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Contemporary Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Contemporary Continental Thought by Stephen H. Daniel (Pearson Prentice Hall) [The] selections [in Contemporary Continental Thought] approach current continental philosophy starting from critical social theory, and continue to highlight the social-political contributions. This is a unique conceptualization among textbooks. David Michael Levin, Northwestern University

Contemporary Continental Thought is an anthology whose focus on recent continental philosophy is unique because it brings together in one volume:

  1. An overview of critical theory, structuralism, French feminism, deconstruction, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and postmodernism.

  2. Brief introductions to (and representative and accessible selections by) twenty important figures along with their photographs.

  3. Commentary on the more than thirty readings.

Stephen H. Daniel, philosophy professor at Texas A&M University, focuses on twenty authors who epitomize seminal work in the seven categories of contemporay continental thought: critical theory, psychoanalytic structuralism, feminism, deconstruction, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and postmodernism. Each chapter discusses the philosophies of individual thinkers. Using accessible, representative readings from their works, each chapter provides guidance for understanding specific points of the selections and relates the movements in recent continental thought.

Daniel saw a need for this course: university philosophy programs have for some time offered courses in existentialism that treat Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka, Camus, and Sartre as representatives of a popular and, for the most part, accessible mentality. However, it became apparent that the doctrines of Heidegger and even Sartre could not be understood without some familiarity with phenomenology; and retrieving the intricacies of Hegel, Husserl, or Merleau-Ponty shortened the amount of time instructors could devote to the very writings that had drawn students to the course in existentialism.

The development of continental philosophy especially since the 1960s soon made it apparent that a different kind of course was needed. In creating the course, Daniel chose breadth over depth for two reasons. First, because a great deal of exchange and commentary characterizes the work of current continental thinkers, it is fruitless to consider them in isolation. Second, the pedagogic elevation of major figures or works and  the marginalization or exclusion of others - undermines the effort in current continental philosophy to include literary authors, artists, and social theorists. Admittedly, the constraints of ordinary course planning require that some selection be made; but by leaving out Lacan, Kristeva, Adorno, Althusser, Gadamer, or Deleuze, he would have legitimated the narrowing of focus which they and their more well-known counterparts had rejected. As Daniel has observed in modern philosophy courses, students who are unimpressed with Descartes or Kant as exemplars of philosophical orthodoxy are often the ones who get excited by Condillac or Vico, precisely because these latter thinkers do not fit easily into the rationalist, empiricist, or idealist categories.

Daniel thinks that it is a mistake to expect that students will understand or appreciate the continental philosophers if they are thrown solely into original sources, but without plunging into original sources they can hardly appreciate how current continental philosophers draw attention to the linguistic and material character of thought. In Contemporary Continental Thought he therefore has included general background discussions or overviews of significant strategies, movements, and thinkers of current continental philosophy. Before each of the readings he has added notes that highlight some of the main points developed by the author. The readings themselves have been selected either because they capture the spirit or main ideas of the writer and are relatively straightforward or are now considered central in understanding the writer's overall thought. In some cases they are short essays, in others they are selections from longer works. Together they provide readers a sense of the character and concerns of continental philosophy in the past forty years.

In contrast to the approach in other currently available anthologies, Contemporary Continental Thought makes two points. First, in arranging thinkers and movements in groupings, Daniel emphasizes that there are scholarly reasons to associate these thinkers. Second, despite the widespread assumption that strategies such as deconstruction, poststructuralism, and postmodernism all refer to roughly the same thing, it is important to differentiate these movements from one another. Any effort to provide a taxonomy or schema for these views may contradict the spirit of exchange that informs all of them, but for someone who initially confronts current continental philosophy, it is better to get a good sense of a position, even if it is later needs qualification.

Contemporary Continental Thought is intended for anyone who wants to understand the major ideas and thinkers of current continental philosophy, and that means getting clear on the real differences of critical theory, structuralism, psychoanalytic feminism, deconstruction, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and postmodernism. It is a collection of readings, which provides a sense of the variety and depth of these thinker's positions. It is accessible and timely, with excellent selections that address a variety of issues, and it is the only text of its kind on the market.

This is a well conceived volume. The editor (Stephen Daniel) is judicious and well advised in his selections of texts. Dennis J. Schmidt, Pennsylvania State University

I feel that Stephen Daniel's text is essentially a "first", a long-needed effort to gather together these sources in Contemporary Philosophy... this text is ambitious and well needed. It fills a gap in the textbook field, and the author demonstrates a true command of the material within the anthology. David Stegall, Clemson University  

Contemporary Continental Philosophy by Robert D'Amico (Dimensions of Philosophy Series) is a critical, balanced, and comprehensive study of the central philosophical ideas within the Continental tradition throughout the twentieth century. The study traces problems in epistemology and ontology through the key works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Mannheim, Lukacs, Gadamer, Habermas, Foucault, and Derrida. It covers such topics as whether philosophy is an autonomous discipline and whether its traditional disputes are resolvable. Though D'Amico criticizes central philosophical strategies within this tradition, he strives to preserve its philosophical insights and contributions.

Contemporary Continental Philosophy steps back from current debates comparing continental and analytic philosophy and carefully yet critically outlines the tradition's main philosophical views on epistemology and ontology. Forgoing obscure paraphrases, D'Amico provides a detailed, clear account and assessment of the tradition from its founding by Husserl and Heidegger to its challenge by Derrida and Foucault. Though intended as a survey of this tradition throughout the twentieth century, this study's focus is on the philosophical problems that gave it birth and continue to shape it.

The book reexamines Husserl as an early critic of epistemological naturalism whose grasp of the philosophical importance of the theory of meaning was largely ignored. Heidegger's contrasting effort to revive ontology is examined in terms of his distinction between ontic and ontological questions. In contrast with many earlier studies, the author outlines confusions engendered by the misappropriation of the distinct philosophical agendas of Husserl and Heidegger by such famous figures as Sartre and MerleauPonty. The book is also original in its

emphasis on how social externalism in epistemology, inspired by Karl Mannheim, influenced this tradition's structuralist and Marxist phases. The philosophical defenses of a theory of interpretation by Gadamer and Habermas are closely examined and assessed. D'Amico concludes with a probing yet balanced account of Foucault and Derrida as critics of philosophical autonomy. Finally, D'Amico reassesses the century‑long divide between the analytic and continental traditions and its implication for the future of philosophy.

 In 1949 Gilbert Ryle published The Concept o f Mind, a work that defined for the postwar generation the very idea of analytic philosophy. Some twenty years earlier Ryle had reviewed Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, which defined the future of continental philosophy for its audience, and noted in his review some agreement with Heidegger over how a latent "Cartesianism" in philosophy led to the so‑called mind‑body problem.' Ryle's review predates, therefore, the notion that there are two distinct and incommensurate philosophical traditions in the twentieth century.

I begin with this comment not only to recognize Ryle's breadth of philosophical interests, all too rare these days, but to introduce the topic of this book by stressing, now in contrast with him, how very different were these two philosophical works, even given some common aims; it is as though an era, not twenty years, separated them.

Ryle's book begins with an "official doctrine" about minds, prevalent among theorists and laypersons alike, whose central principles Ryle aims to challenge:

Such in outline is the official theory. I shall often speak of it, with deliberate abusiveness, as "the dogma of the Ghost in the machine." I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false not in detail but in principle. It is not merely an assemblage of particular mistakes. It is one big mistake and a mistake of a special kind. It is, namely, a category mistake . . . .The dogma is therefore a philosopher's myth. In attempting to explode the myth I shall probably be taken to be denying well‑known facts about . . . mental life ... and my plea that I aim at doing nothing more than rectify the logic of mental‑conduct concepts will probably be disallowed as mere subterfuge?

Heidegger also begins challenging a prejudice:

The question to be formulated is about the meaning of being . . . the average, vague understanding of being can be permeated by traditional theories and opinions about being in such a way that these theories, as the sources of the prevailing understanding, remain hidden. What is sought in the question of being is not completely unfamiliar, although it is at first totally ungraspable. What is asked about in the question to be elaborated is being, that which determines beings as beings, that in terms of which beings have already been understood no matter how they are discussed. The being of beings "is" itself not a being . . . . Hence, what is to be ascertained, the meaning of being, will require its own conceptualization, which again is essentially distinct from the concepts in which beings receive their determination of meaning.

The contrast between these passages is not just stylistic, though they exemplify British humor versus Germanic solemnity. Behind these words, behind even some agreement about whom to criticize and why, there lie deeply different understandings of the discipline of philosophy, its central concerns, and its very purpose.

