but to repeat him in the Kierkegaardian sense, to retrieve the same impulse in today's constellation. The return to Lenin aims neither to nostalgically reenact the good old revolutionary times, nor to opportunistically-pragmatically adjust the old program to "new conditions" but to repeat, in present worldwide conditions, the Leninist gesture of reinventing the revolutionary project in the conditions of imperialism and colonialism."

I'll pass over whether it was really a good idea for most of the people reading this to ignore what someone who actually knew Kierkegaard wrote about these supposedly Kierkegaardian terms. My point is that there is no *paradox* here as such. No radical leftist can be satisfied with the choice of supporting Clintonism or letting things go to the conservatives in hopes of things getting worse before they get better or of using their energies only in supporting ecology, anti-racism, and other fundamentally non-economic causes. Of course, from this point of view, a "reinvention" is necessary (note the use of the Clintonian word, by the way, and consider who Zizek is really mocking here). It's all phrased in mock-Hegelian terms, but it ends no differently than it started, and there was nothing specifically Hegelian about the path that it took. There is no *synthesis*, after all. Properly, it's the same kind of New Age tract that Zizek makes fun of: just be inspired by the idea of Lenin, and everything will work out somehow -- or if not, then being inspired by the utopian idea is really what's important.

This is a critical factor in Zizek's *harmlessness*, of course. There are enough textual cues to make it clear that Zizek is writing the whole thing with a laugh at his fan base: "Look at me writing a New Age tract while denouncing New Age tracts! They'll never understand, because if they understood, they wouldn't be the same academic leftists who I criticize in the first place". Sometimes I think that Zizek is a bit tough on his extensive readers. But hey, he's the psychoanalyst, he must know what he's doing.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

Okay, I'm going to add to the reading list. Beyond Critchley's Very Short Introduction to Continental Philosophy, take a look at Culler's Very Short Introduction to Literary Theory. Both books are, again, "very short," and they are written by acknowledged authorities in the respective fields. I have read them; I believe that I have understood them; and I believe that they will clear up the confusion that you are experiencing (which manifests itself as a rather unconvincing claim that it is in fact me and Anthony who are confused on this matter).

Thanks.

Anthony Paul Smith

"So you're agreeing with Anthony that Kierkegaard's work isn't part of continental philosophy, Adam? Interesting."

In real life I just sighed. Heavily.

OK, I'm just going to do say this as clearly as I can for you. In so far that Kierkegaard is part of the canon of Western European philosophy, he is part of what makes up the continental position. However, in so far as Kierkegaard is part of the canon of Western European philosophy, he is part of what makes up a lot of other traditions as well. While, in English speaking countries, the two main schools are thought to be Analytic and Continental, this is not really all that accurate. There's a whole group of people I'd say do something like 'generic philosophy'. They just teach this canon, which includes everyone from Socrates to Kierkegaard and Russell to Heidegger.

Again, I don't do Theory. I'm not sure anyone I know does Theory (in any form). I don't even really know what the hell you mean by Theory! Perhaps it's standard definition is in the same book that the continental philosophy one is? Why won't you share this with me?! Also, I'm still waiting for you to tell me what my subdisipline is! You're being a tease, Rich Puchalsky...

"Adam and Anthony, having disagreed that Theory proper really means anything, are now trying to redefine continental philosophy as Theory. This allows Anthony to elide the difference between what is derided and the academic-politics struggle that he writes about, Adam to pretend that anyone who disagrees with Theory just doesn't get continental philosophy at all."

What? Where? Seriously, if you're going to completely misrepresent me I may have to hire the troll's lawyers and make fun of your pony tail. Don't tempt me...

Actually you deserve it for this asshole comment - "How much do the two of you know about this field that you are ostensibly defending? Neither of you actually work in it, do you?" I guess we'll let it slide, since you surely have this standard definition somewhere. Maybe you even had a class on it or something way back in the day. But.. but... I wasn't even aware we were defending continental philosophy! I was having a conversation with John about how frustrating it is to try to talk to one another with very different frames of reference, partly because they both call what they do philosophy! I'm taking it as given that continental philosophy is worth doing and that it's worth doesn't have to be translated into terms you like. The only discussion we've had is whether or not John is a continental philosopher. You think he is because he writes on Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Now you're making it about what I do or don't know about continental philosophy. Well, I graduated from a continental school with a philosophy degree and am going to a graduate school to study continental philosophy of religion. Please tell me why it is you think I do Theory? And what the hell you mean by it? Do you not like to answer questions?

Anthony Paul Smith

Since I think maybe WikiPedia is where you found these standardized definitions of things I thought I'd quote from the Word to you:

"Because analytic philosophers contend that continental philosophy is not a specific school or doctrine, they increasingly appropriate the topics and thinkers of continental thought for themselves. 19th century philosophers, such as Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, are widely read and taught by Anglo-American philosophers, and they are usually recognized as important thinkers, even if they are not as widely agreed with."

So, yeah, it basically agrees with me. Do you have a pipe to smoke it out of or should I let you borrow mine?

Rich Puchalsky

Anthony: "However, in so far as Kierkegaard is part of the canon of Western European philosophy, he is part of what makes up a lot of other traditions as well. While, in English speaking countries, the two main schools are thought to be Analytic and Continental, this is not really all that accurate."

True, insofar as it goes. But you previously wrote:

"I work in continental thought, specifically in philosophy of religion and political philosophy. [...] I don't care who does theory, I only care that one's criticism of theory doesn't become just another analytic power play to keep continental philosophy from doing it's work free of stupid debates that fundamentally alter it not though arguments, but through politics."

You can't set up a political opposition within academia, identify yourself with one of the sides, and then say that oh, there are no sides. You believe, as this and previous comments have made clear, in analytic power plays that keep continental philosophy down within the English speaking countries -- which are, after all, where you are going to work, so are most relevant to your situation. Maybe those power plays are real; I wouldn't know. But the point is that you can't say that you're defending your ground, say that you graduated from a continental school, and then turn around and convincingly say "Defending who? From what? There are lots of philosophical traditions."

Now, I suppose it's possible that "analytic" and "continental" could merely be two academic tribes with no real difference between them other than folkways. School colors, perhaps. But I don't think that's true, and I don't think that you think that either. Mostly, academic differences in philosophy come down to who you study and what methods you use.

Well, the method conversation doesn't get anywhere, because it's always "Theory? What's Theory?" So we're left with who is studied. Kierkegaard, as a major focus of study, is on the continental side. Sure, there are some people who just teach a canon that includes everyone, and some "appropriations" of continental thinkers. But my contention is that when you argue against a contemporary continental philosopher about Kierkegaard's ideas, that goes beyond appropriation, into continental philosophy itself.

So really I think that you're saying that people can not be continental philosophers, even if they do the work of continental philosophers, unless they share the continental philosopher value system. Which again, since you don't want to say anything about method, comes down to not disagreeing with the fundamental precepts of any contemporary continental philosopher. It's OK to say that e.g. Zizek gets a lot wrong but is creative, as long as you don't say that his whole project has something wrong with it -- which you can't do *by definition*, or no longer be on the right side. I think that whole approach is shortsighted.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

You continue to be wrong about this. If you want to know in detail about the analytic/continental divide, in a relatively short volume, from one of the leading continental philosophers in the English-speaking world, then read the damn book that we keep recommending. It's clear that you will never, ever believe what Anthony and I say -- despite the fact that you betray a profound ignorance of how "continental philosophy" is actually practiced (it's a difference in practice, it's NOT just about the objects studied!). There is no more use having this discussion with you.

Doctor Slack

Rich: Adam and Anthony, having disagreed that Theory proper really means anything, are now trying to redefine continental philosophy as Theory.

I think a fairer assessment is that Adam and Anthony (at least from what I've seen of them in these debates) understand "continental philosophy" and "Theory" to have very frequently, if imprecisely, been used as near-interchangeable terms by antagonists. (Certainly this seems
a frequent enough occurrence to me; one could just as easily add the terms "cultural studies" and "postmodernism" and perhaps even "the Higher Eclecticism" to the constellation of imprecision, though I'm hesitant about the last because I'm still unclear on what it really means.)

I'll refrain from a longer rant on "Theory" for the moment, except to say that I have problems with the general quality of debate around the term and thinkers purported to be representative thereof which aren't unlike my issues with the "postmodernism" debate, which I commented on in the CT thread linked above.

My point is that there is no *paradox* here as such.

If indifference to the "liberals vs. conservatives" struggle -- meaning, I'm assuming, indifference to the business of bipartisan electoral politics in favour of other forms of activism, which is something that radicals often do argue for with some sincerity -- is only a possible luxury in the short-term under a regime whose "ideological coordinates" would broadly lead it to reproduce the same kinds of conditions as its supposed opposite (Zizek's later commentary about the general conditions occasioned by globalism seems to be making this case), then what Zizek is talking about would seem to me to be a paradox. (Yes, his bringing the German communists and the Nazis into it does ratchet up the stakes more than a little. And yes, that's problematic.)

