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|The School of Athens fresco by Raphael|
Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the early 20th century with the increasing professionalization of the discipline and the rise of analytic and continental philosophy.
The phrase "contemporary philosophy" is a piece of technical terminology in philosophy that refers to a specific period in the history of Western philosophy (namely the philosophy of the 20th and 21st centuries).However, the phrase is often confused with modern philosophy (which refers to an earlier period in Western philosophy), postmodern philosophy (which refers to continental philosophers' criticisms of modern philosophy), and with a non-technical use of the phrase referring to any recent philosophic work.
...the day of the philosopher as isolated thinker – the talented amateur with an idiosyncratic message – is effectively gone.
Professionalization is the social process by which any trade or occupation establishes the group norms of conduct, acceptable qualifications for membership of the profession, a professional body or association to oversee the conduct of members of the profession, and some degree of demarcation of the qualified from unqualified amateurs.The transformation into a profession brings about many subtle changes to a field of inquiry, but one more readily identifiable component of professionalization is the increasing irrelevance of "the book" to the field: "research communiqués will begin to change in ways [...] whose modern end products are obvious to all and oppressive to many. No longer will [a member's] researches usually be embodied in books addressed [...] to 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 one able to read the papers addressed to them." Philosophy underwent this process toward the end of the 19th century, and it is one of the key distinguishing features of the contemporary philosophy era in Western philosophy.
Germany was the first country to professionalize philosophy.At the end of 1817, Hegel was the first philosopher to be appointed professor by the State, namely by the Prussian Minister of Education, as an effect of Napoleonic reform in Prussia. In the United States, the professionalisation grew out of reforms to the American higher-education system largely based on the German model. James Campbell describes the professionalisation of philosophy in America as follows:
The list of specific changes [during the late 19th-century professionalization of philosophy] is fairly brief, but the resultant shift is almost total. [...] No longer could the [philosophy] professor function as a defender of the faith or an expounder of Truth. The new philosopher had to be a leader of inquires and a publicizer of results. This shift was made obvious when certified (often German-certified) philosophy Ph.D.'s replaced theology graduates and ministers in the philosophy classroom. The period between the time when almost no one had a Ph.D. to when almost everyone did was very brief. [...] The doctorate, moreover, was more than a license to teach: it was a certificate that the prospective philosophy instructor was well, if narrowly, trained and ready to undertake independent work in the now specializing and restricted field of academic philosophy. These new philosophers functioned in independent departments of philosophy [...] They were making real gains in their research, creating a body of philosophic work that remains central to our study even now. These new philosophers also set their own standards for success, publishing in the recognized organs of philosophy that were being founded at the time: The Monist (1890), The International Journal of Ethics (1890), The Philosophical Review (1892), and The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods (1904). And, of course, these philosophers were banding together into societies – the American Psychological Association (1892), the Western Philosophical Association (1900), and the American Philosophical Association (1900) – to consolidate their academic positions and advance their philosophic work.
Professionalization in England was similarly tied to developments in higher-education. In his work on T.H. Green, Denys Leighton discusses these changes in British philosophy and Green's claim to the title of Britain's first professional academic philosopher:
Henry Sidgwick, in a generous gesture, identified [T.H.] Green as Britain's first professional academic philosopher. Sidgwick's opinion can certainly be questioned: William Hamilton, J.F. Ferrier and Sidgwick himself are among the contenders for that honour. [...] Yet there can be no doubt that between the death of Mill (1873) and the publication of G.E.Moore's Principia Ethica (1903), the British philosophical profession was transformed, and that Green was partly responsible for the transformation. [...] Bentham, the Mills, Carlyle, Coleridge, Spencer, as well as many other serious philosophical thinkers of the nineteenth century were men of letters, administrators, active politicians, clergy with livings, but not academics. [...] Green helped separate the study of philosophical from that of literary and historical texts; and by creating a philosophy curriculum at Oxford he also established a rationale for trained teachers of philosophy. When Green began his academic career much of the serious writing on philosophical topic was published in journals of opinion devoted to a broad range of [topics] (rarely to 'pure' philosophy). He helped professionalize philosophical writing by encouraging specialized periodicals, such as 'Academy' and 'Mind', which were to serve as venues for the results of scholarly research.
