Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Overheard...

The following was overheard; it was said by a recently retired university administrator who is not trained in the Humanities, but apparently had overseen a lot of Humanities hires, promotions, and tenure cases.  I'm told this is nearly verbatim.  Make of it what you will.

The Philosophers think their discipline is divided into "English" and "Continental" factions.  I have no idea what the importance is of the languages is supposed to be, but they think there is a gigantic difference between philosophy that gets done by people working English and those who work in European languages.  And it is more a mess because some English speaking philosophers claim allegiance with the Continental philosophers.  They write works about what the European language philosophers think.  That's their philosophy.  But the only real difference comes to this.  The English language philosophers, the ones who don't report the ideas of the European language philosophers, try to out argue each other.  This is what they do when they think that someone has said something important.  They try to bludgeon it.  And then they say how smart the guy who thought of the bludgeoned idea is for having thought of it.  I get that.  But the English speakers who ally with the European language philosophers don't do that at all.  They just root for each other.  In evaluation letters, they never say anything critical; they just heap praise.  The hyperbole is amazing. It's like they're a group of highschoolers with self-esteem problems.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

This seems about right to me. In both cases, the whole point of Philosophy seems to be a masturbatory exercise in finding out who is the smartest person in the room. The only difference is that "English" philosophers always assume it's themselves, and "Continental" philosophers think it's someone else.

And framed thus, it would appear that the Continental philosophers win, by virtue of being correct in their assumption.

Glaucon said...

I already always knew that.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, good one. You set us up to think the overheard content was going to be administrator-stupid, but it turns out to be dead on.

Anonymous said...

1:49 is correct. There is no room such that the Continental philosopher is the smartest person in it.

Anonymous said...

9:32,

"Less philosophical brainpower was accumulated there than at any time since Martin Heidegger dined alone."

Anonymous said...

Ah this all makes me laugh and reminds me of our own recently retired Associate Dean

Anonymous said...

That's nice. Does it also make you want to poop?

CTS said...

All this aside:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Yes I must say that it is wonderful to celebrate the holidays while on sabbatical! Much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

In other news, the LLP, whose principal had a run in with the proprietor, is going under...

Anonymous said...

In yet other news, J.R. has a posse.

Anonymous said...

So, "continental" philosophers are a bunch of narcissistic weenies who puff each other's work and "english" philosophers are rigorous souls committed to argument ... Stated in a post narcissistically puffing "english" philosophy. I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

7:24, You are confused. Try reading it again.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why this is "newsworthy." People say things of this sort all the time. Now, if someone wanted to venture an opinion about whether it is true (for example, that continental philosophers write uncritical letters) then there would be something to discuss.

Anonymous said...

10:51 am is right: this is not newsworthy. In fact, the pattern of reporting on Philosophers Anon leads me to wonder whether it is a reputable source for news at all, rather than, say, a blog.

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha 11:37: you're right, it's a blog! Thanks for clarifying. But still: if I hear in the hallway that continental philosophy is a sham, is it worth repeating? Taking a controversial position can be interesting even when that position is often stated; reporting somebody else believed it is less so.

Anonymous said...

Wandered into this blog from Leiter. I taught in a dept whose "analytic" chair told me what I, a "continental" philosopher must think based on his reading of an article in Newsweek. I've recently reviewed a tenure file from one of those analysts who works on continental figure -- said candidate (from a "major" grad school) laboriously reinvented extremely well known positions in the literature -- available in English for 40 years -- with no reference, & probably just ignorant.

Anonymous said...

The first commenter has missed the original post. Notice, those giving out praise don't heap praise on the one who bludgeons the original idea. They heap praise on the philosopher whose ideas they have just beaten up.

The upshot being that with "English" philosophers criticism can be a sign of respect ("can be" not "is always"). The ideas and the thinkers involved in "English" philosophy can survive critical engagement.

Now we can debate whether this belief is accurate, but let's not use the exchange to heap on whatever other preconceived ideas about the distinction we may have.

Anonymous said...

I take it, as mentioned above, that Mr Heidegger dined alone as Professor Husserl had somehow disappeared..

Anonymous said...

I guess a good question to ask is why does the self esteem issue exist?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how interesting any of this gossip is.

It's depressing that people in the Continental camp still decry the "positivism" of "analytic philosophy" (whatever that means).

It's also depressing that people in the "English" camp parrot back remarks like "Derrida, that charlatan!" that they've read on Leiter's blog.

Here's an idea: if you think that the other side is full of poseurs, read their works and publish an article demonstrating as much.

naif said...

Yes! Great idea!

I did that with astrology.

Anonymous said...

Where's the gossip? If there gossip this would be interesting and newsworthy!

Anonymous said...

10:07--If there was a verb, then perhaps your comment might express a truth evaluable proposition.

Glaucon said...

@2:51am -

A colleague reports that he once wrote the following comment in the margin of a student's paper: "It's probably my fault, but I've looked everywhere and I just can't find a verb."

Anonymous said...

2:51--if you omitted "truth evaluable" then perhaps your comment would not be redundant.

Anonymous said...

2:51--if you had omitted "truth evaluable" then perhaps your comment would not be redundant.

ej said...

I don't find generalizations like these very helpful. I see tons of cheering, booing, dogma and ridicule in analytic philosophy ("Dualism? That's spooky!"). I also see lots of substantive arguments carried out between people in continental philosophy. There are mediocre people in both camps, and there are smart, serious people doing good work in both camps. As a student working in continental philosophy, I see plenty of non-substantive cheering and booing in the lit, but there's simple solution to that problem: don't read it and don't cite it.

Anonymous said...

It's like they're a group of highschoolers with self-esteem problems.

Working out whether this describes the continental camp more accurately than any other group of philosophers (or academics in general) is surely pure hair-splitting from the outside looking in. I'm an analytic through and through, but I don't find continental philosophers particularly more repulsive in their desperate, insecure, and grasping antics than other types of philosophers. We're pretty much the lot of us completely fucking horrible people.