Philosophy as a Culture War
The other day, philosopher Santiago Zabala chose to honor the late Hans-Georg Gadamer by rallying his troops in the philosophy world’s version of the culture war:
In this decade since Gadamer’s death, hermeneutics has expanded internationally to the point of becoming not only one of the most respected representatives of continental philosophy, but also the greatest enemy of analytic philosophy, a philosophy fascinated precisely with what the German master feared most: science’s unfettered methodological development.
If I didn’t know Zabala’s politics, I’d wonder if he was auditioning for a show on Fox News. He’s got the tone down pat. Anyhow, in fairness to Zabala, he’s immersed in the philosophical world, whereas I am a distant observer who’s familiar but by no means intimately acquainted with the divide between analytic and continental philosophy. My preference is for continental, specifically hermeneutics, but I’ve no ill words or ill will for analytic philosophy.
Seems to me that if we take seriously Gadamer’s declaration, “the soul of hermeneutics consists in the possibility that the other might be right,” then one cannot be a good hermeneutic philosopher while wholly dismissing the methods and contributions of the “analytic” other, a dismissal Zabala seems to be making despite being no slouch in the field of hermeneutics.
I dare say philosophy should be fueled by the love of wisdom, not by the pride of being the mightiest of intellectual adversaries. Philosophy will forever entail heated dialogue and disagreement, and good that it will do so, but conflict needn’t be strife, irreconcilable differences needn’t mean war. Of all people, philosophers should be the ones to say, “Hey, let’s put aside our enmity and talk about this.” After all, the other might be right.