Continental divide to end

July 11, 1997

A NEW blow has been struck in the battle of minds between continental and analytical philosophers with the founding of the first Society for European Philosophy.

More than 100 people met at Warwick University last week to found the society, which hopes to strengthen the hand of continental philosophy against heavyweight traditionalists.

They intend to influence the way philosophy is viewed in the research assessment exercise and by the British Academy.

Peter Osborne, reader in modern European philosophy at Middlesex University, said: "The society aims to give a focus to this kind of philosophy and attempt to recognise the fact that over the past ten to 15 years large numbers of postgraduate students have become interested in it."

He said traditionalists had undue influence because there were so many of them at Oxford.

Debates centre on how broad-based philosophy can be, especially when other disciplines are encroaching more and more on its territory. European philosophers want to discuss broad philosophical issues, even if that brings them into non-philosophical domains.

British and American philosophers argue that in order to remain self-sufficient, philosophy must concentrate on its traditional strengths such as logic and philosophy of language.

Ted Honderich, Grote professor of the philosophy of mind and logic at the University of London, said: "Attempts have been made to cross the channel in philosophy either from France to here or from here to France for many decades but they haven't been very successful yet. Maybe this new enterprise will provide the successful tunnel.

"I hope they succeed. But European philosophy is dwarfed by the on-going enterprises in philosophy in Britain and the United States."

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