Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Editors' Introduction

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Editors' Introduction

Article excerpt

Each year, the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) hosts an annual meeting attended by some 500 philosophers and scholars-primarily North American, but increasingly including scholars from Europe, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere-working in the various traditions of so-called "continental" thought. At that meeting, over 150 blind-reviewed papers are delivered in areas that range from classical phenomenology and existentialism, to hermeneutics, critical theory, deconstruction, feminism, race theory, and beyond. A small selection of these papers is published in the SPEP supplement to Philosophy Today, which thus constitutes a kind of snapshot-an aerial photograph perhaps-of the current state of continental philosophy.

The present volume is such a snapshot, composed of papers delivered at the 2004 annual meeting, hosted by the University of Memphis. In it one will find cutting-edge work on a wide variety of philosophical topics: epistemology and metaphysics, philosophy of science, ethics, philosophy of history, aesthetics, political and social theory, history of philosophy, and more. Together they show some of the directions that philosophers in the continental tradition are pursuing, and provide directives for future work. Of course, there are other directions not represented (for instance, work in the philosophy of religion is not as evident here as it is in the field at large); and directives, like promissory notes, are as often an expression of a wish as they are a statement of resolve. Yet in each paper included here one will find a pointing to something, an image of a field, a formulation of a problem that might otherwise remain present merely as a sense of unease, a dissatisfaction with what has been received. The shifting movements of the amorphous field of continental philosophy-which inhabits the larger field of philosophy in complex, and increasingly fruitful, ways-are given specific direction in the essays included in this volume, whether through intensive concentration on the texts that make up the heritage of continental thought, engagement with the social and political issues that define our time, or encounters with thinkers from other traditions. To immerse oneself in them is to come to appreciate the diverse ways in which philosophy can be pursued, and to direct one's thoughts toward some of the most fascinating topics being discussed today.

Phenomenology and the History of Science

Must philosophy of science be committed to naturalism in Quine's sense? Does naturalized epistemology's rejection of the apriori both do justice to the history of science and also render other philosophical approaches-such as transcendental phenomenology-irrelevant? Thomas Ryckman opens the present section, and the volume as a whole, with an account of a chapter in the history of physics that suggests a negative answer to these questions. Arguing that the pervasiveness of naturalism in contemporary philosophy of science can be traced to the widespread, but erroneous, idea that "general relativity comprised an experimentum crucis discontinuing not only Kant's Transcendental Aesthetic but all varieties of transcendental philosophy," Ryckman shows how this view elides not only the refinements on the notion of the apriori developed by the neo-Kantians and Husserl, but also developments within the theory of general relativity itself. To remove the traditional blinders, Ryckman defends an Husserlian version of transcendental idealism as a better way than naturalism to capture the meaning of everyday scientific realism. And in a tour de force he shows that precisely this Husserlian idealism informs the writings of Herman Weyl, one of the founders of the theory of general relativity. The result of Ryckman's careful reconstruction of Weyl's position in light of its Husserlian context is a renewed appreciation for the contemporary relevance phenomenology to philosophy of science.

Michael Friedman takes up Ryckman's work from a perspective that is both critical and complementary. …

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