Re: Continental vs. Analytical...

In response to the claims that continental and analytical approaches are
fundamentally incommensurable...

I think that they are not incommensurable. Yes, there are definite and
deep points of contention, but incommensurability is something else.
There are disagreements within analytic philosophy that seem greater
than those between some analytics and some continentals. To maintain
the distinction as real is then groundless, I would say. A groundlessness that
might be termed "philosophism" or "disciplinism", not so different from the
groundlessness of racism, sexism, heterosexism, or speciesism.
Certainly we ought not to think that continental philosophy and analytic
philosophy consist in real kinds.

Wittgenstein would point out that for there to be disagreement, there
must first be agreement. Have analytics and continentals staked out
entirely different territory? No, they do disagree on certain
questions, but the fact that these questions are conceptualizable within
each approach suggests something is shared. And if they have different
terms for similar concepts, or different concepts with shared names,
that is not incommensurability. Incommensurability means that not only
would agreement be impossible, but also that disagreement would be

To analytic philosophers, it might be best at this point to enumerate
all the territory that is shared, and all that is not. I won't go
through that exercise here, nor do I pretend to know all that is shared.

To continental philosophers, and especially to those interested in
Foucault, I would ask them to consider what relations of power culminate
in or maintain the conclusion that analytic and continental philosophies are
fundamentally incommensurable. There are clearly benefits associated
with such compartmentalization, aren't there? What discourses are
enabled by promoting this disciplinary separatism?

Presumably, there are benefits to drawing such strict boundaries; and
the boundaries remain because both of the sides have an interest in
maintaining the boundary. Perhaps an enumeration of those benefits
would, as it were, paint the shared territory in relief.

I'm certainly not arguing that analytics and continentals should just
get along. My point is that they get along too easily, because they
don't take seriously the challenges that each throws up to the other.
Promoting the idea that they are incommensurable means that they would
not need to consider those challenges, and I think that's too easy.

In effect, I guess I would most want to challenge the use of the word
"incommensurable". Think of theism and atheism. Are they
incommensurable? No. They trade on the same concepts; the reason there
can be theism is because there can be atheism. And vice versa. They
are relational terms. And, I would argue, analytic and continental are
relational terms. One cannot be both an analytic and a continental
[simultaneously, that is]. Thus, they are not incommensurable. If they
were incommensurable, they would not obey the p or -p rule, and one
could simultaneously be both.

Hope my logic's correct. :)

Blaine Rehkopf
York University



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