In a recent edition of Faith and Philosophy (the October 2009 edition, to be exact), there is an exchange between James K. A. Smith and Bruce Ellis Benson about what can or should be done to improve 'Continental' philosophy of religion. The discussion focuses on the reduction of 'enclaves' - i.e. on getting 'Continental' philosophy of religion into mainstream venues, and having dialogue with mainstream (analytic) philosophy of religion. Now, something about this exchange struck me as rather odd: the exchange takes place in a mainstream venue, a philosophy of religion journal read mostly by analytic philosophers. Yet the exchange is almost entirely directed toward those working within 'Continental' philosophy of religion. I would think, if Smith and Benson want to accomplish their goal of ending enclaves, they would take a moment to answer a crucial question that analytic philosophers might have: why should we care? Why should we listen to 'Continental' philosophers?
Now, surely there are some benefits to dialogue between analytic and 'Continental' philosophers. One of these is that there are some interesting historical figures, such as Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Brentano, who are sadly ignored in the analytic tradition, and we could benefit from hearing thoughts inspired by them on various subjects. (In recent years, Brentano is less ignored than he used to be.) 'Continental' philosophers may be in a position to help us out here.
But there are also reasons why analytic philosophers generally ignore 'Continental' philosophy. For instance, having had an entirely analytic/historical philosophical education, I have been led to believe the following:
In sum, if someone wants to claim that reading a 'Continental' writer is going to be worth my time, she should show that either (1) this writer is engaged, as I am, in the use of logic to conform his beliefs to truth, or (2) this writer presents difficulties with that project which I had better address. I'm sure that there are many 'Continental' writers who satisfy one of these disjuncts; as long as Smith and Benson had our ears, I wish they would have pointed some out.
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