IS CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY “IN THE DOLDRUMS”?

Ed Hackett argues that Continental Philosophy has much to teazch analytic philosophy in terms of its openness to experience and to its diversity, outside the pretention to being a science, now or in the future . Yet he feels that both Continental and analytic philosophy are currently “in the doldrums”, though for divergent reasons.

Continental Philosophy is characterised, according to Hackett, by attention to cultural horizons, artistic productivity, and relevance to the man in the street. Potentially it is not subject to the analytic doldrums of the “malaise of relevance”. Yet, Hackett repeats the charge, made popular by the (post-)OOO/SR crowd, that Continental Philosophy has become “endless commentary“, mere textual exegesis:

“Continental philosophy is in the doldrums because its very good fortune about responding to interpreting cultural horizons also means that it has become an activity of commenting upon comments about someone else’s comments about Heidegger. It has become textual exegesis without application”.

I think that precisely the contrary is the case, and that there are a multiple lines of research in France that have never gone silent, but that are reaching a new plateau of intensity and of convergence today. Bruno Latour’s book AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE is a real gamechanger in Continental Philosophy. It is one of those rare books that open us to wider domains of experience and that radically rethink the whole range of experience and of our ways of conceptualising it. Badiou is working towards the third volume of his BEING AND EVENT trilogy: THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, centred around “subjectivation”, and so containing a new concept of experience as experience of truths. Bernard Stiegler’s on line courses and seminars, and the books that derive from and accompany them, are constantly revising our concept of experience in the light of a post-deconstructive encounter with digital technologies and neuro-power. Laruelle’s “quantum trilogy” (PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD, ANTI-BADIOU, and CHRISTO-FICTION) attempt a revision of our thinking that is the culmination of his non-philosophy project.

None of these ongoing Continental philosophical projects is confined to textual exegesis or to nostalgic ruminations on past thinkers. All four are breaking new paths.

(Note: A recent book by Babette Babich THE HALLELUJAH EFFECT shows that Continental philosophy is going strong in the US as well, and that it contains its own means of opening us to encompass vaster ranges of experience and of rethinking the familiar. Such was already the case with Dreyfus and Kelly’s ALL THINGS SHINING, another relatively unknown yet essential work. Babich breaks new paths, uniting Continental erudition with the contemporary popular relevance that Hackett seems to think is on the wane).

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