Another Stab at Distiguishing Analytical and Continental Approaches to Philosophy: I Disagree.

In the endeavor of philosophy many have made a distinction. In general,and aside from the more colloquial “philosophy of…[place category here]” (like “my philosophy of writing blogs is…”), people have noticed that there are two types of philosophy going on. These have been termed on one hand “analytical”, which tends to be associated with ‘New world’, American or (can we be so general) what we might call ‘Colonial’ (to include the United Kingdom) brand, and on the other “continental” ( can we say “post-colonial”? ), which tends to be associated with German and French authors.

Keep in mind, though, that this distinction is highly contentious and my version here is just Another Stab at Distinguishing Analytical and Continental Approaches. In fact, the distinction is so contentious that some would say that there is no distinction that can be made beyond a crass and superficial, first impression glance.

But I am one who does see a difference in approaches; but I am not sure if the categories of the distinction really serve us anymore; hence this post.

Also, keep in mind that in my time I have done the very utmost to not read anything anyone has said about this debate, and yet somehow I have not only come to know about it, but have formed my opinion on the most lean pieces of information about it. So, take it as you will. But it does do me some credit, as well as my strange ability to grasp philosophy with the slightest prompts, that I like what AGENT SWARM has said about it.


Mine begins from the other side of it, what we can call logical formalism. . If you look at the Wiki for Analytic Philosophy, the first bullet point lists ‘formal logic’. If one were to look at just a few of the authors noted in Wiki to be associated with the respective schools, often enough she would not have difficulty in noticing a difference that is more than individual style, one that seems to fall along lines that we can generally associate in ways that we can come to call Analytical and Continental.

The issue then is not one of proving that such a distinction may be real or true, it falls more in the apparent distinction. I will come out in defiance to the standard method and say that there is very little anyone could argue to me to prove that there is no distinction, but likewise there is little one could do to prove to me that there is a distinction. It is apparent to me and there is no amount nor type of logical argument that could show me the light either way. Similarly, while I would not challenge myself nor anyone else to take a randomly presented author and categorize her into one of these two schools, I would take the challenge to explain why that author should be included or excluded from being of a Continental type. Yet further, in so much as I would gain an exceedingly large amount of flak (or none, as in the case of those so intellectually gifted who would set my rumination aside) for such a challenge and its results, that I should have more integrity in my proposals if I were to set aside the classifications altogether, and say that the distinction itself is an anachronism that serves now only to decide, for example, that this is a table and that is a nightstand. This is to say that not only the whole discussion about the distinction, but indeed those philosophies that would place themselves in such of two categories are but of the same kind and nature, which I would then regretfully have to classify both as analytical. My reasons are described in my books, which, in the end, will lay out the whole of the issue that permeates philosophy today.

For now, this whole thing has to do with what we can call experience. It is apparent to me that what motivates Bertrand Russel, say, to elaborate upon the flaws of what we tend to know as Continental is his utter inability to understand, say, Hegel. It is not that Hegal is vague or unclear; it is more that Russel sees him as such. So it is clear to me that it is not Hegel that is vague, but that Russel, for all his great methodological and critical thinking skills, is unable to penetrate the meaning of Hegel (just as an example). This is so much that case that those early 20th century philosophers who called out the (in general) German Idealists should be seen as have more fortitude, integrity and just plain balls for doing so, while to later continentals pussy-foot around by attempting to remain fidelitous to whatever principle they are trying to uphold in the defense of the Continental.

So it is that I simply say that those Analytical just plain do not understand and are incapable of understanding. It does not follow, though, that their philosophical endeavors are lacking. It merely means that what is Continental is not derivative of the Analytical. It might appear that it is using the same method (logic), but I do not have a capacity to build a house just because I can use a ruler. I might be able to build a table, but the lengths of experience that is needed to build a house, I simply do not have.Where the analogy ends, though, is in the implicit teachability that accompanies the length of the ruler, from drawing measures squares on paper, to building a stable and secure structure.

Philosophy would have it that everything that is able to be experienced may be conveyed in a manner that is teachable. This is to say that while some ‘essential’ experience of being human may not be conveyable, the meaning, method and aspects of the experience can be conveyed in a meaningful format that retains the’important’ elements of the experience, which is to say, the humanity. Yet the distinction of Analytical and Continental would have it that both type of philosophy can be taught and conveyed in their essential meaning. But, didn’t I hear somewhere that Continental philosophy tends away from ‘essentials’?