But in any case, the "paradox" seems to me to be only a part of the general dialectical argument that Zizek is making. As I noted above, the article as a whole seems to me to set up and proceed to explicate ("performatively," if you will) a pretty much Hegelian case for a rhetorical space for radical thought, by way of synthesizing the "old" (the repressed parts of the project of Leninism) with the present (the historical conditions of perpetual change within a specific ideological horizon) in order to produce something "new." So I think your contention that there is nothing dialectical going on simply doesn't hold.

OTOH, I don't want to seem like I'm defending Zizek here. (As someone who inclines toward more than a little suspicion both of dialecticalism and of psychoanalysis, I'm not exactly in Zizek's core audience.) I think your point that Zizek's argument in this case doesn't lead him anywhere very scintillating -- that in effect he produces just another faux radical call-to-think-radically -- is well-taken, although I think it's more likely that he's simply wrong rather than an intellectual harlequin subtly mocking his fans. To be fair, though, he has the merit of being right in some interesting ways en route to being wrong; the problems he poses for the various sectors of today's Western left are quite real, for instance, and if anything the failure of globalism is looking with each subsequent year to be more catastrophic rather than less (so the contentions underlying his "paradox" claim might ultimately not prove as problematic as all that).

jholbo

In fairness to Rich, Anthony maintained pretty strongly that Kierkegaard and Nietzsche WERE NOT continental philosophers, in that good 'ol Valve thread (the Scott K one about the painting.) And that's where this debate got started, so it's relevant. After Anthony attacked me I attempted to apply a little of that good ol' interpretive charity I love so well: "Anthony, as you well know it’s standard to regard Nietzche and Kierkegaard as ‘continental philosophers’." To which Anthony indignantly replied, basically: no. "Kierkegaard and Nietzsche had their place in the history of philosophy before the split between analytic and Continental philosophy formed in the early 20th Century." So Anthony committed, strongly, to it NOT being the case that Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are continental philosophers. Upstream, quoting wikipedia, he has come around to admitting that they are 'contintental', after all. (Because 'continental', used that way, ain't just a landmass West of Asia.)

Adam writes to Rich: "It's clear that you will never, ever believe what Anthony and I say -- despite the fact that you betray a profound ignorance of how "continental philosophy" is actually practiced (it's a difference in practice, it's NOT just about the objects studied!)." But this question of HOW not WHAT wasn't part of the original argument. Rich's profound ignorance, such as it may be, does not affect the soundness of his argument on this point.

I also went and had a look at the Critchley volume to see whether he had anything to say against my proposal, which Rich is effectively defending (I take it). Continuing with my proposal in the Valve thread, which Anthony didn't like at all: "It is also standard to regard post-Kantian German idealism as ‘continental’."

Critchley begins like so: "Origins of Continental Philosophy: How to Get From Kant to German Idealism"

It isn't clear to me how there is such a difference between what I am saying and what Critchley seems to admit. Someone who studies post-Kantian German idealism can claim to study 'continental' philosophy. Critchley doesn't buy the Anthony line that it's a 20th century thing. Of course I can see taking the term that way, too. The point, rather, is that you should concede a place to any basically reasonable view, which includes the Holbo/Puchalsky/Critchley one that continental philosophy starts as a matter of getting from Kant to a set of post-Kantian positions.

So, following up on Anthony's own earlier call for charity, it seems reasonable to request that Anthony and Adam concede this match to Rich, inconsequential though it probaby is.

Adam Kotsko

Death first.

Anthony Paul Smith

Doctor Slack,

I want to say thank you, I really feel like you've been really fair here.

Rich,

I've lost all faith in your ability to have a decent discussion with someone. You keep attributing ideas to me that I've never said, you refuse to answer questions, you appear absolutely certain that you are right on things you don't really seem to have any grasp of. I don't care what John says, he's also proven himself to be hardly an impartial observer in these discussions, so please don't try to appeal to some higher authority.

I'll try one last time though, just in case you're not a complete and utter jackass. "But my contention is that when you argue against a contemporary continental philosopher about Kierkegaard's ideas, that goes beyond appropriation, into continental philosophy itself." No, it goes beyond appropriation, into Kierkegaard's philosophy itself. It's scholasticism, it's history, but it's not what continental philosopher's do by definition (though, you still won't share this magical standard definition with us!).

"So really I think that you're saying that people can not be continental philosophers, even if they do the work of continental philosophers, unless they share the continental philosopher value system."

But John isn't doing the work of continental philosophers! He's criticizing Zizek for getting Kierkegaard wrong. One can do this and belong to the continental tradition, just like someone can criticize Bergson's criticism of Einstein without being a vitalist.

"It's OK to say that e.g. Zizek gets a lot wrong but is creative, as long as you don't say that his whole project has something wrong with it -- which you can't do *by definition*, or no longer be on the right side."

No, this is what I mean by making shit up. You're making shit up! My problem with John's criticisms has always had more to do with his approach than his disagreements. If you think Zizek's got a problem as a whole, fine, but I'm not going to be convinced by being shown that he gets x wrong on y. And I don't think there is a 'right' side here. This is your moralizing, not mine. I obviously think that the tradition I work in has a lot to offer (as do many other people), but I don't think that means no one else does either or that they may not offer something better on a particular problem. You're drawing conclusions that are just bizarre and annoying.

If you don't want to actually have these conversations, why do you post?

John,

I'm going to say the same thing to you, do you want to have a good conversation about this or do you want to be declared absolutely right? Like Socrates always was?

The chapter is entitled the origins of continental philosophy, not "When continental philosophy began". Read the tiny book, please. In so far as the split become molar in the 20th century what goes by the name of German idealism became a central focus of these 'continentals' while analytics rejected idealism. The book is also, in addition to being very short, helpful at pointing out the difficulties and necessary stupidity of a term like continental philosophy. But, if you want us all to call you a continental philosopher just say so and we'll let you in the club. At this point it's hard to see anything but sophistry dominating here.

Also, by quoting the almighty Word of WikiPedia for Rich I wasn't saying I agreed with everything it said, I stated that it "basically" agreed with me. Hell, it describes these thinkers as "19th century philosophers". What 19th century analytic can we compare them to?

I was really hoping this wouldn't turn into this, but Rich has a tendency to help it along. If it continues this way I'll just move along and you two can declare a little victory for yourselves.

Anthony Paul Smith

John,

Do you know where this standard definition is located? You mention something about it too.

jholbo

Look, Anthony, we understand that the dispute has to do with disagreements about approaches. We are trying to work on that point of disagreement by focusing on claims. You say something, we respond to it. There's no sense in just retreating to a sense of one's general approach, or one's distaste for an alternative approach, whenever an individual claim is criticized or defended. I must say: I get very impatient with the fact that when I make an argument you tend to should 'holbonic blender', as though that were an objection. Of course arguments may involve breaking things down into their bits, but this is presumptively all right. It seems to me that you simply want to stand pat on a sense of the ok-ness/superiority of whatever you think of as 'continental' or phenomenological, whatever; and when you perceive a threat, you just attack whatever the thing is - and sometimes it is totally innocuous. Like: "Kierkegaard can be regarded as a continental philosophy." Rich and I are, as it were, asking you to look at yourself. You've got a bloody, dripping "Kierkegaard can be regarded as a continental philosopher" gripped between your teeth. Why bother killing such a placid, unassuming little creature? Not that it really matters, but it's a symptom of why these conversations tend to go badly. What are the chances that you'll take seriously an actually controversial claim we might advance, if even these trivialities are dogmatically resisted?

I thought your earlier call to charity was rather striking, in a Nixon goes to China kind of way. Oh well.

Adam Kotsko

In the interests of charity, I'm going to assume that the "standard" definition would be "a philosopher from continental Europe." Presumably a modern one -- no one's really interested in calling Anselm an Anglo (analytic?) and Aquinas a continental.

Anthony Paul Smith

"You say something, we respond to it. There's no sense in just retreating to a sense of one's general approach, or one's distaste for an alternative approach, whenever an individual claim is criticized or defended."

That's rich. I thought things were going pretty OK, but I'm not going to pretend that Rich was being anything but an ass. I'm also pretty sure I'm never going to get you to realize that there is nothing in my teeth. I've said Kierkegaard is part of the continental tradition, but not a continental philosopher. I think this is a major distinction that you don't seem to even grasp I'm trying to make and it is really infuriating to have to repeat that over and over again. Rich disagrees with me by saying, "That's not the standard definition of continental philosophy you're working with." You respond by saying, "It's standard to regard Kierkegaard and Nietzsche as continental philosophers." These claims to some standard are just completely and utterly bizarre to me, at least without some kind of citation. Would it help if I laid out a definition of continental philosophy that I accept?

