Book Review: Current Theory and Continental Philosophy
From NDPR, Theodore Schatzki reviews Stephen Daniel's (ed.) Current Continental Theory and Modern Philosophy
Philosophy is peculiarly concerned with its own history. Scholars in other disciplines often weigh the validity of earlier ideas and draw on past thinkers and researchers. Only in philosophy, however, is it part of disciplinary education and practice to confront and take a stand on the (alleged) distinction between writing history and pursuing systematic issues. One portentous historical dividing line between so-called analytic and continental philosophy has been their divergent attitudes toward history and the different views this divergence implies on the distinction between writing history and addressing systematic issues. Whereas "continental" philosophers often pursue philosophical issues by working with and through the ideas of past thinkers, "analytic" philosophers infrequently do this, instead viewing history as a distinct subfield with little to contribute on current issues in epistemology, philosophy of language, or philosophy of mind. Historians also sometimes distance themselves from continental appropriations of past thinkers on the grounds that these thinkers should be taken on their own terms and in the context of past worlds.
A book titled Current Continental Theory and Modern Philosophy thus sounds very promising. All the more so since the interests contemporary continental theorists have in German thinkers from Kant to Heidegger is much better appreciated than is their engagement with the great modern thinkers preceding the Kšnigsberg Weiche. So, how are, can, and should contemporary continental theory and Western philosophy from Descartes to Kant be related? The greatest virtue of the book under review is that its contributions, collectively, provide a good sense of the varied ways in which contemporary continental thinkers have approached modern philosophy or can be used to interpret modern philosophers.