I disagree with this maxim that we can teach everything. And the reason is as simple as how clear Hegel, Kierkegaard and others are to me, and at that with little formal instruction on the matter. I would even go so far as to say the formal instruction merely reified to me that not only do the instructors often have a degraded version of what some Continental authors are saying, but also that what and how they teach them merely reinforces the analytical method with which the continentals are supposed to be in contrast.

Philosophy teaches that logic is a tool to apply to situations, but in the main, and for teaching in general, it is taken and used as The method for discovering and uncovering what may be. Logic is taught and used commonly as a method that lay underneath all things. This is why those who we might consider Continental are always in the defensive: Because they are covertly using the ‘tool’ of logic as a ‘method’, but without the re-cognition of their mistake.

To be fair: Many of the analytical philosophers to me seem dry and unappealing, nearly to the point that their philosophies seem insignificant and unimportant. Yet, almost everyone would place me in a position of degradation because I don’t care to ‘take the time with them’ or because I am not interested in being formally educated in all the various titled logical situations and poker playing gambits.

Is continental less than? Is Analytical ? Id say, neither, but because now they play the same analytical game, despite definitions. The problem with the Continental is that it misapplies its own (misunderstood) traditional maxims and tactics: The analytical don’t prescribe to the traditional continental reductions. It appears that they do (see Bertrand Russel’s essays of the reduction of things to their essential traits, for example; he finds that there is never an ‘actual’ table, etc…), but the Analytical path misses the significance of similar discussion that the Continentals have. But it is not that the Continentals thereby account for the Analytical; it is more that they are talking past each other in the same way that computer engineering might not fully comprehend structural engineering, or planetary particle physics not fully understand quantum physics; yet, they can have a discussion that is meaningful at some level. Yet it is the Continentals that survive in a perpetural state of acceedence, of compromise because they ‘believe’ thier traditional maxims are in play even while the ‘Analyticals’ dont perscribe to them. 

The same ‘talking past’ has occurred now with the state of the ‘Continental’ philosophy that places its stakes within a historical heritage instead of the meaning of the philosophies themselves. Engineering stems from the same basic teachings, but there is no ‘engineer’ that we can identify to a common thing once a career has been moved upon.

It is not obtuse to say that much of what we are still calling Continental has become merely a branch of Analytical. Philosophy is taken as a kind of ‘engineering’ category, yet while some had supposed that the category was itself inadequate to contain the moves of philosophy itself, the manner of contemporary academic philosophy now is primarily Analytical, with subcategories of “analytical-proper” and “continental”.

For those so keen, see this is not the same as the Sokal Hoax, but it is similar in so much as what is called “post-modern”, now days, is simply adhering to a tradition that is unreflected upon, simply taking (mistaking) the misunderstood theoretical methods and applying them without what we should call proper critical reflection; what is critical assumes its conclusions to be necessarily in question. Nevertheless, It is not sufficient to call into question what we mean by ‘proper reflection’ in this case, for the issue has already established itself as credible within a certain affect of power, such that we can rightly call such move as religious; and faith cannot be argued out of.

So post-modern Sokality aside; I disagree with this methodological, and un-recognized conceptual slide of the Continental into the Analytical, as I have explained it.

6 thoughts on “Another Stab at Distiguishing Analytical and Continental Approaches to Philosophy: I Disagree.

  1. ..Like the same with what was originally post-modern: that’s why I think there is a valid critique against what we have classified as PM, and all the PMs, like the methodologization has allowed what is bro g taught about it to miss what the authors were actually saying!

  2. …how weird is that? Lol. I keeps going through my mind. For all I said, I don’t think I identified that it was a particular manner of teaching specifically. 😜

  3. This is a great post. I’m reblogging. It makes me rethink my comment on your other post. Its not that they teach mostly analytic philosophy at lower level college philosophy classes- its that they teach in an analytic way. We teach logical fallacies first- rules that are seemingly inviolable. Sure we talk about Kant- he’s literally a Continental philosopher. We even talk about Sartre, but in the context of a rigid debate on Free Will vs. Determinism. The closest we get to broaching “Continental” subjects is discussing William James’ views on God with pragmatism

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