“The Human Condition,” by Thomas Whitaker/Prison Arts Coalition
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION is a five-part, four-book series, including:
PART 1: Preface and General Introduction
PART 2: Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge
PART 3: Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics
PART 4: Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy
PART 5: Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise
Its author is ROBERT HANNA:
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Section 1.5 Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology
Section 1.6 What is a Rational Human Animal?
Section 1.7 An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply
Section 1.8 The Biggest Windmills
In the fullness of time, the complete, downloadable text of each part of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION will also be made available on APP.
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Section 1.5 Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology
When I was a graduate student in the 1980s, I belonged to the first wave of young philosophers who were taking it upon themselves to reject, overcome, and transcend the seemingly fundamental difference, or Great Divide, between “analytic” and “Continental” philosophy.
Indeed, that was how I framed to myself my goal in philosophy.
So in my graduate school discussion-&-research group we studied the Tractatus/early Wittgenstein, Putnam on reference and meaning, Kripke on ditto, Kaplan on ditto, Husserl against logical psychologism and on consciousnesss and intentionality, Heidegger on existential phenomenology, Sartre on ditto, Merleau-Ponty on ditto, Gareth Evans on reference and intentionality, and Richard Rorty on everything.
The Logical Investigations, Being and Time, the Phenomenology of Perception, Varieties of Reference, The Linguistic Turn (edited, with an amazing Introduction, by Rorty), and Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature were my bibles, each one at various times carried under my arm all day long, getting worn and sweaty, so that I could quote them chapter-and-verse.
At the same time, and later, I read Kant.
Lots of Kant.
Everything I could lay my hands on.
And Frege, Russell, Moore, Carnap, Quine, Austin, Strawson, Grice, and Searle.
Everything by them that I could lay my hands on.
And then more Husserl, more Heidegger, more Sartre, more Merleau-Ponty.
The first half of my PhD dissertation was mostly historical, on Kant’s theory of judgment.
The second half was systematic and original, on the semantics, philosophical psychology, and epistemology of singular “Russellian” propositions.
Husserl and Evans were the primary inspirations of my thinking in that second half.
After I graduated and got a tenure-track job in 1989, I thought long and hard about all of this philosophical material, and in the early-to-mid 00s, wrote two books in the history of philosophy, Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (2001) and Kant, Science and Human Nature (2006), in order to work out the nature of the relationship between Kant’s philosophy and the analytic tradition.
Also in the mid-00s, I wrote a systematic, original book about the nature of logic, Rationality and Logic (2006), trying to come to grips with what I took to be the core theoretical foundations of the analytic tradition, namely, logic and analyticity.
Along the way, I also attempted to explain logical knowledge in terms of irreducible consciousness and intentionality, which I took to be the core theoretical foundations of the Continental tradition.
My basic idea was to ground them all (logic, analyticity, logical knowledge, consciousness, and intentionality) in the innately-specified a priori spontaneous capacities of rational human animals for constructing all logics, whether classical, conservatively non-classical, or deviant.
Or in other words, my basic idea was broadly Kantian.
Finally, after all that philosophical soul-searching, in the late 00s, I published a paper in which I wrote this:
Twentieth-century philosophy in Europe and the USA was dominated by two distinctive and (after 1945) officially opposed traditions: the analytic tradition and the phenomenological tradition. Very simply put, the analytic tradition was all about logic and analyticity, and the phenomenological tradition was all about consciousness and intentionality. Ironically enough however, despite their official Great Divide, both the analytic and the phenomenological traditions were essentially continuous and parallel critical developments from an earlier dominant neo-Kantian tradition. This, by the end of the nineteenth century had vigorously reasserted the claims of Kant’s transcendental idealism against Hegel’s absolute idealism and the other major systems of post-Kantian German Idealism, under the unifying slogan “Back to Kant!” So again ironically enough, both the analytic and phenomenological traditions were alike founded on, and natural outgrowths from, Kant’s Critical Philosophy.
By the end of the twentieth century however, and this time sadly rather than ironically, both the analytic and phenomenological traditions had not only explicitly rejected their own Kantian foundations and roots but also had effectively undermined themselves philosophically, even if by no means institutionally. On the one hand the analytic tradition did so by abandoning its basic methodological conception of analysis as the process of logically decomposing propositions into conceptual or metaphysical “simples,” as the necessary preliminary to a logical reconstruction of the same propo- sitions, and by also jettisoning the corresponding idea of a sharp, exhaustive, and significant “analytic-synthetic” distinction. The phenomenological tradition on the other hand abandoned its basic methodological conception of phenomenology as “seeing essences” with a priori certainty under a “transcendental-phenomenological reduction,” and also jettisoned the corresponding idea of a “transcendental ego” as the metaphysical ground of consciousness and intentionality.
