Nietzsche & the Analytic-Continental Divide: Denouement of Bourgeois Reason;
Or, Analytical Philosophy's Being-for-Death

By Ralph Dumain


Forced to choose, I would be stuck with analytical philosophy, which at least respects logical coherence and rational accountability, to disjointed, half-assed fiddle-faddle. The question, though, is, can a strictly technocratic approach attempting to dissolve the larger ontological issues that cannot be finessed by logic alone preempt the misuse of logic to prove whatever silly stuff you feel like proving as long as you play by the rules? This is how lawyers behave, a bad model for philosophy, but the prevailing one.

I have more on this in my New Year's philosophical diary:

New Year's Resolution: Exploring Philosophical Cultures (December 2003 - January 2004)

I'll extract just a few key passages:

If McCumber weren't such a provincial American he would recognize the triviality of his particular attempt to bridge the divide [between analytical and continental philosophy]. See my report on the history of the Lvov-Warsaw school, and the peculiar mediation of modern logic and Catholicism that went on within it. I also just read a fascinating article on J. M. Bochenski, a Catholic philosopher but also a rigorous analytical philosopher who played a role in the Krakow School before co-founding philosophical Sovietology.

. . . McCumber is attempting to colonize analytical philosophy for irrationalism. This in itself is not so unusual in spite of its duplicity, for a strictly positivist, technocratic approach to philosophy is helpless against irrationalism anyway. I can still recall, after nearly two and a half decades, an article in Time magazine announcing new proofs for the existence of God using modal logic. I recall Rom Harré, at Catholic University, in answer to a question following his talk on varieties of realism, recounting how theologians were using his work. The upshot is that the reduction of philosophical method to micrological technique leaves the larger ontological terrain vulnerable to colonization by anyone who wants to use the technocracy of logical analysis as a weapon. Elsewise how would McCumber think to get away with his cheap tricks?

I have the sense there are an increasing number of publications on Nietzsche, the sciences, and scientific method. I myself have Nietzsche's Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Ground of Art and Life by Babette E. Babich. I take it this is yet another effort towards the rapprochement of continental and analytical philosophy, which should not be controversial anymore, since both are in fact suitable vehicles for the advancement of irrationalism. The positivist aversion to "metaphysics" clears the way for any objection to mystification not based strictly in logical technique. Like lawyers, philosophers can argue for any BS they please just so long as they follow the rules. The strict, positivist use of logic as technique enables it to be wedded to any ontology ultimately. That is, the strictly technocratic approach to philosophy may in some cases enable contradictory ontological commitments to co-exist, as has occurred many times in philosophical history. The Lvov-Warsaw School is a case in point.

4 January + 10 March 2004


I thought I would die laughing reading this essay, as it gives the whole game away:

Dr. Babette E.  Babich, “On the 'Analytic-Continental' Divide in Philosophy: Nietzsche and Heidegger on Truth, Lies, and Language” in A House Divided: Comparing Analytic and Continental Philosophy, edited by C. G. Prado (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2003), pp. 63-104.

Her book Nietzsche's Philosophy of Science was abominable, but this essay is paradoxically brilliant. She deftly exposes not only the key weaknesses of analytical philosophy but also its duplicitous colonization of the continent. Brian Leiter is of course a key colonizer.  It's quite masterful.  But then look at the alternative in the embrace of Nietzsche and Heidegger. I am so right about all of these people, so, so on target. Babich's intervention then is a counter-imperialist venture to accomplish just the opposite, sort of like fascist Japan's Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The depth of all of this rottenness is so thrilling, it's better than The Sopranos.

11 July 2008


Note how utterly provincial and insipid are Babich's assertions about the difference between the analytical and continental modes of philosophizing.  And they are not even true, if we begin with the recognition that the continental philosophy she so militantly defends with academic politics in mind, is a fiction. Babich is so devoted to obscurantist gibberish, she wishes to wage war against analytical imperialism in an effort of reverse colonization, just like imperial Japan, as I said. So now Nietzsche is being used to colonize philosophy of science. How utterly banale.

Note that the dichotomy presented to us is a dichotomy entirely defined by bourgeois conceptions. And everything that is not "analytical" is mushed together as "continental", but what is "continental" pretty much comes down to what stems from Nietzsche and Heidegger. This is too disgusting for words.

Now what is most characteristic of an approach to philosophy that comes from Hegel and Marx is that it is progressive and historically and socially self-reflective.  Not merely "contextual", and not merely "embodied", and certainly not "local" or relativistic. The perspective I have in mind overlaps but does not coincide with the fictive entity concocted as "continental philosophy".

Now with respect to the history of philosophy the problem is to understand what motivates philosophical systems internally and "externally". A too provincial merely analytical approach or a too conceptually vague historical/social-critical approach can't do the job. In this respect there are different styles that correspond to the "analytical" and "continental", but note how narrow and tendentious Babich's characterizations are.

Another point about these generalized categories: individuals are more interesting than groups, and individual philosophers are more noteworthy than the schools they (are said to) belong to. Some categories of philosophical subdisciplines—like "African Philosophy" or the more recent concoction of "African American Philosophy"—are intellectually and ideologically bankrupt, but there are some noteworthy individuals subsumed under these categories who have something to say. So first of all go for the individuals and maintain skepticism about the pigeonholing academic empire builders.

As for "the" question of philosophy again, my interest here is to relate the question to the development of society as a whole, and the overall pattern of the unity and struggle of bourgeois reason and unreason. And "bourgeois" includes also what has transpired under "Marxism," which after all is part of bourgeois society, wherever it is undertaken in the world.

