Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

CFP: Bridging the Divide: Beyond the Analytic and Continental Division

Submission deadline: November 15, 2022

Conference date(s):
March 2, 2023

Conference Venue:
Département de Philosophie, Université de Poitiers
Poitiers, France

Université de Poitiers, France – UFR Sciences Humaines et Arts

Co-organizers: Camille NERRIERE & Oliver NORMAN

In an interview given to Reason in 2000, John Searle revisited his relationship with continental philosophy. At the same time friendly and hostile, Searle opposed on the one hand Foucault and on the other Derrida. The latter was to be known in the article as practising the method of “terrorism of obscurantism”. Id est, Derrida is an author who knowingly writes in order to not be understood: he is obscure in so far as his constructs are ambiguous and overly complex. And when one tries to understand him, he reserves the right to declare that the reader, or the debater, has not understood. His philosophy would therefore be an exercise in ridiculing the reason of his reader and contradictors. Foucault on the other hand seems to be held in a higher esteem, belonging to a different ilk of continental philosophy, one who does not rely on confusing rhetoric and vague concepts.

Isn’t this obscurity, this complexity, the habitual view of continental philosophy in the eyes of whoever doesn’t practice it? An obscurity against which analytic philosophy attempts to put forward the rigor and clarity of a scientific methodology and an attention to meaningful language. Clarity and rigor against almost poetic, even mystic, effusion, and plays on words from philosophers attempting to achieve a literary status.

Even if this opposition seems to hold, we must recognize that there has been a dialogue between both traditions since the genesis of the division. If it is true that analytic philosophy and its founding fathers (such as Russell, Frege, or Carnap and the Vienna Circle) set themselves against an old metaphysical tradition, it is also true that this opposition implies that they read the philosophers of this tradition, and therefore a dialogue. In this regard, a study of Whitehead, considered as both an analytic philosopher (co-authoring the Principia Mathematica) and a continental philosopher (both based on his later writings and reception via Deleuze) could incite us to question this apparent impermeability between both schools.

Is the opposition between the two schools mere prejudice, born from a misunderstanding of one another’s methods? Did such a misunderstanding result in a rejection of one another by participants on either side of the linguistic barrier of the English language? Can we not find cases in which so-called continental philosophers communicate with analytic philosophers and vice versa : Wahl writes on Carnap, Russell, and logical positivism in L’Expérience métaphysique,Wittgenstein read Heidegger and Kierkegaard, Murdoch builds her thought upon Plato’s theories, considers her Oxford colleagues and the existentialists to be of the same ilk, and incessantly evokes Kant, Hegel, and Derrida in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals… Is Derrida not, with Searle, one of the forces behind the continued use and debate around the concept of performativity which he inherits from Austin? More recently, French philosopher Jocelyn Benoist attempted to show the common foundations of both analytic philosophy and phenomenology in his work Représentations sans objet : Aux origines de la phénoménologie et de la philosophie analytique (PUF, 2001). Even if these foundations gave way to a difference in responses, differences which constituted the bases for two distinct methodologies, they share a common core: the question of referentiality.

Furthermore, if we can question the methodological opposition, we can also see, in contemporary philosophy, a reprisal of core themes historically associated to continental philosophy in the works of analytic philosophers. This is the case in feminist analytic philosophy, dialoguing with Putnam’s externalist tadition as well as with Butler (cf. Asta, Categories we live by, Oxford University Press, 2019).

This conference will attempt to question once again the possible distinction between analytic and continental philosophies. Far from any dogmatism, we invite proposals on the following themes, allowing either to reject or defend the distinction between the two:

Theme 1: Genesis of the analytic-continental distinction

Theme 2: Against the distinction – Comparative readings of philosophers from both traditions: can the dialogue between thinkers of both schools show that the chasm between them can be abolished?

Theme 3: In defence of the division: Can we, in light of the criticisms, assert a methodological difference between continental and analytic? If the second theme is a dialogue, then the third becomes a dialogue of the deaf, an impossible understanding between the two based on the speaking (and thinking) of a different language.

Keynote speakers

Mélissa Fox-Muraton. Philosophy teacher at the ESC Clermont Business School. Member of the PHIER Research Laboratory, Clermont-Auvergne University.

Elise Marrou, Lecturer, Sorbonne Université, Associate Member of the Husserl Archives

Submission guidelines

The conference is open to both senior and junior researchers, to doctoral students and graduate students largely construed in order to connect the voices of young researchers and their already established and esteemed colleagues.

Potential participants should submit a proposal (including title, keywords, and a max. 500 word abstract), together with a short bio-bibliographical note, to the following address:

Submissions must be received by November 15th 2022 at the latest

You will then receive a notification of acceptance or refusal by December 15th 2022

Please note that the Université de Poitiers unfortunately cannot guarantee funding for travel expenses.

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