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Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 22. Februar 2001

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Simon Critchley's Very Short Introduction shows that Continental philosophy encompasses a distinct set of philosophical traditions and practices, with a compelling range of problems all too often ignored by the analytic tradition. He discusses the ideas and approaches of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Habermas, Foucault, and Derrida, and introduces key concepts such as existentialism, nihilism, and phenomenology by explaining their place in the Continental tradition.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Simon Critchley is Reader in Philosophy at Essex and Directeur de Programme at the College International de Philosophie, Paris. He is author of The Ethics of Deconstruction (Blackwell, 1992), Very Little Almost Nothing (Routledge, 1997), and Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity (Verso, 1998), and has also edited a number of collections, including the Blackwell Companion to Continental Philosophy.

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Yet Another Good Example from the VSI Series 10. November 2003
Von Allen Morgan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
In "Continental Philosophy", the author, Simon Critchely, briefly reviews the two competing/antagonistic main streams - so-called "analytic" and "Continental" -- of Anglo-European-American philosophy of the last 250+ years. This slim volume (like all of the VSI volumes I've read -- about 7-8) is a good, clear and well written introduction to a very interesting topic, but, in this case, just not exactly the one intimated in the title. One needs to already know a bit about each stream of thought in order to get the full value of the book, and so a better title might be "Introduction to the Analytic/Continental Philosophical Dispute". But this is a quibble.
The story begins with Kant (or, more accurately, Kant's response to Hume's sceptism). Kant, a pivotal figure in Western philosophy, sought to demonstrate the limits of 'pure' reason as a basis for our scientific knowledge about the world (which, he argued, depends on pre-analytic categories such as time and space). Kant later attempted to provide a rational basis for other areas of philosophical concern - previously and primarily justified on the basis of religion -- e.g., ethics, morality, aesthetics.
After Kant (or because of him, some might say), particularly as 'Science' began to explain more and more about the world that had previously been the purview of philosophy (and religion), Western philosophical thought split into two main streams:
-- "analytic", using "Science" as a model, and which focused on logic and reason as the primary tools of philosophical inquiry and defined the areas of legitimate philosophical investigation as ridding language (and thought) of ambiguities (philosophy becomes the "handmaiden" of science); and
-- "Continental", which focused on a number of areas dealing with ethics, morality, "meaning of life" types of isssues.
Kant's grounding (now seen as a unsuccessful) of morality in reason nevertheless removed an important traditional structural support for morality, etc., that had permeated much of Western thought (religion, in particular Christianity). With this started the thread of "anxiety" in Western European/American religious/philosophical thinking concerned with finding a replacement for religious faith as the basis for morality, meaning of life, etc. Kant, in Nietzsche's view, comes to be viewed as the thinker who exposed 'nihilism' as a problem, and much of Continental thinking, especially since Nietzsche, has been an attempt to deal with the 'anxiety' caused by 'nihilism'.
There is much in Critchley's book about the battles that have, since Kant, raged on this topic, with "analytic" philosophers (many of whom in fact were, geographically anyway, "continental", e.g., Frege, the founder of the 'analytic' movement, and the Vienna Circle, the best known 'analytic' school) claiming that Continental philosophers wrote (and thought) gibberish, while Continental philosophers claiming that analytic philosophers were caught in an ever-shrinking space of fruitful inquiry. The distinctions, obviously, aren't crystal clear, and some notable thinkers have either been in both schools at different times in their lives (e.g., Wittgenstein) or have sought to provide a synthesis (usually grounded in some form or "pragmatism") of the two ways of thinking (e.g., Cavell and Rorty).
Critchely, a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Exeter and Directeur de Programme at the College International de Philosophie (in Paris) has an unusually good professional perch from which to survey the (oftentimes contentious) debates that have plagued the two competing schools (each of which, at least on the "Continental" side has numerous 'sub-schools'), certainly for the past 100 or so years. Critchley's perspective on the debate is quite even-handed and conciliatory. He points out the places where 'analytic' philosophers have made mistakes (e.g., arguing against metaphysics through the "verificationist principle" of meaning, with the foundation of that principle itself ultimately being shown to be metaphysical) and where Continental philosophers have been at best -- one suspects intentionaly -- obscure and in the case of some (notably Heidegger) positively harmful -- as apologists for totalitarianism.
He ends the last two chapters in the book pointing out the respective dangers of each side ("scientism" by the 'analytics' and "obscurantism" by the 'Continentals') and proposing a "third way" that reconciles the 'analytic' and 'Continental' streams, suggesting that a "careful" phenomenology can show that many of the questions about man's "primary and most significant access to the world" are not resolvable by 'analytic' methods, but are not helpfully elucidated either by many of the cryptic, aphoristic, metaphoric writings of the principal adherents of the 'Continental school.
This is a great, condensed review of a very important debate within Western thought over the past 250 years, which continues today. Well worth reading.
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Exploring Continental Philosophy's History and Aims 7. März 2005
Von Daniel R. Sanderman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
General Review of Book Series: I have to admit it: I am a fan of these little books. It's my dirty little secret. These short introductions provide one with a pocketsize, portable introduction to a wide variety of topics. With a light tone and a surface skim of the issues, these little guides provide one with the general overview one might expect in a small survey course. Naturally, there are downsides. Are these guides comprehensive? Heavens no! Do they take time to dig deeply into the issues? Not generally. But are they a good resource to use if you want to get your feet wet before you dive in? Yes. When used properly, these little guidebooks can allow what might start out as a casual curiosity to develop into a more in-depth research project. In fact, all of these introductions provide references and suggestions for further reading.