One way of interpreting these sad facts is to say that just insofar as analytic philosophy and phenomenology alienated themselves from their Kantian origins, they stultified themselves. This is the first unifying thought behind this [paper], and it is a downbeat one. The second unifying thought, which however is contrastively upbeat, is that both the analytic and phenomenological traditions, now in conjunction instead of opposition, could rationally renew themselves in the twenty-first century by critically recovering their Kantian origins and by seriously re-thinking and re-building their foundations in the light of this critical recovery. Or in other words: Forward to Kant.[i]
My line in the late 00s, then, was that both analytic and Continental philosophy are nothing but outgrowths from and spins on Kantian philosophy: a series of footnotes to Kant.
Or otherwise put, they are at bottom nothing but Kantalytic philosophy and Kantinental philosophy. So now it is time for everyone to recognize this and go forward to Kant!
And I continue to think I am right about that.
But there is still an important leftover problem.
Even supposing for a moment that I am indeed right that all philosophy since Kant is really all about Kant, then what explains the robustly persistent opinion amongst contemporary professional academic philosophers that there is a genuine and important difference between analytic and Continental philosophy?
Here is what I also wrote in that same paper from the late 00s, in an attempt to answer that question:
In Davos, Switzerland, from 17 March to 6 April 1929, an “International University Course,” sponsored by the Swiss, French, and German governments, brought together the leading neo-Kantian Ernst Cassirer, famous author of the multi-volume Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1925, 1927, 1929), and the soon-to-be leading phenomenologist Martin Heidegger, famous author of Being and Time (1927), in an official and more or less explicit attempt to bring about a philosophical reconciliation between Marburg (or science-oriented) neo-Kantianism and phenomenology. The soon-to-be leading logical positivist Rudolf Carnap was there too, along with many other professors and students from across Europe. And a good time was had by all: “It appears that the Davos encounter itself took place in atmosphere of extraordinarily friendly collegiality.”[ii]
The key sessions at Davos were two lecture series by Cassirer and Heidegger, followed by a public disputation between them. Strikingly, both the lectures and the disputation dealt with the question of how to interpret the Critique of Pure Reason correctly. In other words, it was all about Kant and the neo-Kantian origins of phenomenology. Now for this reason it can be argued, and indeed has been argued, that the Davos conference was emblematic of the death-by-mitosis of the neo-Kantian tradition, during the 1930s, into two fundamentally distinct and irreconcilable philosophical traditions: the analytic tradition (whose paradigm case was logical positivism), and the phenomenological tradition (whose paradigm case was existential phenomenology).
According to this historical reconstruction, the basic disagreements between analysis and phenomenology were latent in the period 1900–30, during which … Moore, Russell, and Carnap all started their philosophical careers as neo-Kantians, went on to reject neo-Kantianism and Kant by means of foundational work in philosophical logic and the influence of the contemporary exact sciences, and then correspondingly worked out various new logically-driven conceptions of a priori analysis. And then, so the story goes, the latent eventually became manifest, and the post-Kantian stream of philosophical influence consisting of Brentano à Husserl/ Meinong à Heidegger was officially divided from the other post-Kantian stream consisting of Mooreà Russell à Wittgenstein à Carnap, basically because the phenomenologists rejected the Frege–Russell conception of pure logic while contrariwise the analysts affirmed pure logic. And never the twain shall meet.
But although this makes a conveniently neat story, it is at least arguably not quite true to the historico-philosophical facts. The highly collegial atmosphere at Davos was no polite put-on. Obviously there were some important differences and disagreements between logical positivism and existential phenomenology. Nevertheless Heidegger took Carnap very seriously as a philosopher well into the 1930s, and Carnap also took Heidegger very seriously as a philosopher well into the 1930s. (As did Wittgenstein, and as also did Gilbert Ryle at Oxford — who, according to Michael Dummett, “began his career as an exponent of Husserl for British audiences and used to lecture on Bolzano, Brentano, Frege, Meinong, and Husserl”[i] throughout the 1920s and 1930s.) For his part, Heidegger was every bit as dismissive of traditional metaphysics as Carnap was. And while it is quite true that Heidegger significantly criticized the Fregean and Russellian pure logic of the Begriffsschrift and Principia Mathematica, and challenged its metaphysical commitments, so too did Carnap; after all, that is the main point of the Logical Syntax of Language. Furthermore, objectively considered, Heidegger’s existential phenomenology is not essentially more different from or opposed to pure logic, or logical positivism for that matter, than is Dewey’s pragmatism, which despite its radical critical philosophical implications … cohabited very comfortably with mainstream analytic philosophy in the USA after 1945. Nor, objectively speaking, is Heidegger’s existential phenomenology essentially more different from or opposed to either pure logic, or logical positivism, than is Wittgenstein’s later philosophy as expressed in his Philosophical Investigations (1953), which despite its equally radical critical philosophical implications, also cohabited very comfortably with mainstream analytic philosophy in the USA and England after 1945.
