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The Idea of Continental Philosophy: A Philosophical Chronicle [Paperback]

Simon Glendinning
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Book Description

13 Jun 2006
The idea of Continental Philosophy has never been properly explained in philosophical terms. In this short and engaging book Simon Glendinning attempts finally to succeed where others have failed -- although not by giving an account of its internal unity but by showing instead why no such account can be given. Providing a clear picture of the current state of the contemporary philosophical culture Glendinning traces the origins and development of the idea of a distinctive Continental tradition, critiquing current attempts to survey the field of contemporary philosophy.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (13 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0748624716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0748624713
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 13.3 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,118,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Despite its consistently mild tone, Simon Glendinning's The Idea of Continental Philosophy is a provocative and uncompromising work. It is to be admired for this. -- Jack Reynolds, La Trobe University International Journal of Philosophical Studies

About the Author

Simon Glendinning, is Fellow in European Philosophy at the European Institute at LSE. His interests lie primarily in the phenomenological movement in Europe and its relation to phenomenological philosophy from the English-speaking world. As well as numerous articles, he is the author of On Being With Others: Heidegger -- Derrida -- Wittgenstein (Routledge, 1998), and editor of Arguing with Derrida (Blackwells, 2001) and the Edinburgh Encyclopedia of Continental Philosophy (EUP, 1999).

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening 13 Aug 2010
Like the author, I have been entranced for years now by the near impossible task to understand what that elusive continental philosophy is really all about. Having read Glendinnings book (as the last in a line of books which tried to explain to me what this is all about, and which all had their merrits in teaching me about various valuable insights of so called continental philosophers and their charming ways of doing things a bit different) I think I am finally getting full picture.
There is this idea of a Continental Philosophy provided by analytic philosophy which has all to do with a big split which runs right through the heart of philosophy and divides it into two big schools of thought fighting for the hearts and minds of young philosophers. Analytic philosophy on the side of light, reason, method, and science and continental philosophy on the side of darkness and willful erratic obscurantist relativistic irrationality (or some such).
But as Glendinning convincingly argues that idea doesn't work. The main thrust of his argument goes into proving that there is no such thing as a school of Continental Philosophy. That type of thinking or tradition is nothing but a projection of analytic philosophers onto all those philosophical authors which don't play by the rules which they think essential for proper philosophical work. In reality those continental authors have no general common ground but are themselves many different schools of thought and not all are equally opposed to analytic philosophy, and finally they don't all unite in some systematic striving for obscurant irrational wilfulness.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metaphilosophy par excellence 3 April 2013
By Christian Giliberto - Published on Amazon.com
Glendinning's The Idea of Continental Philosophy is, to be blunt, the best work of "continental" metaphilosophy (particularly that concerning the purported analytic-continental divide) I have read in a long time, in terms of year of publication probably the best since Deleuze and Guattari's What Is Philosophy?. Glendinning is probably most famous for his so-called "skepticism" or "deflationism" concerning the analytic-continental divide, a view of his work that I had inherited from other major works in the same area (such as Chase and Reynolds' Analytic Versus Continental: Arguments on the Methods and Value of Philosophy).

However, such a view is an oversimplication, as Glendinning's treatment is extremely nuanced and perceptive. He does not crudely dismiss the divide as some kind of fantasy, but instead argues that there is no such thing as "Continental philosophy" in terms of a shared tradition in philosophy. In a particularly insightful move, Glendinning points out that all the attempts to provide some account of "Continental philosophy" as even a loosely-related philosophical tradition make some of the canonical "Continental" authors far more similar to certain canonical "analytic" philosophers than to other purported "Continentals!" (the example of Oxford Ordinary Language Philosophy and Phenomenology is illustrative). Rather "Continental philosophy" is a concept "internal" to "analytic" philosophy, a free-floating phantom of what philosophy should not be. In this way, "analytic" philosophy conceptualizes itself heavily in terms of what it isn't, a tendency that Glendinning traces to the desire to be free of the risk of being that which all philosophy risks being - "sophistry and illusion." By setting up the "Other" of "Continental philosophy" as "that which we don't do around here," analytic philosophy is able to maintain an image of itself as philosophically healthy. To the extent that philosophers in Anglophone academia self-identify as "Continental" philosophers, this is in response to the practical constraints (consciously or not) created by this othering.

Glendinning also engages with several other metaphilosophical accounts of the divide presented by other current "Continentalists," with his most constant point of reference being Simon Critchley's Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, which despite its title is really more an extended metaphilosophical reflection presented in a highly readable fashion than a real "introduction," but also with thinkers like Robert Pippin (who famously provided a Hegelian account of the divide in Modernism as a Philosophical Problem: On the Dissatisfactions of European High Culture). Whilst finding much of value in these various competing accounts, Glendinning ultimately accuses them of "chickening out," of not biting the proverbial bullet of there being no "Continental philosophy" and providing some very flimsy argument for some kind of methodological or thematic unity that is not in keeping with the rest of their analysis.

I cannot recommend this (short) book highly enough, and it should be a mandatory reference point for anyone interested in metaphilosophy, whether self-proclaimed "analytic" or "Continental." It was so good that I read it in one sitting, and then read it again over the next few days to check the references and such!

EXTRA: On a semi-related note, for those interested, the best metaphilosophical account of analytic philosophy "internal" to the tradition is in my opinion to be found in What is Analytic Philosophy? by Hans-Johann Glock, whose books on Wittgenstein I also have the utmost respect for and are always some of my first references when engaging with Ludwig.
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