DO ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHERS HAVE CONTINENTAL QUALIA?: on Babette Babich in conversation with Chris Bateman

There is a very interesting discussion of the twin problems of the nature and the continued existence of Continental Philosophy, in an interview by Chris Bateman of Babette Babich (part 1, part 2).

Babich discusses the problem of the “appropriation” or the “co-optation” of continental philosophy by analytically-minded philosophers. The crux of the matter is the annexation of a tradition that privileges depth, questioning, dissensus, complexity, multivalence, and hermeneutics by a tradition that privileges atomisation, answering, consensus, and intra-paradigmatic argument.

For me this raises the question of “c-zombies”: can there be philosophers who work in or on continental philosophy without having any continental qualia? who do not have the slightest awareness or concern for conceptual divergence, incommensurability, contextual exchange, underlying problematics, enunciative posture and semiotic modes?

Many responses to Babich’s diagnosis were content to react rather to a caricature of their own invention, a dumbed down de-concepted version of Babich’s position and arguments, thus involuntarily confirming her analysis.

Some understood Babich as caught in a pragmatic contradiction, arguing that Continental Philosophy doesn’t argue. Babich says that analytic philosophy privileges argument and persuasion (or consensus) and that continental philosophy privileges other things. She is read as saying that continental philosophy does not value argument. Yet the fact that she is constantly giving arguments is not seen to infirm this simplistic interpretative hypothesis, but only to confirm the pre-existing hypothesis that all such talk is silly and wrong.

Far from presenting an isolated and idiosyncratic perspective, Babich is in good company. Lyotard, Deleuze, Zizek have argued similarly. In POSTMODERN FABLES Lyotard argues that Continental “writing” sets limits to analytic argumentation. Deleuze and Guattari, in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, argue that privileging argument and interlocution leads to the replacement of concept by doxa, and of incommensurabilities by consensus. In his latest book DISPARITIES Zizek argues against the analytic “renormalization” of Hegel carried out by Brandom and Pippin.

Babich also argues that many philosophers who self-identify as continental are in fact analytic in origin or training or approach. One commenter objected by citing a case where he gave a talk on Nietzsche and a “continental-identifying” philosopher in the audience asked him why he hadn’t given the talk in the style of Nietzsche. However, this is a bad example, that only confirms Babich’s point. Requiring that to talk about Nietzsche you must talk in the style of Nietzsche betrays a literal-minded, i.e. analytic, mindset.

Continental philosophers such as Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Badiou have written on Nietzsche without adopting Nietzsche’s style. Given their emphasis that important conceptual presuppositions are contained in a philosopher’s mode of enunciation it would be naive and uncritical to simply reproduce that style.

Further reading:

Daily Nous: The “Analytic Co-opting” and Death of the Continental Tradition

Philosophical Percolations: One more difference between analytic and contintental philosophy: preliminary thoughts on Babich and Bateman

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3 Responses to DO ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHERS HAVE CONTINENTAL QUALIA?: on Babette Babich in conversation with Chris Bateman

  1. Baudrillard is Nietzschean and I would say if you are going to discuss Nietzsche then be more Nietzschean than Nietzsche. AynRand does this in her fiction only. She has absorbed him since age 16.


    • terenceblake says:

      True but absorption is not the same as imitation. Deleuze absorbed Nietzsche and advocated writing in intensities like Nietzsche, but in your own way. This is why his later books, where he does not discuss Nietzsche, are more Nietzschean than his book on Nietzsche.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Why does it matter? (Honest question … not being facitious). What practical advantage is there to explicating this?


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