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r Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.2003. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA METAPHILOSOPHY Vol.34, No.3, April 2003





ABSTRACT: A number of writers have tackled the task of characterizing the differences between analytic and Continental philosophy.I suggest that these attempts have indeed captured the most important divergences between the two styles but have left the explanation of the differences mysterious.I argue that analytic philosophy is usefully seen as philosophy conducted within a paradigm, in Kuhn’s sense of the word, whereas Continental philosophy assumes much less in the way of shared presuppositions, problems, methods and approaches.This important opposition accounts for all those features that have rightly been held to constitute the difference between the two traditions.I finish with some reflections on the relative superiority of each tradition and by highlighting the characteristic deficiencies of each.

Keywords: analytic; Continental; Kuhn; paradigm.

Since the early twentieth century, Western philosophy has been split into two apparently irreconcilable camps: the ‘‘analytic’’ and the ‘‘Continen- tal.’’ Philosophers who belong to each camp read and respond to their fellows almost exclusively; thus, each stream develops separately, and the differences become more entrenched.Relations between the camps are characterized largely by mutual incomprehension and not a little hostility.But because few philosophers are well acquainted with both sides, the nature of the split is not well understood.This essay is intended to contribute to understanding this split and perhaps, in a small way, even to overcoming it.Now, at the dawn of a new century, it is time to put the divisions within philosophy behind us.Although, as I shall suggest toward the end of the paper, we have cause to temper our optimism at the prospects for imminent reconciliation, understanding the differences is a first and indispensable step toward overcoming them. A few caveats about the ambitions and limitations of the essay are in order before we turn to an examination of the differences.First, I only intend to characterize general trends and tendencies.Thus a single counterexample will not serve to falsify my view; only a sufficient weight of counterexamples could accomplish this.Second, I do not claim that all philosophers working in contemporary academia, not even all of those

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working in what is clearly the Western tradition, fit neatly into these categories.Some philosophers work between the traditions, as it were, in ways influenced by both: Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor come to mind here.Others work wholly or partially in traditions never entirely assimilated into one stream or the other: this is true of American pragmatism to some extent, and of philosophers whose work developed primarily through the reception of ancient philosophy.Apart from the intrinsic interest of their work, these philosophers serve a salutary function: they remind us that valuable philosophy can be done by those who do not owe allegiance to either side of the divide.However, their existence does not alter the fact that our philosophical landscape is dominated by the split. The essay will fall into two parts.In the first, I shall examine some recent attempts to characterize analytic and Continental philosophy (hereafter, AP and CP, respectively).I shall suggest that all fail to state necessary and sufficient conditions that could function as criteria by which to classify particular philosophers or their works.Indeed, there are no such criteria, or so I shall contend. Ought we to conclude, then, that AP and CP are Wittgensteinian cluster concepts – that is, concepts that lump together many different elements, elements that share no common core? I suggest that this approach would be more fruitful.But I do not want to stop there.I want to see if something more can be said concerning AP and CP, something over and above ‘‘characteristically, each tends to possess such and such features.’’ I want to see, in fact, if it isn’t possible to account for these characteristic features.If my suggestion is on the right track, I shall account not merely for the positive features of AP and CP but also for the difficulty I have experienced when I have attempted to bring them into dialogue with each other, and the unsatisfactory nature of most other such attempts at such ecumenicalism.

Characterizing the Traditions

I turn, then, to characterizing the differences.One way of approaching the topic immediately suggests itself: taking our cue from the word Continental, we might attempt to classify each camp on the basis of geography.CP will thus be that kind of philosophy practiced in mainland Europe, or taught in philosophy departments there.But it is evident that this approach will fail.For one thing, AP itself has its roots on the Continent as much as CP does (Dummett argues that it would more appropriately be called Anglo-Austrian than Anglo-American [Dummett 1993, 1–2]).For another, there are currently plenty of analytic philosophers on the Continent – Jacques Bouveresse and Pascal Engel in France, for example – and even more Continental philosophers in English-speaking countries.‘‘Continental’’ cannot, therefore, refer primarily

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to a place, anymore than ‘‘analytic’’ can be entirely synonymous with ‘‘Anglo-American.’’ If not geography, then perhaps style will provide us with the criterion we seek.So Bernard Williams suggests, in the preface to Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy:

What distinguishes analytical philosophy from other contemporary philoso- phy (though not from much philosophy of other times) is a certain way of


going on, which involves argument, distinctions, and, so far as it remembers to

it distinguishes

sharply between obscurity and technicality.(Williams 1985, vi)

try to achieve it and succeeds, moderately plain speech

There are, I think, two claims at issue here.The first concerns the place of argument in the two traditions.It is often said that what distinguishes analytic from Continental philosophy is the greater place and respect for argument in the former.Dagfinn F llesdal, for example, characterizes the difference between analytic and nonanalytic philosophy as essentially a difference in the place given to arguments, rather than rhetoric (F llesdal 1997).The claim here is that CP is not rigorous.Perhaps the best-known example of this claim is the letter sent to the Times in 1992 to oppose Cambridge’s proposal to grant an honorary doctorate to Derrida:

In the eyes of philosophers, and certainly among those working in leading

departments of philosophy throughout the world, M.Derrida’s work does not

meet accepted standards of clarity and rigor

seem to consist

in no small part of elaborate jokes and puns (‘‘logical phallusies’’ and the like)

and M.Derrida seems to us to have come close to making a career out of what we regard as translating into the academic sphere tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists or of the concrete poets.(Derrida 1995, 420)

The letter is signed by, among other people, David Armstrong, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Keith Campbell, Kevin Mulligan, Barry Smith, and no less a figure than Quine. I think it is not simply prejudice – though it is also prejudice – that can lead thinkers like Quine to this conclusion.There are really positive features of CP that give the impression to those trained in the analytic school that it is argument free.The proof of this is that the difference in the role of argument in the two traditions is recognized by the Continentals too.This recognition comes out in the counteraccusation frequently heard: that AP is a new scholasticism, where the concern for technique overwhelms the very problems that the techniques had originally been designed to solve.An adequate characterization of the

his writings

1 As David Cooper says, ‘‘The continent, for our purposes, is not a place, but a tendency’’ (Cooper 1994, 2).Bernard Williams has suggested that the very terms in which the distinction is drawn are ‘‘absurd.’’ Because one term refers to geography and the other to method, they involve ‘‘a strange cross-classification – rather as though one divided cars into front-wheel drives and Japanese’’ (Williams 1996, 25).

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differences between the two traditions will allow us to account for both these accusations.

I said there were two issues at work in my original quotation from

Williams, and for that matter in the letter to the Times as well.The first issue concerned the place of argument.The second, more promising, places the burden of differentiating the two traditions on style in a broader sense.It has often been noted that CP is more ‘‘literary’’ than is AP; perhaps that is all the difference consists in.This approach would have the advantage of supplying us with the means to account for the

apparent lack of arguments in CP.Sometimes, we might conclude, this school lets its concern for style override its concern for ideas, allowing the coloring of sentences to take precedence over their clarity. Of course, there are important stylistic differences between the two tendencies, but if that were all the difference amounted to, the difficulty in bringing the two schools into dialogue with each other would be inexplicable. Merely stylistic differences are superficial, and such surface differences ought to yield relatively easily. Perhaps we might try to account for the difference simply in terms of historical origins and reference points.Indeed, there is no doubt that an immediately striking difference between the two involves the standard thinkers that each refers to.If an article cites, on the one hand, Frege, Russell, Quine or Davidson and, or on the other, Husserl Heidegger, Derrida or Gadamer, it is usually clear which tradition the work is in.But more than this needs to be said.Noting this fact simply pushes the question back one step: it is now in order to ask in what the differences between these thinkers consist.

If the differences cannot be characterized solely in terms of the place of

argument or of style, what of content? David Cooper has made a persuasive case for the difference lying on this level.Cooper claims that

three themes ‘‘run through the writings of the most influential continental


they are ‘‘cultural critique, concern with the background conditions of

enquiry and

which have no similar prominence in the analytical tradition’’;

‘the fall of the self’’’ (Cooper 1994, 4).

I agree with Cooper that these themes are of special concern for the

Continental tradition, but I doubt they can serve as criteria to distinguish analytic from Continental philosophy.Cultural critique is a necessary concern of all political and social philosophers; to say that it is characteristic of CP is just to say (rightly) that political and social philosophy are more important in the Continental tradition than in the analytic.This, in turn, is at least in part the result of the relative lack of specialization by Continental philosophers, among whom the myriad subdisciplines into which AP divides itself (ethics and metaethics, philosophy of mind, of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and so on) are relatively unknown.Because Continental philosophers are not engaged in specialized subdisciplines, they do not partition the potential

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ethical and political implications of their work off from its other aspects. They thus engage in cultural critique at the same time as they develop their philosophy of language, or whatever else they happen to be working on. 2 To explain this phenomenon, then, requires the prior explanation of, on the one hand, the presence and, on the other, the relative lack of such subdisciplines. The relative lack of specialization also goes some way to explaining Cooper’s second theme, the ‘‘concern with the background conditions of enquiry.’’ Because Continental philosophers typically tend to be politically engaged, they are more interested in the political stakes and conditions of knowledge, and thus in laying bare the nonrational factors that condition knowledge.This feature of CP is one with which many analytic philosophers are especially impatient, since they see in it a confusion of the context of discovery with the context of justification, or

a commission of the genetic fallacy.Nevertheless, it is not an approach

shared by all Continental thinkers, or only by Continental thinkers.I think much the same could be said of Cooper’s third theme – Parfit shows as great a delight in dismantling our common-sense picture of the subject as does any poststructuralist. More fruitful, I suspect, is another suggestion of Cooper’s: that ‘‘anti- scientism’’ characterizes Continental thought (Cooper 1994, 10).Con- tinental thinkers have often objected to the hegemony of science in

modern culture, insisting that it represents neither the only kind of knowledge nor even the most basic kind.Instead, they have tended to hold that scientific knowledge is secondary or derivative: derived, that is, from our more primordial existence in the Lebenswelt.This has been a theme common to Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas, and

it reappears – though much transformed – in Lyotard and Foucault.In

contrast, and as Cooper notes, ‘‘analytical philosophy has generally proved more friendly and sympathetic to science’’ (10). I said that I thought this suggestion was a fruitful one.I do not believe, however, that it is sufficient to serve as a criterion to distinguish between

analytic and Continental philosophy – not unless we classify John McDowell as a Continental.Moreover, I find Cooper’s ‘‘explanation’’ for the contrast unhelpful.Cooper argues that, although both traditions took linguistic turns, AP turned toward a systematic explanation of language, which is conducive to a scientific approach, whereas CP turned instead toward a conception of language that cannot be made systematic, since it holds that language exists only as embodied in linguistic practices (Cooper 1994, 13–15).But if these turns are indeed characteristic of our two traditions, they are part of the data to be explained, not the

2 As Vincent Descombes says, the tracing of its political implications is regarded as the

‘‘decisive test, disclosing

apolitical the content of that thought might seem to be (Descombes 1980, 7).


