Monday, September 19, 2011

Westerman, Richard. Review of David Ingram, ed. CRITICAL THEORY TO STRUCTURALISM. NDPR (August 2011).

Ingram, David, ed.  Vol. 5  Critical Theory to Structuralism: Philosophy, Politics, and the Human SciencesVol. 5 of The History of Continental Philosophy.  8 Vols.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.

According to Hegel, "the history of Philosophy is not a blind collection of fanciful ideas, nor a fortuitous progression," but rather a "necessary development of the successive philosophies from one another, so that the one of necessity presupposes another preceding it." In the end, a history of philosophy narrates the unfolding of "one Philosophy, the contemporary differences of which constitute the necessary aspects of the one principle." Hegel's strictures are perhaps particularly relevant for any history of continental philosophy: though it may be arguable whether the term refers to any coherent school, one thing that unites many of those identified as continental philosophers is that they develop their own ideas in direct engagement with the historical tradition.

Chicago's handsome new eight-volume History of Continental Philosophy is therefore a very welcome addition to the literature: their comprehensive catalogue of the "tradition that has its roots in several different ways of approaching and responding to Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy" will help both the novice and the specialist trace a path through the often-convoluted genealogies of contemporary continental philosophy. Whilst the publishers' website refers to the project as "the most comprehensive reference work to date," the Series Preface suggests an intention to follow Hegel's guidance. There, the series is described as "a coherent and comprehensive account of the continental philosophical tradition." The editors acknowledge that "telling the history of continental philosophy cannot simply take the form of a chronologically organized series of 'great thinker' essays" (pp. vii-viii).

David Ingram takes on the job of editing Volume Five of the collection -- a difficult task, since most of the writers covered in this volume did not treat philosophical problems in isolation, but instead both used philosophical ideas to interpret social and political problems and also tried to answer philosophical questions with reference to the social sciences. As he explains in a comprehensive, clear introduction, "the figures, schools of thought, and themes represented in this volume can best be understood as responses to this chronic crisis of modernity and, more specifically, the liberal state." (p. 1) Ingram rightly highlights the way this practical crisis led to a deeper philosophical scepticism about the value of reason. Hanging over this volume, then, is the fundamental question of disciplinary boundary: how far can normative philosophical arguments be applied to concrete social or political problems, and what is left to philosophy when other disciplines begin to answer some of its central questions? . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment