CONTEXT FOR “THE 16 TRAITS OF CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY”: reply to anonymous

In reply to my post on 16 TRAITS OF CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY an anonymous comment on the DAILYNOUS thread cast doubt on the whole thing, complaining that I constantly referenced Zizek, who is not even widely appreciated by other Continental philosophers and is, according to “anonymous” not representative of Continental philosophy as a style. “Anon” pours scorn on my list, but does not seem to have taken the trouble to look at the posts that the list is summarising. Despite a very condescending tone, Anon confesses rather comically not to understand points 2, 3, and 5:

“2-3) and 5) Many, probably most, continental philosophers will, like me, have no idea what these are talking about”. 

I feel that I should reply in very general terms concerning my own motivation and context for my very hypothetical list, without indulging the pusillanimous side of the comment. Anon will have to get his or her private lessons elsewhere.

I was trained in analytic philosophy in the 1970s and then branched out into Continental philosophy. I then came to live in Paris in 1980 and attended the seminars of Deleuze, Lyotard, Serres, and Foucault. In fact it was a very strong recommendation by Lyotard, who I met and showed my work to, that got me the original scholarship to come to Paris and study with him. (Note: I give this detail because Anon seems to want to “trump” me by citing Lyotard, as if I were ignorant of his ideas). I now live in Nice (France) but I still follow philosophy seminars both physically and on-line (in particular Bernard Stiegler’s seminars). So much for the arrogant declination of the “right” to speak about Continental philosophy.

I do not like Anon’s tone nor their cavalier treatment of what amounts to quite a lot of work writing up that series of posts. So they will get no replies from me to their childish one-liners purporting to refute the relevance of my list and just ignoring all my explanations.

In the first post of the series that is being summarised I explain very clearly that I am reacting to Chomsky’s takedown of Continental philosophy by means of his critique of Zizek as a typical example of all that he finds wrong with it. That is why I constantly reference Zizek, who is not at all my cup of tea, and who I have criticised severely on my blog. So I consider Zizek only insofar as he “illustrates many traits of French poststructuralist philosophy”.

But Lyotard illustrates these quite well too, and he enounces them in his writings, only he most often uses different words. By the way, contrary to Anon’s insinuation I don’t use “creation of concepts” as a definition of philosophy, but as just one trait in an array of traits that characterise the style of Continental philosophy. This was in fact Lyotard’s view too, and also Deleuze’s. If one takes pains to to understand what Deleuze actually means by “creation of concepts” it spells out as having pretty much the same meaning as the list of 16 traits, so Anon bandies phrases about that they don’t seem to understand very well.

On point 10 concerning the question of hermeneutic pluralism, Anon in their best pedagogical/convivial style declaims:

“10) Oh, for crying out loud. Not even Nietzsche would agree with that. Maybe a really low-rent Foucault”.

Hermeneutic pluralism, as explained at length on my blog, is the view of Bruno Latour and of Bernard Stiegler, two living philosophers who are producing very interesting and important work, but Anon seems to have mainly an academic and historical approach and to be quite ignorant of recent work. Deleuze’s philosophy is quite aptly characterised as one of “hermeneutic pluralism” as described by me (and Stiegler, and Latour) despite the fact that Deleuze is very critical of “hermeneutics”, but means something quite different by it. Knowing a lot of words and historical references is good for a beginner, but even then one should try and understand what they mean.

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