Without unequivocally endorsing either Michael Friedman or Geoffrey Waite, I find it quite telling that Friedman approaches the Cassirer-Heidegger controversy as a technical philosophical contretemps falling out of competing Neo-Kantian schools, whilst Waite, entirely steeped in the postmodernist milieu, sees it as Heidegger outwitting the clueless Cassirer via an esoteric cunning operating under the radar of what was ostensibly under debate.  Oh, and here's another tidbit I'm not in a position to verify. I'm told that Henry Pachter attended the Davos conference, at which brownshirts were visibly present, who rebuffed Cassirer as did Heidegger, and that the political undertone of the debate was not in the least subtle.

I might add that Cassirer, unlike Leiter, was at least not insipid. But perhaps a steady diet of Babich would make Leiter look good, though both, it seems to me, are bankrupt.  Bourgeois reason has left the building.

13 July 2008


I am no defender of "continental" philosophy.  Both camps of intellectual colonizers are highly questionable. My point is that both of these categories—and perhaps "analytical" is as artificial a construct as "continental"—are reflective of an intellectual and more widely a social impasse, and that there is another vantage point from which to view both. And, as I stated above, individual thinkers are always more interesting than the category they're subsumed under, which is an institutional artifact.

13 July 2008


By "analytical imperialism" I mean the incorporation of this artificial construct known as "continental philosophy" into the analytical world market, as it were. In others words, I mean this metaphorically. Colonization in reverse can happen as well, as one sees with John McCumber, for example.

Now, as I've mentioned before, individual philosophers may be on to something that doesn't fit into stereotypical conceptions of what analytical and continental philosophers are allegedly about. However, to the extent that these stereotypes represent realities, analytical colonization means converting the world-beating ambitions of the "continentals" into one-dimensional logical problems of a strictly technical nature.  Continental colonization means converting the logic-chopping products of the analyticals into fodder for their irrationalist projects.  But my point is that these are highly provincial and questionable paths towards reuniting the estranged branches of the bourgeois philosophical family. I claim (not from the perspective of a juvenile workerism, I need emphasize) that it is a bourgeois enterprise, based on the smallness, provincialism, and ultimate bankruptcy of the concerns and goals of both branches of the family. Of course these are stereotypical generalizations of what goes on under these rubrics, but I didn't invent the stereotypes; academia itself institutionalizes them.

In the USA the continentals are still lodged, from what I can see, in non-philosophy departments, which means they are subject to the pervasive nonsense that rages in literature and other humanities fields.  Naturally, one can learn from people who have been placed, of their own accord or without their consent, in the continental category, or the analytical.  But if there is any accounting or rapprochement to be had, it should be undertaken under different premises from what we see going on.

We can see a comparable process going on under the revivification and expansion of "American Philosophy" and pragmatism.  It means, whoever becomes famous becomes important whatever the actual substance or lack of it to be found in their work.  So now the pragmatists no longer consist solely of stuffy (or stuffed, since the originals are all dead) WASPs, but vacuous blowhards like Cornel West. American philosophy becomes expanded to included African American, Latin American, Native American philosophy, etc.—which is all pretty much worthless, that is, in the aggregate. Philosophy, as bad as it may have been before, becomes a venue of the most insipid form of affirmative action and multiculturalism, which is, in the end, a self-indulgent enterprise, an artificial bloating of cultural capital serving the diversification of elites, not the fundamental transformation of thought or society.

Babich's tendentiousness is evident in that she loves the notion of analytical philosophy being preoccupied by narrowly defined technical problems so that she can exult in her persecuted continental state of glorifying the irrational depths of the psyche and the mysteries of being.  Her linkage of Nietzsche to the philosophy of science is an attempt of reverse colonization.

Bourgeois reason and unreason both have developed in a century and a half. The former, it seems, is under strain right now and giving way to the latter. On a popular level, who are the defenders of reason? The atheists, secular humanists, skeptics, assorted scientists and technocrats. The best of them are weak and clueless liberals, poorly equipped philosophically and politically to stave off the new Dark Age. Their followers don't seem to be much more astute. There are more of them about, as the right wing has brought a lot of opposition out of the woodwork. But the whole society has moved to the right, and a liberal today is only liberal in limited ways compared to yesteryear. The 20-somethings I encounter really have no perspective at all, and they resent being told this. Yet, they are quite conformist in following the leads of an older generation, not mine, but the older generation I rebelled against! This is not even to factor in the attention-deficit sound-bite mentality that inhibits sustained reflection.

18 July 2008

Compiled & edited 30 January 2010
©2004, 2008, 2010 Ralph Dumain

New Year's Resolution: Exploring Philosophical Cultures (December 2003 - January 2004)

Anti-Nietzsche (2):
Bernard Reginster on Brian Leiter on Nietzsche

(blog entry, 30 July 2006)

Philosophy's Future?
(blog entry, 26 July 2006)

On Geoffrey Waite on Esoterism, Heidegger, and Cassirer
by Ralph Dumain

Anti-Nietzsche Bibliography

Ernst Cassirer: A Selected Secondary Bibliography

American Philosophy Study Guide

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide


On the 'Analytic-Continental' Divide in Philosophy: Nietzsche and Heidegger on Truth, Lies, and Language” by Dr. Babette E. Babich

Nietzsche's Critical Theory of Science as Art by Babette E. Babich

Dr. Babette Babich, Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

Nietzsche-Colloquium: Nietzsches Wissenschaftsphilosophie / Nietzsche´s Philosophy of Science;
An der Technischen Universität Berlin, 18. - 21. Juli 2010.
Call for papers

Nietzschean Thinking: Beyond the Two Cultures (Ankara, August 2010)

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