Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.
It is difficult to identify non-trivial claims that would be common to all the preceding philosophical movements. The term continental philosophy, like analytic philosophy, lacks clear definition and may mark merely a family resemblance across disparate philosophical views. Simon Glendinning has suggested that the term was originally more pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or disliked by analytic philosophers. Nonetheless, Michael E. Rosen has ventured to identify common themes that typically characterize continental philosophy.
Ultimately, the foregoing themes derive from a broadly Kantian thesis that knowledge, experience, and reality are bound and shaped by conditions best understood through philosophical reflection rather than exclusively empirical inquiry.
The term continental philosophy, in the above sense, was first widely used by English-speaking philosophers to describe university courses in the 1970s, emerging as a collective name for the philosophies then widespread in France and Germany, such as phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, and post-structuralism.
However, the term (and its approximate sense) can be found at least as early as 1840, in John Stuart Mill's 1840 essay on Coleridge, where Mill contrasts the Kantian-influenced thought of "Continental philosophy" and "Continental philosophers" with the English empiricism of Bentham and the 18th century generally. This notion gained prominence in the early 20th century as figures such as Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore advanced a vision of philosophy closely allied with natural science, progressing through logical analysis. This tradition, which has come to be known broadly as "analytic philosophy", became dominant in Britain and the United States from roughly 1930 onward. Russell and Moore made a dismissal of Hegelianism and its philosophical relatives a distinctive part of their new movement. Commenting on the history of the distinction in 1945, Russell distinguished "two schools of philosophy, which may be broadly distinguished as the Continental and the British respectively", a division he saw as operative "from the time of Locke".
Since the 1970s, however, many philosophers in the United States and Britain have taken interest in continental philosophers since Kant, and the philosophical traditions in many European countries have similarly incorporated many aspects of the "analytic" movement. Self-described analytic philosophy flourishes in France, including philosophers such as Jules Vuillemin, Vincent Descombes, Gilles Gaston Granger, François Recanati, and Pascal Engel. Likewise, self-described "continental philosophers" can be found in philosophy departments in the United Kingdom, North America, and Australia, and some well-known analytic philosophers claim to conduct better scholarship on continental philosophy than self-identified programs in continental philosophy, particularly at the level of graduate education. "Continental philosophy" is thus defined in terms of a family of philosophical traditions and influences rather than a geographic distinction. The issue of geographical specificity has been raised again more recently in post-colonial and decolonial approaches to "continental philosophy", which critically examine the ways that European imperial and colonial projects have influenced academic knowledge production. For this reason, some scholars have advocated for "post-continental philosophy" as an outgrowth of continental philosophy.
The history of continental philosophy (taken in its narrower sense) is usually thought to begin with German idealism. Led by figures like Fichte, Schelling, and later Hegel, German idealism developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s and was closely linked with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. Besides the central figures listed above, important contributors to German idealism also included Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and Friedrich Schleiermacher.
As the institutional roots of "continental philosophy" in many cases directly descend from those of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl has always been a canonical figure in continental philosophy. Nonetheless, Husserl is also a respected subject of study in the analytic tradition. Husserl's notion of a noema, the non-psychological content of thought, his correspondence with Gottlob Frege, and his investigations into the nature of logic continue to generate interest among analytic philosophers.
J. G. Merquior argued that a distinction between analytic and continental philosophies can be first clearly identified with Henri Bergson (1859–1941), whose wariness of science and elevation of intuition paved the way for existentialism. Merquior wrote: "the most prestigious philosophizing in France took a very dissimilar path [from the Anglo-Germanic analytic schools]. One might say it all began with Henri Bergson."
An illustration of some important differences between "analytic" and "continental" styles of philosophy can be found in Rudolf Carnap's "Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of Language" (originally published in 1932 as "Überwindung der Metaphysik durch Logische Analyse der Sprache"), a paper some observers have described as particularly polemical. Carnap's paper argues that Heidegger's lecture "What Is Metaphysics?" violates logical syntax to create nonsensical pseudo-statements. Moreover, Carnap claimed that many German metaphysicians of the era were similar to Heidegger in writing statements that were syntactically meaningless.
With the rise of Nazism, many of Germany's philosophers, especially those of Jewish descent or leftist or liberal political sympathies (such as many in the Vienna Circle and the Frankfurt School), fled to the English-speaking world. Those philosophers who remained—if they remained in academia at all—had to reconcile themselves to Nazi control of the universities. Others, such as Martin Heidegger, among the most prominent German philosophers to stay in Germany, developed a diplomatic relationship with Nazism when it came to power.
Both before and after World War II there was a growth of interest in German philosophy in France. A new interest in communism translated into an interest in Marx and Hegel, who became for the first time studied extensively in the politically conservative French university system of the Third Republic. At the same time the phenomenological philosophy of Husserl and Heidegger became increasingly influential, perhaps owing to its resonances with French philosophies which placed great stock in the first-person perspective (an idea found in divergent forms such as Cartesianism, spiritualism, and Bergsonism). Most important in this popularization of phenomenology was the author and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who called his philosophy existentialism. (See 20th-century French philosophy.) Another major strain of continental thought is structuralism/post-structuralism. Influenced by the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, French anthropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss began to apply the structural paradigm to the humanities. In the 1960s and '70s, post-structuralists developed various critiques of structuralism. Post-structuralist thinkers include Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.
From the early 20th century until the 1960s, continental philosophers were only intermittently discussed in British and American universities, despite an influx of continental philosophers, particularly German Jewish students of Nietzsche and Heidegger, to the United States on account of the persecution of the Jews and later World War II; Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, Theodor W. Adorno, and Walter Kaufmann are probably the most notable of this wave, arriving in the late 1930s and early 1940s. However, philosophy departments began offering courses in continental philosophy in the late 1960s and 1970s.
American university departments in literature, the fine arts, film, sociology, and political theory have increasingly incorporated ideas and arguments from continental philosophers into their curricula and research. Continental Philosophy features prominently in a number of British and Irish Philosophy departments, for instance at the University of Essex, Warwick, Sussex, Dundee, Aberdeen (Centre for Modern Thought), and University College Dublin, as well as Manchester Metropolitan, Kingston, Staffordshire (postgraduate only), and the Open University. North American Philosophy departments offering courses in Continental Philosophy include the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Boston College, Stony Brook University (SUNY), Vanderbilt University, DePaul University, Villanova University, the University of Guelph, The New School, Pennsylvania State University, University of Oregon, Emory University, Duquesne University, the University of Memphis, University of King's College, and Loyola University Chicago. The most prominent organization for continental philosophy in the United States is the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (known as SPEP).
Hegelians had all kinds of arguments to prove this or that was not 'real'. Number, space, time, matter, were all professedly convicted of being self-contradictory. Nothing was real, so we were assured, except the Absolute, which could think only of itself since there was nothing else for it to think of and which thought eternally the sort of things that idealist philosophers thought in their books.
20th-century philosophy saw the development of a number of new philosophical schools—including logical positivism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and poststructuralism. In terms of the eras of philosophy, it is usually labelled as contemporary philosophy (succeeding modern philosophy, which runs roughly from the time of René Descartes until the late 19th to early 20th centuries).
As with other academic disciplines, philosophy increasingly became professionalized in the twentieth century, and a split emerged between philosophers who considered themselves part of either the "analytic" or "Continental" traditions. However, there have been disputes regarding both the terminology and the reasons behind the divide, as well as philosophers who see themselves as bridging the divide, such as process philosophy advocates and neopragmatists. In addition, philosophy in the twentieth century became increasingly technical and harder for lay people to read.
The publication of Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations (1900–1) and Bertrand Russell's The Principles of Mathematics (1903) is considered to mark the beginning of 20th-century philosophy.Alterity
Alterity is a philosophical and anthropological term meaning "otherness", that is, the "other of two" (Latin alter). It is also increasingly being used in media to express something other than "sameness", an imitation compared to the original.Contemporary philosophy
Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the early 20th century with the increasing professionalization of the discipline and the rise of analytic and continental philosophy.The phrase "contemporary philosophy" is a piece of technical terminology in philosophy that refers to a specific period in the history of Western philosophy (namely the philosophy of the 20th and 21st centuries). However, the phrase is often confused with modern philosophy (which refers to an earlier period in Western philosophy), postmodern philosophy (which refers to continental philosophers' criticisms of modern philosophy), and with a non-technical use of the phrase referring to any recent philosophic work.Form of life (philosophy)
Form of life (German: Lebensform) is a technical term used by Ludwig Wittgenstein and others in the continental philosophy and philosophy of science traditions. Wittgenstein himself used the term consistently in his works Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty, but other writers have sometimes used it in very different and often mutually incompatible ways.Heidegger Studies
Heidegger Studies is an annual peer-reviewed academic journal covering the thought of Martin Heidegger published by Duncker & Humblot. It was established in 1985 and publishes contributions in English, German, and French. The editors-in-chief are Parvis Emad, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, Pascal David, Paola-Ludovika Coriando, and Ingeborg Schüßler. All issues are available online from the Philosophy Documentation Center.Index of continental philosophy articles
This is a list of articles in continental philosophy.
Achieving Our Country
Anarchism and Friedrich Nietzsche
André Malet (philosopher)
Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment?
Anti-Semite and Jew
Antonio Caso Andrade
Bad faith (existentialism)
Barbara Herrnstein Smith
Being and Nothingness
Being and Time
Being in itself
Beyond Good and Evil
Cahiers pour l'Analyse
Charles Sanders Peirce
Christopher Norris (critic)
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning)
Course in General Linguistics
Critical discourse analysis
Criticism of postmodernism
Critique of Cynical Reason
Critique of Dialectical Reason
Critique of Pure Reason
Critiques of Slavoj Žižek
Cultural materialism (anthropology)
David Farrell Krell
Duality of structure
Ecce Homo (book)
Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits
Epic and Novel
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
Exile and the Kingdom
Fear and Trembling
Ferdinand de Saussure
Frederick C. Beiser
French structuralist feminism
Friedrich Nietzsche bibliography
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Helene von Druskowitz
History of Consciousness
Human, All Too Human
Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose
Influence and reception of Søren Kierkegaard
Influence and reception of Friedrich Nietzsche
International Journal of Žižek Studies
Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy
Irrealism (the arts)
James E. Faulconer
James M. Edie
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
John D. Caputo
Judge for Yourselves!
Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel
L'existentialisme est un humanisme
Lacan at the Scene
Les jeux sont faits
Les Temps modernes
Lewis White Beck
List of critical theorists
List of postmodern critics
List of works in critical theory
Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture
Louis H. Mackey
Mary Louise Pratt
Metaphor in philosophy
Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Metaphysics of Morals
Metaphysics of presence
Michel Foucault bibliography
Néstor García Canclini
Nietzsche's views on women
Nietzsche and free will
Nietzsche and Philosophy
Nietzsche contra Wagner
Objet petit a
Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime
On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates
On the Genealogy of Morality
On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense
Outline of critical theory
Paul de Man
Paul R. Patton
Phenomenology of essences
Phenomenology of Perception
Philosophical Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks
Philosophy of dialogue
Philosophy of Existence
Philosophy of Max Stirner
Philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard
Philosophy of technology
Postmodern social construction of nature
Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
Practice in Christianity
Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
Relationship between Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner
Richard A. Macksey
Robert C. Solomon
Robert Rowland Smith
Scheler's Stratification of Emotional Life
Schopenhauer's criticism of the proofs of the parallel postulate
Search for a Method
Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions
Slavoj Žižek bibliography
Socialisme ou Barbarie
Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche
Stages on Life's Way
Stirrings Still: The International Journal of Existential Literature
Sturm und Drang
Teresa de Lauretis
The Absence of the Book
The Adulterous Woman
The Antichrist (book)
The Art of Being Right
The Birth of the Clinic
The Birth of Tragedy
The Blood of Others
The Book on Adler
The Case of Wagner
The Concept of Anxiety
The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress
The Existential Negation Campaign
The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures
The Gay Science
The Imaginary (Sartre)
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God
The Origin of the Work of Art
The Pigeon (novella)
The Point of View of My Work as an Author
The Possessed (play)
The Postmodern Condition
The Question Concerning Technology
The Renegade (Camus short story)
The Royal Way
The Seminars of Jacques Lacan
The Sickness Unto Death
The Silent Men
The Society of the Spectacle
The Stranger (Camus novel)
The Sublime Object of Ideology
The Transcendence of the Ego
The Will to Power (manuscript)
Theatre of the Absurd
Theodor W. Adorno
Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Time and Free Will
Twilight of the Idols
Two Ages: A Literary Review
Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven
Untimely Meditations (Nietzsche)
Waiting for Godot
What Is Literature?
William McNeill (philosopher)
Wolfgang Fritz Haug
Works of Love
Zollikon SeminarsKierkegaard Studies Yearbook
Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook is a peer-reviewed academic journal of philosophy covering scholarly examination of Søren Kierkegaard's thought and edited by Heiko Schulz, Jon Stewart, and Karl Verstrynge. The journal publishes in English, French, and German. The journal was established in 1996 and is published by Walter de Gruyter on behalf of the International Kierkegaard Society.Metaphysics of presence
The concept of the metaphysics of presence is an important consideration in deconstruction. Deconstructive interpretation holds that the entire history of Western philosophy with its language and traditions has emphasized the desire for immediate access to meaning, and thus built a metaphysics or ontotheology based on privileging presence over absence.New Philosophers
The New Philosophers (French: nouveaux philosophes) is the generation of French philosophers who broke with Marxism in the early 1970s. They include Alain Finkielkraut, André Glucksmann, Pascal Bruckner, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Jean-Marie Benoist, Christian Jambet, Guy Lardreau, Claude Gandelman, Jean-Paul Dollé and Gilles Susong. They criticized Jean-Paul Sartre and post-structuralism, as well as the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.Philosophy Today
Philosophy Today is an international peer-reviewed journal that reflects the current questions, topics and debates of contemporary philosophy, with a particular focus on continental philosophy.
The journal is especially interested in original work at the intersection of philosophy, political theory, comparative literature, and cultural studies. It seeks to provoke discussion and debate among various intellectual traditions, including critical theory, phenomenology, hermeneutics, feminism, and psychoanalysis. The journal provides space for reviews, as well as short translations of the works of contemporary philosophical figures originally published in other languages. It publishes special issues dedicated to particular topics, and for many years published Selected Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy in cooperation with the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP). It has a Level 1 classification from the Publication Forum of the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. and a SHERPA/RoMEO "green" self-archiving policy.Philosophy Today is owned by the Philosophy Department of DePaul University and published on its behalf by the Philosophy Documentation Center.Philosophy of dialogue
Philosophy of dialogue is a type of philosophy based on the work of the Austrian-born Jewish philosopher Martin Buber best known through its classic presentation in his 1923 book I and Thou. For Buber, the fundamental fact of human existence, too readily overlooked by scientific rationalism and abstract philosophical thought, is "man with man", a dialogue which takes place in the "sphere of between" ("das Zwischenmenschliche").Pli
Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy is an academic journal of philosophy edited by members of the Graduate School of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, England. The journal publishes two volumes annually.Postmodern theology
Postmodern theology—also known as the continental philosophy of religion—is a philosophical and theological movement that interprets theology in light of post-Heideggerian continental philosophy, including phenomenology, post-structuralism, and deconstruction.Psychoanalytic theory
Psychoanalytic theory is the theory of personality organization and the dynamics of personality development that guides psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology. First laid out by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century, psychoanalytic theory has undergone many refinements since his work. Psychoanalytic theory came to full prominence in the last third of the twentieth century as part of the flow of critical discourse regarding psychological treatments after the 1960s, long after Freud's death in 1939, and its validity is now widely disputed or rejected. Freud had ceased his analysis of the brain and his physiological studies and shifted his focus to the study of the mind and the related psychological attributes making up the mind, and on treatment using free association and the phenomena of transference. His study emphasized the recognition of childhood events that could influence the mental functioning of adults. His examination of the genetic and then the developmental aspects gave the psychoanalytic theory its characteristics. Starting with his publication of The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899, his theories began to gain prominence.Simulacrum
A simulacrum (plural: simulacra from Latin: simulacrum, which means "likeness, similarity") is a representation or imitation of a person or thing. The word was first recorded in the English language in the late 16th century, used to describe a representation, such as a statue or a painting, especially of a god. By the late 19th century, it had gathered a secondary association of inferiority: an image without the substance or qualities of the original. Literary critic Fredric Jameson offers photorealism as an example of artistic simulacrum, where a painting is sometimes created by copying a photograph that is itself a copy of the real. Other art forms that play with simulacra include trompe-l'œil, pop art, Italian neorealism, and French New Wave.Speculative realism
Speculative realism is a movement in contemporary Continental-inspired philosophy (also known as post-Continental philosophy) that defines itself loosely in its stance of metaphysical realism against the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy (or what it terms "correlationism").Speculative realism takes its name from a conference held at Goldsmiths College, University of London in April 2007. The conference was moderated by Alberto Toscano of Goldsmiths College, and featured presentations by Ray Brassier of American University of Beirut (then at Middlesex University), Iain Hamilton Grant of the University of the West of England, Graham Harman of the American University in Cairo, and Quentin Meillassoux of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Credit for the name "speculative realism" is generally ascribed to Brassier, though Meillassoux had already used the term "speculative materialism" to describe his own position.A second conference, entitled "Speculative Realism/Speculative Materialism", took place at the UWE Bristol on Friday 24 April 2009, two years after the original event at Goldsmiths. The line-up consisted of Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, and (in place of Meillassoux, who was unable to attend) Alberto Toscano.Structuralism
In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel. Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract structure".Structuralism in Europe developed in the early 1900s, in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague, Moscow and Copenhagen schools of linguistics. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when structural linguistics were facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance, an array of scholars in the humanities borrowed Saussure's concepts for use in their respective fields of study. French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was arguably the first such scholar, sparking a widespread interest in structuralism.The structuralist mode of reasoning has been applied in a diverse range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary criticism, economics and architecture. The most prominent thinkers associated with structuralism include Claude Lévi-Strauss, linguist Roman Jakobson, and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. As an intellectual movement, structuralism was initially presumed to be the heir apparent to existentialism. However, by the late 1960s, many of structuralism's basic tenets came under attack from a new wave of predominantly French intellectuals such as the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, the philosopher Jacques Derrida, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and the literary critic Roland Barthes. Though elements of their work necessarily relate to structuralism and are informed by it, these theorists have generally been referred to as post-structuralists. In the 1970s, structuralism was criticized for its rigidity and ahistoricism. Despite this, many of structuralism's proponents, such as Lacan, continue to assert an influence on continental philosophy and many of the fundamental assumptions of some of structuralism's post-structuralist critics are a continuation of structuralism.Subject (philosophy)
A subject is a being who has a unique consciousness and/or unique personal experiences, or an entity that has a relationship with another entity that exists outside itself (called an "object").
A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed. This concept is especially important in Continental philosophy, where 'the subject' is a central term in debates over the nature of the self. The nature of the subject is also central in debates over the nature of subjective experience within the Anglo-American tradition of analytical philosophy.
The sharp distinction between subject and object corresponds to the distinction, in the philosophy of René Descartes, between thought and extension. Descartes believed that thought (subjectivity) was the essence of the mind, and that extension (the occupation of space) was the essence of matter.Value judgment
A value judgment (or value judgement) is a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of something or someone, or of the usefulness of something or someone, based on a comparison or other relativity. As a generalization, a value judgment can refer to a judgment based upon a particular set of values or on a particular value system. A related meaning of value judgment is an expedient evaluation based upon limited information at hand, an evaluation undertaken because a decision must be made on short notice.