definitive meaning of a mode of thought’’ – no matter how

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explanation.This line of thought is promising, but it awaits further development. Much the same can be said for Simon Critchley’s position.Critchley contends that the essential difference lies in the two traditions’ attitudes to history.CP, he argues, approaches its problems ‘‘textually and contextually’’; it holds that ‘‘philosophical problems do not fall from the sky ready-made and cannot be treated as elements in some ahistorical fantasy of philosophia perennis’’ (Critchley 1997, 353–54).Because there are no such things as the eternal problems of philosophy – no problem of universals, for example, which might be traced from Aristotle to Armstrong – problems can only be approached in their historical context.Thus, the history of philosophy is almost isomorphic with philosophy sans phrase for the Continental philosopher.For her, the notion that there are such perennial problems is hopelessly naı¨ve. This, too, is a promising suggestion, one that captures much that is characteristic of the Continental approach.I suspect, however, that it too cannot serve as a necessary and sufficient condition to define the Continental (John McDowell would once again serve as a counter- example).More important, it leaves the differing attitudes of the two traditions toward history unexplained.This too is an explanandum, not an explanation. Let me now consider, finally, one of the best-known attempts to characterize analytic philosophy, that of Michael Dummett.Dummett argues that analytic philosophy is defined by its concern with language:

What distinguishes analytical philosophy, in its diverse manifestations, from other schools is the belief, first, that a philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language, and, secondly, that a comprehensive account can only be so attained.(Dummett 1993, 4)

Now, I doubt neither that Dummett’s characterization accurately reflects certain tendencies in AP nor that this tendency is central to the self-image of the school.But this concern with language that he finds definitive of the school is in fact neither necessary nor sufficient.It is not sufficient because the concern for language is shared with many, perhaps most, Continental philosophers, at least some of whom share the conviction that thought is reached only via language.Derrida’s obsession with the limits of language, for example, is a consequence of his conviction that they are the limits of thought.And the concern with language is not necessary because a number of philosophers who are indisputably analytic are little concerned with language: Rawls, for example, and most of political philosophy – or, if political philosophy is felt to be too peripheral, we could point to the relatively small role that linguistic analysis plays in contemporary metaethics, where its importance has decreased over the past decades.

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Another aspect of my disagreement with Dummett’s views is concerned with his implicit characterization of CP.Throughout Origins Dummett talks of ‘‘the phenomenological school’’ (1993, ix, 26).Now, I suspect that there is no such school.Or at least if there is such a school, it is very far from being isomorphic with CP.Husserl was and is an important figure in CP, and a training in phenomenology is considered important in Europe.But it is hard to find even a trace of Husserl’s influence in Foucault or the mature Lyotard (despite Lyotard’s having written an introduction to phenomenology).Even in the mature work of many figures who stem from the phenomenological tradition – Levinas comes to mind – few of Husserl’s methods and concepts find a place. I think, in fact, that CP does not form a school, and that this fact is of more than marginal importance.CP is not an ongoing research program, in the sense in which AP takes itself to be.Account for this difference, and I think we have the explanation we seek.

Accounting for the Differences

It would be possible to go on multiplying the cliche´s concerning AP and CP.I suggest, though, that we would continue to fail to locate any necessary and sufficient conditions definitive of the two traditions.To be sure, we might be able to isolate sufficient conditions.We might, that is, think that our list of cliche´s, perhaps supplemented by others, would serve as a set of characteristics, the possession of a sufficient number of which would allow us to classify a philosopher into her correct category. Though this may well be the case, it nevertheless falls far short of an explanation of the differences. What, then, could explain the division? I suggested earlier that the attitude of each tradition toward science, though not by itself definitive of it, would be a promising starting point.For AP, we noted, science occupies a central position.This is true with regard both to its subject matter – AP is more often realist, even reductively materialist 3 – and to its style.AP, in Pascal Engel’s words, ‘‘mimics the scientific style of inquiry, which proposes hypotheses and theories, tests them in the light of data, and aims at widespread discussion and control by the peers’’ (Engel 1999, 222).In contrast, CP is closer to the humanistic disciplines and to literature and art.Once again, this is the case with regard both to content and to form.Derrida’s infuriatingly ‘‘literary’’ style has already been remarked upon; as regards content, a list of books by major Continental philosophers that focus on art and artists would include:

3 This is not to say that all work in AP is realist.This is far from being the case. Nevertheless, AP has a realist orientation.We might best express this by saying that the consensus in AP is that the burden of proof is on those who would deny realism.If anything, the burden of proof in CP is on those who would uphold it.

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What Is Literature? (Sartre) Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (Deleuze and Guattari) This Is Not a Pipe (Foucault) Signe´ Malraux (Lyotard) The Truth in Painting (Derrida)

The list could very easily be extended.It is, to be sure, a very French list, and I suspect that this emphasis on art and literature is more pronounced on the French side of the Rhine.Nevertheless, important strands of German philosophy have been similarly concerned with art – witness Heidegger’s preoccupation with Ho¨lderlin, Trakl, and George, as well as his famous ‘‘On the Origin of the Work of Art,’’ or the idea propagated by the Frankfurt School that only the avant-garde artwork can resist commodification.

I suspect that this contrasting emphasis runs deeper than most

philosophers have realized, and that the place of science in the two

traditions is the most important element in any explanation of their differences.I think, though, it is not the contrasting objects of AP and CP that are central here but the formal analogy it is possible to construct between, on the one hand, AP and the physical sciences and, on the other, CP and the arts.Analytic aesthetics is, after all, still analytic.It is therefore to the formal analogy that I now turn.

