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Thread: Analytic or continental

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  1. #41
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    I'm not opposed to the idea of needing to yoke oneself to a professional guide for the exploration of a particular area of knowledge in principle. For example, electronics or mountaineering. That it is supposedly needed for "continental philosophy" I used to find laughable though, because it is not needed for any other branch. Nowadays, I just don't give a shit. There is just too much other good stuff to read that doesn't require plowing through an ocean of secondary literature. I did take the time to study Hegel though, for obvious reasons.
    Really well said.

    I don't really take seriously the claim of a lot of people up in "continental" philosophy depts. that there specialized wordsmithery is akin to technical jargon in other fields, like mathematics. It is really hard to prove something is entirely meaningless though. The logical positivists tried, but obviously they failed and made up some weird statements themselves too. As the above essay mentioned, I do think that a lot of the "smart" people that suspect that a lot of it is nonsense simply just study something else. I wanted to do philosophy at first but then I had the epiphany that a lot of it is stupid, so I became a physicist instead.


    I don't think "all continental" philosophy is nonsense. I do think that even a lot of the "nonsense obscurantists" like Derrida have, under all the fluff, interesting insights. I do think however, that if you remove the fluff, is not as insightful as people think it is, and or, the valuable ideas could be expressed in better ways without losing any content. I admire wittgenstein not because of his own obscurantist tendencies and shitty, reactionary opinions on things, but because he had the gonads to say most philosophy is entirely nonsense, and then just turn to mathematics or something. That is why he is important. he isn''t perfect - Oppenheimer was a fucking snitch, coward and a rat, doesn't mean he wasn't a good physicist.

    I do think a lot of analytic philosophy is nonsense too, but not entirely in the same way than continental philosophy. I took a class on metaphysics from an analytical point of view, and most of it was not that hard to understand if read carefully, but could be done without reading too much secondary literature. However, in my opinion a lot of it reduced to matters of semantics (i.e. what is change?), and was entirely useless.

    At the end though, I do think "philosophy" in some ways does have a place in our society. I think a lot of people are unable to think in a "meta" level, which is important, especially when thinking about civilization and society, and philosophy can help. I do think that the "level of specialization" at the PhD level promoted by universities is pretty much smoke and mirrors though. But I am biased because my favorite theorists are obscure ultraleft marxists that probably had at most, if any upper level education, a bachelor, and a lot of them were probably not trained in philosophy/sociology.
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  3. #42
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    I voted analytic, but I don't really agree that analytic philosophers are more right than the continental ones. The conclusions I draw don't much resemble the received views in analytic philosophy. Rather, I like the style of analytic philosophy, the particular way analytic philosophers tend to approach problems. My way of thinking has always resonated much more with the analytic tradition.

    Continental philosophy I often struggle to read - it frequently just seems like nonsense to me. Clearly it works for many people, and that's cool; if you find it engaging, you should definitely pursue it. It's not for me though.
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  5. #43
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    I do think a lot of analytic philosophy is nonsense too, but not entirely in the same way than continental philosophy. I took a class on metaphysics from an analytical point of view, and most of it was not that hard to understand if read carefully, but could be done without reading too much secondary literature. However, in my opinion a lot of it reduced to matters of semantics (i.e. what is change?), and was entirely useless.

    At the end though, I do think "philosophy" in some ways does have a place in our society. I think a lot of people are unable to think in a "meta" level, which is important, especially when thinking about civilization and society, and philosophy can help. I do think that the "level of specialization" at the PhD level promoted by universities is pretty much smoke and mirrors though. But I am biased because my favorite theorists are obscure ultraleft marxists that probably had at most, if any upper level education, a bachelor, and a lot of them were probably not trained in philosophy/sociology.
    You might be interested in the book "Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized" by James Ladyman & Don Ross. Although there are tons of things in the book I strongly disagree with, I think a lot of analytic metaphysics is deeply misguided (well, I think a lot of analytic philosophy in general is deeply misguided, and has been pretty much since its birth), and they diagnose some of the more serious problems and suggest a radically different approach. Ladyman is primarily a philosopher of physics, so given your background, it might be especially appealing.

    I won't bother going into any detail on it; you can find reviews, summaries, etc, online. A warning, though: I'm not sure how extensive your knowledge of philosophy is, but the philosophy in it - in particular the philosophy of science - does get pretty technical. As long as you have a good grasp of that and some interest in metaphysics, science, and the general role of philosophy, it's definitely worth a read.
  6. #44
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    Really well said.