Simon Critchley's _Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction_ does not exactly deliver what it promises. Like other reviewers, I must also agree that this book is not a true introduction. Rather than providing an overview of the philosophers working in the Continental tradition, this work reads as an interpretive essay, trying to both break down traditional stereotypes surrounding "Continental philosophy," while offering an argument for trying to close the gap that currently exists among professional philosophers. In simpler terms, this text tries to locate Continental philosophy, identify its history and origins, and explicate some of its chief motivations in relation to the history and motivations of the other towering professional description in the field: analytic philosophy.

Overall, despite the fact that a general knowledge of analytic and Continental philosophy is needed to grasp the arguments of this book, I found it a wonderful text for outlining some of the historical splits in the past two centuries in the field of philosophy. As a student of analytic philosophy, I found that Critchley's text provided me with intellectual hooks upon which to place various thinkers. In the past, I have always been a little unsure how to approach philosophers working in the spooky "Continental" tradition. Now, I have some sense of where these philosophers are coming from and how their goals and aims differ from the tradition that I am most familiar with, though nothing even approaching comprehensive understanding is contained in this introduction. Of course, given the fact that this book clocks in at around 130 pages, this is not surprising-nor is it a true goal of this edition.

In closing, if you are somewhat versed in the field of philosophy, I believe you will find this text a light read and very informative. Critchley's argument for closing the gap between these two traditions, by reminding ourselves of the importance in asking questions of both truth and meaning, is therapeutic and, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.
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An absolutely brilliant book 27. Mai 2009
Von Robert Moore - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
A number of reviewers have dinged this book for being misnomered. And I can understand and even agree with their complaint. It is not, strictly speaking, a very good survey of continental philosophy. It is true that this book will not give a very comprehensive overview of what has happened in continental philosophy over the course of the past two centuries. It barely mentions several major figures in European philosophy and doesn't even touch many of the major issues that have been at the forefront of European philosophy.

Nevertheless, this is a brilliant book. In fact, this is quite probably the best book that I have read in the Very Short Introductions series. I did all the work for a Ph.D. in philosophy except write my dissertation (well, and pass that danged German exam). My philosophical background was somewhat astride the Anglo-American and European traditions. My two favorite philosophers are Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard and my thesis was to have been Kierkegaard and Kant's understanding of the role of sin in ethics (interesting, because they were perhaps the last two philosophers to take the notion of sin seriously). Despite this, I was never very impressed by those writing in the Analytic tradition (though I did very much like some of the Ordinary Language philosophers like Gilbert Ryle and J. L. Austin and love historian of Analytic Philosopher Michael Dummett) and I thought far too many European philosophers were unforgivably and intentionally obtuse (I honestly believe it is a sin to write like Derrida). I never felt that I belonged in either camp and increasingly I came to find more help in thinkers like Thoreau, Montaigne, Marcus Aurelius, Proust, and Samuel Johnson than any phenomenologist or philosopher of language (though Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard continued to speak to me, and I've continued to read Charles Taylor and Kwame Antony Appiah with considerable interest).

This book speaks perfectly to those who, like me, find Continental Philosophy too vague and logically loose to be completely trustworthy and Analytic Philosophy too disconnectedness from the real world to be relevant. Critchley does a wonderful job of explaining how the two traditions came to exist, how they historically originated in the thought of Kant. He also makes an excellent case for a rapprochement between the two, for the accuracy and precision of the Analytic tradition and the concern of the Continental tradition to combine theory and practice. We already see this in some of the finest philosophers. I mentioned Charles Taylor and Appiah. They feel little compunction about discussing ideas of thinkers from either tradition.

In a way, Critchley not only explains how and why the two traditions have converged, but why -- at least from the Analytic side -- the two sides have been coming somewhat closer. At least, more and more Anglo-American philosophers seem to have less hesitation about reading philosophers from "the other side." Though I should interject that I've sometimes wondered if the gap was as complete as we sometimes suppose. One of my graduate school advisors, a close friend of Gilbert Ryle, told me that Ryle was reading extensively and with considerable passion the writings of Kierkegaard during the last of his life. And a former colleague of Rudolf Carnap told me that Carnap enjoyed reading Kierkegaard as well listening to Beethoven, both of them belonging to the range of things that were not susceptible to scientific proof. But there is no question that for a very large number of those in the Analytic tradition there is no trucking with Marxists, phenomenologists, poststructuralists, Lacanians, or existentialists. And there ought to be. There is a very great deal in Heidegger that can -- and should -- be dismissed. His works are riddled with sheer verbiage, long strings of pseudo points that depend largely on opaque terminology, and ponderous metaphysical assumptions that I frankly find untenable. But there is also a great deal of value in Heidegger. There is even more in Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, and Habermas. Embracing these thinkers for many would mean changing the way they think about philosophy. But that is Critchley's point.

