Philosophy {32} ~ Current Philosophical Camps {2} ~ Continental Philosophy

Continental Philosophy. This refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. Continental philosophy includes the following movements: German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, and some other branches of Western Marxism. Continental philosophers generally reject scientism, the view that the natural sciences are the best or most accurate way of understanding all phenomena. Continental philosophers often argue that science depends upon a “pre-theoretical substrate of experience, and that scientific methods are inadequate to understand such conditions of intelligibility.” Continental philosophy usually considers the conditions of possible experience as variable: determined at least partly by factors such as context, space and time, language, culture, or history. Continental philosophy typically holds that conscious human agency can change the conditions of possible experience: “if human experience is a contingent creation, then it can be recreated in other ways.” Thus continental philosophers tend to take a strong interest in the unity of theory and practice, and tend to see their philosophical inquiries as closely related to personal, moral, or political transformation. This tendency is very clear in the Marxist tradition (“philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”), but is also central in existentialism and post-structuralism. Continental philosophy has an emphasis on metaphilosophy. In the wake of the development and success of the natural sciences, continental philosophers have often sought to redefine the method and nature of philosophy. In some cases, such as German idealism or phenomenology, this manifests as a renovation of the traditional view that philosophy is the first, foundational, a priori science. In other cases, such as hermeneutics, critical theory, or structuralism, it is held that philosophy investigates a domain that is irreducibly cultural or practical. And some continental philosophers, such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Derrida, doubt whether any conception of philosophy can be truly coherent.

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