In Gespenst geht um an Deutschlands philosophischen Seminaren: das Gespenst eines Weltsiegs der analytischen Philosophie und eines Massenexodus der geschlagenen kontinentalen Philosophie. Wohin zieht sie? Vorwiegend in andere Erdteile: nach Ostasien, Australien, Brasilien oder, ausgerechnet, in die Vereinigten Staaten, von denen der entscheidende Schlag gegen die kontinentaleuropäische Philosophietradition geführt wurde. Manfred Frank, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [HT Ivan Boldyrev]
As Manfred Frank recently noted in FAZ, analytical philosophy is slowly but surely displacing continental philosophy in many European countries. (Frank has a good eye for the historical ironies involved in this.) Because analytical philosophy has always accepted the intellectual division of labor (recall), it focuses on (what it takes to be) well-defined puzzles and problems, and because its ‘output’ is published in international, high citation journals – sometimes crossing over with various sciences --, it does much better than any competitor (local or foreign) in a grant-driven environment.* Given that in our times of scarcity, the grants are sources of PhD funding and career advancement this process is hard to combat even if there were the will to do so. Frank (who is a bit dismissive of interdisciplinary work in, say, philosophy of mind) claims that the Bologna process -- which both standardized European degrees, but also shortened many students’ educations --, facilitated the process.
The revived fortunes of European Analytical philosophy are not merely sociological. As I have noted before, formal philosophy was nurtured in Europe long after many of the best students of the Vienna and Berlin refugees had lost interest in it Stateside. Formal philosophy in Europe is not just logic or decision theory, but also philosophical linguistics, pragmatics, and social choice. In addition, the vitality of European analytical philosophy is also to be found in a number of applied areas (technology, social risk, etc.) and philosophy of science, especially the special sciences.
Not all European analytical philosophy is home-grown; quite a bit of it -- including well-funded stuff -- echoes or copies work done in North-America, the UK, and Australia (often with a half-decade delay). The very forces that encourage the growth of analytical philosophy in Europe, also encourage such (what I call) me-too-research. When I was still a professional philosopher I benefited from these trends, but I also lament the homogenization of the local intellectual landscape. For, even the best European analytical philosophers tend to be narrower philosophically on average than their North American counterparts due to differences in graduate education and specialization.
In addition to European continental philosophy having a hard time fitting into the grant structure mechanisms that will determine the future of 'research' around here, continental philosophy has some self-inflicted wounds. As an outsider to that tradition, I want to single out tentatively two such wounds: first, there is a kind of internal exhaustion of continental philosophy that has relied, a bit too much perhaps, on the great man inventing the next great thing in Paris (often with a stint Stateside along the way). The next great thing in Paris is still ongoing, but it is noticeable that many of the men being touted these days are the aged whose main claim to fame is primarily that they have managed to outlive the more interesting and energetic folk that have died.
Yes, I have heard of Quentin Meillassoux. I like reading him (and some of the other speculative realists most of whom are not European); he is the real deal. But his work also exhibits some of the self-inflicted wounds; for example, a near-total ignorance of, say, half a century work in philosophy of science and analytical metaphysics (which matters if you write about modality and science--this is why I prefer Graham Harman who reads widely in science studies).+ The exception to my generalizations -- phenomenological and enactive philosophy of mind is thriving -- also prove my claims: recent Phenomenology has made its peace with the division of labor, engages with the sciences (often more subtly than the analytical counterparts), and is willing to draw on different traditions. It also has domesticated itself by going naturalistic.
The second self-inflicted wound is the mutual ignorance among European continental philosophers. It's true that Habermas and Derrida started to agree about European politics near the end of Derrida's life, but their schools tend to ignore each other. Frank's piece is essentially an angry elegy on the passing of the great German Idealist tradition (in Europe; he notes it is more vital outside of Europe). But while not all of the folk working in that tradition were primarily oriented toward the past, few would engage seriously and critically with the other post-Kantian (non-Analytical) European philosophical movements. Relatively insular schools can remain vital philosophically with effort, but unless there are technical improvements that drive internal development, the champions of the school need to engage with other schools. But too few of the German Idealist tradition -- Frank is a notable exception -- bothered to engage seriously with the challenges emanating from, say, Deleuze or Derrida; more often than not they would recycle boringly familiar pseudo-historical narratives neatly summarized in ten points in overlong lectures.
If you read my blog for the first time, you may mistake the previous paragraph for the condescending stance typical of analytical philosophers toward historical philosophers. It's not intended in that spirit. Rather, it's written by somebody that can appreciate Frank's bitter irony; I would welcome a more diverse philosophical local landscape. And so, I'll leave him with the last word which contains an apt description of the tacit theodicy presupposed by many analytical philosophers:
Viele Analytiker aber glauben fest, alle alten Irrtümer der philosophischen Tradition seien im neuen (wohlgemerkt: analytischen) Schulwissen korrigiert, Fortschritte an Einsichten stillschweigend berücksichtigt. Das ist eine Form des Hegelianismus, der jeden nachhaltigen Gedanken als Meilenstein auf dem Weg zum „absoluten Wissen“ aufhob und mitnahm.