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Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction [Paperback]

Simon Critchley
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 7, 2001 0192853597 978-0192853592
In this enlightening new Very Short Introduction, Simon Critchley shows us that Continental philosophy encompasses a distinct set of philosophical traditions and practices, with a compelling range of problems all too often ignored by the analytic tradition. He discusses the ideas and approaches of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Habermas, Foucault, and Derrida. He also introduces key concepts such as existentialism, nihilism, and phenomonology, by explaining their place in the Continental tradition.

The perfect guide for anyone interested in the great philosophers, this volume explains in lucid, straightforward language the split between Continental and Anglo-American philosophy and the importance of acknowledging Continental philosophy.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, USA. He also teaches at Tilburg University and the European Graduate School. His many books include Very Little... Almost Nothing, Infinitely Demanding, The Book of Dead Philosophers, The Faith of the Faithless, and, most recently with Tom McCarthy, The Mattering of Matter: Documents from the Archive of the International Necronautical Society. A new work on Hamlet called Stay, Illusion! was published in 2013 by Pantheon Books, co-authored with Jamieson Webster. Simon is the series moderator of 'The Stone', a philosophy column in The New York Times, to which he is a frequent contributor.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853592
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Critchley is Chair of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and part-time Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. He lives in Brooklyn.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet Another Good Example from the VSI Series November 9, 2003
Format:Paperback
In "Continental Philosophy", the author, Simon Critchely, briefly reviews the two competing/antagonistic main streams - so-called "analytic" and "Continental" -- of Anglo-European-American philosophy of the last 250+ years. This slim volume (like all of the VSI volumes I've read -- about 7-8) is a good, clear and well written introduction to a very interesting topic, but, in this case, just not exactly the one intimated in the title. One needs to already know a bit about each stream of thought in order to get the full value of the book, and so a better title might be "Introduction to the Analytic/Continental Philosophical Dispute". But this is a quibble.
The story begins with Kant (or, more accurately, Kant's response to Hume's sceptism). Kant, a pivotal figure in Western philosophy, sought to demonstrate the limits of 'pure' reason as a basis for our scientific knowledge about the world (which, he argued, depends on pre-analytic categories such as time and space). Kant later attempted to provide a rational basis for other areas of philosophical concern - previously and primarily justified on the basis of religion -- e.g., ethics, morality, aesthetics.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Continental Philosophy's History and Aims March 7, 2005
Format:Paperback
General Review of Book Series: I have to admit it: I am a fan of these little books. It's my dirty little secret. These short introductions provide one with a pocketsize, portable introduction to a wide variety of topics. With a light tone and a surface skim of the issues, these little guides provide one with the general overview one might expect in a small survey course. Naturally, there are downsides. Are these guides comprehensive? Heavens no! Do they take time to dig deeply into the issues? Not generally. But are they a good resource to use if you want to get your feet wet before you dive in? Yes. When used properly, these little guidebooks can allow what might start out as a casual curiosity to develop into a more in-depth research project. In fact, all of these introductions provide references and suggestions for further reading.

Simon Critchley's _Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction_ does not exactly deliver what it promises. Like other reviewers, I must also agree that this book is not a true introduction. Rather than providing an overview of the philosophers working in the Continental tradition, this work reads as an interpretive essay, trying to both break down traditional stereotypes surrounding "Continental philosophy," while offering an argument for trying to close the gap that currently exists among professional philosophers. In simpler terms, this text tries to locate Continental philosophy, identify its history and origins, and explicate some of its chief motivations in relation to the history and motivations of the other towering professional description in the field: analytic philosophy.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely brilliant book May 26, 2009
Format:Paperback
A number of reviewers have dinged this book for being misnomered. And I can understand and even agree with their complaint. It is not, strictly speaking, a very good survey of continental philosophy. It is true that this book will not give a very comprehensive overview of what has happened in continental philosophy over the course of the past two centuries. It barely mentions several major figures in European philosophy and doesn't even touch many of the major issues that have been at the forefront of European philosophy.

Nevertheless, this is a brilliant book. In fact, this is quite probably the best book that I have read in the Very Short Introductions series. I did all the work for a Ph.D. in philosophy except write my dissertation (well, and pass that danged German exam). My philosophical background was somewhat astride the Anglo-American and European traditions. My two favorite philosophers are Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard and my thesis was to have been Kierkegaard and Kant's understanding of the role of sin in ethics (interesting, because they were perhaps the last two philosophers to take the notion of sin seriously). Despite this, I was never very impressed by those writing in the Analytic tradition (though I did very much like some of the Ordinary Language philosophers like Gilbert Ryle and J. L. Austin and love historian of Analytic Philosopher Michael Dummett) and I thought far too many European philosophers were unforgivably and intentionally obtuse (I honestly believe it is a sin to write like Derrida).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well-written albeit unconventional introduction
This excellent series has quite a few unexpected, even idiosyncratic entries, this one included. That is either one of the charms of the series, or is downright frustrating,... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Peter Reeve
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Not to be missed !
As is usually the case Simon Critchley's writing is both clear and insightful. The books main argument is well grounded and covers this controversial topic with originality and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ronald Fernandez
2.0 out of 5 stars A Critique of Pure Waffle
The sight of a philosopher shooting himself in the foot is usually amusing. But watching him use a machine gun to do it is just embarrassing. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Peter Green
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good.
Crotchety gives readable and interesting history and discussion of some of the most foundational philosophers in Germany and France since (and beginning with) Kant. Read more
Published 12 months ago by George Williams
2.0 out of 5 stars Defends continental philosophy more than explains it
This is an edited review. My previous review has been pretty well savaged by three reviewers who replied. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Abraham Aamidor
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ
I found this book simple and a wonderful introduction to this fascinating history.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the foundations of the social... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Larry Purss
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy for the Rest of Us
I don't know enough about the professional field of philosophy to know if Simon Critchley is right re: the antagonism between analytic and continental schools--although judging... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Vince Leo
2.0 out of 5 stars If I had to choose between "Knowledge" and "Wisdom", then give me...
I picked up this book because I wanted to gain a clearer understanding of continental philosophy: what it means, the story of its break from analytical philosophy, who the major... Read more
Published on March 16, 2012 by John V. Karavitis
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title, sketchy argument
The title of this book has no connection with its contents. Having a good impression of the VSI series I had picked up this book to get a quick overview of continental philosophy. Read more
Published on March 12, 2012 by Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm still waiting
this is a nice addition to the VSI series. Considering what a diverse and dense mix of thinkers, issues, and approaches continental philosophy has been, the book succeeds in... Read more
Published on September 9, 2011 by philo
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