Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Does the philosophical divide really need to be deepened?

Michael Marder has a new post on the weird brush up that occured over at the Leiter blog a while back. A couple of quick thoughts:

(1) It is kinda weird how he makes a whole post about the Leiter situation without mentioning Leiter once. On the one hand, I guess I understand that impulse. On the other hand, the desire to read the situation as being somehow deeply symptomatic of philosophy as a whole seems fairly problematic.
(2) Most of my interactions with younger academics (the recently tenured, junior faculty, and everyone below that) seem relatively uninterested in continuing any sort of active hostilities. Now, I am sure there is a major sampling bias going on in those experiences, but I've never felt that what I need is less interactions with my brethren on the analytic side of things. Even with that said, it is true that a good number of biases and prejudices continue on both sides of the fence. As usual, I am not sure more segregation is the best way of getting rid of those biases and prejudices. Marder solution seems to not be a solution at all, and more of a way of just not having to deal with each other. Coming out of an institution with two philosophy programs (probably one of the few in the States that has more than one), I'm not sure it is best solution to the situation, either. Though the divide between PIC and SPEL is hardly a simple one of between Continental and Analytic, considering neither program offers a lot in traditional analytical philosophy.
(3) I guess this gets me into another problem with Marder's post, which is the way the whole conflict seems constituted around one linear divide in philosophy. I almost want to say something like there are more philosophies in heaven and earth, Marder, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. My training in non-western and decolonial philosophy is as likely to make me seem like a stranger among readers of Deleuze and Agamben, as my training in Deleuze and Agamben is to make me seem like a stranger among those who were trained in Russell and Quine. Moreover, if you spend some time talking to people who practice ethics in the Analytic tradition, more than a few of them will regale you with stories about they way they are often treated as ugly step children among their cohort in Analytic philosophy. Meanwhile, while I often engage in a history of philosophy, I don't tend to think of what I do as a history of philosophy. And I am somewhat unsettled by Marder's elision between Continental philosophy and a history of philosophy. I know plenty historians of philosophy who are not Continentalists, and I know plenty of Continentalists who are not primarily historians of philosophy. I know in some way in seems I am picking on Marder for engaging in simple heuristics necessary for a blog post, but I am trying to highlight one of things that makes me most uneasy with his solution of deepening the divide. I don't think there is the divide, and if we seek to deepen along the fault lines of only a linear and singular divide than those of us who have so many other differences is going to find it all the harder to find their places. With a little recourse to Ranciere, the problem with a place for everyone and everyone in their place is you are always going to have a remainder, a part that has no part.

Anyway, I am feeling fairly sympathetic to Marder in all of this. And it is true that Leiter et al seem to have fairly strong unofficial institutional influence, and that the tendency of many of them to act in such a strongly and absurdly anachronistic fashion, tilting at the 'postmodernists' and feeling superior over groups they clearly know little to nothing about is disturbing. But with all of that, I have no desire to confuse what is going on over there with philosophy in general. Or, maybe I just hope it doesn't reflect philosophy in general.