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Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192853592
ISBN-10: 0192853597
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853592
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Allen Morgan on 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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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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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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