I propose to develop this analogy by comparing AP, as a self-

reproducing discipline, to the image of science we find in Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.In Kuhn’s text we shall find not only many of the characteristic features of AP repeated in his description of science but also the tools we need to explain those characteristics. My suggestion is this: AP has successfully modeled itself on the physical sciences.Work in it is thus guided by paradigms that function in the way Kuhn sketches, and the discipline is reproduced in something akin to the way in which the sciences are reproduced.CP has a quite different approach to its subject matter, a quite different model of what philosophy is, which guides its characteristic concerns and shapes its methods.

Analytic Philosophy as Normal Science

The evidence for this claim rests upon the number of features of AP that Kuhn’s model explains.I shall give a brief account of ‘‘normal science,’’ following Kuhn, and then turn to the parallels between it and AP. Normal science is a research program that is guided by a paradigm. Paradigms are ‘‘universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners’’ (Kuhn 1970, viii).It is the common acceptance of a paradigm, Kuhn argues, that accounts for the rapid progress made by

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mature sciences.Two features of paradigms explain this rapidity. Acceptance of a paradigm is simultaneously the acceptance of an ontology and a methodology.It thus puts an end to debate about such fundamentals.This has the result of allowing scientists to concentrate their attention on problems rather than methodology.Just as important, it changes the character of that attention itself:

In the absence of a paradigm or some candidate for a paradigm, all the facts that could possibly pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant.As a result, early fact-gathering is a far more nearly random activity than the one that subsequent scientific development makes familiar.Furthermore, in the absence of a reason for seeking some particular form of more recondite information, early fact-gathering is usually restricted to the wealth of data that lie ready to hand.(Kuhn 1970, 15)

The second important feature of paradigms concerns the kind of problems they delineate.A paradigm dramatically narrows the field of possible problems.The postparadigm scientist is concerned only with those problems that are sufficiently similar to those the paradigm has already successfully solved.As a result, science is transformed into a puzzle-solving activity.These two factors – the one focusing the attention of the scientist upon problems and away from fundamentals, the other restricting the scope of problems and transforming them into puzzles – explain the appearance of swift progress that characterizes postparadigm science.This progress is exactly what one should expect from an activity whose practitioners ‘‘concentrate on problems that only their own lack of ingenuity should keep them from solving’’ (Kuhn 1970, 37). Once scientists have a relatively clear standard to which to refer in judging relevance, once their field of vision is narrowed by a shared paradigm, they are enabled to achieve in-depth, rather than broad, knowledge of nature.Prior to the establishment of a paradigm, scientists work upon whatever features of the natural world seem most interesting, or upon whatever seems related to practical matters, whereas acceptance of a paradigm enables scientists to perform painstaking research upon arcane and obscure features of reality, features that would not even have come to light without the work the paradigm permitted: ‘‘The confidence that they were on the right track encouraged scientists to undertake more precise, esoteric, and consuming sorts of work’’ (Kuhn 1970, 18). The acceptance of a paradigm has one significant drawback, however – or at least what seems at first sight to be a drawback.That is, the paradigm encourages the suppression of novelty.Novelties are suppressed for two convergent reasons.On the one hand, they ‘‘are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments’’ (Kuhn 1970, 5).Since no place can be found for them within the paradigm, acceptance of novelties is rejection of the paradigm.But the scientist cannot reject the paradigm, unless it is to move to an alternative paradigm, on pain of

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ceasing to be a scientist.She is, therefore, bound to suppress the isolated novelty.In fact, very often she will simply fail to notice it altogether:

‘‘Novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation.Initially, only the anticipated and usual are experienced even under circumstances where anomaly is later to be observed’’ (Kuhn 1970, 64).Moreover – and here we move to the second reason for the suppression of novelty – when anomaly is observed, the scientist is committed to believing that further research within the paradigm will succeed in explaining it.That, ultimately, is what acceptance of a paradigm amounts to: commitment to the belief that the paradigm will be able to account for all the features of the realm to which it applies. As is well known, this last feature of paradigms is the most controversial, and it leads to Kuhn’s difficulties with explaining paradigm change.It is not this feature that concerns me here, however, but the parallels between the practice of AP and Kuhn’s picture of normal science. AP, I suggest, is the philosophy built upon acceptance of the work of Frege and Russell as a paradigm.Reassess the features of AP in the light of this suggestion, and all those features we noted suddenly fall into place.AP is, as we have seen, essentially a problem-solving activity:

indeed, it is this feature of their work that its defenders are most proud of:

is problemarm.‘‘Ask me what I’m working on, and

I’ll reply with the name of a problem,’’ the Analytical Philosopher will proudly say, ‘‘ask them, and they’ll reply with a proper name.’’ (Mulligan 1991, 115)

Continental philosophy

[Analytic philosophy] aims to solve particular problems, puzzles and paradoxes, and to build theories in answer to them.It prefers to work upon details and particular analyses, rather than to produce general syntheses. (Engel 1999, 222)

I am suggesting that the difference noted here is genuine, and that it stems from AP’s being (something akin to) a normal science. If I am right, and AP is a problem-solving activity, we should expect precisely that proliferation of subdisciplines which characterizes the discipline.Normal scientists need precisely delineated puzzles upon which to exercise their skills.Accordingly, the analytic philosopher cannot address herself to the meaning of life, or to discovering the good life. Instead, she focuses on cognitivism versus noncognitivism, or refining the utilitarian calculus, or the mind-brain identity question, and so on. Of course, to the extent that these are her problems, the work of Russell and Frege will be relatively unhelpful to her.That paradigm cannot inform her work as directly as it does that of a logician, or a philosopher of language.Instead, she will be guided in her subdiscipline by what Kuhn calls an exemplar.Exemplars are ‘‘concrete problem-

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solutions’’ (Kuhn 1970, 187).Unlike paradigms, however, exemplars need not be shared by the scientific community as a whole.Instead, each subdiscipline may possess its own – albeit partially overlapping – set.It is the differences between sets of exemplars that, more than anything else, ‘‘provide the community fine-structure of science’’ (187).All physicists, for example, share a large number of symbolic generalizations, as well as a number of exemplars.As their training develops and the young physicist specializes in one or other branch of the science, ‘‘the symbolic generalizations they share are increasingly illustrated by different exemplars’’ (187). In the same way, I suggest, the metaethicist and the logician, the philosopher of language and the philosopher of mind, possess a set of shared and a number of divergent exemplars.All may have had the distinction between sense and reference impressed upon them, but Kripke’s and Putnam’s extensions of this work will matter much more to some of them than to others.These others might find their major exemplar in the new riddle of induction, for example, or in A Theory of Justice. When a body of knowledge makes the transition to becoming a science, we can predict on the basis of Kuhn’s work that not only the substance of its research but even the manner of its presentation will undergo important changes.As a result of the acceptance of a normal scientific paradigm, the scientist’s ‘‘research communique´s’’ begin to change:



anyone who might be interested in the subject matter of the field.Instead they will usually appear as brief articles addressed only to professional colleagues, the men whose knowledge of a shared paradigm can be assumed and who prove to be the only ones able to read the papers addressed to them.(Kuhn 1970, 20)

Once a paradigm is accepted, the scientist can simply assume it: she does not have to rehearse previous findings, nor need she defend much of her methodology.Moreover, the kind of puzzle she will typically be addressing will be relatively discrete.It will lend itself to treatment in a few – albeit dense – pages. As these remarks would lead us to expect, AP and CP present their research in differing forms.As Kevin Mulligan notes, ‘‘The book, not the paper, is the preferred philosophical genre on the continent’’ (Mulligan 1991, 116).It is easy to think of important philosophers in the analytic tradition whose reputation rests on journal articles alone, or whose books

No longer will his researches usually be embodied in books addressed

4 The way in which A Theory of Justice revitalized political philosophy is an especially striking instance of the way in which AP requires an exemplar to stimulate research in its subdisciplines.Prior to its publication, political philosophy had been moribund, a result of the difficulty in transferring the analytic paradigm to the political and social arenas.

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tend to consist of collections of previously published articles – Frank Ramsey, Bernard Williams, and Donald Davidson spring to mind. Gettier would be an extreme example.In CP, by contrast, considerable reputations always rest upon considerable books. I have so far been explicating the features of AP in terms of its being a paradigm-guided activity.CP has been characterized only insofar as it has emerged from the discussion as the mirror image of AP.I now turn to

a more direct characterization of it. There is an ambiguity in Kuhn’s work with regard to practices that aim at knowledge acquisition but are not normal sciences.Sometimes Kuhn suggests that they are carried out in the absence of paradigms (1970, 11); at others he suggests that they have their own kind of paradigm, of a character different from that possessed by the sciences (179).Whether the practitioners of these alternatives ways of seeking knowledge should be regarded as being in possession of a paradigm or not, it is clear that they do not agree on fundamentals to anything like the same extent that the practitioners of ‘‘normal’’ science do.They do not share a sense of which problems are important and tractable and which not.Thus, they must justify their choice of problems, their methods of approach, even their ontology, as well as putting forward solutions to those problems.This is one reason they more frequently produce monographs than do scientists – able to take much less for granted, they have to build their field from the ground up. Since this is precisely the situation of the Continental philosopher, work in CP proceeds in much the same manner as did work in physical optics prior to Newton: ‘‘Being able to take no common body of belief for granted, each writer on physical optics felt forced to build his field anew from its foundations’’ (Kuhn 1970, 13).In the absence of a paradigm, we do not get the segmentation of the field of knowledge we find in normal science, paralleled by the many subdisciplines of AP. Instead, we get fragmentation: the division of the discipline into rival schools.This is characteristic of preparadigm science (12), and it is, I have argued, characteristic of CP.That is why it is misleading to speak, as Dummett does, of ‘‘the phenomenological school.’’ There is no such school, if by that is meant an entity which would be isomorphic with the extension of the concept CP.

Explaining the Explanation

That, then, is my suggested explanation of the differences between AP

and CP.The first took, not the linguistic turn – for that it shares with CP

– but the paradigmatic turn, and it modeled itself on normal science.It

therefore turned itself into a number of highly specialized, technical disciplines.The second did not take that turn, and it instead remained a

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more ‘‘literary’’ genre: more accessible, more concerned with practical matters, and more historically orientated. This, as it stands, has the virtue of accounting for a number of the characteristic features of both AP and CP, but is not yet a fully satisfying explanation.To achieve that, we need to go further, and explain why AP took the paradigmatic turn, whereas CP did not.I confess that I do not have a full explanation.But I do have one suggestion that will be part of it.This explanation is sociological. The fact that CP is characteristically advanced in the form of books that are relatively accessible (if only in the sense that they have the room to explain their specialized terminology), while AP is advanced in the form of journal articles that are generally comprehensible only to other specialists, is explained by the differences in the audiences to whom Continental and analytic philosophers typically address themselves.As normal scientists, analytic philosophers address themselves to fellow specialists.But Continental philosophers commonly address themselves to the educated public at large.This is no doubt due, in important part, to the fact that philosophy is taught in high schools across Europe.An unexpected consequence of this expansion of the potential audience of philosophical texts is the relatively small part played in CP by detailed research upon esoteric questions, as opposed to more wide-ranging speculation.The analytic philosopher addresses specialists she knows will share her technical vocabulary and her sense of what problems she ought to be concerned with.The Continental philosopher addresses an educated layperson she knows will possess at least an outline knowledge of the history of Western thought. That, I suspect, is part of the reason for CP’s frequently noted historical sense.In the absence of a shared paradigm, of a shared set of problems and exemplary problem solutions, it is the history of philosophy that binds CP together.It is the element shared by philosopher and philosopher, philosopher and audience. But history also plays a more positive role in CP.It does not simply provide the unifying force; it is also the horizon within which all problems are understood.For the Continental philosopher, the delineation by AP of the perennial problems of philosophy is hopelessly naı¨ve: it is absurd, for example, to treat Aristotle on akrasia as a response to the same set of questions Donald Davidson addresses in his work in the philosophy of action. The explanation for this emphasis on history is, once again, to be found in educational practices.And on this contrast Kuhn is illuminating once again.His holism would, I suspect, lead him to side on this question with CP: just as the Newtonian concepts of space, time, and mass only partially overlap with their Einsteinian counterparts – since concepts get their meaning from their place in a network – so, I suspect, for Kuhn Aristotelian akrasia and Davidsonian weakness of the will are only

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partially overlapping concepts. 5 Why, then, does AP persist in treating the history of philosophy essentially as a set of attempts to solve its problems? Kuhn suggests that the parallel tendency in science is the result of a retrospective illusion, caused by the manner in which science is taught. He sketches an illuminating contrast between the way in which scientists are initiated into their community and the way education is conducted in other fields.In the humanities, Kuhn suggests, students are typically taught, at least in important part, by way of exposure to the original texts of a variety of authors from a variety of historical periods.They are not, therefore, led to adopt one paradigm, one set of canonical puzzles as the problems of their field, nor (typically) are they under pressure to adopt one set of methods or one approach to tackle these problems.Instead the student is confronted with a wide variety of problems, drawn from the entire history of the discipline, and ‘‘has constantly before him a number of competing and incommensurable solutions to tackle these problems, solutions that he must ultimately evaluate for himself’’ (1970, 165). When this approach characterizes philosophical education, we can expect its students to be historically oriented, to disagree among themselves as to what the most fundamental problems of philosophy are, and therefore to turn to history itself and to its study to unify their discipline.They will be acutely aware of historical differences and alive to the subtleties that characterize the approach of individual philosophers. Ask them what they are working on, and, as Mulligan remarks, they will frequently reply with a proper name: Husserl, Hegel, Aristotle. 6 But this is not the kind of approach to education we find in the natural sciences.Instead, education there takes place largely through the textbook, not the reading of the original texts of great scientists.And textbooks, Kuhn says, are inevitably ‘‘systematically misleading’’ about the history of the sciences (1970, 137); they

refer only to that part of the work of past scientists that can easily be viewed as contributions to the statement and solution of the texts’ paradigm problems. Partly by selection and partly by distortion, the scientists of an earlier age are implicitly represented as having worked upon the same set of fixed problems and in accordance with the same set of fixed canons that the most recent revolution in scientific theory and method has made seem scientific.(138)

5 This is even clearer with regard to Aristotelian virtue as contrasted to the virtue of the virtue ethicists: kindness, as has often been pointed out, has no place in the Aristotelian view.Notice, too, that here the many techniques which AP has evolved to limit or eliminate Kuhnian incommensurability hardly get a grip at all.For the causal theory of reference to come into play, for example, we would need to be sure that we were referring to entities or phenomena that exist independently of our views and attitudes toward them – which is at least not obviously the case with regard to human virtues and weaknesses.

6 Thus Critchley has things exactly backwards in his characterization of CP: CP is not antiscientistic because it is so historical; it is historical because it is antiscientistic (though no doubt the tendencies are mutually reinforcing).

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A complete and accurate representation of the history of the sciences runs

counter to the aims of scientific education.The educational institution aims to initiate the student into the scientific community.It seeks to lead the student to share the reactions and dispositions of that community, to, as Kuhn puts it, view ‘‘the situations that confront him as a scientist in the same gestalt as other member of his specialists’ group’’ (189).This goal is most efficiently achieved when the student is able to trust her teachers; when, that is, she has no doubt that the approach they are imparting is uniquely definitive of science.To expose that student to a variety of other approaches to science, then, to other and rival sets of puzzles and interpretations of nature, is not simply functionless but might actually serve to undermine the aims of scientific education.The textbook, therefore, teaches little history, and what history it does mention is simply the story of how scientists came to free themselves from error and superstition on their way to building the viewpoint of normal science. I suggest that the approach to philosophical education which is characteristic of AP is closer to this model than is the approach in CP. Once again, I speak of tendencies; naturally the student of philosophy

can never be educated by way of textbooks to anything like the same extent that the young scientist can be.Nevertheless, the tendency is clear. Students of metaethics are regularly presented with just two or three pages of Hume, for example.Once we have read that ‘‘reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions,’’ we have located his work as a contribution to the articulation of a canonical problem – that of the relation between the motivational and the cognitive aspects of morality.

It goes without saying that this reckless disregard for the historical and

cultural context of ideas is anathema to CP.