This book details how the continental philosophical tradition developed in the twentieth century in such a philosophically distinct manner. It is neither a purely historical study, however, nor a partisan defense or attack. I will not document how this tradition emerged from various critical reactions to nineteenth‑century philosophy. Even where I briefly discuss influences, my aim is thematic, not synoptic. I wish to focus on the central philosophical ideas, specifically the core issues in epistemology and ontology, that constitute this tradition or approach as distinct. Concerns of length and emphasis preclude discussing ethics, political philosophy, or aesthetics. Before clarifying what I mean by writing a nonpartisan study, I want to emphasize how I understand this study's focus by mentioning two philosophers I exclude.

Nicolai Hartmann was a major German philosopher of his day and remained so even after Edmund Husserl's work eclipsed philosophical discussion in Europe. Further, Hartmann's defense of the study of ontology and philosophical realism relates to themes discussed in this book. But, as often happens in the history of philosophy, he is virtually unread today (except by specialists) and simply does not speak to any contemporary understanding of these issues. Thus when I say this study is not a historical survey, I mean that though some of those I discuss were familiar with Hartmann's work, Hartmann is not part of the core conception of continental philosophy as a distinct tradition. I do not think Hartmann belongs to what philosophers, in either tradition today, consider the procedures or tasks of philosophy. Whether philosophers are right to ignore him and whether his status might someday change is not my concern here.

In contrast with the lack of interest in Hartmann, there have been a number of recent studies of the French philosopher and theologian Emmanuel Levinas. Until these appeared, he would have been considered a relatively minor commentator on Martin Heidegger. Jacques Derrida, a figure who does enter this study, proclaimed Levinas's importance in a 1964 essay. Subsequently, and likely due to Derrida's growing influence far beyond philosophy, Levinas has been treated as overlooked and significant. I confess that I cannot see the innovative aspects of his work as found by others and, even if I could, Levinas's theology and ethics (even given the very broad conception he favors) fall outside the compass of this study. Whatever the continental philosophical tradition is today and whether it constitutes a distinct philosophical tradition with a future does not depend, in my view, on understanding Levinas; at least it does not depend on it in the same way that it does on understanding Husserl.

I am aware that such judgments, with the passing of time, may be found wanting in both detail and emphasis. It will be apparent, for instance, that Jean‑Paul Sartre, who would have loomed especially large in a book such as this one some twenty or thirty years ago, shrinks quite considerably in my study. But I can only carry out such a project as I see it, making whatever case I can for these decisions. In the end, however, such judgments fall where they may.

That comment brings me to clarifying why I say my aim is not to produce a partisan account either for or against this tradition as philosophy. I do not mean that by being nonpartisan all I aim at is one of those endless expository productions in which positions are moved on and off stage for their allotted summaries (though I cannot say I wholly avoid that grueling and tiresome effect). As I hope will quickly emerge, this study is meant to be a critical discussion of these philosophical ideas. Summaries of philosophical issues die on the page, at least in my experience, if they are not animated by some effort to explore their defenses and problems beyond what amounts to simply paraphrasing the original. I also believe that a reader, even if the reader is finally led to reject my questions, objections, or comments as misdirected, arrives at a surer grasp of the issues in virtue of thinking through these criticisms or doubts.

What I do mean by being nonpartisan is that I neither defend this tradition's philosophical superiority over analytic philosophy nor find it wanting in comparisons (Neither of these labels is, of course, very precise, but I use them in roughly the same way everybody else does. I do, however, avoid the even more misleading "Anglo‑American philosophy.") Though I consider the similarities in philosophical strategies and problems between them, comparative judgments are, in effect, suspended for much of the book. In my expositions I appeal to philosophers from either tradition if I think their views help focus the discussion, but my use is explicative, not comparative. In the conclusion to this study I will assess these traditions as competitors, albeit very briefly, and discuss my view of the future of continental philosophy. But I am confident that the critical expositions, which are the book's aim and, I hope, main contribution, are independent of those specific conclusions.

I had a final motivation for attempting such a book. Many of the figures and ideas discussed in this book have become, oddly enough, more widely read and even familiar to nonacademic audiences than their analytic counterparts. I do not want to speculate on the reasons for this state of affairs, though I think it simply is related to the increasingly technical character of some analytic philosophy along with the increasingly literary veneer of some continental philosophy. I call it odd because continental philosophers are, on the whole, forbidding and extremely difficult to read or understand. As can be noted from the comparison that begins this introduction, it is a tradition that favors a kind of "high," obscure diction, if I may put it that way, unwelcoming to outsiders‑often intentionally so, I believe.

