By Richard Kearney

Continental philosophy is likely one of the 20th century's most vital and demanding philosophical pursuits. This significant quantity contains fourteen chapters on its significant representatives and faculties, together with phenomenology, existentialism and postmodernism.

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Extra info for Continental Philosophy in the 20th Century (Routledge History of Philosophy, Volume 8)

Sample text

Intentionality is our openness to the world, our transcending mode of being. Husserl also developed the implications of this fundamental thesis. He repudiated Locke’s interpretation of ‘mind’ as an inner space set off from the rest of nature, and he rejected Kant’s distinction between phenomena and things-in-themselves. He also rejected the view that the task of philosophy is to guarantee that our concepts and theories somehow mirror the world. These themes brought a sense of liberation to many philosophers who by the early decades of the twentieth century had become weary of the insoluble problems generated by the modern account of cognition.

Continental thought has proved highly exportable, circulating far beyond the frontiers of Europe to provoke strong responses in the intellectual world at large. It is worth recalling at the outset that the term ‘continental’ philosophy was coined not by European thinkers themselves but by academic philosophy departments in the AngloAmerican world eager to differentiate it from ‘analytic’ thought. It was initially more a label of convention than a category corresponding to a given essence of thought.

Analytic thinkers inspired by the laterWittgenstein, Ryle, Davidson or Dummett, show equal resolve in disentangling such category mistakes. But the reasons for doing so are different in each case. Generally speaking, analytic thinkers seek to avoid such error in the interests of clarity, evidence, verification and coherence; continentals appear more impelled by ontological scruples to keep thought open to ‘irreducibles’ and ‘undecidables’—that is, to questions which surpass the limits of ‘pure reason’—questions of being and nothing, of transcendence and difference, of alterity and historicity.

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