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  • The "Analytic"/"Continental" Divide and the Question of Philosophy's Relation to Literature

The history of the writing of philosophy could be seen as divided between two tendencies. One tendency involves a constant reconfiguration of the literary and stylistic elements involved in the way philosophy is written. Examples include most texts in the philosophical canon, from Plato's dialogues, or Aristotle's lecture notes, to Marcus Aurelius's diary, Augustine's confessions, the pseudepigrapha of the Areopagite, Anselm's prayer, Montaigne's essays, Descartes's meditations, Kierkegaard's play with pseudonymy, or Wittgenstein's "remarks."1 In such texts, we find a self-reflective attitude toward the writing of philosophy, where the medium and the message become intriguingly interconnected. On the other hand, a large number of texts throughout the history of philosophy have adopted common writing norms, setting aside the question of how to write philosophy in order to work on other philosophical issues. Examples of the above are easier to find in those cases where philosophers have organized into schools, arguably epitomized by some medieval scholastic disciplines of writing.2

It has not always been true that the academic journal article or monograph, with its customarily very literal expression of thoughts, [End Page 253] and its identification between the thoughts expressed and the thinker expressing them, has been the one and only literary form used in writing philosophy. For this to become the norm has taken many centuries in which philosophers have involved the question of style into conceptions of their discipline.

Mainstream academic philosophy today is, with few exceptions, no longer faced with the option of addressing this question by using literary innovations. The majority of philosophers in what goes under the name of "analytic" philosophy, as well as its "continental" counterpart, have almost unanimously adopted the current norms of academic writing. Contemporary academic philosophy contains only very few deviations from the norm on either side. The prominent adoption of the particular norms that prevail in today's academic writing in the field of philosophy signals a partial abandonment of radical stylistic innovation. Like most of their academic colleagues, the mainstream of philosophers has adopted the range of stylistic norms dictated by the customary media of academic writing, among which the most prominent are scholarly journals.3 Despite this adoption, however, a particular misconception still survives, related to the issue of style, which is connected to the idea that a kind of divide exists between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy.4

"Analytic philosophy" and "continental philosophy" are two terms that have commonly been used to point to loosely defined twentieth-century traditions, purportedly in opposition.5 In the last three decades, a debate has grown as to what exactly these terms might designate.6 This article will not directly concern itself with addressing the complicated issue of defining "analytic" or "continental" philosophy.7 Rather, I will take for granted that the philosophers dealt with in this article are widely considered to be leading figures in each camp.

This paper is primarily concerned with the question of what role conceptions of the relation between philosophy and literature have played in the development of the idea that there exists a divide between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy. Thus, this paper investigates the connections between two questionable relations: first, that between philosophy and literature, and second, that between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy. More specifically, I examine the ways in which the question of the relation between literature and philosophy has figured prominently in some of the nodal encounters between "analytic" and "continental" philosophers. In the context of engaging in a critique of some of the leading figures in "continental philosophy," a number of early "analytic" philosophers attacked the traditional association [End Page 254] between philosophy and some particular types of literary style. The "analytic" engagements with "continental" philosophers that I shall discuss include J. S. Mill's comments on Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and Jeremy Bentham), Bertrand Russell's critique of Henri Bergson, Rudolf Carnap's use of Martin Heidegger's sentences as examples of metaphysical nonsense, and Jacques Derrida's controversy with John Searle over the interpretation of Austin.

"Analytic" philosophers have stereotypically (and mistakenly) been thought to conceive of their discipline as related more closely to the natural sciences than to the humanities.8 "Continental" philosophers, on the other hand, have commonly been thought to be more closely related to literature and the arts.9 Some are famous for their novels, plays, and even operas. Though this may be true, attempting a generalization based on this stereotype would be erroneous. For example, there have been, as we shall see, cases in which "analytic" philosophers have written literature, and have aspired for their work to be performed as ballet.10

With "continental" philosophy the relation to literary style is even less monolithic. There is, certainly, a strand in "continental" philosophy that harkens back to Kant, adhering to a way of writing philosophy that is anything but the result of careful stylistic literary concerns. Kant would notoriously apologize to his readers for the lack of "aesthetic clarity" in his writing.11 Michel Foucault, according to Searle, had used the phrase "obscurantisme terroriste"12 to describe the work of Derrida: obscurantist because no one could understand what he was saying, and terrorist because once someone claimed Derrida holds such-and-such a position, Derrida could complain that they had misunderstood.