I was serious about the charity thing, but I didn't see any charity coming out of Rich (and, to my mind, his repeated false statements is what has brought it to this place). I'm serious; this is a discussion worth having, but arguing over whether or not you're a continental philosopher or not doesn't really seem all the important. Do you consider yourself a continental philosopher? Are you a member of SPEP? Fine, you want to be considered a contiental, fine. So let's talk about why it's so hard for those with a commitment to phenomenology to have a decent philosophical discussion with someone who has a commitment to formal logic. Rich, it seems to me, only has an interest in making me out to be a boogyman of Theory. I realize you're friends and all, but do you really think he's been anything like fair above?

Anthony Paul Smith

Oh, and one technical issue, a blender doesn't break things down into their bits for examination. It takes objects and breaks them down with other things its breaking down to create a delicious drinkable substance. It also makes it very difficult to see what was actually there in the first place. See?

Anthony Paul Smith

See?

jholbo

Adam: 'I'm going to assume that the "standard" definition would be "a philosopher from continental Europe."' I have to say: no one, but NO ONE, uses it that way. It's the name of a style, or cluster of figures, or genealogy. It doesn't have to do with a land mass. You can do 'continental philosophy' without being from, or on, or of, the landmass. It's a pretty lousy name, but too late now.

Anthony, you are getting pretty insistent on this sharp distinction between being in the continental philosophy canon - as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are - and being a continental philosopher. I apologize for not considering that you might be suggesting that certain figures in the canon might not be considered members of the set of things the canon is canonical of. (Almost Zizekian. Like Christ being 'ecce homo' - behold the man, while not really being a man at all.) Some sort of weird inside is outside thing. But you must admit this is a bit surprising. Does anyone besides yourself make this distinction? Critchley, for example, since his name has come up?

Anthony Paul Smith

"Like Christ being 'ecce homo' - behold the man, while not really being a man at all."

Dude, that's bad dogmatics.

OK, let's try this. Freud is also considered to be part of the traditional canon that makes up continental philosophy. Do you consider him a continental philosopher? Or, Wittgenstein is also part of this canon (no, I'm being serious - very influential for kids at DePaul), but surely he wouldn't be considered a continental philosopher. Or the anthropologist Levi-Strauss, or Saussure, or Marx, or Darwin? And I don't mean in the way you describe higher eclecticism. These people are considered to be saying things that are important for the questions of continental philosophy, but they weren't necessarily doing continental philosophy (and it is a horrible name) and I mean to suggest that they don't belong exclusively or necessarily to continental philosophy either.

Critchley, for his part, shows that continental philosophy is meant in different ways depending on who is saying it. This is part of the reason why it's such a bad name! I think what I’m saying accords with what he says in that book, but I’m not certain because it’s been a few years since I last read it. But, in general, when I mention continental philosophy I'm talking about what a group of people have tried to professionalize in the 20th century. This isn't the most exact definition, but I think you get what I mean. I'm not so sure it would be all that helpful to finally pin-down what continental philosophy is, but only because it doesn't appear to be an actual centralized (better term? solid?) school like analytic philosophy. It may be coherent, but it's certainly not systematically so (for better and for worse). Also, and I'm only repeating myself here because I haven't felt sure you recognize this, I don't think what you do is somehow 'bad' or anything. You have a problem with Zizek (for example), you have reasons and in so far as you argue that it's fine. I'm not convinced, but not because your argument is bad, but because the substance of the argument is valued differently from my point of view. We have a currency exchange problem! But, thanks for the level-headed response.

Anthony Paul Smith

OK, while looking over some of the continental philosophy readers out there I don't see Wittgenstein. But, still, I know that he's important to continentalists and he is included in the Taylor deconstruction in context (which presents a canon of thinkers that contextualize deconstrution... is this a helpful way to think about things? context?).

Rich Puchalsky

Eh, I wrote a long comment, then figured why bother. Adam, if you read more carefully, you wouldn't be writing excited parentheticals like "it's a difference in practice, it's NOT just about the objects studied!" when I previously wrote "Mostly, academic differences in philosophy come down to who you study and what methods you use" and explained why I didn't think the methods conversation was going anywhere. Anthony, if you specialize in calling people an ass, demanding answers to rhetorical questions, and denying the validity of academic-politics groupings that you've introduced into the discussion, then good luck with that academic career.

Really, I suggest that the two of you start with the description in wiki; it's easily quoteable if nothing else. We all agree that it's a term defined by consensus, not by some analytic distinction, right? Well, point out how the wiki consensus is wrong. Given Adam's "it's anyone from Europe" and Anthony's "Oh no, where's Wittgenstein?" I don't think that a close reading of wiki would really do the two of you any harm.

Adam Kotsko

Rich, I was trying to guess at what you thought the standard definition was, so I went for what seemed to be the most literal.

Anthony Paul Smith

You're insane and an ass. I'm calling you an ass as a layman, since my degree isn't in assletical studies. They weren't rhetorical questions, you've been appealing to the standard definition but won't share it. Are you going to share it now? I don't know what crazy thing you're talking about with this "denying the validity of academic-politics groupings that you've introduced into the discussion" Do you mean continental philosophy? You're the one saying I don't have a valid view of what that is and I'm saying your view doesn't line up with reality. I think it's a bad word to use, but in so far as a group of people have clustered around it we may be stuck with it.

"Really, I suggest that the two of you start with the description in wiki; it's easily quoteable if nothing else."

Yeah, umm, I did that already. Remember how it said much the same thing I'm saying? Remember how it's wikipedia? Where's Wittgenstein? Um, he's in the deconstruction reader. I said that. Remember how I called you an ass? Yeah, it's for the kind of snark you deploy all throughout these kinds of messages.

I've seen nothing from you that suggests you actually know anything about this. You're referencing wikipedia for your authority for Christ's sake! We suggested a very short book that costs 10 dollars! You can't even be bothered to become that aquainted with the subject you want to beat us up over? If you want to continue to pretend that you know everything, that's fine, but I don't have any interest in talking to a wall with a ponytail and a tape recorder that says the same thing over again: "Worst continental philosopher ever. You're dumb. I'm researching the fig newton and continental philosophy on wikipedia. Nice one, loser. You're dumb. Do you know how smart I am?" I could build one of those.

Doctor Slack

Cheers Anthony.

Wow. Well, this whole rhetorical smackdown session has quite clearly gone beyond me. But -- again, truly not meaning to pick on Rich -- I kind of feel constrained to comment on this:
I suggest that the two of you start with the description in wiki

...because I'm just hoping it's a joke that's been occasioned by all the back-and-forth snark, heat of the moment and all that. If so, please forget I said anything.

If not, though, then perhaps I should've been more specific earlier about why citing wiki makes the baby Jesus cry. "Wiki conensus" is a phrase destined to have the same ring as "fresh frozen" and "military intelligence."

Doctor Slack

Ummm. Cross-posted. I'll just be going now.

Rich Puchalsky

I think it's safe to say that anyone who habitually writes some varient of "You're insane and an ass" is engaging in self-description. Anthony, get a grip, and don't blame your problems on me with "to my mind, his repeated false statements is what has brought it to this place." I don't force you to write in your inimitable style.

In terms of content, the standard definition of "continental philosophy" has already been discussed -- by an actual philosophy prof who happens to write here, by the very book that you pointed to without having read in the last few years, by my citation to what people actually teach as continental philosophy, by the same general usage that (sorry, doctor slack) really does appear to be in this case to be well described in wikipedia, as a convenient source. There really is no shorter standard definition I can give you that reduces to a few sentences. And I already addressed the reason why I didn't think that the paragraph you quoted applied in this case.

Anthony Paul Smith

"In terms of content, the standard definition of "continental philosophy" has already been discussed -- by an actual philosophy prof who happens to write here, by the very book that you pointed to without having read in the last few years, by my citation to what people actually teach as continental philosophy, by the same general usage that (sorry, doctor slack) really does appear to be in this case to be well described in wikipedia, as a convenient source."

When did John define it? Did that definition accord with Critchely's (a book which you have never read, so how would you know what the definition is?)? What people actually teach? Are you refering to the SPEP listings? The one where schools despretely try to appear 'pluaralist' so kids will apply? ("We have a guy who read Ecco Homo once, right? Say we do Nietzsche.") Wikipedia, did you read that talk section? Did you write some of that article or something? No, I'm sorry, none of your 'argument' makes any sense. That you think it does is not my problem. Engaging in a simple cost/benefit analysis convinces me that there is no point in my trying to show you why that's so. I guess the standard definition of continental philosophy isn't so standard. John declared you the winner, but he's hardly an unbiased source. Hopefully when he wakes up a decent conversation will start again, but then you'll post and it will immediately suck. This has already wasted so much of my time.

