J. Edward Hackett
Like it or not, no matter where you stand on the old Continental and Analytic Divide, (and I’ve written on it before here) traditions exist within philosophy, and these traditions have a concrete effect about what constitutes academic life. While I called for the dissolution of the Divide before, it makes little sense to ignore how this Divide is causally efficacious in your experience. In this post, I'd like to suggest a few thoughts regarding how prudent it is to see how others relate to you via this Divide when you've purposefully chosen to go to the margins of these Dividing traditions or work on the outskirts of them completely.
Both of these scenarios are fictional and never happened. My only point is if you come from one of these worlds filtered through the Divide, then these experiences do not seem that foreign, but part of the lived-experience of how these traditions and those that believe in the Divide get perpetuated.
Some have argued that thinking in terms of traditions and figures make people beholden to the authority traditions and figures have over us. For this reason, Leiter agreed with Deleuze that that phenomenology is 20th century “scholasticism,” and I mostly agree. SPEP is (sometimes) one large exercise in wading through the quicksand of tradition and the papers are largely exegetical. We can see something like this being true in the following scenarios.
Diatoma’s refutation of Jones’s refutation of Heidegger’s forgotten about and untranslated text in being revived and published in the Gesamtausgabe vol. 1143, and another paper will be a psychoanalytic reading of what Diatoma got wrong about Jones’s reaction to Heidegger, another paper will attempt to reframe the issue in completely different terms because Lacan apparently had access to the same text being published in vol. 1143, and the final paper of the same panel will show (yet again) why Levinas would object in complete horror about the unthought otherness neglected by Heidegger, Jones, and Diatoma’s reading of them. Jones will be jealous that Diatoma had Klostermann on his dissertation committee and studied under Bill Richardson since Diatoma only went to Memphis for an MA but went to Penn State before Lawlor got there.
To this we can predict the “typical analytic” comeback: “I do not think in terms of traditions, I think for myself.” In thinking for oneself, one is essentially locked in a tradition that promotes that as a central norm of philosophizing itself, but can succumb to the same social pressures of academic life and tradition. Let’s rethink Smith and Jones again, but it’s not SPEP. It’s the APA in a room sequestered off in downtown Philadelphia in Center City. Jones-Reginald has come down from Harvard. He’s recently defended his dissertation at Pittsburgh and landed a temporary post-doc where he’s published his dissertation as a book on Brandomian neopragmatism and its consequences for philosophy of language. It’s his first author meets critic session at the APA. Unbeknownst to Jones-Reginald, Smith has been very critical of Brandom and his version of neopragmatism thinking that conceptual content cannot be identified with social discursive practices. The author meets critic session gets bloody. Argumentative exchanges look more like presidential debates. Smith denies the basis of Jones-Reginald’s framework while Jones-Reginald just reasserts the basic intuition about his framework. No real discussion happens even though both sides feel as though it did. Flummoxed, Jones-Reginald leaves fairly uncertain about his abilities. The audience leaves unflummoxed since this happens all the time; such argumentative exchanges are tradition! The exchange is so prominent that the gladiatorial engagement is lamented at feministphilosophers.wordpress.com, and heated exchanges of academic gossip spill over in an open thread (which will be a graduate student’s question about decorum of the exchange between Jones-Reginald and Smith) on Leiter’s website.
Now, assume from these two anecdotes if Diatoma and Smith teach in the same university. If a Continental were to have a comeback to the quip about ”thinking for oneself” she might say something like: “You need to embrace the historicity of understanding since all ideas we talk about in philosophy are mediated by history.” The two will bicker across the hall never reading the other because Analytic and Continental philosophy legitimize not reading each other—that’s why it’s crucial to call for the Divide’s ultimate dissolution. If both teach at a graduate school somewhere, they may not even teach the same graduate students let alone serve together on the same thesis and dissertation committees. Both Analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy are categories of exclusion. One can repeat to oneself, “I’m a Continental and I do not need to read Parfit.” One can repeat to oneself, “I’m an analytic philosopher of action, I do not need to read Sartre or Heidegger.” (Although I’d love to see a Heidegger/Parfit paper!)
Traditions and the Margins
This is all very well and good, but it doesn’t help that these hermeneutic traditions are here now and have an affect on your experience. I wanted to provide these caricatures as an amusing anecdote to the Divide’s relative staying power. In fact, when you think about it, the over-specialization and professionalization of philosophers makes the analytics and continental brand that more prominent and also explains the appeal of marginalized figures and traditions. We can stand out a little more easier than the typical metaethics grad from the Leiter-rific and someone else SPEP world that (yet again) thinks ethics are possible in Heidegger’s thought. Oh another, philosopher of language, oh another Heidegger scholar, another ad for someone that does philosophy of mind and competence in the analytic tradition, another ad for someone that does feminist theory, philosophy of race, and everything Continental under the sun (usually the small liberal arts college with an over-abundance of men)! One can just anticipate what these people have read simply because of these are traditions breeding more and more PhDs for jobs that echo these traditions of the Divide itself.
Working on marginalized authors even inside these traditions is a completely different experience altogether and there is an extra layer of difficulty these categories generate when you do work on marginalized figures and marginalized traditions within what people take to be the governing traditions of the Divide itself or marginalized traditions that stand on the periphery.
Isn't Continental Philosophy Marginalized?
Yes and no.
You’ll also notice that I’ve talked as if Continental philosophy is not itself a marginalized tradition and I leave it completely ambiguous what a marginalized tradition can mean. Let me take the first point. In some ways, Continental philosophy can have marginal status, but for the most part, the fact that it was excluded forced people interested in Continental philosophy to institutionalize it in non-analytic departments such that the very exclusion of Continental philosophy has produced a network of institutions primarily concerned with it. Incidentally, this exclusion narrative is not exhaustive of why Continental philosophy first found a home at Catholic institutions, but that’s another post for another day.
On the second point, I leave marginalized tradition open since what satisfied the condition of marginalized tradition or figure is somewhat relative to time and place. Certainly, early phenomenologists do not get their fair shake at SPEP just as much as early Harvard American realists are not well represented in analytic histories of philosophy (and maybe overlooked by pragmatists too). A lot of critical theory is considered (not by all) somewhat marginalized away from the mainstay of phenomenology and hermeneutics, and object-oriented ontologies vie for acceptance in what some here call "SPEP canon." As it stands, traditions coming from Latin America, Africana philosophy, and those interested in Asian/Eastern philosophies stand on the periphery of both analytic and Continental philosophy. This can all change depending on what influences the next generation of thinkers. That’s also why we went to the margins, however. Experimenting at the margins might be one way for you to pit yourself against the forces of exclusion and to stand out in the pile of CVs on the search committee’s desk. In fact, you might have picked the next best thing, but it’s a gamble all the same. How could you have anticipated the return and success you’d find when you decided to write on Paul Natorp’s NeoKantianism!
Call for Discussion...?
In the comments below, I welcome you to open up about how you think your work is perceived by either side of the Divide and how you've navigated the effect its had on your work. Has your work found an unlikely home? Has your work been published in non-mainstream venues? Have you been summarily dismissed because of the Divide in an uncritical fashion? If you have published in non-mainstream venues, then what advice would you give younger dissertating PhD candidates working in your marginalized tradition/figure?
 A truly obnoxious conclusion by Heidegger’s apologists to say the least, even despite Heidegger never articulating a decent understanding of ethics as a discipline or subject matter within philosophy. How can these enthusiasts not see that a fundamental ontology eschewing values is a conscious decision of Heidegger himself!