The coincidence of a growing interest in these writers by those in many disciplines, some only distantly related to philosophy, and the kind of philosophy produced in this tradition has resulted in confusing and extremely contentious interpretations and debates. A book such as this one provides readers with at least some tools for both debating and critically assessing the many contending and adventuresome accounts of these ideas that flourish in the secondary literature. I believe that this pedagogic aim is not unrelated to my overriding conception, repeated in the conclusion, that there is more to the continental tradition in its core conception of philosophy and in its contributions than the many popular and partisan accounts serve to make clear.

The structure of the book allows chapters to be read separately from each other, though there are interconnected themes, and I often refer readers to discussions in other chapters. The central themes of the book are in Chapters 1 and 2, covering Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, respectively, Jean‑Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty are also discussed in those two chapters, but only within the compass of the central figures in this tradition, Husserl and Heidegger. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 are, in contrast, more thematically organized, and I have chosen what I consider the central or more philosophically relevant representatives. The Conclusion lifts the suspended judgment about the continental tradition in the twentieth century and considers it in comparison with analytic philosophy and in terms of its future as a philosophical tradition. For readers' convenience, at the end of each chapter is a list of the main works cited in that chapter with their title abbreviations. In lieu of providing a complete bibliography, which would neither be practical nor suit the nature of this study, each chapter ends with Suggested Readings.


Philosophy, Revision, Critique: Rereading Practices in Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Emerson by David H. Wittenberg (Stanford University Press) Philosophers have almost always relegated the topic of revision to the sidelines of their discipline, if they have thought about it at all. This book contends that acts of revision are central and indispensable to the project of philosophizing and that philosophy should be construed essentially as a practice of rereading and rewriting. The book focuses chiefly on Heidegger's highly influential interpretation of Nietzsche, conducted in lectures during the 1930s and 1940s and published in 1961. The author closely analyzes the rhetorical means by which Heidegger repositions Nietzsche's thinking within a broad history of metaphysics, even as Heidegger positions his own reinterpretation as that history's more "proper" reading.

The author argues that Heidegger's revisionist project recasts the philosophical text as paralipsis, a special kind of ironic statement that when "properly" received by the philosophical rereader, expresses what the text did not and could not say. The study of such paraliptical revisionism within the philosophical canon offers a new way of understanding the basic historicity of the philosophical text, a text that is critically indistinguishable from its own future history of interpretations. Philosophy itself is revision, a deeply historicist rereading practice, a continuous reappropriation of its own improper textual past.

In addition to being the first book-length published study of Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche, the book also examines the work of Hans-Robert Jauss, Harold Bloom, and other critics of revision. In particular, Ralph Waldo Emerson's early essays on history, read both with and against Heidegger's analysis of metaphysics, demonstrate why the historical intervention achieved by revisionist reading is not only a formal and thematic alteration of the past, but also a rhetorical coercion of future interpretive tendencies. No philosophical reader is simply a user or victim of revisionist methods: in rereading philosophical pasts, the reader is the very mechanism by which such interpretive tendencies are first formed into problems or thoughts within the philosophical canon.

Husserl, Heidegger, and the Space of Meaning: Paths Toward Transcendental Phenomenology by Steven Galt Crowell (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy: Northwestern University Press) In a penetrating and lucid discussion of the enigmatic relationship between the work of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, Steven Galt Crowell proposes that the distinguishing feature of twentieth‑century philosophy is not so much its emphasis on language as its concern with meaning. Arguing that transcendental phenomenology is indispensable to the philosophical explanation of the space of meaning, Crowell shows how a proper understanding of both Husserl and Heidegger reveals the distinctive contributions of each to that ongoing phenomenological project.

Crowell identifies the underlying affinities between Heidegger and Husserl, at the same time sharply outlining their differences. Chiefly, he characterizes Heidegger as a transcendental phenomenologist in a Husserlian vein. Supporting this thesis with a reading of Heidegger's writings, from the early publications and lecture courses through Being and Time, and considering them in terms of the philosopher's later work, Crowell offers a comprehensive view of Heidegger's philosophical itinerary.

Husserl, Heidegger, and the Space of Meaning calls into question many well‑entrenched ideas about Heidegger, including the common view of Heidegger as a mystic or a philosopher of life. Crowell details the important influence of neo‑Kantian transcendental philosophy on the young Heidegger and traces Heidegger's criticism of neo‑Kantianism on the topics of intentionality, Evidence, logic, and subjectivity. Crowell also challenges the received view that Heidegger rejected the reduction, the transcendental ego, and Husserl's turn to idealism in Ideas.