Rich Puchalsky

I shouldn't let the more interesting digression with doctor slack about the Zizek essay go.

doctor slack writes: "If indifference to the "liberals vs. conservatives" struggle [...] is only a possible luxury in the short-term under a regime whose "ideological coordinates" would broadly lead it to reproduce the same kinds of conditions as its supposed opposite [...] then what Zizek is talking about would seem to me to be a paradox."

But he's never indifferent, and never presents indifference as a really plausible attitude in current conditions. Just above the paragraph I quoted, he writes: "With regard to this radical chic, the first gesture toward Third Way ideologists and practitioners should be that of praise; they, at least, play their game in a straight way and are honest in their acceptance of global capitalist coordinates in contrast to the pseudoradical academic leftists who adopt the attitude of utter disdain toward the Third Way, while their own radicality ultimately amounts to an empty gesture that obliges no one to anything determinate."

doctor slack again: "But in any case, the "paradox" seems to me to be only a part of the general dialectical argument that Zizek is making."

Well, mock-Hegelian-dialectic must *look* like dialectic, after all. But the synthesis in this case cleverly appeals back to all the same tropes that Zizek just criticized.

"I think your point that Zizek's argument in this case doesn't lead him anywhere very scintillating -- that in effect he produces just another faux radical call-to-think-radically -- is well-taken, although I think it's more likely that he's simply wrong rather than an intellectual harlequin subtly mocking his fans."

You don't think it's significant that even in this very essay, he spends a good deal of time mocking his fans? How many of the people who read Zizek could be in any way convincingly described as trying to reinvent Lenin? I think that he's smarter than you're giving him credit for being.

Anthony Paul Smith

"And I already addressed the reason why I didn't think that the paragraph you quoted applied in this case."

Wait... are you serious? Well, I already addressed the reason your reason didn't make sense. So there.

Dave M

Forget about the baby Jesus - this is making me cry. Stop it at once, all of you!

Here's what I suggest. John (remember him?) writes a post about Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein and nonsense and philosophical method and whatnot (maybe attacking or defending James Conant or D.Z. Phillips, who have had an extended exchange on this; or simply [summarizing some stuff from/advertising] his thesis). Then everyone piles on.

This will give people plenty of opportunity to say to each other "Well no wonder you think [K/W/JH] [is/is not] a/an [analytic/continental/other] philosopher! You think that [p]! You see, oh deluded one, [q]!", where [p] and [q] actually have to do with the issues under discussion - truth as this or that, philosophy as in search of same or no, the significance of SK's pseudonymous authorship, whatever. That way the rest of us - and if we start over maybe there will indeed be more than 5 of us - can see what's going on besides people getting unpleasant.

Or maybe a review of the Critchley book, which I have arranged to have mailed to me for a mere $5 plus shipping. (Give me a chance to read it, now.)

Matt

For Rich Puchalsky (poet warrior)

Anyone
who habitually writes
his repeated false statements
is engaging
in self-description

I don't force you to write
in your inimitable
style

You're insane and an ass
get a grip, and don't blame your problems
on me
with his repeated
false statements
is what has brought it
to this place.

The standard definition
in terms of content
has already been discussed
by the very book
that you pointed without having read
in several years

Now, I suppose
it's possible
that "analytic" and "continental"
could merely be
two academic tribes
with no real difference between them
other than folkways

School colors, perhaps

But I don't think
that's true

By my citation to what people actually teach
By the same general usage that really does appear

There really is no shorter
standard definition
I can give you
that reduces to
a few sentences

And I already addressed
the reason
why I didn't think

it's easily quoteable
if nothing else

an actual
philosophy
prof

Really, I suggest
the two of you
start
with the description
in wiki

jholbo

I understand that wiki can be wrong, but in this case it doesn't strike me as a terrible first paragraph. (I just now read it for the first time.) Actually, it's pretty good. At the very least, it strikes me as a permissible first paragraph. A reasonable person could subscribe to this view of the scope of 'continental philosophy' (even if another reasonable person might choose to modify it somewhat.) It would be pretty weird for a wiki entry on something as big as continental philosophy to be completely nuts and survive. And, yes, the entry makes a special point of including Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. If it were nuts to understand continental philosophy the way I do - and the way Anthony seems to thing is wrong - then I'll bet that entry would have been changed.

In reading Parallax View, I noticed that Zizek defines 'continental philosophy' more or less the way I do - namely a post-Kantian development. A decisive shift in style that starts with (let's say, because Zizek does, and I do, and Critchley seems to): Hegel.

So we have, on the one hand, the Holbo/Puchalsky/wikipedia/Critchley/Zizek understanding of 'continental philosophy'. And on the other side we have Anthony saying this view is not really 'standard'. Which I can only assume Matt agrees with since he's written a strange poem against Rich. So that means there are at least two people who deny this 'standard' view. Perhaps three if Adam is willing to throw in his lot on this side. I am sure there must be others, but why is it so obligatory that you are pushing it so hard on the rest of us? Would it KILL you to say 'Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are canonical continental philosophers'? I am sure that neither Zizek nor Critchley would bat an eye at that, given how they appear to define 'continental philosophy'.

As to 'where's Wittgenstein'? Oh for the sweet love of truth conditionality, Anthony: Of COURSE Wittgenstein isn't going to be a standard entry. Would that really look right to you for him to be listed there?

But lots of continental philosophers read Wittgenstein (Anthony points out). He is a canonical figure for them. Look, Plato is a canonical figure for them. Kant is a canonical figure for them. Let's make a distinction: there are canonical continental philosophers, and there are philosophers who are canonical for continental philosophers. Likewise for analytic philosophers, although the sets are different. The overlap between the set of philosophers who are canonical FOR analytic and continental philosophers is very large - since even analytic philosophers admit Hegel seems rather important. And even continental philosophers admit that Frege probably thought a thing or two. Now: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard would most naturally be regarded as canonic for both camps, because everyone knows this pair is seriously famous. But they are also, canonically, continental philosophers (per the wiki entry, yes.) If somone said: make a list of the canonical continental philosophers, it would be weird to leave either of them off the list.

Does this help? And Anthony, I think your sense that Rich is being uncharitable is, in fact, rather uncharitable of you. You write: "I'm serious; this is a discussion worth having, but arguing over whether or not you're a continental philosopher or not doesn't really seem all the important. Do you consider yourself a continental philosopher? Are you a member of SPEP? Fine, you want to be considered a contiental, fine."

I'm sure I'm the most dis-SPEP-tic guy on the planet. But I never said I WAS a continental philosopher. I only said I studied it, because I study Nietzsche and Kierkegaard so much. And they are canonical continental philosophers. And so here we are.

Anthony Paul Smith

"I'm sure I'm the most dis-SPEP-tic guy on the planet. But I never said I WAS a continental philosopher. I only said I studied it, because I study Nietzsche and Kierkegaard so much. And they are canonical continental philosophers. And so here we are."

In so far as you only read the table of contents to Critchely's book I don't think you have a right to claim him for your "standard" definition. I also don't necessarily think that you should be allowed to keep Zizek since you spend much of the rest of your time saying how bad of a scholar he is of the philosophers he studies. So, I guess we can all argue over WikiPedia, but that seems like a further waste of time and really kind of silly.

That's all besides the point - you still aren't understanding me. You really think that Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are continental philosophers, fine, I don't care. This stupid argument was over Rich telling me that you were a continental philosopher because you studied these two figures. (If you want me to go find his quote, fine, I'll do that, but he said you were a continental philosopher. I figured if I just asked you straight out we could avoid the pissing contest and get to the actually interesting stuff. I see that this interests no one else but me, which is fine, we all have careers to further.)

The discussion about canonical continental philosophers and philosophers canonical to continental philosophy seems a bit underdetermined - don't you think? So one can be in the canon (and Wittgenstein is in the canon of deconstruction - but, to abuse Rich's snark, maybe deconstruction isn't continental philosophy in your standard definition) of both 'schools' and be used in very different ways (Leiter's Nietzsche and Keith Ansell-Pearson's Nietzsche) but is actually a member of x school (so is Leiter wrong?)?

I never said you didn't 'study' continental philosophy - this wasn't over that! Remember, I compared you to Isaiah Berlin. That doesn't mean I agree with you about how you study it or that I think your conclusions are all that persuasive, but what I was interested in talking about (more than what continental philosophy is, since I've said before that I think it often refers to very different things) was why I think that and why you think the opposite. I was stupid to think that could happen on a blog.

jholbo

We're arguing about where Rich called me a 'continental philosopher'? Where did he do that? (This certainly isn't what you objected to at first, so if the argument has shifted tracks, pardon me for missing the train.)

Anthony, you have a too-proprietary attitude to all this. It isn't a matter of 'owning' Zizek or not 'owning' him. Obviously I would not lay claim to Zizek in any such sense. (I think this is the SPEP problem again. You are conflating 'studying x' with 'claiming x for your side'.) For argument purposes, the point is that he SAID a certain thing, not that I agree with it. Citing it is just evidence that a certain usage is not somehow a sneaky analytic trick/set the holbonic blender on frappé. Which I know you suspect to me my modus operandi. It was an 'I know you don't trust me, but you might trust Zizek' argument.

