The Best of Analytic and Continental Philosophy
Truman Chen

24 August 2017

In a recent interview in What Is It Like to Be a Philosopher?, Tina Fernandes Botts answered the age-old question of whether analytic and continental philosophy are really all that different in the final analysis. Although Botts responds rather amenably by seeking to bridge the "divide" in confessing that she finds both sides helpful and "real" philosophy, she somehow manages to duplicate the very same debilitating stereotypes of these two fields at the same time. 

She begins by explaining that where analytic philosophy goes wrong is in thinking "that philosophical questions can be answered by cutting up the world (or ideas) into pieces, and examining each piece in a vacuum." And on the other hand, continental philosophy goes awry because it supposedly proclaims that "all you need is metaphor to describe and understand the world." In addition to producing these incredibly flat and one-dimensional caricatures of each "side" and tracing apparently all of continental philosophy's flaws to what she refers to as "metaphor," Botts places herself in the more elevated position of realizing that "to 'understand' anything, it is necessary to critically examine the context in which the phenomenon is being examined (I am a hermeneuticist and this is a foundational concept in hermeneutics)." By this reason, it seems like this basic logic of understanding belongs only to practicing hermeneuticists, which is at the same time not something entirely possible within either analytic or continental philosophy. 

Although this does seem to be an earnest effort on Botts' part to help end the antagonism, these placements of blame on thinking within a vacuum and absolute reliance on metaphor run the risk of harmfully pigeonholing complex spheres of thought into questionable boxes. Certain analytic philosophers have been and are of course self-aware enough to be aware that certain limitations come from analyzing concepts too far from historical reality. And not all continental philosophers are metaphorical obscurantists, and are equally capable of thinking within "vacuums." Instead of looking to perhaps the worst examples from each respective side—as either hopelessly irrelevant or egregiously unrigorous—to characterize these domains and the serious thinkers operating within them, perhaps the divide would be ameliorated more effectively by raising up the best among them as representatives instead.

See the original interview here: