In this lively look at current debates in American philosophy, leading philosophers talk candidly about the changing character of their discipline. In the spirit of Emerson's The American Scholar, this book explores the identity of the American philosopher. Through informal conversations, the participants discuss the rise of post-analytic philosophy in America and its relations to European thought and to the American pragmatist tradition. They comment on their own intellectual development as well as each others' work, charting the course of American philosophy over the past few decades.
Giovanna Borradori, in her substantial introduction, explains the history of the analytic movement in America and the home-grown reaction against it. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American philosophy was a socially engaged interdisciplinary enterprise. In transcendentalism and pragmatism, then the dominant currents in American thought, philosophy was connected to history, psychology, and public issues. But in the 1930s, the imported European movement of logical positivism redefined philosophical discourse in terms of mathematical logic and theory of language. Under the influence of this analytic view, American philosophy became a professionalized discipline, divorced from public debate and intellectual history and antagonistic to the other, more humanistic tradition of continental thought.
The American Philosopher explores the opposition between analytic and continental thought and shows how recent American work has begun to bridge the gap between the two traditions. Through a reexamination of pragmatism, and through an attempt to understand philosophy in a more hermeneutical way, the participants narrow the distance between America's distinctly scientific philosophy and Europe's more literary approach.
Moving beyond classical analytic philosophy, the participants confront each other on a number of topics. The logico-linguistic orientations of Quine and Davidson come up against the more discursive, interdisciplinary agendas of Rorty, Putnam, and Cavell. Nozick's theory of pluralist anarchism goes face-to-face with the aesthetic neo-foundationalism of Danto. And Kuhn's hypothesis of paradigm shifts is measured against MacIntyre's ethics of "virtues."
Borradori's conversations offer an unconventional portrait of the way philosophers think about their work; scholars and students will not be its only beneficiaries, so will everyone who wonders about the current state of American philosophy.
In the spring of 2003, Jacques Derrida sat down for a public debate in Paris with Algerian intellectual Mustapha Chérif. The eminent philosopher arrived at the event directly from the hospital where he had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the illness that would take his life just over a year later. That he still participated in the exchange testifies to the magnitude of the subject at hand: the increasingly distressed relationship between Islam and the West, and the questions of freedom, justice, and democracy that surround it.
As Chérif relates in this account of their dialogue, the topic of Islam held special resonance for Derrida—perhaps it is to be expected that near the end of his life his thoughts would return to Algeria, the country where he was born in 1930. Indeed, these roots served as the impetus for their conversation, which first centers on the ways in which Derrida’s Algerian-Jewish identity has shaped his thinking. From there, the two men move to broader questions of secularism and democracy; to politics and religion and how the former manipulates the latter; and to the parallels between xenophobia in the West and fanaticism among Islamists.
Ultimately, the discussion is an attempt to tear down the notion that Islam and the West are two civilizations locked in a bitter struggle for supremacy and to reconsider them as the two shores of the Mediterranean—two halves of the same geographical, religious, and cultural sphere. Islam and the West is a crucial opportunity to further our understanding of Derrida’s views on the key political and religious divisions of our time and an often moving testament to the power of friendship and solidarity to surmount them.
The idea for Philosophy in a Time of Terror was born hours after the attacks on 9/11 and was realized just weeks later when Giovanna Borradori sat down with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida in New York City, in separate interviews, to evaluate the significance of the most destructive terrorist act ever perpetrated. This book marks an unprecedented encounter between two of the most influential thinkers of our age as here, for the first time, Habermas and Derrida overcome their mutual antagonism and agree to appear side by side. As the two philosophers disassemble and reassemble what we think we know about terrorism, they break from the familiar social and political rhetoric increasingly polarized between good and evil. In this process, we watch two of the greatest intellects of the century at work.
Recoding Metaphysics: The New Italian Philosophy presents for the first time in English the work of many leading Italian contemporary thinkers. It suggests a third way in the hitherto almost exclusively French and German discussion of the deconstructive critique of poststructuralism on one hand, and the emancipatory convictions of post-Marxist discourse on the other. Each essay attempts to establish the validity of this third way, some by developing the concept of "weak thought" through rigorous analysis of Marxism and a reinterpretation of Nietzsche's nihilism and Heidegger's existentialism, and others by developing alternative critiques to postructuralist thinking.