I also made a point of only saying that Critchley SEEMED to agree with me. Since his subtitle encodes my thesis this seemed a reasonable surmise. If he in fact doesn't - if his subtitle is radically misleading - feel free to correct me.

Also: this is turning into the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce of comment threads. We're arguing about what the case has been about this whole time.

Anthony Paul Smith

John,

Rich said this, "I prefer to describe what Anthony's talking about as Theory rather than continental philosophy, since it's by no means all of continental philosophy -- as illustrated by the way in which Anthony is describing his terms to a continental philosopher -- but I digress."

If you remember I joined the conversation when you were discussing Spinoza not being a materialist (when he in fact is that to a whole host of continental philosophers). Rich made some obtuse point about what I do is theory and what you do is continental philosophy, then told someone that I didn't think Kierkegaard was a continental philosopher (when my point is a bit more fine than that, something you don’t seem to recognize either much to my frustration), continued to make some point about how we're not using the standard definition, etc. I assume that you haven't been paying close attention. If you really want me to lay out what I think makes up continental philosophy historically I will, but I don't really see the point since you take my modus operandi to be some proprietary trick and you want to be the Socrates in the situation. Look, maybe blender is a bit too harsh, I do think you have a tendency to misread people and then be so confident in your misreading that you won't budge (and I'm talking about blog arguments here, not your Zizek criticism - I think that's not persuasive, not so much wrong). You, I'm sure, have problems with me. It seems that these problems effect us having the conversation I wanted (which Scott also seemed to want). I'm fine with this since it is a blog.

Anthony Paul Smith

John,

And I already explained why I didn't think Critchley agreed with you above. Twice, if I remember correctly. Are you really not paying attention?

Matt

Which I can only assume Matt agrees with since he's written a strange poem against Rich.

I think John, at this point, you're just argufying.

(And probably hoping this thread - like so many, in which people bother to respond to Rich's "criticism" - just fades away into fog.)

jholbo

Well, that's certainly PART of it, Matt. The argufying, I mean. I prefer to think of it as 'a rich tapestry of factors'. My own private rhetorical Higher Eclecticism Idaho, if you will.

Rick

If the continentalists bothered to read even a few excerpts of Chalmers they would discover it is he who upholds the traditional metaphysical view: the truths of logic/math transcend mere empirical knowledge. Then he offers a more or less speculative point that the universal, transcendent character of log/math knowledge (supervenience in a sense) implies immaterialism. In some sense Chalmers is not far from a traditional Kantian perspective. Lacan,, now that is far from a Kantian perspective.

Rich Puchalsky

Ah, the poem is a good try, though Matt needs to work on his technique. In a poem that parodies someone's rhetorical style, quoting the person quoting someone else throws the whole thing off; I can see why Matt wanted to put in "You're insane and an ass" as a sort of direct accusation, but it makes the poem not work as parody when the rest of it is evidently trying to.

It's also lacking in direct images that sum up the attitude that the subject of parody is copping. If you Google "jealous fury over a book" you'll get a single hit to my parody poem about Matt Christie. See how that works? Only Matt really would have made the accusation of "jealous fury over an anthology (of theory)", so it's a more vivid and personal phrase.

And it's more than mere copying: the sucessful parody has to provide lines that the parodied person never wrote but that are still reflections of their style -- in Matt's case, the line "God bless us every one" suggests that he habitually likes to present himself as Tiny Tim attacked by Scrooge, or rather as representative of a group of blameless, helpless victims attacked by mean people. So I don't think that Matt quite has it yet.

Matt

I suggest you make a coffee cup, John, with this entire thread printed on it's side.

Or like Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. You could re-read it in the shower. It could take off. Dirt.

Matt

Rich, yes. You took more time than I.

(Or perhaps I make a more richly suggestive tapestry.) Why you keep pointing to threads that prove yourself an ass, Rich Puchalsky poet warrior, is likewise beyond me.

As for Theory's Empire being oriented by jealous (albeit cultivated, and calculated) fury, over many things I'm sure, but easily referenced for commoners by the title "Theory"...well it's sort of an obvious point to make, and was then too.

Rich Puchalsky

Matt Christie: "Why you keep pointing to threads that prove yourself an ass, Rich Puchalsky poet warrior, is likewise beyond me."

Matt, when you want to call me an ass, it doesn't work to put that in your parody of me. Because I, unlike you and Anthony, do not call people asses, even when they really are behaving stupidly. It's part of that grown up, adult thing that the two of you haven't quite mastered yet.

While the bit about you characterizing the people you write against as being motivated by jealous fury is funny because it's true. You really do think that Noam Chomsky, John Holbo, Daphne Patai, and so on "are oriented by jealous (albeit cultivated, and calculated) fury" at Theory. And you don't see how funny that is. You see, I don't need to call you an ass.

Paul


Matt surely should be ranked as one of the greatest of blogland's neo-marxist prestidigitators; according to Monsieur Matt, anyone who takes a contra-postmaud position is not merely mistaken but, like, a philistine, daddy-o.

Matt

Oh Rich, you born-again war-boarder, you. What makes you think I wasn't parodying Anthony at once?

But you do enjoy this sophistry of yours, as is only too apparent.

It would seem that nothing excites Rich Puchalsky like the scent of fresh blood. What would he ever do, without an enemy to shame and ridicule, when backed up by better men? Methinks this poem of his, says more about himself than I.

Almost every independent thought he has is wrong (but even when he's wrong, you're wronger!) Such true love cannot the world survive.

Matt

Do teach me about that grown up, adult thing, is it? Is that like spending all day commenting on blogs? Telling others what bad children they are? Mary Poppins, indeed, has nothing on you.

Or, are you just...jealous, is it? I can't imagine why.

If Noam Chomsky's passion for the truth and future, and for justice, had only rubbed off just an iota on callous, crustated you...instead, it's always blood blood blood. Where has the first-awakened child in you gone? Where is the philosophic wonder?

Do you see why it's hard to take you seriously, Rich Puchalsky? You're a spiteful jerk without a knee. I do read Znet every week, just like the next. It does grow monotonous.

Farewell.

Matt

Paul, lol.

Rich Puchalsky

What made me think you weren't parodying Anthony? Well, that you later repeated it directly is a pretty good sign that I didn't misconstrue you.

"What would he ever do, without an enemy to shame and ridicule, when backed up by better men?"

You're not my enemy, Matt. And I'm not being backed up by anyone; that's just more of your sidesmanship fantasy. You and Adam have this (paraphrased) "you're my enemy, we're in a war, now we have a truce" bit. As well as the "true love, you're an acolyte" bit. Frankly, when it reaches above the playground level it's rather creepy.

Paul

Viva, to some extent, Señor Matt the Chomskyan, factualist, and slightly verde; Anti-Viva to Matt the postmaud marxist & Heideggerian. Chomsky's no continentalist theoretician anyhoo.

Matt

Sweet, I got a "Viva, to some extent, Señor."

Kisses, Rich.

Doctor Slack

John says: I understand that wiki can be wrong, but in this case it doesn't strike me as a terrible first paragraph.

Just to clarify why I was picking on Rich for this, it's not because I think the WP entry itself or the paragraph in question is necessarily inaccurate (for now). It's rather that WP is, in the general run of things, proving itself to be structurally unsound as a reliable reference work. (I also think it's somewhat misleading to talk about the WP process as representing "consensus.")

Rich: Zizek's argument does indeed come back around to a radical stance that he is critical of at the outset. There is cleverness happening here, but I doubt it's in the form of a jape at the expense of an imagined fanbase; rather it's that Lenin is not the only kind of radical Zizek is seeking, in not-so-precisely Kierkegaardian fashion, to "repeat."

For all the interesting detours it takes, I think this is a bad argument on the whole (the clever twist it attempts doesn't come off), but it is not a non-dialectical argument. (To my mind it's inadvisable to try to rule out bad dialectalism when we're discussing dialectic -- we run the distinct risk of stumbling into "No True Scotsman" territory.)

The reason why I'm ultimately not buying the Nelson Muntz angle -- though I can see why it tempts you -- is that it's simply not plausible to think of the swathes of progressives that Zizek criticizes as necessarily his "fans" either then or now (he might appeal to some radicals or Third Way postcolonials, but he most certainly is not a reigning canonical thinker for any particular branch of progressivism), and it's doubtful that he wouldn't be aware of that. Perhaps I don't seem to be giving him credit for being sufficiently clever -- though I don't see it that way -- but pointing out that his argument doesn't come off seems more constructive an approach to me than speculating nebulously about his motives. (I mean, perhaps there's an interview with him floating around somewhere in which he comes out and says his work is meant as an extended joke on anyone who takes it seriously, but I haven't seen or heard of it.)

Adam Kotsko

A compromise formulation:

1. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are continental philosophers.

2. "Continentality" is not contagious -- one can study continental figures without being a continental figure (or an aspiring one).

The case of John Holbo would seem to fit this formulation perfectly.

If someone else already said this, I apologize, but I skipped the last twenty posts or so. Please note that this seems to me to concede the very small point that John recommended that we concede -- and thus, it seems to me, this indicates that Rich understands the object of continental philosophy without having demonstrated that he understands the method.

Here is a preliminary take on the method:
1. For the most part, this is made up of a "reading" of texts -- commentaries, and commentaries on commentaries, to a theoretically infinite degree. Although one tends to dismiss analytic philosophy as a form of scholasticism, the actual practice of continental philosophy is more akin to scholasticism properly-so-called (i.e., the thing from the middle ages).

2. When one goes "straight to" a philosophical text, one is generally not concerned to get at "what Kierkegaard said," for example, as if that were something generally available -- rather, one turns to the text in order to find there what remains to be thought, what no one has ever said about the text. Therefore something like Zizek's reading of Kierkegaard would not be dismissed because it does not correspond to the standard understanding of Kierkegaard, but because it does not provide enough textual support (or else simply does not "ring true" as a latent potentiality in the text -- "ringing true" can be pulled off without heavy citation and usually works as an invitation to go back to the text in question in order to see if the suggestions actually seem to work with the text).

3. Broad arguments are in some sense "based on" readings of particular texts, and the body of acceptable texts for philosophical treatment continues to grow and grow -- for instance, someone in a continental department might do a dissertation on Greek tragedy or a literary figure, without for all that doing simply literary study or "[lit] Theory."

This method is probably most reminiscent of Derrida, but the primary source of it seems to be Heidegger -- who has been central to the professionalization of "continental philosophy" in Anglophone countries in a way that, say, Deleuze has not (which is not to say that Deleuze is not influenced by Heidegger -- I've heard he is, but I don't really know).

With these points in mind, it seems obvious to me that John Holbo's approach to Zizek and to Kierkegaard is not particularly "continental." Not that there's anything wrong with it, and not that he was even claiming that.

Scott Eric Kaufman

To rephrase John's response to the Troll of Sorrow:

We're all becoming very boring.

We were, as Anthony noted I noted, having an interesting, informative conversation for a while, then we got stuck on trying to decide what continental philosophy is and/or isn't, and who is and/or isn't a continental philosopher. Well, to be frank, I don't give a damn what you people are, but I find the historical conversations interesting and more likely to bring in other voices, which is what this "conversation," such that it is, really needs. A concerted effort, people, to not become a coterie of haters no one else wants to join because, well, who wants to hate? So a suggestion:

Resist the urge to push buttons. I know how fun it can be, but if I'm able to ignore the Troll of Sorrow--who I respect about as much as he claims he can bench press divided by 1,000,000--then we should be able to ignore each other who, if we don't respect, at least think more respectable than that twit. No?

(Because this endless reiteration is getting really, really dull.)

Mike

Still, it should be said that Adam's last remarks were very well expressed, and (assuming that they're true) very helpful.

jholbo

It seems a bit questionable whether the thread is worth saving. But I will ask the troll to stop commenting, once again, and Doctor Slack not to spoof the troll.

jholbo

And of course I don't mean to imply the good Doctor was attempting any IP spoofing, or other technical hijinx. Just old-fashioned lo-tech imitating someone's voice technology.

Jonathan

Because you can get your ass sued for libel for that kind of accusation, remember.

Doctor Slack

But I will ask the troll to stop commenting, once again, and Doctor Slack not to spoof the troll.

Duly noted. Sorry. It's just so darned hard to resist.

jholbo

I am sure the good Doctor does not have the least desire to sue for libel. But, yes, you are correct, Jonathan.

Mike

Man, this is really long. Luckily, no one will ever read it, because it comes at the end of a pointless flamewar. Still, I spent the time writing it, so I feel committed to posting it.

Again, to reply to the last, good part. It seems less plausible as a general account the more I think about it. Surely, the dizzying commentaries on commentaries method doesn't apply to Being and Time or to The Order of Things. Not to Being and Time because it isn't about texts, and not to On the Order of Things because the texts that he writes about aren't one's that have gathered enormous commentaries (and because it really isn't about texts).

And I don't really think it's right to think of Nietzsche as any kind of scholastic. The shocking thing about The Birth of Tragedy, given Nietzsche's training as a philologist, is its lack of scholia and acknowledgements of previous authorities. Was Wilamowitz-Moellendorff more or less of a scholastic than Nietzsche?

More to the point, Nietzsche isn't really interested in tragedies as texts. He is sometimes interested in words and Kierkegaard in personae, but I don't think that's the same thing as looking at texts and asking whether there's anything left there to be thought. This might not matter. They might be thought of as base cases that get the ball rolling. Peter Lombard is a scholastic philosopher, but he never wrote a commentary on his Book of Sentences.

Therefore something like Zizek's reading of Kierkegaard would not be dismissed because it does not correspond to the standard understanding of Kierkegaard, but because it does not provide enough textual support (or else simply does not "ring true" as a latent potentiality in the text -- "ringing true" can be pulled off without heavy citation and usually works as an invitation to go back to the text in question in order to see if the suggestions actually seem to work with the text).

With luck, no reading of a philosopher is dismissed merely because it disagrees with the standard reading of a philosopher. An annoyingly standard trope that historians of philosophy use is to label the rival interpretation as 'the standard view'.

If this is going to be helpful, maybe we should distinguish what continental philosophers do from what non-continental historians of philosophy do. One might think that the difference is that continental philosophers want to bring out latent potentialities and non-continental philosophers want to figure out not just what rings true, but what the target philosopher really meant.

But I doubt it. On the one hand, there is a long minority tradition in analytic philosophy of creative indifference to what the target philosopher really meant. Deleuze's book on Hume is kind of like Annette Baier's book on Hume, I think.

On the other hand, I agree that John's way of reading Zizek doesn't seem especially continental, but is that because he isn't trying to bring out latent potentialities in the text? In some ways, isn't all commenting on someone else's writing trying to bring out latent potentialities in a text?

Having said all that, and speaking as someone who's never liked more than a few sentences out of any essay that I've read from Derrida, I'd really like to hear Derrida's take on Lombard's Book of Sentences.

I once spent some time thinking about the distinguishing marks of analytic philosophy. I came up with three:
1) that clarity alone sometimes suffices to solve philosophical problems
2) that Frege basically discovered the true logic and
3) that point (2) is philosophically important.

If this succeeds it only tells us what's distinctive about analytic philosophy. It doesn't tell us what's distinctive about Continental philosophy.

Rich Puchalsky

Adam's description of method brings this back to why the whole continental philosophy argument was important in the first place. The criticism of Theory is largely a criticism of method; therefore, critics tend to think that what Adam describes as a general method of continental philosophy is actually a late development that does not represent the full spectrum of what continental philosophy is. By describing it as the method of all of continental philosophy, it is given an aura of inevitability that it does not actually have.

To comment on his three points:

1. I don't see a focus on the reading of texts, and of commentaries on commentaries on texts, as different in kind from any type of scholarly work. What I think that Adam is really getting at here is -- well, for convenience, I'm going to quote wiki, and if anyone wants to disrupt the thread again because of that, let them:

"One common theme of continental philosophy might be a certain kind of what analytic philosophy might name "anti-transcendent skepticism," which holds that thought can not be abstracted away from some natural or material preconditions, and also that the philosopher must struggle with this impossibility. For example, in Hegel, thoughts can't be abstracted away from history; for Marx, they can't be abstracted away from the class struggle; for Nietzsche, from illusion, chaos, and the will to power; for Kierkegaard, from faith; for Heidegger from the question of being and, for Sartre, thought would always have to arise from a determinate manner of "being" and 'nothingness"; and for Derrida, the contingent histories and interdependencies of words themselves cannot be transcended. In contrast, continental philosophers often see analytic philosophers as believing methodologically that they can work unproblematically with abstract ideas and their relationships."

According to Adam's own classificatory scheme in previous comments, Derrida is a source text for the (mostly) American Theory movement, though not a Theorist himself. I'd suggest that Theory is the branch of continental philosophy that is characterized, among other things, by the idea that thoughts can't be abstracted away from the original text in which they were expressed. Thus the often-commented-on focus on citationality.

2. "When one goes "straight to" a philosophical text, one is generally not concerned to get at "what Kierkegaard said," for example, as if that were something generally available [...]"

I simply don't believe that this is an accurate characterization of how Derrida worked. No one now believes in simple, single, generally available meanings of texts, that is true. But "what remains to be thought" about a text has to take the classical meaning of the text into account, and can't be based on a misreading of that account. Otherwise why read all those commentaries on commentaries? Basically, I think that Derrida was more careful than this description might indicate.

3. "the body of acceptable texts for philosophical treatment continues to grow and grow" Well, yes. For instance, a philosophical argument might be based on an examination of Hesse's _Glass Bead Game_, for instance.

To repeat my argument, Adam's characterization of continental philosophy is a late professionalization of a single strand of a larger grouping. The focus on the rejection of _On Zizek and Trilling_ as continental philosophy is important not because of how John should be classified, but because it is an example of how one branch of continental philosophy tries to redefine all of it to its standards.

Jonathan

I was referring ironically to a much-publicized bloggy hullabaloo above, in case anyone possibly could have missed it.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

I don't think it's correct to conflate continental philosophy (as I've described it) with Theory.

You are, however, correct to note that Derrida valued what he called "the guard-rail of traditional criticism," as something that had to be taken into account. I should have emphasized that more in my post.

Your accusations of this particular strain of continental philosophy (which you're calling Theory, although it's not Theory) claiming hegemony over all continental philosophy is strangely reminiscent of the accusations that analytic philosophy is claiming hegemony over all philosophy in the English-speaking world -- so reminiscent, in fact, that I wonder if it was an intentional rhetorical move.

Anthony Paul Smith

Rich,

Adam isn't a theorist, so your description is wrong already. Again, I'm sure you've never read his work so this can be forgiven, but your point about theory trying to reign over continental philosophy is just bizarre when you're trying to use Adam as an example. Further, John has already said above that he doesn't consider himself a continental philosopher and that studying continental philosophy does not make oneself part of the that discipline (anymore than my studies in ecology make me an ecologist). It would be nice if he could come in here and say something to that effect so we don't countinue this arguement about whether or not John's essay should be considered continental philosophy (another question, why would you want it to be?).

Now, I agree that Adam's towards a methodology has some problems, but you're expressing real ignorance by using only wikipedia and your own ill feelings towards Adam. There are numerous books out about this subject; we've recommended a very short and cheap one for you. I'm sorry, but there comes a point where wikipedia is just not an acceptable source and I'd have to mark your paper down for repeatedly citing it.

Now, you're also confusing me about what you mean by theory. I was told by Scott repeatedly that he was only talking about literature, are you now including philosophers you don't like in this category? Can you name some people you consider theorists for me?

Dave


Analytical phil. begins with the assumption of scientific materialism: the logical positivists wanted to put the language in order to make scientific statements less ambiguous. It involved the purging of unverifiable metaphysical claims; there is, instead of the endless conceptualizations and quasi-theology say of a Heidegger, a concern with proof, truth claims, with induction and deduction, with semantics, definition. There may be some remaining speculations regarding the status of mathematical and logical entities (Frege's more platonic considerations), but those speculations are secondary to the urge to make the language more precise.

Rich Puchalsky

Adam: "I don't think it's correct to conflate continental philosophy (as I've described it) with Theory."

Well, first of all, I'm not conflating them -- I'm saying that (most of) Theory is a subset of continental philosophy. (See previous comments in this thread.) But the rhetorical defense of Theory *as* continental philosophy is widespread. One of your previous arguments, for instance, I'd take to be saying that both the people who John might class as Theorists and those he might class as writing the Higher Eclecticism are mostly continental philosophers, and that criticism of them fails because the critics do not understand what continental philosophers do. That's the point, correct? Well, I argue that you are not presenting a complete picture of what continental philosophers do, and in fact are disarming criticism of your favored strain of continental philosophy against other strains by implicitly claiming that this strain's standards are the standards of all of continental philosophy. This is a way of disarming criticisms of Theory by definition.

Anthony: "you're expressing real ignorance by using only wikipedia"

I've explained why I'm quoting wikipedia; if you have an objection to the content of what I quoted rather than its source, then you should be able to say what's wrong with the quote.

And no, I don't think that yet another go-round of what is meant by Theory is worthwhile at this point.

Anthony Paul Smith

"And no, I don't think that yet another go-round of what is meant by Theory is worthwhile at this point."

Right, since that's the whole point of your little "critique".

"I've explained why I'm quoting wikipedia; if you have an objection to the content of what I quoted rather than its source, then you should be able to say what's wrong with the quote."

And, no, I don't think another go-round of the many ways in which you are wrong is worthwhile at this point. You're hardly open to being wrong on this matter. I'm completely convinced that your critique is completely wrong, for a variety of reasons, but it's hardly worthwhile to have that conversation with you. Hell, you can't even concede that John's essay isn't continental philosophy or that he's not a continental philosopher (you do remember stating that, don't you?).

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

I'm saying that it's a mistake to conflate Theory with what I'm describing as continental philosophy -- even if it turns out that my definition thereof is too limited.

Adam Kotsko

I would also clarify that I never said that Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were not continental philosophers in any sense, but rather, that they were not continental philosophers in the relevant sense (i.e., the sense in which John Holbo or his essay could potentially be, but is not, recognized as a "continental philosopher" in Anglophone academic contexts).

Overall, Theory has very little to do with this conversation at all.

Rich Puchalsky

Adam, even if you are trying to describe continental philosophy more broadly than you might describe whatever you think that people mean by "Theory", I contend that your definition still is Theoretically biased. That's exactly why your Derrida sounded a lot less careful than the actual Derrida; because you have moved from a situation in which it was part of continental philosophy to get the classical meaning of the text right before going on to what else "remains to be thought" about the text to one in which getting the classical meaning of the text right is analytical-style pettifogging, history of philosophy rather than philosophy itself.

Scott and Mike, while your attempts at an evenhanded "oh no, there the thread goes again" are understandable in intent, they aren't true. Compare and contrast recent responses. If some people want to try to disrupt a perfectly reasonable argument by pointless flaming, they can, but that's no reason for me to stop making it.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

My initial statement about Derrida sounded less careful than he actually is because it was a blog comment -- when I was corrected on that point, I accepted it.

This quasi-psychoanalytic approach whereby my initial statement is somehow "symptomatic" is certainly interesting, but it's not very productive -- and it's of a piece with your constant tendency to hold people to positions that they initially stated on a tentative basis and that they have since moved beyond. (This is a major drawback of the "debate" paradigm of blogological discussion.)

I don't think that my reading of Derrida is very Theory-influenced, based mainly on the fact that I am not in an English department and have not been for many years, but rather, in a theology program -- and even when I was in an English department, it was a very traditional one where there was not much emphasis on Theory at all (in fact, I was once called upon to conduct a class session on Derrida in the one required Theory class).

In my context, someone like Caputo would be the Derrida interpreter to contend with, and he can hardly be considered a representative of Theory -- unless "Theory" just means "continental philosophy that's not in its proper place." I actually have very little respect for much of what goes on in English departments under the title of Theory, and I only argue against the Higher Eclecticism to the extent that the critique thereof seems to me to extend to modern European philosophy as such.

jholbo

I'm too tired to comment. One point.

I wouldn't consider the stuff I write to be 'continental philosophy', even when I take it to be about/inspired by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. And even though I take them to be 'continental philosophers'. I don't think this is too hard to explain. I can also see how it could cause confusion, however.

Maybe I'll talk about it tomorrow.

Rich Puchalsky

Adam: "My initial statement about Derrida sounded less careful than he actually is because it was a blog comment -- when I was corrected on that point, I accepted it."

All right, then I invite you to correct your entire understanding of the field. All of your commenting on this subject seems, to me, to suffer from the same misapprehension.

"I don't think that my reading of Derrida is very Theory-influenced, based mainly on the fact that I am not in an English department and have not been for many years, but rather, in a theology program [...] I only argue against the Higher Eclecticism to the extent that the critique thereof seems to me to extend to modern European philosophy as such."

To get back to the original subject of the thread, Zizek, you are an extensive reader of Zizek, aren't you? After all, you wrote one of the first reviews of his latest book. If Zizek does not write the Higher Eclecticism, than no one does. Certainly he's a contemporary European philosopher, but the style is part of a strain of contemporary philosophy, and is not restricted to English departments. I might as well provoke by quoting wiki once again:

"While continental philosophy has a central place in university philosophy departments in Germany and France, in the English-speaking world analytic philosophy is generally taught in philosophy departments while some movements in continental philosophy are taught in various other departments, including literature, film, architecture, art history among the humanities (where it is often known as literary theory or critical theory), and sociology, social anthropology, and social psychology among the social sciences (where it is sometimes known as social theory or critical social theory). These include primarily post-structuralism, feminism, more recent Marxism, and the parts of phenomenology and psychoanalysis most relevant to them. German Idealism, on the other hand, where it is studied at all is more likely to be found in philosophy departments."

For John's latest, I'll point out that I focussed on whether "On Zizek and Trilling" was an example of doing continental philosophy rather than whether John was a continental philosopher.

