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Continental Philosophy

Wittgenstein And Analytic Philosophy

In order to understand continental philosophy, one has to refer indirectly to analytic philosophy, which originated in Germany and Austria through the work of Gottlob Frege (1848–1925) and the Austrian-born British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), its most famous representative. Analytic philosophy was preceded by the logical positivism of the "Vienna Circle" of the 1930s and drew its name from its logical "analysis" of language. Analytic philosophy soon became the mainstream philosophical movement in the English-speaking world, especially after the publication of Wittgenstein's Tractatus logico-philosophicus in 1921. With great originality, the later Wittgenstein overshadowed almost all of analytic philosophy with his posthumous book Philosophische Untersuchungen (1953; Philosophical Investigations), which brought about a new "linguistic turn," wherein language came to be understood in terms of cultural diversity, or "language games," including ordinary, religious, moral, and aesthetic language. In his later years Wittgenstein criticized his own Tractatus and its one-sided, representational "picture theory" of language. The later Wittgenstein reinterpreted language as embedded in the action-oriented, social context of historical "forms of life." In addition, Wittgenstein was deeply concerned with the foundations of religious faith, the nature of religious language, fideism, and ethical and aesthetic issues, which brought him closer to the European, "continental" philosophy of Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), and even Martin Heidegger (1889–1976).

Wittgenstein opened the way to encounters with continental philosophy. In spite of ongoing differences in subjects and methods, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries continental and analytic philosophers have opened promising new dialogues as exemplified by Richard Rorty, Herbert Dreyfus, Charles Taylor, John McDowell, Hilary Putnam, Stanley Cavell, Alistair McIntyre, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Jean-François Lyotard, among others. Contemporary philosophy of science, with its historical and sociological sensibility, has also been influenced by continental philosophy as exemplified by Thomas Kuhn, Gaston Bachelard, Jürgen Habermas, Karl-Otto Appel, Ernst Tugendhat, Ian Hacking, Paul Feyerabend, Patrick Heelan, Joseph J. Kockelmans, Ted Kiesel, and Thomas M. Seebohm. Continental philosophy has especially impacted Heidegger-influenced existential psychoanalysis as exemplified by the work of Jean Piaget, Ludwig Binswanger, Medard Boss, Erich Fromm, William J. Richardson, and Jacques Lacan.

With its roots in the Enlightenment, the analytic tradition, for the most part, stresses clarity and precision in thought and language, an ahistorical view of truth, reason, and human nature. It tends to critique traditional religion, morality, and metaphysics. With the exception of the more conservative Wittgenstein, analytic philosophers, for the most part, adhere to a progressive, liberal, and democratic worldview. In contrast, heavily influenced by Hegel's ideas about the intrinsic historicity of human thought and action, continental tradition, for the most part, is concerned with the historical, cultural, and social conditions of human life and tends to be focused on issues of liberation and "emancipation" from individual and social injustice. Some continental philosophers are critical of modernism and liberal democracy, especially Heidegger and some postmodernists. There are many exceptions, including the liberal Western Marxists György Lukács (1885–1971), Ernst Bloch (1885–1977), and Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), as well as the Frankfurt School. In the twenty-first century, continental philosophy is strongly represented by French philosophers.

Because of the great impact of nineteenth-century German idealism and European Romanticism on continental philosophy, some continental philosophers, in the footsteps of Schopenhauer, Max Weber (1864–1920), Max Scheler (1874–1928), and Oswald Spengler (1880–1936), have been critical of modern, urbanized, and industrialized society. Haunted by the loss of a mostly idealized ancient, medieval world of agricultural and hierarchical life forms, they have sought to recover a holistic view of human life as adumbrated in the "philosophies of life" of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911), and Henri-Louis Bergson (1859–1941). Some continental philosophers, especially feminist philosophers, have emphasized the dimensions of the aesthetic life, the emotional, imaginative, creative, and "unconscious" aspects of human existence.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Condensation to CoshContinental Philosophy - Wittgenstein And Analytic Philosophy, Freud And The Unconscious, Phenomenology Of Consciousness, Heidegger And The Phenomenology Of Being