By Robert Hanna
THINKING FOR A LIVING: A PHILOSOPHER’S NOTEBOOK (SECOND SERIES, INSTALLMENT 8)
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS IN THE SECOND SERIES
The Omnibus Edition contains the nineteen installments of the First Series of THINKING FOR A LIVING, revised and collected into a single volume, as a downloadable .pdf for universal free sharing–
THE FIRST SERIES
43. A philosophy of the future is already here and now. The subtitle of Nietzsche’s stunningly iconoclastic and influential 1886 book, Beyond Good and Evil, is “prelude to a philosophy of the future” (Vorspeil einer Philosophie der Zukunft).
No doubt intentionally, Nietzsche’s phrase, “a philosophy of the future,” is seemingly paradoxical.
For let’s suppose that philosophical truths are all timelessly true in the sense of their all being universally and necessarily true, e.g.,
(2) The Minimal Law of Non-Contradiction: Not every statement is both true and false.
Then philosophical truths must be essentially different from and opposed to true statements that are merely true-in-a-particular-context, e.g.,
(3) I’m now wearing an exceptionally comfy and slightly tattered blue home-made sweater-vest that my wife knitted for me in 1980.
What I mean is that statement (3) contains several indexical terms (i.e., “I,” “now,” “my,” and “me”), whose reference and full meaning are irreducibly context-sensitive.
So (3) is true at, say, 10:10am MDT on 2 April 2019 for me, RH, here in my study at home in Boulder CO, USA; but (3) is also false for me, RH, at, say, 4:30pm MDT 2 April 2019, while I’m out for my afternoon walk and wearing a hooded jacket but not my oh-so-1980s sweater-vest .
But in that case, if all true statements in a given philosophical doctrine are timelessly true in the sense of being universally and necessarily true, then that doctrine cannot be rightly said to be “a philosophy of the future,” any more than it can be rightly said to be “the philosophy of the past,” or “the philosophy of the present,” since the terms “the future,” “the past,” and “the present” are all indexical, i.e., irreducibly context-sensitive, terms.
Nevertheless the phrase, “a philosophy of the future” is only seemingly paradoxical, not genuinely paradoxical.
For the seemingly hard-and-fast binary and universal inherent opposition between
(i) a true statement’s being timelessly true, on the one hand, and
(ii) a true statement’s being true-in-a-particular-context, on the other hand,
fails for truths that include the very contextual information that makes them true-in-a-context, e.g.,
(4) I, RH, am wearing an exceptionally comfy and slightly tattered blue home-made sweater-vest that my wife knitted for me in 1980, at 10:10am MDT on 2 April 2019, in my study at home in Boulder CO, USA.
Statement (4) is objectively true in the sense that what this statement describes is manifestly real and can be understood and, at least in principle, also known by any actual or possible rational human animal capable of cognizing that actual fact, in context (i.e., at 10:10am MDT on 2 April 2019, etc.), although it is neither universally true nor necessarily true.
Therefore, at the very least, we need a distinction between
(i) timeless truths,
(ii) truths-in-a-context, and
(iii) objective truths.
And here are the basic inclusion- and exclusion-relations between these three classes of truths —
- No timeless truths are truths-in-a-context.
- No truths-in-a-context are timeless truths.
- No truths-in-a-context are objective truths.
- Although all timeless truths are objective truths, some objective truths are not timeless truths.
Two apparent counterexamples to what I’ve just claimed about the contrary or contradictory opposition between timeless truths and truths-in-a-context are the not-so-philosophically-famous statement,
(5) I am here now
and the philosophically ultra-famous statement popularized by Descartes,
(6) I think, therefore I am (exist)
which are true in every actual or possible context of utterance or use.
But if I’m right, then (5) and (6), like all truths-in-a-context, aren’t fully meaningful and true statements until we supply a context, and they don’t become objective truths until they include the very information that makes them true in that context, e.g.,
(5*) I, RH, am sitting in front of my laptop computer, working, at 10:10am MDT on 2 April 2019, in my study at home in Boulder CO, USA
(6*) I, RH, am thinking at 10:10am MDT on 2 April 2019, therefore I, RH, am (exist) at 10:10am MDT on 2 April 2019
neither of which is universal or necessary–obviously I might have been somewhere else at that time, or doing something else; and I might have failed to exist then and thereby also failed to be thinking then, even if it remains conditionally true at any time that IF I think THEN I exist–although (5*) and (6*) are objectively true.
So, granting the three-way distinction between timeless truths, truths-in-a-context, and objective truths, what I am asserting in this set of notes is that there is, here and now, something that can be rightly called “a philosophy of the future,” precisely because there is, here and now, a philosophical doctrine made up of statements such that what they describe is manifestly real (I’ll define and explicate what I mean by that phrase in #46 below) and all those statements can be understood and, at least in principle, also known by any actual or possible rational human animal capable of cognizing that actual fact, here on planet Earth on Monday 8 April 2019 and until all actual rational human animals either just go out of existence or somehow become impossible.
I also hold that such a philosophy of the future contains some and perhaps even many timeless truths (e.g., The Minimal Law of Non-Contradiction): it’s just that it won’t consist entirely of timeless truths, instead only entirely of objective truths, whether timeless or non-timeless.
In short, what I am asserting in this set of notes is that an objectively true philosophy of the future is already here and now.
44. More specifically, however, what is this objectively true philosophy of the future that’s already here and now?
First, it’s post-Analytic philosophy.
Second, it’s post-“Continental” philosophy — and the quotes are scare- or shudder- quotes, so what I mean is that it’s post-so-called-Continental philosophy.
Third, it’s a contemporary version of Kantian philosophy, in the sense that it’s inspired by the 18th century philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant, although at the same time it’s by no means either restricted to the historically narrow scope of Kant’s own views or in any way bound by any false or otherwise rationally objectionable doctrines that Kant himself actually defended.
Fourth, and sharply unlike other contemporary versions of post-Analytic and post-“Continental” philosophy that remain merely playpen-creative “Areas of Specialization” (more scares- or shudders-) firmly entrenched within the well-patrolled borders of professional academic philosophy and the Professional Academic State, aka The Ivory Bunker, it’s post-professional-academic philosophy, and therefore anarcho- or borderless philosophy.
Fifth and finally, it’s a version of real philosophy that I call rational anthropology.
45. By “real philosophy” I mean authentic, serious philosophy, as opposed to inauthentic, superficial philosophy.
Authentic philosophy is committed, wholehearted philosophy pursued as a calling or vocation, and as a way of life; and inauthentic philosophy is professionalized, Scholastic, half-hearted philosophy treated as a mere job or a mere “glass bead game.”[i]
Serious philosophy is philosophy with critical, deep, and synoptic or wide-scope content; and superficial philosophy is philosophy with dogmatic, shallow, and narrow or trivial content.
In turn, I think that at least one objectively true version of real philosophy is what I call rational anthropology.
In the 11th and most famous of his Theses on Feuerbach, Marx wrote that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.”
I completely agree with him that the ultimate aim of philosophy is to change the world, not merely interpret it.
So Marx and I are both philosophical liberationists: that is, we both believe that philosophy should have radical political implications.[ii]
But I also sharply disagree with him, insofar as I think that the primary aim of real philosophy, now understood as rational anthropology, and its practices of synoptic reflection, writing, teaching, and public conversation, is to change our lives for the better — and ultimately, for the sake of the highest good.
Then, and only then, can we act upon the world in the right way.
46. Here are two fundamental metaphysical notions in rational anthropology.
First, by a veridical appearance I mean anything X that appears as F, or appears F-ly, or appears to be F, to any or all rational human cognizers, just insofar as, and precisely because, X is F.
For example, if I say “It appears that Sweetpea the cat is looking at me from her cat-cave,” and what I say is indeed the case, in context, as per this —
or “It appears that 2 + 2 = 4,” or “It appears that The Minimal Law of Non-Contradiction[iii] applies universally,” and again what I say is indeed the case, timelessly, as per basic arithmetic and pure logic, then all the things I am talking about are veridical appearances.
Second, by the manifestly real world, I mean the world as it can veridically appear, or does veridically appear, to any or all rational human cognizers or agents.
Correspondingly, a statement (judgment, belief, proposition, meaningful sentence, etc.) is true if and only if what it states (means, says, etc.) is manifestly real.
47. Granting those notions as background, then I’m asserting that rational anthropology is committed to what I call real, human-faced, or anthropocentric metaphysics.
Real metaphysics in this sense starts with the primitive, irreducible fact of purposive, living, essentially embodied, conscious, intentional, caring, rational and moral human experience in the manifestly real world, and then reverse-engineers its basic metaphysical theses and explanations in order to conform strictly to all and only what is phenomenologically self-evident in human experience.
By “phenomenologically self-evident” I mean the following —
A claim C is phenomenologically self-evident for a rational human subject S if and only if (i) S’s belief in C relies on directly-given conscious or self-conscious manifest evidence about human experience, and (ii) C’s denial is either logically or conceptually self-contradictory, really metaphysically impossible, or pragmatically self-stultifying for S.
This leads directly to what I call the criterion of phenomenological adequacy for metaphysical theories:
A metaphysical theory is phenomenologically adequate if and only if that metaphysical theory is evidentially grounded on all and only phenomenologically self-evident theses.
Real metaphysics therefore rejects the idea of any theoretically fully meaningful, non-paradoxical ontic commitment or cognitive access to non-manifest, non-apparent, “really real” entities that are constituted by intrinsic non-relational properties — that is, “noumena” or “things-in-themselves.”[iv]
Such entities are logically, conceptually, or “weakly metaphysically” possible, but strictly unknowable by minded animals like us, both as to their nature, and as to their actual existence or non-existence.
In this sense, real metaphysics is methodologically “eliminativist” about noumena.
Therefore, real metaphysics rejects all noumenal realist metaphysics, including contemporary Analytic metaphysics.[v]
48. In the first half of the 20th century, the new and revolutionary anti-(neo)Kantian, anti-(neo)Hegelian philosophical programs were Gottlob Frege’s and Bertrand Russell’s logicism, G. E. Moore’s Platonic atomism, and the “linguistic turn” initiated by Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, which yielded The Vienna Circle’s logical empiricism, and finally its nemesis, W. V. O. Quine’s critique of the analytic-synthetic distinction.[vi]
Logical empiricism also produced a domestic reaction, ordinary language philosophy. Powered by the work of H. P. Grice and Peter Strawson, ordinary language philosophy became conceptual analysis.
In turn, Strawson created a new “connective,” namely, holistic, version of conceptual analysis, that also constituted a “descriptive metaphysics.”[vii]
Strawson’s connective conceptual analysis gradually fused with John Rawls’s holistic method of “reflective equilibrium” and Noam Chomsky’s psycholinguistic appeals to intuitions-as-evidence, and ultimately became the current Standard Picture of mainstream Analytic philosophical methodology.[viii]
Coexisting in mainstream contemporary Analytic philosophy, alongside the Standard Picture, is also the classical Lockean idea that philosophy should be an “underlaborer” for the natural sciences, especially as this idea was developed in the second half of the 20th century by Quine and Wilfrid Sellars, as the reductive or eliminativist, physicalist, and scientistic[ix] doctrine of scientific naturalism, and again in the early 21st century in even more sophisticated versions, as “experimental philosophy,” aka “X-Phi,” and the doctrine of second philosophy.[x]
From the standpoint of rational anthropology and its real metaphysics, what is fundamentally wrong with the Standard Picture is its intellectualist, coherentist reliance on networks of potentially empty, non-substantive concepts,[xi] and above all, its avoidance of the sensible, essentially non-conceptual side of human experience and human cognition, which alone connects it directly to what is manifestly real.[xii]
Correspondingly, what is wrong with scientific naturalism/X-Phi/second philosophy is its reduction or elimination of the primitive, irreducible fact of human experience.[xiii]
Rational anthropology and its real metaphysics are all about the rational human condition, and not about noumenal entities, not about coherent networks of concepts no matter how devoid of humanly-meaningful content they might be, and not about fundamentally physical, essentially non-mental, facts.