So, strictly speaking, this may not be an ideal survey of Continental Philosophy, but it is a brilliant essay on how Continental and Anglo-American traditions of philosophy could empower the other.
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An essay rather than introduction. 24. September 2003
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
There are very many 'introductions to...' but this really isn't one of them - thank god! The very fact that philosophers such as Stanley Cavell, Stephen Toulmin, Richard Bernstein and Pascal Engel sing its praises already gives us an idea that this is no 'philosophy for dummies' or 'philosophy for beginners' book. And bravo to Critchley - a rising British talent - for not taking the money and running. This is also a book full of gracious humour and personal anecdote.
In laying out the history of the confrontation between so-called analytical philosophy and so-called continental philosophy it is interesting to see how they both go astary, in scientism and obscuratism respectively. The rise of cognitive science seems typical of the new overtaking of philosophy in the first case (especailly the recent proliferation of evolutionary psychology)and literature and mere literay criticism in the second. Yet it is most interesting to see Critchely, a Derrida and Levinas expert, suggest as candidates for obscuratanism the drives of Freud, the real in Lacan, power in Foucault, différance in Derrida, the trace of God in Levinas and, of course (right out there at the top!) the epochal withdrawl of being in and as history in Heidegger. No wonder Critchley has elsewhere staunchly argued that Levinas is not a Jewish philosopher - despite the latter's mass of writings from that stand point - but simply a philoopsher - Period. But cracks are obviously evident. But there is also another bridge between the 2 schools not mentioned by Critchely, especially evident in Heidegger scholarship, with, for instance, the writings of Hubert Dreyfus and John Haugelund, not authors that Derrida would refer to.
But how might Critchely himself be accused of obscuratism? Perhaps in making something of 'wisdom' versus knowledge - the main stay between the two attitudes he is discussing. The average cognitive scientist might describe wisdom in terms of a feed-back loop. I guess the bottom line is, that cognitive science may show us that there is no such thing as the subject (jiggle about with a person's brain and his/her subjectivity changes), but at any time we act 'as if' we were subjects, and that is good enough for us.
One of the best bits of the book is the parts on Nietzsche and nihilism, which must surely emerge as THE key factor in 'agenda' of continental philosophy. But it would have been nice to extend that argument to include ideas from Deleuze and Guattari, who seemed to have taken up Niezsche's mantle with gusto, but yet leave us with the disparaging avenue of pragmatism: the road seems to lead from Paris to the USA... via Essex, UK, perhaps. Where are you Habermas when the world needs you?
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Critchley attempts the impossible... and almost pulls it off 30. September 2010
Von Cheese Steak Jimmy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
This is a very ambitious book. Operating on multiple levels, Simon Critchley attempts to a) discuss the analytical/continental divide and set it in its historical context, b) trace the development of both disciplines from Kant, noting the different metatheoretical trajectories they have taken, c) provide a brief history of the development of modern continental philosophy, with a particular focus on Heidegger, d) offer his opinion on the 'threat' of nihilism, discussing Nietzsche's treatment of the subject, and finally e) explore the metaphysical basis of our phenomenological experience as a'brute-fact' that should be utilised as a kind of 'clarifying' tool preventing -on the one hand- scientific research being turned into scientism (a la the Logical Positivists), and on the other, guarding against the monolithic 'metaphysical' entities that are accepted implicitly in the work of Heidegger (dasein), Foucault (Power), Derrida (deconstruction), and so forth.

In short, this is complicated stuff. Despite the author's evident interest in phenomenology, this book is slightly reminiscent of a Foucaultian Archaeology- the author could almost be read as exploring the discursive factors that have shaped the discourses of Continental and Analytical Philosophy, showing how -despite the hostility- there are deeper underlying structures that both sides share. Whilst one would not want to push this analogy too far, Critchley certainly utilises thinkers -Bentham, Carnap etc- that one would not expect to find in a book on this subject, and, rather than focussing on thinkers such as Badiou, Zizek, Derrida, Foucault, Althussier, Deleuze, Barthes, Adorno, Habermas, Lyotard -and so on- he instead starts with an indepth treatise on Kant.

Whilst this book doesn't eclipse the stunning Foucault: A Very Short Introduction it is an ambitious and robustly argued piece of work that is excellent for filling in the holes of the philosophical family tree. I would recommend this alongside German Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction which almost reads like a companion volume, and also the slightly breezier -and more informal- Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction. (I would, however, avoid Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction, as it is neither particularly sympathetic to its subject matter, nor particularly well informed.)
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