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Philosophy’s shame: reflections on an ambivalent/ambiviolent relationship with science
journal contributionposted on 2016-04-01, 00:00 authored by Jack ReynoldsJack Reynolds
In this paper, I take inspiration from some themes in Ann Murphy’s recent book, Violence and the Philosophical Imaginary, especially her argument that philosophy’s identity and relation to itself depends on an intimate relationship with that which is designated as not itself (e.g. other academic disciplines and non-philosophy in general), the latter of which is a potential source of shame that calls for some form of response. I argue that this shame is particularly acute in regard to the natural sciences, which have gone on in various ways to distance themselves from their progenitor discipline and to achieve both agreement and technical progress in a way that could never be said of philosophy. I trace out some of the reactions to this shame that have dominated in the twentieth century and been a factor in the so-called analytic-continental ‘divide’. The options here are many and varied, but they range from cannibalism (philosophy as queen of the sciences, thus conferring some of the prestige of science upon the philosophy, which alone can unite or ground the various ontic sciences), scientific naturalism (the philosopher defers to the sciences, and most forms of meta-philosophy are rejected as an outmoded remnant of first philosophy), or some kind of irenic separatism about methods or domains such that science and philosophy do not encroach upon the territory of each other. My aims here are mainly diagnostic, but I will indicate where I think that certain responses to this shame are unproductive and unhelpful, with divergent weaknesses associated with the traditions that have come to be labelled ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ respectively. My tacit suggestion, then, is that philosophy needs to become post-analytic and meta-continental, but I will also briefly criticize some recent efforts to do precisely this in what is sometimes called the ‘scientific turn’ in contemporary continental (or post-continental) philosophy.