Assessing the Traditions

If this characterization of the differences between AP and CP is right, or

nearly so, it inevitably confronts us with the question as to which is the better way of doing philosophy.The balance sheet is mixed. Of course, as the application of a Kuhnian framework would suggest, we are faced with the difficulty that the two traditions are unlikely to agree on standards of evaluation.Instead, each is likely to possess its own set of standards, standards by which it will do well while its opponents score badly.We need, so far as possible, to find standards that are not question-begging. One such standard immediately suggests itself.If my description is correct, we should expect AP to be capable of progress.As a normal science, it should be able to make rapid progress on the problems it sets itself.Perhaps this should be counted as a point in its favor, but we need to be careful here.While it may indeed be the case that AP – and only

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AP – progresses, that is simply to be expected: progress and the acceptance of a normal scientific paradigm are correlative notions.Not to make progress within a discipline defined in relation to such a paradigm is to fail, but outside such a discipline the notion of progress simply has no application.As Kuhn himself notes, this kind of pattern is ‘‘not unfamiliar in a number of creative fields today, nor is it incompatible with significant discovery and invention’’ (1970, 13). On the other hand, if Kuhn’s description of the systematically misleading way in which history is represented in normal science is accurate, we should expect CP to have a clear advantage when it comes to the history of philosophy (and probably the philosophy of history as well).I suggest that this is indeed the case.Even such a defender of AP as Kevin Mulligan (for whom CP is ‘‘is inherently obscure and obscurantist, often closer to the genre of literature than to that of philosophy; it is devoid of arguments, distinctions, examples and analysis; it is problem- arm’’ [1991, 115]) finds analytic history of philosophy characteristically marred by the failure to understand the context in which ideas were developed (116).Though Mulligan wouldn’t concede it, it is also possible to believe that there is more than a little truth to the Continental philosopher’s claim that the lack of historical sense in AP renders the treatment of at least some of its problems superficial. Another point in CP’s favor concerns the ability of the latter to address practical questions.There is, I suspect, a trade-off at work here, a trade-off whose existence we might have deduced from Kuhn’s text.The adoption of a normal scientific paradigm has as a consequence a greatly increased specialization of science: a much greater concentration on a much smaller area.As a result, science becomes increasingly divorced from the day-to-day concerns of non-scientists.‘‘Frequently volution narrows the scope of the community’s professional concerns, increases the extent of its specialization, and attenuates its communica- tion with other groups, both scientific and lay’’ (1970, 170).With the acquisition of a paradigm, AP acquired a set of relatively well-delineated problems or puzzles, upon which it was able to focus almost all its attention and thus to make great progress in solving them.As a result, however, it came – rightly, in my view – to be seen as less and less relevant to the kinds of pressing questions that often drive people to philosophy in the first place. 7


7 To the extent that analytic philosophers do address practical questions – engaging in what they call applied ethics, for instance – they risk finding themselves in the position of the scientist who writes books: ‘‘More likely to find his professional reputation impaired than enhanced’’ (Kuhn 1970, 20).There is something of a paradox here.Applied ethics is paradigm AP, in as much as it is one more relatively well-defined subdiscipline.Yet the philosophers who engage in it are looked down on by others in AP.No such problem arises for those working in CP, who tend to engage with practical questions as part of larger projects.

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In CP, this situation is reversed: it addresses questions of greater relevance with a much greater frequency than does AP, but does so in a way that is – from the perspective of AP – rather shallow.I suggest that there is, in fact, a trade-off between relevance and depth, at least depth of the normal scientific kind.(Of course, what I am indicating here is only a tendency. Philosophy cannot follow the normal sciences and leave its own foundations unexamined; not, at least, without ceasing to be philosophy.For the same reasons, it cannot abandon the examination of the fundamental questions that draw people toward it.What I am suggesting is that AP tends to channel its students away from those questions, and in the direction of detailed work on its puzzles, to a greater extent than does CP.) Thus far, the scales seem finely balanced.AP can legitimately claim to make progress, but only because it has set itself a relatively tractable set of problems to deal with.If AP can claim greater depth and rigor, CP can claim greater social relevance.And CP can claim a decisive edge when it comes to writing the history of philosophy.If anything, it is CP that seems to have the advantage.At this point, however, I would like to register a concern with regard to CP.Since understanding that concern requires understanding what I take its aim to be, I turn now to sketching that aim. To characterize the contrasting goals of AP and CP, it is helpful to see them as alternative responses to cultural modernism.A few landmarks in the genesis of AP (their dates alone are suggestive):

Begriffsschrift (1879)


‘‘U ber Sinn und Bedeutung’’ (1892) ‘‘The Refutation of Idealism’’ (1903) ‘‘On Denoting’’ (1905) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922)

These are, it goes without saying, the years of the flowering of modernism in the arts, the years of Mallarme´ and Eliot, Picasso and Joyce.These are also the years in which the seminal texts of CP are written:

On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) Logical Investigations (1900) Ideas (1913) Being and Time (1927) The Transcendence of the Ego (1937)

My – tentative – speculation is this: modernity is characterized by two competing impulses, which find expression most distinctly in the natural sciences, on the one hand, and in modern (nonrepresentational) art on the other.In the one, research is an essentially cumulative enterprise, and, when revolutions disrupt its continuous progress, it rewrites its own history so as to represent even the revolutions as a particularly fruitful part of the continuum.In the other, novelty and revolution are actively

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sought, not suppressed.The most able painter hopes, not to perfect an already existing style, but to produce his or her own.As has often been noted, continuous revolution is characteristic of the avant-garde.This, I suspect, is not because it is looking for something that it has not yet been able to find but because revolution is its very goal. I suggest, therefore, that CP models itself on modernist art, just as AP models itself on modern science.Hence the dizzying succession of revolutions in philosophy that characterize its progress: phenomenology, existentialism, Marxism, structuralism, poststructuralism, nouveau phi- losophie, each attempting, not to build on its predecessors, but to replace them. Hence, too, what I take the goal of CP to be.The avant-garde artist, I suspect, typically has the goal of leading us to see the world anew, from a different perspective.Hence the constant need to revolutionize in art, to overthrow ways of perceiving before they become sedimented into habitual dispositions.Something like this is, I suspect, the goal of the Continental philosopher.Hence her constant urge to begin again, to question the foundations of philosophical systems, particularly of those systems that, she believes, shape the common-sense and everyday perception of her entire culture.Thus the problem of social transformation is the constant horizon of her work.This demand that philosophy innovate, that it allow us to think anew, is captured by Foucault’s definition:

if it is not the critical work that thought brings to

bear on itself ? In what does it consist, if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently? (Foucault