So it appears that the Great Divide between analytic philosophy and phenomenology did not actually happen in the 1930s. And it also appears that the Divide is not the consequence of any fundamental philosophical disagreements between analysts and phenomenologists about pure logic. On the contrary, it appears that the Divide happened almost entirely after 1945, and that it was the joint result of the three following factors:
1 The sharply divisive cultural politics of anti-fascism and anti-Communism in Anglo-American countries after World War II: Heidegger publicly and notoriously supported the Nazis in the mid-thirties; Vienna Circle exiles in the USA were understandably very eager to avoid being persecuted during the McCarthy Communist-trials era for their pre-war radical-socialist and Communist sympathies, so were generally playing it safe (Carnap however being a notable exception) by not rocking the boat; and the leading French phenomenologists Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were both closely politically associated with the radical Left.
2 The sharply divisive debate about the cultural-political significance and philosophical implications of the exact sciences after World War II; taking his cue from Heidegger’s Being and Time, but also reflecting on the worsening cultural-political situation in Europe, Husserl had seriously criticized the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the exact sciences in his Crisis of European Sciences; and then taking his cue directly from Husserl, Merleau-Ponty further deepened and developed this critique in his Phenomenology of Perception (1945).
3 The sharply divisive struggle for control of the major Anglo-American philosophy departments after World War II: given the aging and retirement of historically- trained philosophers, neo-Kantians, and neo-Hegelians, it was going to be either the analysts or the phenomenologists who took over, but not both.
In other words, I am suggesting that although the Great Divide between analytic philosophy and phenomenology is real enough, nevertheless it didn’t happen until after 1945, and was essentially the result of cultural-political factors, together with one serious philosophical disagreement about the foundations of the exact sciences.[iv]
Now what about that “one serious philosophical disagreement about the foundations of the exact sciences”?
In an essay called “Wittgenstein and Kantianism,” this is what I have written about it:
As Quine,[v] Reichenbach,[vi] and Sellars so clearly saw in the 1950s, after the successive downfalls of Logicism and Logical Empiricism/Positivism during the first half of the 20th century, Analytic philosophy became, essentially, a series of minor variations on the theme of scientific philosophy:
In the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not.[vii]
This is philosophy in Sellars’s Scientific Image.[viii] But later Wittgenstein, following Kant’s lead, radically challenges and rejects this essentially scientistic conception of philosophy:
I cannot even assume God, freedom, or immortality for the sake of the necessary practical use of my reason unless I simultaneously deprive speculative reason of its pretensions to extravagant insights; because in order to attain to such insights, speculative reason would have to help itself to principles that in fact reach only to objects of possible experience, and which, if they were to be applied to what cannot be an object of possible experience, then they would always transform it into an appearance and thus declare all practical extension of pure reason to be impossible. Thus I had to deny scientific knowing (Wissen) in order to make room for faith (Glauben). (CPR Bxxix-xxx)
It was true to say that our considerations could not be scientific (wissenschaftliche) ones. It was not of any possible interest to us to find out empirically ‘that, contrary to our preconceived ideas, it is possible think such-and-such’ — whatever that may mean… And we may not advance any kind of [scientific] theory…. We must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take its place. These are, of course, not empirical problems; they are solved, rather, by looking into the workings of our language, and that in such a way as to make us recognize those workings: in spite of an urge to misunderstand them. The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known.[ix]
In this way, [rational][x] anthropology as practised by Kant and Wittgenstein does not either seek a humanly impossible, absolutely justifying, pure rational insight into things-in-themselves, or draw Pyrrhonian skeptical conclusions from our inevitable and tragic failure to achieve a godlike ‘intellectual intuition’ of ourselves and the world (CPR B72), or fall into scientism. For all three of these philosophical projects, whether dogmatically rationalistic, destructively skeptical, or reductively naturalistic, are equally inherently self-alienating and ‘inauthentic’ in the Existentialists’ sense. Indeed, it is significant that even when, in 1986, [Peter] Hacker officially rescinds his earlier Kant-oriented interpretation of Wittgenstein from 1972, he still admits that
[m]ore than any other philosophers, Kant and Wittgenstein were concerned with the nature of philosophy itself and sought to curb its metaphysical pretensions by clarifying its status and circumscribing what one may rationally hope for in philosophical investigation. Both saw philosophical and metaphysical pretensions of reason as at least a large part of the subject, and the eradication of such illusions as a major goal of their work.[xi]
Otherwise put, with a tragic sense of life, Kant and Wittgenstein both fully recognize that we must renounce every variety of the bad faith of reason in order to make room for an authentic, autonomous, rational human life, and in turn, in order to make room for an anthropocentric rationalist version of Kierkegaard’s ‘knighthood of faith’, as it were, the knighthood of rational faith, whereby you can radically change your life, or change the direction of your life — and this is the deepest lesson of [rational][xii] anthropology.[xiii]
So what I am saying here is that to the extent that there is any serious philosophical disagreement between analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy since 1945, it is actually a philosophical disagreement between scientistic philosophy and anti-scientistic Kantian,[xiv] Wittgensteinian philosophy.