Whatever it is that Foucault and Searle call "obscurantism" in Derrida's style, it is clearly worlds apart from Kant's writing. Indeed, one of the problems faced by all attempts at generalization about "continental" philosophy is the fact that it is a banner under which one may include a very diverse range of philosophical works. Part of the misapprehension regarding "continental" philosophy's proclivity for literature and the arts is due to the inclusion under its banner of literary figures working primarily outside academia (e.g., writers associated with Lebensphilosophie, Bataille, Blanchot). That such figures are grouped under the "continental," and not the "analytic," banner has more to do with a kind of pluralism involved in the former by contrast to the latter and less to do with the former's preference for literary style (as opposed to the latter's avoidance of it). [End Page 255]

What is targeted here is a misconceived alignment between the "analytic"/"continental" divide, on the one hand, and particular views of the relation between philosophy and literature on the other hand. In part, the misconception has been due to a projection of the afore-mentioned division between modernizing and conserving literary tendencies throughout the history of philosophy onto a conception of the "analytic"/"continental" divide. Thus one may imagine "continental" philosophers as continuing the tradition of self-reflectively selecting the literary style appropriate to the expression of their ideas, while "analytic" philosophers, like their scholastic predecessors, value the kind of clarity that can only be achieved within prescribed norms for writing.13 This misapprehension may be dispelled, from the outset, as an inadequate overgeneralization. For some "analytic" philosophers, stylistic clarity was a literary invention, while for others, "one should write philosophy only as one writes a poem."14 Much work in "continental" philosophy nowadays aspires to the "analytic" virtue of clarity, while many who work in the field have been known to replicate some master's style.

In other words, the division between work that does and does not reflect on the question of how to write philosophy does not coincide with the "analytic"/"continental" divide. As I demonstrate, however, certain elements in the history of encounters between prominent representatives of "analytic" and "continental" philosophy have made this misalignment possible. Often, philosophers associated with the "analytic" tradition have accused their opponents of confusedly inserting literary pursuits into philosophy. The result, according to the "analytic" critics, has been of no philosophical merit, and of little literary merit.

Given what I have mentioned above, these encounters do not justify a reduction of the "analytic"/"continental" divide to some particular thesis regarding the relation between philosophy and literature. The investigation that follows does, however, allow us to trace the origin of this misidentification back to these encounters. The result of these attacks has been the setting up and reinforcement of stereotypical characterizations of either side's conception of the relation between philosophy and literature. In what follows, I demonstrate that within the history of encounters between "analytic" and "continental" philosophers, a recurring theme exists involving the relation between philosophy and literature. Yet clearly, as the above discussion shows, the stereotypes about the "analytic"/"continental" divide need to be dissociated from the intertwined question of the relation between philosophy and literature. [End Page 256]


Various commentators have, questionably, traced the idea of an "analytic"/"continental" divide back to the writings of John Stuart Mill.15 Mill had thought philosophy in his day to be divided into two branches, one inaugurated by Bentham and the other by Coleridge. Bentham's approach was characterized by Mill as one that asks of any thesis "Is it true?" while the essential question at the core of Coleridge's worldview was "What is the meaning of it?"16 By this, Mill meant to indicate a certain type of modernism involved in Bentham's empirically minded approach, which did not endeavor to understand that which it had seen as false. On the other hand, Coleridge, according to Mill, was less willing to depart from false traditional opinions, and more willing to attempt to understand them regardless of their truth or falsehood.

It took a severe shock for Mill to realize the limitations involved in Bentham's eagerness to reject all false opinions, and his unwillingness to enquire into the meaning of such falsehoods. Mill's education had been entrusted by his father to Bentham. In applying the rejection of falsehood diagnosed by Mill, Bentham ensured that this education had included no poetry. During his subsequent mental breakdown at the age of twenty, which was accompanied by severe doubts about his education, Mill discovered Romantic poetry, through which he found the solace that led him out of his "crisis."17 Mill saw Coleridge through the lens of his recovery, and thus as a remedy for the limitations of Bentham's approach. He thus proposes a synthesis of the two outlooks.