The end result of professionalization for philosophy has meant that work being done in the field is now almost exclusively done by university professors holding a doctorate in the field publishing in highly technical, peer-reviewed journals. While it remains common among the population at large for a person to have a set of religious, political or philosophical views that they consider their "philosophy", these views are rarely informed or connected to the work being done in professional philosophy today. Furthermore, unlike many of the sciences for which there has come to be a healthy industry of books, magazines, and television shows meant to popularize science and communicate the technical results of a scientific field to the general populace, works by professional philosophers directed at an audience outside the profession remain rare. Philosopher Michael Sandel's book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" and Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" are examples of works that hold the uncommon distinction of having been written by professional philosophers but directed at and ultimately popular among a broader audience of non-philosophers. Both works became New York Times best sellers.
Not long after their formation, the Western Philosophical Association and portions of the American Psychological Association merged with the American Philosophical Association to create what is today the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States: the American Philosophical Association. The association has three divisions: Pacific, Central and Eastern. Each division organises a large annual conference. The biggest of these is the Eastern Division Meeting, which usually attracts around 2,000 philosophers and takes place in a different east coast city each December. The Eastern Division Meeting is also the USA's largest recruitment event for philosophy jobs, with numerous universities sending teams to interview candidates for academic posts. Among its many other tasks, the association is responsible for administering many of the profession's top honors. For example, the Presidency of a Division of the American Philosophical Association is considered to be a professional honor and the American Philosophical Association Book Prize is one of the oldest prizes in philosophy. The largest academic organization devoted to specifically furthering the study of continental philosophy is the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.
Concerning professional journals today, a 2018 survey of professional philosophers asked them to rank the highest quality "general" philosophy journals in English, yielding the following top 20:
|1. Philosophical Review||6. Australasian Journal of Philosophy||11. Synthese||16. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society|
|2. Mind||7. Philosophers' Imprint||12. Canadian Journal of Philosophy||17. The Monist|
|3. Nous||8. Philosophical Studies||13. Erkenntnis||18. European Journal of Philosophy|
|4. Journal of Philosophy||9. Philosophical Quarterly||14. American Philosophical Quarterly||19. Journal of the American Philosophical Association|
|5. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research||10. Analysis||15. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly||20. Thought|
Concerning continental philosophy specifically, a 2012 survey of mostly professional philosophers asked them to rank the highest quality "continental tradition" philosophy journals in English. Listing the survey's top 6 results:
|1. European Journal of Philosophy||4. Inquiry|
|2. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research||5. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie|
|3. Journal of the History of Philosophy||6. British Journal for the History of Philosophy|
The Philosophy Documentation Center publishes a well-known "Directory of American Philosophers" which is the standard reference work for information about philosophical activity in the United States and Canada.The directory is published every two years, alternating with its companion volume, the "International Directory of Philosophy and Philosophers" (the only edited source for extensive information on philosophical activity in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and Latin America).
Since the start of the 21st century, philosophers have also seen the growing utilization of blogs as a means of professional exchange. A few notable milestones in this development include an informal listing of philosophy blogs begun by philosopher David Chalmers which has since become a widely used resource by the profession,the establishment of a partnership between ethics blog PEA Soup and the prominent journal Ethics to post featured articles for online discussion on the blog, and the role of blogs like What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy? in bringing attention to the experience of women in the profession.
Contemporary continental philosophy began with the work of Franz Brentano, Edmund Husserl, Adolf Reinach, and Martin Heidegger and the development of the philosophical method of phenomenology. This development was roughly contemporaneous with work by Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell inaugurating a new philosophical method based on the analysis of language via modern logic (hence the term "analytic philosophy").