Scientistic philosophy, in turn, is very closely associated with “the military-industrial complex,” which has heavily funded and importantly controlled Anglo-American universities since 1945, and therefore it is highly unsurprising that scientistic thinkers would do extremely well, in an institutional sense, at Anglo-American universities in the post-1945 world.
What do I mean by that?
In his farewell presidential address in 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower said this:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.[xv]
In other words, the military-industrial complex is the unholy alliance and economic-political interlinkage of “an immense military establishment,” a “large arms industry,” and more generally multinational corporate capitalism, heavily influencing the legislative process via lobbyists and Political Action Committees.
A perfect example would be the Lockheed Martin Corporation.[xvi]
Now in order for Big Guns and Big Money and Big Influence to exist, Big Science is needed, which in turn is heavily funded by government-sponsored and multinational corporate grants.
In turn, Anglo-American universities that have Big Science (e.g., Caltech, MIT, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, plus Oxford, Yale, and Princeton to a slightly lesser extent, and all the major state universities, especially in the California system) are all rich universities, with highly-ranked philosophy departments, all of which are analytic philosophy departments.
This is not a coincidence.
Scientism, as I mentioned above, is nicely captured by the Sellarsian epistemic and ontological thesis that “science is the measure of all things.”[xvii]
Now scientism is explicitly or implicitly presupposed by analytic philosophy.
Hence analytic philosophy, via scientism, fully supports the basic aims of Big Science, which fully services Big Guns, Big Money, and Big Influence, which in turn collectively heavily fund Big Science and analytic philosophy in the highly-ranked departments.
Therefore, what I am saying is that (to borrow Rorty’s lovely formulations) the “hidden agenda” that “lies behind the current split between devotees of ‘analytic’ and of ‘Continental’ philosophy,” and, correspondingly, what adequately explains how the “heavy breathing on both sides about the immorality or stupidity of the opposition signals passions which academic power struggles cannot fully explain,” is that the real and continuing passion-driven difference between analytic and Continental philosophy is nothing more and nothing less than a rationally unjustified political difference.
By this, I mean that it is nothing more and nothing less than a rationally unjustified difference in cultural, social, and economic power-relations, a false ideology, that all contemporary philosophers should clearly and distinctly expose, critically examine, cognitively resist, and then systematically subvert.
We need to do all this for the sake of the philosophy of the future, which I think is is rational anthropology, and for the sake of our own cognitive liberation and self-fulfillment, which I think is our wholehearted pursuit of principled, authentic lives as rational human animals.
[i] R. Hanna, “Kant in the Twentieth Century,” in D. Moran (ed.), Routledge Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 149–203, at pp. 149–150.
[ii] M. Friedman, A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 2000), p. 5.
[iii] M. Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993), p. ix.
[iv] Hanna, “Kant in the Twentieth Century,” pp. 174–176.
[v] See, e.g., P. Hylton, Quine (London: Routledge, 2007), esp. chs. 9 and 12.
[vi] See H. Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1951).
[vii] W. Sellars, “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind,” in W. Sellars, Science, Perception, and Reality (New York: Humanities Press, 1963), pp. 127–196, at p. 173.
[viii] See W. Sellars, “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man,” in Sellars, Science, Perception, and Reality, pp. 1–40.
[ix] L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (3rd edn.; New York: Macmillan, 1953), §109, p. 47e.
[x] In that essay, I call it “transcendental anthropology,” but it is essentially equivalent to rational anthropology as I am developing it here.
[xi] P. Hacker, Insight and Illusion: Themes in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein (revised edn.; Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), p. 207.
[xii] As per note [x] above.
[xiii] R. Hanna, “Wittgenstein and Kantianism,” in H.-J. Glock (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Wittgenstein (Oxford: Blackwell, 2017), pp. 682–698, at pp. 696–697.
[xiv] See, e.g., R. Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006); and Hanna, Kant, Nature, and Humanity.
[xv] See Wikipedia, “Military-Industrial Complex,” available online at URL = < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial_complex>, boldfacing added.
[xvi] See, e.g., Lockheed Martin’s online site at URL = <http://www.lockheedmartin.com/>.
[xvii] See also R. Peels, “A Conceptual Map of Scientism,” available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/12366886/A_Conceptual_Map_of_Scientism>.