    I don't really take seriously the claim of a lot of people up in "continental" philosophy depts. that there specialized wordsmithery is akin to technical jargon in other fields, like mathematics. It is really hard to prove something is entirely meaningless though. The logical positivists tried, but obviously they failed and made up some weird statements themselves too. As the above essay mentioned, I do think that a lot of the "smart" people that suspect that a lot of it is nonsense simply just study something else. I wanted to do philosophy at first but then I had the epiphany that a lot of it is stupid, so I became a physicist instead.


    I don't think "all continental" philosophy is nonsense. I do think that even a lot of the "nonsense obscurantists" like Derrida have, under all the fluff, interesting insights. I do think however, that if you remove the fluff, is not as insightful as people think it is, and or, the valuable ideas could be expressed in better ways without losing any content. I admire wittgenstein not because of his own obscurantist tendencies and shitty, reactionary opinions on things, but because he had the gonads to say most philosophy is entirely nonsense, and then just turn to mathematics or something. That is why he is important. he isn''t perfect - Oppenheimer was a fucking snitch, coward and a rat, doesn't mean he wasn't a good physicist.
    Didn't he say this,
    I am a Communist at heart,
    I don't much else beside he went to the USSR. I don't know what you mean by reactionary but he wasn't a total boug.
    I heard arguments that he was a "perfectionist liberal". Citing his opposition to "mindless preservation of tradition".
    I can promise this, you dealin with a communist.

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  8. #45
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    And his opposition to working class organisation?
    The man tried to immigrate to the Soviet Union. And you really think he was anti-worker?

    This is untrue. He thought the "unspeakable", ie, the mystic, cannot be meaningfully talked about; but he never said or implied that because it cannot be talked about it is any less important. Indeed there is reason to think that he thought that it was more important than what can be talked about.
    Those mystical attitudes were added late in his work in the Tractatus, after his horrific experiences in WWI. Anyway, later in his life he clearly rejected this.

    Also, those mystical attitudes can be excised without any change in the meanings of the text.

    Oh, did you know Newton was into mysticism too? Fuck that gravity shit.

    No statement is actually simple, because its relations to reality are extremely complex.
    Ummm I think you are confused. Here is a simple statement "Phil is tall" here is a complex statement "Phil is tall and fat". Get it? Symbolized the two statements are "Tp" and "Tp . Fp" It has nothing to do with the statements relation to reality.

    Such as the absurd sentence on ethics and aesthetics being one and the same, when he clearly meant something very different. Such kind of misuse of words is very common in his work.
    That is not a misuse of words. He is equating that which is good with that which is beautiful. Its a common enough view. I just so happen to disagree with him here.

    Which he spent most of his life trying to debunk.
    Elizabeth Anscombe, Peter Geach, James Conant, Stanley Cavell, Cora Diamond, Rupert Read, Max Black, Roger White and so on and so forth disagree with you. And I wouldn't mess with Anscombe his prized pupil.

    I wouldn't accuse someone of obscurantism because they express themselves poorly. It is the substance of Wittgenstein's positions that I find reactionary.
    Which part? That language is a social construction? That abstractions are idealist and incorrect? That at heart he was a communist?

    Which in essence means it is apolitical, and, as such, comformist.
    Is mathematics conformist? Its awfully apolitical.
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  10. #46
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    I read Agamben, Foucault, Deleuze, Heidegger, Spinoza, and Tiqqun pretty often.
    The defeat of the revolutionary movement was not, as Stalinists always complain, due to its lack of unity. It was defeated because the civil war within its ranks was not worked out with enough force. The crippling effects of the systematic confusion between hostis and enemy are self-evident, whether it be the tragedy of the Soviet Union or the groupuscular comedy.

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  11. #47
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    I'm not that familiar with analytic philosophy as I am with continental philosophy. At least from what I've seen, analytic philosophers seem to be more concerned with trying to justify ruling class ideologies using outdated Lockean and pre-Kantian ideas of freedom and human nature than formulate problems of society and such. I mean, just look at John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and Peter Singer....even the analytic leftists like Chomsky and Cohen suck. I guess black magick hustla has a point too, I'm sure I would like analytic philosophy more if I read works regarding mathematics and science instead of social and existential shit. I also think a lot of continental philosophy like Derrida and Heidegger is a load of hogwash. Ever since that batshit purge occured on RevLeft, I got into reading a lot of continental shit like Nietszche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Zappfe, Lacan, Zizek, Barthes, and Foucault.
  12. #48
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    I agree totally with black magick hustla.

    My experience with philosophy has been for the most part continental, particularly of the "existentialist" tent (i.e. Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, etc). In most cases, reading their primary source is difficult to understand and some do engage in obscurantism or strange verbose language. This seems to be a trend in theory as well, for example: Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" is written in a "dense" language that I feel could be simplified (and it has been, although in many interpretations; similar to texts in continental philosophy.)

    I agree with him in that continental philosophy does focus seemingly more on "society, et.al" than analytical philosophy but the methodologies within analytical philosophy may be useful in looking into somethings (and not others) just as methodologies in continental philosophy may be useful for other things.

    However, I don't know much about analytical philosophy.
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  13. #49
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    The man tried to immigrate to the Soviet Union. And you really think he was anti-worker?
    At the time he tried to immigrate, the Soviet Union was anti-worker itself.

    It was also a State in which "diamat" was official philosophy. Was he anti-"diamat"?

    Oh, did you know Newton was into mysticism too? Fuck that gravity shit.
    Oh yes, but nobody is claiming that mysticism is a bad thing because Newton said so.

    Ummm I think you are confused. Here is a simple statement "Phil is tall" here is a complex statement "Phil is tall and fat". Get it? Symbolized the two statements are "Tp" and "Tp . Fp" It has nothing to do with the statements relation to reality.
    It is not simple, because "tallness" is a social construct, and so, when you say "Phil is tall" you are probably implicitly saying things like "Phil is tall, so he is handsome" or "Phil is tall, so he is stupid", depending on exactly how the subject is socially constructed. Also, obviously "tallness" is relative, so it depends on context to have any actual meaning (Phil is tall - for a boy age five; Phil is tall - for a midget; Phil is tall - for a Bushman). That's why any statement is complex; it implies other statements to make actual sence.

    That is not a misuse of words. He is equating that which is good with that which is beautiful. Its a common enough view. I just so happen to disagree with him here.
    Of course it is a misuse of words; he meant that ethics and aesthetics are similar when regarded from a quite specific point of view. His phrasing however means something very different - that ethics an aesthetics are equal, not similar, from every point of view, not just from a specific one. Bad rhetorics.

    Which part? That language is a social construction? That abstractions are idealist and incorrect? That at heart he was a communist?
    That people shouldn't try and change the world; that music past Brahms is "machinery noise"; that workers who go on strike are bad parents because they teach their children to disobey.

    I don't know if he ever said that language is a social construction; if so, he was technically wrong (language is a social activity, or a social phenomenon, but it is not a construction, so it cannot be a "social construction"), but probably just misspeaking, as so often. It would however be very far from original. If he said that abstractions are idealist and incorrect, he was just simply and plainly wrong. Indeed, since the word 'abstraction' is itself an abstraction, he would be comically wrong. And I don't think that anyone can be a "communist at heart"; a communist is someone who acts for communism.

    Is mathematics conformist? Its awfully apolitical.
    It is about a different subject. When however you think in an apolitical way about how human society is organised, or when you imply that people should only think about non-political things, then you are being comformist.

    Luís Henrique
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    That's why any statement is complex; it implies other statements to make actual sence.
    Indeed, that is implied in Wittgenstein's concept of "language game". Think about it.

    Luís Henrique
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    That is not a misuse of words. He is equating that which is good with that which is beautiful. Its a common enough view. I just so happen to disagree with him here.
    I don't remember the exact context in which the likeness of ethics and aesthetics is brought up by Wittgenstein, but I would suppose it to have come about from an idea that they share a form in language. Neither are facts, propositions describing features of the world, but rather both ethical and aesthetical statements seem like rules.

    Otherwise, it strikes me as an out of place idea. But, perhaps you have got a source which lead you to believe that he thought of ethics as an expression of aesthetics and vice versa?
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    Having studied both (though I admittedly have a stronger background in analytic thought), I'm hesitant to really embrace either, as I'm critical of both in roughly equal parts.

    I definitely think that at its core, the main analytic criticism of continental philosophy -its obscurantism- is well-placed. A lot of continental philosophy is at best overwritten and achieves a lot less insight than it thinks, and in its worst anti-realist postmodern manifestations provides a space for reactionaries. A good example of this latter phenomenon is the so-called "Radical Orthodox" movement in theology, which uses postmodern theory to insulate itself from all secular science and secular criticism and proclaim theology the "queen of the sciences."