Analytic philosophy dominates in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the English speaking world. Continental philosophy prevails in Europe, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil and parts of the United States.
Some philosophers, such as Richard Rorty and Simon Glendinning, argue that this "analytic–continental" divide is inimical to the discipline as a whole. Others, such as John Searle, claim that continental philosophy, especially post-structuralist continental philosophy, should be expunged, on grounds that it is obscurantist and nebulous.
Analytic and continental philosophy share a common Western philosophical tradition up to Immanuel Kant. Afterwards, analytic and continental philosophers differ on the importance and influence of subsequent philosophers on their respective traditions. For instance, the German idealism school developed out of the work of Kant in the 1780s and 1790s and culminated in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who is viewed highly by many continental philosophers. Conversely, Hegel is viewed as a relatively minor figure for the work of analytic philosophers.[ citation needed ]
The analytic program in philosophy is ordinarily dated to the work of English philosophers Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore in the early 20th century, building on the work of the German philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege. They turned away from then-dominant forms of Hegelianism (objecting in particular to its idealism and purported obscurity)and began to develop a new sort of conceptual analysis based on recent developments in logic. The most prominent example of this new method of conceptual analysis is Russell's 1905 paper "On Denoting", a paper that is widely seen to be the exemplar of the analytic program in philosophy.
Although contemporary philosophers who self-identify as "analytic" have widely divergent interests, assumptions, and methods—and have often rejected the fundamental premises that defined the analytic movement between 1900 and 1960—analytic philosophy, in its contemporary state, is usually taken to be defined by a particular stylecharacterized by precision and thoroughness about a narrow topic, and resistance to "imprecise or cavalier discussions of broad topics."
Some analytic philosophers at the end of the 20th century, such as Richard Rorty, have called for a major overhaul of the analytic philosophic tradition. In particular, Rorty has argued that analytic philosophers must learn important lessons from the work of continental philosophers.Some authors, such as Paul M. Livingston and Shaun Gallagher contend that there exist valuable insights common to both traditions while others, such as Timothy Williamson, have called for even stricter adherence to the methodological ideals of analytic philosophy:
We who classify ourselves as "analytic" philosophers tend to fall into the assumption that our allegiance automatically grants us methodological virtue. According to the crude stereotypes, analytic philosophers use arguments while "continental" philosophers do not. But within the analytic tradition many philosophers use arguments only to the extent that most "continental" philosophers do [...] How can we do better? We can make a useful start by getting the simple things right. Much even of analytic philosophy moves too fast in its haste to reach the sexy bits. Details are not given the care they deserve: crucial claims are vaguely stated, significant different formulations are treated as though they were equivalent, examples are under-described, arguments are gestured at rather than properly made, their form is left unexplained, and so on. [...] Philosophy has never been done for an extended period according to standards as high as those that are now already available, if only the profession will take them seriously to heart.
The "crude stereotypes" that Williamson refers to in the above passage are these: that analytic philosophers produce carefully argued and rigorous analyses of trivially small philosophic puzzles, while continental philosophers produce profound and substantial results but only by deducing them from broad philosophical systems which themselves lack supporting arguments or clarity in their expression. Williamson himself seems to here distance himself from these stereotypes, but does accuse analytic philosophers of too often fitting the critical stereotype of continental philosophers by moving "too fast" to reach substantial results via poor arguments.
The history of continental philosophy is taken to begin in the early 1900s because its institutional roots descend directly from those of phenomenology.As a result, Edmund Husserl has often been credited as the founding figure in continental philosophy. Although, since analytic and continental philosophy have such starkly different views of philosophy after Kant, continental philosophy is also often understood in an extended sense to include any post-Kant philosophers or movements important to continental philosophy but not analytic philosophy.
