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What is the difference between analytical and continental philosophy? Is one better than the other? Is analytical philosophy more scientific than continental philosophy?

October 4, 2005

Response from Jay L. Garfield on October 7, 2005
I think that it is time that these terms were retired from the language. At best they represent a difference in literary style. That's at best. Many people regarded as "analytic" by those who fancy this distinction actually live(d) on the continent in question. Many regarded as "continental" live(d) and work(ed) in Anglophone countries. There is no clear demarcation between philosophical problems and methods marked by this distinction, and at worst, it is used by parties on each side as an excuse to valorise or to denegrate the work of those they regard as lying in the opposite side. Just read philosophy and enjoy it!
Response from Douglas Burnham on June 30, 2006

I agree that the two designations do not have much geographical significance, or significance in the nature of problems pursued or methods employed. I also don't think style is a very consistent indicator. Finally, the differences between philosophers within one of these very loose groups might be more important than any differences between groups. Perhaps, therefore, the distinction should be retired from the language. If there is a difference that is more than anecdotal, it is historical in character. Please see my answer to question 926.

http://www.amherst.edu/askphilosophers/question/926

However, for the moment, we're stuck with it. The distinction has been institutionalised in ways beyond your or my control -- for example, in publishers' catalogues, in journal readership and subscriptions, in the categories of work presented at national and international conferences, or for the British Research Assessment Exercise.


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