Adam Kotsko

Rich,

Zizek is not an example of the Higher Eclecticism, as I have argued elsewhere. He has a consistent position based on his reading of Lacan and Hegel, which he lays out in his first big book, then develops through the rest. He does not just randomly cite authorities like Higher Eclecticists do -- most of the time, he is quite critical of major thinkers in the tradition and uses them as contrasting examples to clarify his own consistently held Hegelian-Lacanian position.

Second point: I accept criticisms that I take to be valid. For you to claim that I should simply revoke my entire position because it appears to be based on a fundamental misapprehension of the field is absolutely appalling and way out of bounds. These attempts to discredit me wholesale are not a valid form of argument, and I do not need to prove to you that I have basic knowledge of the field of continental philosophy.

For you to claim that I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the field, then to quote the Wikipedia at me yet again, THEN to explain away the fact that John seems to be undercutting your position -- that's just hilarious.

I do not get the impression that this is a topic that you know much about, and you have not contributed anything except for a consistent negative voice against which to sharpen my own positions. Now, however, your dogmatic negativity has ceased to be helpful to me, or to anyone else.

Rich Puchalsky

Adam: "For you to claim that I should simply revoke my entire position because it appears to be based on a fundamental misapprehension of the field is absolutely appalling and way out of bounds."

Adam, really, you claimed that your depiction of Derrida was a chance misstep in a hastily written blog comment, which you corrected, and which means nothing for your larger position. I don't think that you've thought it through. The argument about method is critical to the entire constellation of related arguments that have gone on for the last year, and that you could imply that Zizek's failure to understand the classical meaning of Kierkegaard was irrelevant within the continental methodological tradition was not a momentary abberation in what I've seen.

If you do understand the field as well as you claim, you could explain why the quote from wikipedia is wrong rather than being reduced to just scoffing that it's from wikipedia.

"Now, however, your dogmatic negativity has ceased to be helpful to me, or to anyone else."

I am completely unconcerned with your opinion of my helpfulness. Really, Adam, you've called me names, issued futile demands that I stop posting, and continually try to blame my ignorance whenever you fail to understand my argument. I don't find that very helful. Yet you are, in turn, unconcerned. So it goes.

Adam Kotsko

You misread what I said about Zizek and Kierkegaard. In any case, I don't get the impression that you want my help, with much of anything.

jholbo

Two points this time.

First, I don't really accept Rich's distinction that would have me 'doing continental philosophy' but not 'being a continental philosopher'. In a way I don't care so much, so maybe I shouldn't even mention it. But maybe there is some good to be gotten out of thinking about it. Zizek and Trilling. Well, HERE'S a thing. Trilling is very influenced by Hegel, but it's soft-pedalled in his writings, and for sure no one would call him a 'continental philosopher', even though he really is 'doing philosophy' in works like "Sincerity and Authenticity". And it really is about the continental tradition, a lot more than it is about any other tradition. Why not call him a 'continental philosopher'? Well, it's largely a function of method (and style and attitude, as folks have been suggesting.) Trilling doesn't write like, or think like, a canonical 20th century continental philosopher. I could count all the ways that Trilling doesn't look like Heidegger, but maybe you get the idea. He's more like Isaiah Berlin (to pick Anthony's comparison, which I'll buy.) He's too English to be continental. This is sort of a Heidegger thing. If you are sufficiently outside the Heidegger gravitational field, and you are a 20th century or 21st century sort of person, you are probably not going to be 'continental', no matter intrigued you are by staring into German philosophy. This is the case with me. I get on the Kierkegaard and Nietzsche train, but I shift it onto another track before it pulls into the Heidegger station. I would say at bottom I'm a Wittgensteinian. (Not that I think Heidegger is the awfullest place to go, but I don't want to, especially.) So calling my Nietzsche and Kierkegaard stuff 'continental philosophy' would be a matter of securing a very small and technically correct denotation in exchange for just about the most misleading swarm of connotations in the world. I'll skip the denotation to keep clear of the swarm, thank you muchly.

Adam, I really do think that Zizek is a pretty paradigmatic example of the Higher Eclecticism in action. I don't deduce that from the fact that he's a continental philosopher. I deduce that from his books. You are right to distinguish 'Theory' from 'continental philosophy'. And I may be guilty of mashing them too close at times. But you are guilty of trying to separate them too sharply. I don't really agree with your denial, Adam, that Zizek is 'doing Theory'. That's why he has been taken up by people who 'do Theory' with such enthusiasm. If Zizek doesn't 'do Theory', then no one does. I happen to have Ian Parker's 'critical introduction' on my lap. It's very sympathetic to the man, but it begins with six lessons in how to read Zizek that take off from a joke he typically tells. So the first point is: he's a joker. Number 6 is: "almost all of Zizek's work is written in red ink: his selective reading of Hegel is only one take on this very complex contradictory philosophical system; he picks up notions from Lacan and wilfully applies them just as he likes; and although he uses ideas from Marx he is not a Marxist at all." I might add: he's not a Leninist. And he's not a Kierkegaardian. This to me is rather crucial to understanding how Zizek writes. It's an example of what I call 'Higher Eclecticism', more or less. The question isn't whether Zizek writes this way, the question is what the point of writing this way could be.

Oh, and the joke is: red ink means 'this is false'. The joke has to do with writing people a happy letter in blue ink telling them, among other things, there's no red ink for sale in the stores. Very Hegelian in its way.

Zizek is a joker, and his work is 'Higher Eclecticism' in that it amounts to an inconsistent mix of highly technical-seeming stuff and in fact doesn't function in a technical, argumentative sense. It works in a different way. That's actually not necessarily a bad thing. This is more or less what I'm saying in my review and - I must say - although I knock him around, I ended up sort of enjoying "Parallax View". I think that the philosophy is very loose but the jokes are extremely precise. I like the Bartleby joke "I prefer not." 'I prefer: not.' Hegel on negativity. I'm coming around to the view that there's sort of a controlled Montaignean garrulity to this that I can live with. (I would never ding Montaigne for not being exactly technically correct in his arguments.)

X-lox

You're the mockery of the 1st critique, Holbo, as you are the mockery of Hegel's writings on History, or Nietzschean Will to Power. You cut the balls off of Nietzsche.

There are no traditional german philosophers on this board; er there is one, occasionally, but he is deleted. Frege was no liberal. Nietzsche's no liberal. And he's no pop ironist, nor pals with yankee sunday schoolers or English-lit careerists.

jholbo

X-Lox, didn't I ask you to leave? Look, the reason is that you oscillate between leaving borderline reasonable comments and just shouting obscenities at everyone. The value of the former does not nearly balance the latter. Why should I let you shout insults on my blog? If you behaved that way at my house, you'd be asked to leave. Why should the blog be any different? Adam and Anthony get pretty worked up, shouting at Rich. I really wish they would tone it down. I don't see that he has done anything to deserve the decibels they deliver. But they never come near the standard of verbal abuse you set. So they aren't going to get themselves deleted. Whereas you will. So the deletions have nothing to do with censorship of ideas or even with philosophical point of view.

As for Nietzsche. For the sweet love of Zarathustra's eagle and snake animal friends, when did he ever write an essay with the proud title "Why I am so rude"? Your abuse has no philosophical point. You just like yelling at people. I'm tired of it. I'm going to make t-shirts and coffee mugs out of it if you don't cut it out. Go away. Do not come here any more. I've had it. I'm sick of it. Stop it.

jholbo

Half-remembered Nietzsche quote. Ah, google does not fail.

"A letter is an unannounced visit, the postman the agent of rude surprises. One ought to reserve an hour a week for receiving letters and afterwards take a bath."

Can you imagine what he would have thought of comment boxes?

Rich Puchalsky

John: "I don't really accept Rich's distinction that would have me 'doing continental philosophy' but not 'being a continental philosopher'."

Well, at least you got the distinction.

"If you are sufficiently outside the Heidegger gravitational field, and you are a 20th century or 21st century sort of person, you are probably not going to be 'continental' [...] So calling my Nietzsche and Kierkegaard stuff 'continental philosophy' would be a matter of securing a very small and technically correct denotation in exchange for just about the most misleading swarm of connotations in the world. I'll skip the denotation to keep clear of the swarm, thank you muchly."

I suppose that it depends on what you mean by being outside of the Heidegger gravitational field. Here's an example: Adorno was not a Heideggerian; Adorno was a 20th century continental philosopher. Of course, Adorno closely engaged with Heidegger, if only to reject his work (_The Jargon of Authenticity_ might be a useful prefiguration of some later concerns about jargon). The "misleading swarm of connotations" for the technically correct denotation are exactly what I was referring to: the increasingly successful presumption that all contemporary continental philosophy follows this particular strand. Which is exactly what people really on when they say that rejection of Theory is rejection of continental philosophy in toto, and must be motivated by the analytic / continental academic politics.

mike

Speaking of Nietzsche quotes, does he ever say, of the transcendental deduction:

"Understand it? I fear understanding it."

I would like to think so, but I've never been able to find a source.

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