The term "continental philosophy", like "analytic philosophy", marks a broad range of philosophical views and approaches not easily captured in a definition. It has even been suggested that the term may be more pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or disliked by analytic philosophers. [ citation needed ] Nonetheless, certain descriptive rather than merely pejorative features have been seen to typically characterize continental philosophy:Indeed, continental philosophy is often characterized by its critics as philosophy that lacks the rigor of analytic philosophy.
Another approach to approximating a definition of continental philosophy is by listing some of the philosophical movements that are or have been central in continental philosophy: German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and some other branches of Western Marxism.
Ayn Rand is perhaps the foremost example of an intellectual working contemporaneously with contemporary philosophy but whose contributions were not made within the professional philosophical discipline: "For all her Ayn Rand's popularity, however, only a few professional philosophers have taken her work seriously. As a result, most of the serious philosophical work on Rand has appeared in non-academic, non-peer-reviewed journals, or in books, and the bibliography reflects this fact."
Also working from outside the profession were philosophers such as Gerd B. Achenbach (Die reine und die praktische Philosophie. Drei Vorträge zur philosophischen Praxis, 1983) and Michel Weber (see his Épreuve de la philosophie, 2008)who have proposed since the 1980s various forms of philosophical counseling claiming to bring Socratic dialogues back to life in a quasi-psychotherapeutic framework.
|journal=(help) Steven Hetcher, Norms in a Wired World, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 432pp, Reviewed by Stefan Sciaraffa, University of Arizona
|journal=(help) Paul M. Livingston, The Politics of Logic: Badiou, Wittgenstein, and the Consequences of Formalism, Routledge, 2012
The professionalization of philosophy
The Analytic / Continental divide
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Analytic philosophy is a branch or tradition of philosophy using analysis which is popular in the Western World and Anglosphere, beginning around the turn of the 20th century in the contemporary era and continues today. In the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia, the majority of university philosophy departments today identify themselves as "analytic" departments.
German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard is frequently included in surveys of German philosophy due to his extensive engagement with German thinkers.
Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher.
Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.
Modern philosophy is philosophy developed in the modern era and associated with modernity. It is not a specific doctrine or school, although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy.
20th-century philosophy saw the development of a number of new philosophical schools—including logical positivism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and poststructuralism. In terms of the eras of philosophy, it is usually labelled as contemporary philosophy.
Robert Boyce Brandom is an American philosopher who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. He works primarily in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and philosophical logic, and his academic output manifests both systematic and historical interests in these topics. His work has presented "arguably the first fully systematic and technically rigorous attempt to explain the meaning of linguistic items in terms of their socially norm-governed use, thereby also giving a non-representationalist account of the intentionality of thought and the rationality of action as well."
Absolute idealism is an ontologically monistic philosophy "chiefly associated with Friedrich Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel, both German idealist philosophers of the 19th century, Josiah Royce, an American philosopher, and others, but, in its essentials, the product of Hegel". It is Hegel's account of how being is ultimately comprehensible as an all-inclusive whole. Hegel asserted that in order for the thinking subject to be able to know its object at all, there must be in some sense an identity of thought and being. Otherwise, the subject would never have access to the object and we would have no certainty about any of our knowledge of the world. To account for the differences between thought and being, however, as well as the richness and diversity of each, the unity of thought and being cannot be expressed as the abstract identity "A=A". Absolute idealism is the attempt to demonstrate this unity using a new "speculative" philosophical method, which requires new concepts and rules of logic. According to Hegel, the absolute ground of being is essentially a dynamic, historical process of necessity that unfolds by itself in the form of increasingly complex forms of being and of consciousness, ultimately giving rise to all the diversity in the world and in the concepts with which we think and make sense of the world.
Walter Arnold Kaufmann was a German-American philosopher, translator, and poet. A prolific author, he wrote extensively on a broad range of subjects, such as authenticity and death, moral philosophy and existentialism, theism and atheism, Christianity and Judaism, as well as philosophy and literature. He served more than 30 years as a professor at Princeton University.