49. As I mentioned in #44 above, rational anthropology is a contemporary version of Kantian philosophy, in the sense that it’s inspired by the 18th century philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant, although at the same time it’s by no means either restricted to the historically narrow scope of Kant’s own views or in any way bound by any false or otherwise rationally objectionable doctrines that Kant himself actually defended.
Moreover, in freely going back and forth between Kant’s philosophy and contemporary philosophy, I am applying the following strong metaphilosophical principle that I call The No-Deep-Difference Thesis:
There is no fundamental difference in philosophical content between the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy.
In other words, in doing contemporary philosophy one is thereby directly engaging with the history of philosophy; and in doing the history of philosophy one is thereby directly engaging with contemporary philosophy.
In real philosophy, there is no essential distinction to be drawn between the two.
What I mean by The No-Deep-Difference Thesis is that every authentic, serious philosophical work is a logically governed attempt to say something comprehensive, illuminating, and necessarily (or at least universally) true about the rational human condition and our deepest values, including our relationships to each other and to the larger natural and social worlds that surround us; and also that in order to convey this basic content it does not matter at all when the work was created or when the work is interpreted.
50. If I am right about The No-Deep-Difference Thesis, then it cuts three ways.
First, it means that everything in the history of philosophy also belongs substantively to contemporary philosophy.
Second, it means that everything in contemporary philosophy also belongs substantively to the history of philosophy.
And third and finally, it means that Quine was completely wrong when he wickedly and wittily said (reportedly — there seems to be no published source for this) that there are two kinds of philosophers: those who are interested in the history of philosophy, and those who are interested in philosophy.
In fact, however, there is really only one kind of authentic, serious philosopher, and whether s/he likes it or not, s/he should be deeply interested in the history of philosophy.
The sub-discipline called “History of Philosophy” is philosophy, as philosophical as it gets, and all philosophy is also History of Philosophy, as historical as it gets.
Those who on the contrary are Deep Differentists must hold that History of Philosophy is at best an enterprise in historical scholarship with a superficial philosophical inflection, but not philosophy as such, and that philosophy in effect always begins anew, from argumentative Ground Zero, with every new philosophical work that is created.
This metaphilosophical occasionalism seems to me not only very implausible as a way of thinking about the relation between philosophy and its own history, but also apt to trivialize and undermine the very practice of real philosophy itself.
51. In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant says that there are “aesthetic idea[s],” by which he means,
[a] representation of the imagination that occasions much thinking though without it being possible for any determinate thought, i.e., concept, to be adequate to it, which, consequently, no language fully attains or can make intelligible…, [and] [o]ne readily sees that it is the counterpart (pendant) of an idea of reason, which is, conversely, a concept to which no intuition (representation of the imagination) can be adequate. (CPJ 5: 314, boldfacing in the original)
In other words, an aesthetic idea is a non-empirical, metaphysical representation, like an “idea of pure reason,” but also non-discursive and non-conceptual, hence linguistically inexpressible by means of concepts, propositions, or Fregean “thoughts,” precisely to the extent that it is a product of human sensible imagination.
52. Kant himself does not make this point, but I think that the doctrine of aesthetic ideas has profound meta-philosophical implications: philosophy need not necessarily be theoretically expressed.
Correspondingly, I think that there is that there is a fundamental distinction between
(i) works of philosophy, and
(ii) philosophical theories,
such that the category of “philosophical works” is essentially wider and more inclusive than the category of philosophical theories — and more generally, philosophical theorizing is only one way of creating and presenting philosophy, as important as it is.
The aim of philosophical theories, according to rational anthropology, is to provide philosophical explanations that lead to essential, synoptic insights about the rational human condition, guided by the norms of propositional truth and logical consistency, by means of conceptual construction and conceptual reasoning that are non-reductively grounded in human experience.
A similarly open-minded conception of philosophical theorizing, in the tradition of connective conceptual analysis, was developed by Robert Nozick in his influential book, Philosophical Explanations.[xiv]
But I think that Nozick’s conception is still too much in the grip of the deeply wrongheaded, scientistic idea that all philosophy must be modeled on natural science, mathematics, or logic.
According to rational anthropology, the aim of philosophical works, as such, is to present insights about the rational human condition and the larger world around us, with synoptic scope, and a priori/necessary character, tracking categorical normativity and our highest values, with the ultimate goal of radical enlightenment.[xv]
But this can also be achieved even without concepts, propositions, arguments, or theories, in an essentially non-conceptual way, by presenting imagery, pictures, structures, etc., that have strictly universal and strongly modal implications, and categorically normative force.
These essentially non-conceptual insights could also be called “truths,” if we use the term “truth” sufficiently broadly — as in “the truth shall set you free.”
My basic point is that philosophy should be as much aimed at being inspiring and visionary, as it is at being argumentative and explanatory.
53. Pivoting on that basic point, here is a proposal for five disjunctively necessary, individually minimally sufficient, and collectively fully sufficient criteria for something W — where W is a “work,” that is, any intentional human product, whether an object (material or intentional), or performance — to count as a “work of philosophy”:
(i) W provides a philosophical theory or a visionary worldview (or both),
(ii) W negatively or positively engages with earlier or contemporary philosophical ideas,
(iii) W expresses and follows a philosophical method,
(iv) W contains an explicit or implicit “philosophy of philosophy,” a metaphilosophy,
(v) W deals with some topic or topics germane to the rational human condition, within a maximally broad range of issues, encompassing epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, history, culture, society, politics, aesthetics, art, formal and natural science, religion, and so-on.[xvi]
Given how I defined the term “work,” by my use of the term “works” in the phrase “works of philosophy,” I mean something at least as broad as its use in “works of art.”
So there is no assumption or presupposition whatsoever here that works of philosophy must be written or spoken texts, although obviously many or most works of philosophy have been and are written or spoken texts.
54. Correspondingly, I want to put forward two extremely important metaphilosophical theses of rational anthropology:
(i) the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy, and
(ii) the thesis of presentational polymorphism in works of philosophy.
The thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy says:
There is an essential connection, and in particular, an essential complementarity, between the presentational form (morphê) of philosophical works and their philosophical content (hyle).
“Content” here is cognitive-semantic content, but this content can be
either (i) conceptual,
or (ii) essentially non-conceptual,[xvii]
and also it can be
either (iii) theoretical content,
or (iv) non-theoretical content, including, aesthetic/artistic, affective/emotive, pragmatic, moral, political, or religious content.
Moreover, (i) and (ii) cross-cut with (iii) and (iv).
Hence there can be conceptual content that is either theoretical (for example, in the natural or formal sciences) or non-theoretical (e.g., in everyday life), and there can be essentially non-conceptual content that is either theoretical (for example, in pure or applied mathematics[xviii]) or non-theoretical (e.g., in our everday, essentially embodied, affective/emotional, sense-perceptual, imaginative, or practical lives).
55. The first thing that the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy implies, is the intimate connection between truly creative, ground-breaking works of philosophy, and truly creative, original forms of literary and spoken philosophical expression.
Thus Socrates created philosophical works entirely by conversation; Plato did it by writing dialogues; Aristotle did it by presenting (it seems) nothing but lectures; Descartes wrote meditations; Locke and Hume wrote treatises; Kant wrote the Critiques; Kierkegaard wrote strange pseudonymous books; Nietzsche wrote poetry and aphorisms; Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations, both of them completely original, completely different, and equally uncategorizable; and so on.
A second thing that the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy implies is that since all works of written and spoken philosophy are essentially connected to their literary style and expressive vehicles, then it is a mistake to impose a needlessly restrictive stylistic and expressive straight-jacket on works of philosophy, for example, the standard professional “journal essay,” “200+ page book,” and “philosophy talk.”
And a third thing that the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy implies is that since the standard view of philosophical content in the Analytic tradition — whether as logical analysis, linguistic analysis, conceptual analysis, Analytic metaphysics, or scientific naturalism — is that the content of philosophy is exclusively conceptual and theoretical, then recognizing the essential non-conceptuality and non-theoreticality of philosophical content, completely opens up the way we should be thinking about works of philosophy, in three ways.
First, all written and spoken philosophy is in fact shot through with imagery, poetry, rhetorical devices, and speech-acts of various kinds.
Second, philosophy need not necessarily be presented (exclusively) in written or spoken form.
There could be works of philosophy that are cinematic, diagrammed or drawn, painted, photographed, musical (instrumental or voiced), sculpted, performed like dances or plays, etc., etc., and perhaps above all, mixed works combining written or spoken forms of presentation and one or more non-linguistic forms or vehicles.
Third, if philosophical content is as apt to be essentially non-conceptual or non-theoretical as it is to be conceptual or theoretical, then there are vast realms of philosophical meaning that very few philosophers, even the most brilliant and great ones, have ever even attempted to explore.
56. Therefore, in full view of the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy, we also have the thesis of presentational polymorphism in works of philosophy:
Philosophy can be expressed in any presentational format whatsoever, provided that it satisfies the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy.
From the standpoint of rational anthropology, and looking towards the philosophy of the future, this is a truly exciting thesis.
57. 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 unbridgeable gap, or Great Divide, between “Analytic” and “Continental” philosophy.
Indeed, at the time, that was how I framed to myself my ultimate goal in philosophy. So in my graduate school discussion-&-research group we studied the Tractatus/early Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam on reference and meaning, Saul Kripke on ditto, David 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.
But since the dissertation as a whole was intended to express one single line of argument, even back then The No-Deep-Difference Thesis was stirring in my soul.
58. 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 and metaphysical/epistemological status 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 (namely: logic, analyticity, and logical knowledge) in the innately-specified a priori spontaneous, conscious, intentional 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.
59. Finally, after all that philosophical soul-searching, in the late 00s, I published a longish essay 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 propositions, 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.[xix]
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.
60. 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, at bottom, all about Kant’s philosophy and Kantian philosophy, then what explains the robustly persistent opinion among contemporary professional academic philosophers that there is a genuine, important, and even unbridgeable difference between Analytic and “Continental” philosophy?
Here is what I also wrote in that same longish essay 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.”[xx]
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[xxi] 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.[xxii]
Now what about that “one serious philosophical disagreement about the foundations of the exact sciences”?
In a recent essay called “Wittgenstein and Kantianism,” here’s what I have written about it:
As Quine,[xxiii] Reichenbach,[xxiv] 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.[xxv]
This is philosophy in Sellars’s Scientific Image.[xxvi] 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, boldfacing in the original)
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.[xxvii]
In this way, [rational][xxviii] 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.[xxix]
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][xxx] anthropology.[xxxi]
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 Quinean, Sellarsian philosophy on the one hand, and anti-scientistic Kantian,[xxxii] Wittgensteinian philosophy on the other.
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.
61. 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.[xxxiii]
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.[xxxiv]
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 (for example, 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.”[xxxv]
In turn, 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.
62. In his iconoclastic and prescient 1982 essay, “Philosophy in America Today,” Rorty wrote this:
Quarrels between professors are never entirely disconnected from larger quarrels. There was a hidden agenda behind the split between old-fashioned “humanistic” philosophy (of the Dewey-Whitehead sort) and the positivists, and a similar agenda lies behind the current split between devotees of “analytic” and of “Continental” philosophy. The heavy breathing on both sides about the immorality or stupidity of the opposition signals passions which academic power struggles cannot fully explain.[xxxvi]
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 and beliefs about them, a false and hegemonic 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 an objectively true philosophy of the future, which I think is essentially the same as rational anthropology, and for the sake of our own cognitive liberation and self-fulfillment, which I think is essentially the same as our wholehearted pursuit of principled, authentic lives as rational “human, all too human” animals.
[i] The allusion is to Hermann Hesse’s Das Glasperlenspiel, aka The Glass Bead Game, first published in 1943. In the novel, the glass bead game is an all-absorbing, ultra-high-powered, intellectual pastime — as it were, a cross between Japanese Go, the Enyclopedia Britannica, and Frege’s Begriffsschrift — created and practiced by the highly intelligent, geographically isolated, morally and socially inept, and politically irrelevant inhabitants of the fictional, futuristic land of Castalia, somewhere in Central Europe. The parallels with 19th, 20th, and 21st century professional academic philosophy are obvious.
[ii] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “Radical Enlightenment: Existential Kantian Cosmopolitan Anarchism, With a Concluding Quasi-Federalist Postscript,” in D. Heidemann and K. Stoppenbrink (eds.), Join, Or Die: Philosophical Foundations of Federalism (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), pp. 63–90.
[iii] As I mentioned above, The Minimal Law of Non-Contradiction says that not every statement is both true and false. This statement is not only a timeless truth, it’s also a pure priori truth, a presupposition of all logic, and a categorically normative law of rational human thought. See R. Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 5), ch. 5, PREVIEW.
[iv] See, for example, R. Hanna, “Kant, the Copernican Devolution, and Real Metaphysics,” in M. Altman (ed.), Palgrave Kant Handbook (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 761–789.
[v] The leading figures of analytic metaphysics include David Lewis, David Chalmers, Kit Fine, Ted Sider, and Timothy Williamson; and some of its canonical texts are Lewis’s On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986); Sider’s Writing the Book of the World (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011); Chalmers’s Constructing the World (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012); and Williamson’s Modal Logic as Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2013).
[vi] See R. Hanna, Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001).
[vii] See P.F. Strawson, Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (London: Methuen, 1959); and P.F. Strawson, Analysis and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ.Press, 1992).
[viii] See, e.g., F. Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).
[ix] On the crucial distinction between science and scientism, see R. Hanna, “Kant, Nature, and Humanity,” in Preface and General Introduction, Supplementary Essays, and General Bibliography (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, vol. 1) (New York: Nova Science, 2018), essay 2.2, PREVIEW; and also S. Haack, Science and its Discontents (Rounded Globe, 2017), available online at URL = <https://roundedglobe.com/books/038f7053-e376-4fc3-87c5-096de820966d/Scientism%20and%20its%20Discontents/>.
[x] See, e.g., W.V.O. Quine, “Epistemology Naturalized,” in W.V.O. Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 69–90; W. Sellars, Science, Perception, and Reality (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963); and P. Maddy, Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007).
[xi] See also P. Unger, Empty Ideas: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014).
[xii] See Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, esp. chs. 1–3.
[xiii] See R. Hanna and M. Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009).
[xiv] See R. Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981).
[xv] See note [ii] above; and R. Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 4) (New York: Nova Science, 2018), part 2, PREVIEW.
[xvi] I’m grateful to Otto Paans for proposing this basic list of criteria in e-mail discussion.
[xvii] See note [xii] above, and also Hanna, “Kant, Nature, and Humanity,” esp. section 2.2.3.
[xviii] See, e.g., Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, chs. 2, 7, and 8.
[xix] 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.
[xx] M. Friedman, A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 2000), p. 5.
[xxi] M. Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993), p. ix.
[xxii] Hanna, “Kant in the Twentieth Century,” pp. 174–176.
[xxiii] See, e.g., P. Hylton, Quine (London: Routledge, 2007), esp. chs. 9 and 12.
[xxiv] See H. Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1951).
[xxv] 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.
[xxvi] See W. Sellars, “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man,” in Sellars, Science, Perception, and Reality, pp. 1–40.
[xxvii] L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (3rd edn.; New York: Macmillan, 1953), §109, p. 47e.
[xxviii] In that essay (see note [xxxi] below), I call it “transcendental anthropology,” but it is essentially equivalent to rational anthropology as I am developing it here.
[xxix] P. Hacker, Insight and Illusion: Themes in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein (revised edn.; Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), p. 207.
[xxx] As per note [xxviii] above.
[xxxi] R. Hanna, “Wittgenstein and Kantianism,” in H.-J. Glock (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Wittgenstein (Oxford: Blackwell, 2017), pp. 682–698, at pp. 696–697.
[xxxii] See, for example, R. Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006); and Hanna, “Kant, Nature, and Humanity.”
[xxxiii] See Wikipedia, “Military-Industrial Complex,” available online at URL = <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial_complex>, underlining added.
[xxxiv] See, for example, Lockheed Martin’s online site at URL = <http://www.lockheedmartin.com/>.
[xxxv] See also R. Peels, “A Conceptual Map of Scientism,” Academia.edu, available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/12366886/A_Conceptual_Map_of_Scientism>.
[xxxvi] R. Rorty, “Philosophy in America Today,” in R. Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1982), pp. 211–230, at p. 228.
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