What is philosophy today

1986, 8–9)

It is this conception of philosophy to which Lyotard subscribes when he defines the most important task of the philosopher as being the search for new vocabularies to express as yet unrepresented experiences.Equally, it is this conception that is at stake in Deleuze and Guattari’s recent definition of philosophy not as the analysis but as the invention of concepts.As a definition of philosophy in general, I suspect this fails hopelessly.As a definition of CP, however, it may be spot on.New concepts enable us to see the world anew, through eyes rejuvenated by the revolutionary philosopher. 8

8 This description of the goals of philosophy will, no doubt, put one in mind of Richard Rorty.For Rorty, too, the aim of philosophy is to invent new vocabularies so as to enable us to play new language games; not to solve puzzles so much as to invent new ones.It is no

coincidence that Rorty, like the Continentals he often appropriates for his own ends, also sees philosophy as essentially a kind of writing.For him, AP is essentially ‘‘the same sort of

discipline as we find in the other ‘humanities’ departments

normal form of life in the

humanities is the same as that in the arts and in belles-lettres; a genius does something new and interesting and persuasive, and his or her admirers begin to form a school or movement’’ (Rorty 1982, 217–18).It is because this is Rorty’s conception of philosophy that

he is so widely regarded as an apostate by analytic philosophers.


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Thus, whereas AP sets itself the goal of solving its relatively well- delineated problems, CP glories in the fact that it will not define its pro- blems in advance.To do so would be to foreclose too many possibilities, to prevent the thinking of the radically new. I can now sketch my worry.Normal science, as we have seen, does not seek novelty.Indeed, it will often actually suppress it, until it becomes too insistent to be ignored any longer.Nevertheless, and for that very reason, it is, Kuhn claims, peculiarly ‘‘effective in causing them to arise’’ (1970, 64).For, just as Davidson showed that disagreement emerges only against a background of agreement, so novelty only emerges with clarity against the background of the expected:

Novelty ordinarily emerges only for the man who, knowing with precision what he should expect, is able to recognize that something has gone wrong. Anomaly appears only against the background provided by the paradigm.The more precise and far-reaching that paradigm is, the more sensitive an indicator it provides of anomaly and hence of an occasion for paradigm change.(Kuhn 1970, 65)

My worry, therefore, is that CP’s very insistence on always being open to the radically other might prevent it from recognizing instances of the alterity it seeks.Seeking alterity everywhere, it might fail to see where it appears most massively.One must have expectations for them to be disappointed.Or, to use Kuhn’s language, one must have a paradigm in order to experience its revolutionary overthrow.I see no way to steer a middle course here, and no way to sublate the opposition either.It seems that either our philosophy will seek novelty, and risk never being able to see it, or it will work to suppress it (and perhaps grasp it all the more clearly for that). Whether or not CP does suffer from this fault, the fact that we have identified strengths and weaknesses in both styles of philosophy suggests an obvious course for philosophy to follow in the future.We could hope to combine the strengths of each: to forge a kind of philosophy with the historical awareness of CP and the rigor of AP.Is such a philosophy possible? Kuhn’s work implies that it is not: ‘‘The depreciation of historical fact is deeply, and probably functionally, ingrained in the ideology of the scientific professions’’ (138). If a student is educated historically, if she is exposed to a history that is not systematically misrepresented, she will not become a normal scientist or an analytic philosopher.If she is to become one, she must acquire the appropriate dispositions.In particular, she needs to learn see her field in the appropriate way, learning to see her problems ‘‘in the same gestalt’’ as other members of her discipline (189).She must learn ‘‘to group objects and situations into similarity sets’’ (200).Now, acquiring this ability to see her field in the appropriate manner requires immersion in its world. The student must be constantly exposed to exemplars of the kind of

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seeing into which she is being initiated.Thus, the kind of education required to turn out normal scientists is antithetical to the kind of education required to turn out people with a sense of history.To achieve the first, we expose the student to examples of the appropriate kind of procedure, until she comes to share the intuitions of the group.Exposure to alternative methods, to other ways of seeing the world, would here be counterproductive.But to produce students with a historical sense, we deliberately expose them to as wide a variety of ways of proceeding as possible, inviting them to enter the thought styles of each.In this kind of education the student ‘‘has constantly before him a number of competing and incommensurable solutions to these problems, solutions that he must ultimately evaluate for himself’’ (165).Educating students in this way is bound to produce thinkers who disagree among themselves, who share not a paradigm but only a set of texts. If this is correct, we have little reason to be optimistic that AP and CP could overcome their differences and produce a new way of doing philosophy that would combine the strengths of both.But we can nevertheless hope that the situation is not as bleak as this application of Kuhn’s work to it suggests.There may yet be a way to steer between this particular Scylla and Charybdis.What the details of this middle way might be, I do not know, but we can point to the increasing signs of a historical consciousness among analytic philosophers – evidenced by the recent work of John McDowell and of Hilary Putnam, and the return to Aristotle among analytic ethicists, for example – as a sign that it is possible.

Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Department of Philosophy University of Melbourne Parkville, Vic 3010 Australia


I would like to thank Armen Marsoobian and an anonymous reviewer for Metaphilosophy for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article


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