Postanalytic philosophy describes a detachment from the mainstream philosophical movement of analytic philosophy, which is the predominant school of thought in English-speaking countries. Postanalytic philosophy derives mainly from contemporary American thought, especially from the works of philosophers Richard Rorty, Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, and Stanley Cavell. The term is closely associated with the much broader movement of contemporary American pragmatism, which, loosely defined, advocates a detachment from the definition of 'objective truth' given by modern philosophers such as Descartes. Postanalytic philosophers emphasize the contingency of human thought, convention, utility, and social progress.
Robert L. Bernasconi is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. He is well known as a reader of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas, and for his work on the concept of race. He has also written on the history of philosophy.
David Andrew Bell is a British philosopher. He is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, He studied in Dublin, Göttingen and Canada, and is best known for his work on the philosophers Gottlob Frege, Immanuel Kant, and Edmund Husserl, and also on topics such as solipsism, phenomenology, the theory of thought and judgement, and the history of the Analytic Tradition.
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation.
Western philosophy refers to the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales and Pythagoras, and eventually covering a large area of the globe. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom".
John Russon is a Canadian philosopher, working primarily in the tradition of Continental Philosophy. In 2006, he was named Presidential Distinguished Professor at the University of Guelph, and in 2011 he was the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute's Canadian Lecturer to India.
Richard Jacob Bernstein is an American philosopher who teaches at The New School for Social Research, and has written extensively about a broad array of issues and philosophical traditions including American pragmatism, neopragmatism, critical theory, deconstruction, social philosophy, political philosophy, and Hermeneutics. His work is best known for the way in which it examines the intersections between different philosophical schools and traditions, bringing together thinkers and philosophical insights that would otherwise remain separated by the analytic/continental divide in 20th century philosophy. The pragmatic and dialogical ethos that pervades his works has also been displayed in a number of philosophical exchanges with other contemporary thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Agnes Heller, and Charles Taylor. Bernstein is an engaged public intellectual concerned not only with the specialized debates of academic philosophy, but also with the larger issues that touch upon social, political, and cultural aspects of contemporary life. Throughout his life Bernstein has actively endorsed a number of social causes and has been involved in movements of participatory democracy, upholding some of the cardinal virtues of the American pragmatist tradition, including a commitment to fallibilism, engaged pluralism, and the nurturing of critical communities.
Dermot Moran is an Irish philosopher specialising in phenomenology and in medieval philosophy, and he is also active in the dialogue between analytic and continental philosophy. He is currently the inaugural holder of the Joseph Chair in Catholic Philosophy at Boston College. He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Founding Editor of the International Journal of Philosophical Studies.
The Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) is a philosophical society whose initial purpose was to promote the study of phenomenology and existentialism but has since expanded to a wide array of contemporary philosophical pursuits, including critical theory, feminist philosophy, poststructuralism, critical race theory, and, increasingly non-Eurocentric philosophies. SPEP was created in 1962 by American philosophers who were interested in Continental philosophy and were dissatisfied with the analytic dominance of the American Philosophical Association. It has since emerged as the second most important philosophical society in the United States. Gail Weiss and Andrew Cutrofello are the current Co-Executive Directors of SPEP.
Tom Rockmore is an American philosopher. Although he denies the usual distinction between philosophy and the history of philosophy, he has strong interests throughout the history of philosophy and defends a constructivist view of epistemology. The philosophers whom he has studied extensively are Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Lukács, and Heidegger. He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1974 and his Habilitation à diriger des recherches from the Université de Poitiers in 1994. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Duquesne University, as well as Distinguished Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University.
Jon Bartley Stewart is an American philosopher and historian of philosophy. He specializes in 19th century Continental philosophy with an emphasis on the thought of Kierkegaard and Hegel. Stewart currently works as a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the Slovak Academy of Sciences.