    On the other hand, a lot of analytic philosophy, as others have pointed out, consists in self-serving (by virtue of their "apolitical" pretense) bourgeois theoretical exercises, and while the clarity of some analytic philosophy is appreciated compared to the worst strands of continental postmodernism, the absurd logic-slicing (which I view as simply getting lost in language/a perfect example of idealism in the Marxist sense) and attempt to look like a natural science reminds me of the way neoliberal economics sets itself up as the "scientific," apolitical, empirical, eternal truth. The worst manifestation of this is the tendency to try and rip words/concepts from their context, and provide their "pure" philosophical analysis.

    Whether intentionally or unintentionally, analytic philosophy is often completely divorced from any material, historical, social, or cultural context in which it is being produced, and this is the way in which it is essentially not revolutionary (and often downright reactionary). It doesn't recognize the radical contingency of our current ideas and modes of social organization, and by extension our ability to change our situation through real-life action.

    In short, continental philosophy is too often postmodern, pseudo-profound obscurantism, but is basically correct in its focus on social/cultural/other more concrete concerns, its recognition of the importance of context, and of the importance of history, and analytic philosophy has an important point concerning clarity and its opposition to the aforementioned continental excesses, but is essentially idealist and reactionary in the same way as neoliberal economics.
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  18. #53
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    But, perhaps you have got a source which lead you to believe that he thought of ethics as an expression of aesthetics and vice versa?
    For my part, I just think he miswrote.

    Luís Henrique
    Last edited by Luís Henrique; 20th March 2012 at 11:20.
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    It is not simple, because "tallness" is a social construct, and so, when you say "Phil is tall" you are probably implicitly saying things like "Phil is tall, so he is handsome" or "Phil is tall, so he is stupid", depending on exactly how the subject is socially constructed. Also, obviously "tallness" is relative, so it depends on context to have any actual meaning (Phil is tall - for a boy age five; Phil is tall - for a midget; Phil is tall - for a Bushman). That's why any statement is complex; it implies other statements to make actual sence.
    To take Wittgenstein's insight of "language games" seriously, the problem with logic classes is that they completely remove "propositions" from any actual context.

    I don't think "X is tall" where X is the name of a human being is a common kind of sentence in common discourse. It seems ackward in any living context that I can imagine. Of course, sentences such as, "Phil is the tallest of them", "Phil is taller than Mark", "The suspect is a tall man", "Phil is tall for his age", etc., are common sentences, and they may imply the idea that Phil is tall. But a sentence like "Phil is tall" seems to only belong in two not too "ordinary" "language games": the one that is played in English language classes for foreigners, and the one that is played in Logic classes.

    Again, if we stick with Wittgenstein, there is a problem with the game that is played in Logic classes: it mistakenly assumes that removing sentences from their usual context, or "language games" is a neutral operation, that has no effect on their meaning.

    If Wittgenstein is right, such assumption is not only false, but it accounts for many of the problems with philosophy. If he is right, Logic classes are like a kind of morgue for sentences, where they are subjected to procedures that are analogue to forensic anatomy procedures. But while coroners understand that they are analysing corpses, not living people, logicians fail to make the distinction.

    Or you could think of Wittgenstein's insight as the linguistic equivalent to quantum physics: when you observe a sentence, just like when you observe a particle, observation itself affects the observed item (but this in turn requires a much more careful use of words than his "look how words are used").

    Of course, restablishing the notion that sentences, far from being complete in and of themselves, are part of a greater system - that of language, or of human communication, etc. - in itself brings back what Mr. Natural, in the other thread, has been calling "philosophy of internal relations", ie, dialectics. It also puts the lie to the notion that "Phil is tall" (or any other sentence, of course) is a "simple proposition": there are no simple propositions; each proposition implies the whole language. Wittgenstein as Jakob Boehme, or are we misunderstanding something here?

    Luís Henrique
    Last edited by Luís Henrique; 23rd March 2012 at 13:36.
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    Again, if we stick with Wittgenstein, there is a problem with the game that is played in Logic classes: it mistakenly assumes that removing sentences from their usual context, or "language games" is a neutral operation, that has no effect on their meaning.
    While context can be important in understanding what symbol is meant with a sign, more often than not the symbol can be understood through the sentence itself, meaning that the composition of the sentence establishes sufficient context for someone who knows the language. I also don't think it is a common goal in logic classes to attempt to gain a specific understanding of certain propositions, but rather to understand rules of inference that are used in language.

    Besides that, I think you've got a point that separating language from the context in which it is used, verbal and, more importantly, material, generally can lead to issues. I like the idea of viewing language as something like a collection of tools, which is used for their own purposes, usually in relation to some situation or activity. Wittgenstein used the term "logic" in a deep fashion which included such 'uses for the specific tools (symbols)', so that superficially his use of the term would resemble "grammar".

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