THE EDINBURGH ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY edited by Simon Glendinning ($125.00, hardcover, 685 pages, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers; ISBN: 1579581528)

THE EDINBURGH ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY covers - in depth and at length - the most important authors and movements in the tradition of Continental Philosophy. Fifty-eight extensive chapters and an internationally recognised team of contributors make this the most comprehensive, single-volume reference now available for Continental Philosophy. This book offers extensive coverage of all the key thinkers from Kant, Hegel and Sartre, to Derrida, Baudrillard and Irigaray. Its scope is broad, and ranges from Classical Idealism through Existentialism, Phenomenology, and Psychoanalysis, to Structuralism and Post-structuralism.

Fully inclusive, the book is usefully organised into chronological and thematic areas for ease of reference.

• An essential tool for all those working in philosophy, literature or the history of ideas

• An extensive compilation of essays by leading scholars in each subject area

• Will be the number one reference tool in the area for many years to come

In recent years, interest in Continental thought has risen markedly in English-speaking philosophy. However, there has been very little introductory material available for students and teachers. This ENCYCLOPEDIA aims to meet that need, offering a comprehensive guide and essential reference tool for anyone interested in philosophy, literary theory and the history of ideas. Reflecting the 'movements-based' nature of the Continental tradition, the ENCYCLOPEDIA begins with the founding texts of Classical Idealism, and each subsequent chapter follows, in order of their emergence, the schools of thought that make up and characterise this distinctive and important tradition of philosophy.

Simon Glendinning is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Reading. He is the author of On Being With Others (Routledge, 1998) and has published articles on perception, animal life and various metaphilosophical issues.

'This is an important and much needed book which tells the story so far of Continental philosophy. Each individual piece gives a comprehensive account of the work of a significant individual thinker from the tradition ... Very high standards of scholarship are on display, and the book will be especial)%, valuable as a first port of call for analytically trained philosophers looking for a way into work from the other side of the divide.' -Professor Gregory McCulloch, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham.

'One of the great merits of this ENCYCLOPEDIA is that no-one dipping their way through it with any attention could fail to mark its own built-in scepticism as to the very existence of any systematic body of philosophy that could properly be taken to constitute a unity under such an ostensibly geographical title as that of Continental Philosophy. Yet in all the rich diversity of its material it is clear too that there are connecting threads. Readers will find themselves fascinated by the sheer variety and vigour of the many individual contributions as they crisscross and even at times cut across each other. As they read on, they will find little or no need to worry about what in philosophy is properly to be labelled "analytic" and what, on the apparent contrary, "continental". The availability of this Encyclopaedia will make a real contribution to the coming restoration of a common philosophical universe of discourse. It is much to be welcomed.' - Alan Montefiore, Balliol College, Oxford.

Contributors Introduction: Simon Glendinning

Classical Idealism: Terry Pinkard; Philip Stratton-Lake; Torn Rockmore; W. 1. Mander. Alan White; Robert Aaron Rethy;

Philosophy of Existence: Lewis R. Gordon; James L. Marsh; Martin J. Beck-Matustik; William A- Preston; Peter Caws and Peter Fettner; Linda A. Bell; Katherine Rudolph.

Philosophies of Life and Understanding: Fiona Hughes; Christian Berner; Jacob Owensby; Guy Lafrance; lean Grondin; Daniel Cefai and Veronique Munoz-Darde; J. E. Tiles

Phenomenology: Gail Weiss; Susan F. Krantz; Thomas Nenon; Stephen Galt Crowell; Thomas W. Busch; Galen A. Johnson; Dorothea E. Olkowski,

Politics, Psychoanalysis and Science: Gillian Howie; Lawrence S. Stepelevich; Andrew Collier; Simon Dentith; Jim Hopkins; Elizabeth Wright, Christopher Norris; James Bohman.

The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory: Simon Jarvis; Andrew Edgar; Drew Milne; Howard Caygill; Chris Thornhill; Nicholas Walker.

Structuralism: Jeremy Jennings; John E. Joseph; Gary Roth; Gregory Elliott; Caroline Williams; C. Scott Littleton; Michael Moriarty.

Post-stucturalism: John Protevi; David Owen; Diane Perpich; Alistair Welchman; lain Hamilton Grant; Tina Chantey; Michal Ben-Naftali.

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