Mill calls Bentham an "English" and Coleridge a "continental" philosopher. Commentators have grasped on to this phrase in order to claim this to be the original declaration of the "analytic"/"continental" divide. Yet more probably, all that Mill meant by this was that Coleridge had been, at the time, one of the chief importers of German Idealism, an approach that had developed on the continent. The effect of this import would soon be named "British Idealism," rather than "continental philosophy."18 "Continental philosophy" was a term that would only be put to widespread use by Anglophone philosophers following the Second World War. The divide that Mill sets up is an attempt at a typology of nineteenth-century British philosophy, inapplicable to either contemporary "analytic" or "continental" philosophy. However, a theme is invoked by Mill's association between "continental" philosophy and literature that, as I will show, recurs throughout various encounters between "analytic" and "continental" philosophers. [End Page 257]


Like his godfather (Mill) before him, Russell was not one to shy away from interacting with philosophers from the continent. Of Russell's various encounters with "continental" thinkers, his critique of Bergson is most relevant to his conception of philosophy's relation to literature.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Bergson had come to be quite famous internationally. This fame had spread to Britain, where Bergsonists included modernist artists, musicians, poets, and literary intellectuals broadly speaking.19 Russell had become personally acquainted with Bergson during the epitome of his British fame in 1911.20 Russell mentions Bergson in various works, the most important of which is a critical article dedicated to Bergson's philosophy, which he first presented to the Heretics Club at Cambridge on March 11, 1913.21

Unlike Mill's twofold division of philosophy, Russell here begins his criticism of Bergson by suggesting that there are three types of philosophy: a philosophy of feeling, a philosophy of contemplation, and a philosophy of action.22 Under the latter type, Russell classifies pragmatism and Bergson's thought, while he implies throughout the text that he sees himself as participating in the contemplative side of the equation.

Russell stresses Bergson's anti-intellectualism. Bergson prefers the dynamism of the upward flow of intuition to the downward pull of intellect. Intellect is associated with space, while intuition is associated with time. Through these associations, Bergson comes to his famous criticisms of spatial thinking about time. Time, according to Bergson's well-known view, is essentially not a matter of quantity but of quality. Time is not constituted by a quantifiable number of single units of time (or moments), nor is it the assemblage of these units into a series (like frames on a film reel). A quantitative, mathematical measurement of time is not possible, since time is a (qualitative) continuum. And so time is not measurable, as modern physics would have it. What scientists measure is not time itself but a spatialization of time, a transformation of something that is continuous and intuitive into something that is discrete and intelligible.

Russell critically engages with this aspect of Bergson's thought by offering a number of arguments on his conception of number, and extending these to object to his association of quantity with space. Since they exceed the bounds of my inquiry, I do not present Russell's arguments here. I only briefly mention that Russell shows that Bergson's conception of number, and therefore his notion of quantity and space, [End Page 258] relies upon old and erroneous philosophical ideas of mathematics that Russell's work with Alfred North Whitehead in Principia Mathematica had dispelled.

In the course of his critique, Russell attempts to show that Bergson's view of intuition's superiority to intellect is based on such "errors and confusions of the intellect."23 He sees Bergson as disinclined to correct such confusions because they align neatly with his own anti-intellectualist worldview. Thus Russell admits that his own attempt to correct such errors by way of argument might go unheeded by an anti-intellectualist.24 According to Russell, argumentation is of limited worth for Bergson:

A large part of Bergson's philosophy, probably the part to which most of its popularity is due, does not depend upon argument, and cannot be upset by argument. His imaginative picture of the world, regarded as a poetic effort, is in the main not capable of either proof or disproof. Shakespeare says life's but a walking shadow, Shelley says it is like a dome of many coloured glass, Bergson says it is a shell which bursts into parts that are again shells. If you like Bergson's image better, it is just as legitimate.25

Here Russell sets the tone for the creation of the stereotypical image that would later come to be associated with "continental" philosophy. Bergson is portrayed as more of a poet than a philosopher, and Russell even has a list of the poetic images Bergson employs in describing life, including, among others, Bergson's comparison of life to a cavalry charge. Though this portrayal of Bergson may be exaggerated, it is perhaps not completely unfair insofar as it is addressed to Bergson in particular. The problem arises when the picture starts to get generalized and is applied to an imagined collective of philosophers who, being "continental," supposedly are more like poets, or even worse, like bad poets.

Russell himself could have had no idea, while writing against Bergson in 1911, that he was creating division between something called "continental philosophy" and "analytic philosophy" (the latter being a term that first came into use during the 1930s). Indeed, Russell himself would subsequently give us a good counterexample to this stereotype in his attempt at a literary satire of existentialism. His criticisms of Bergson notwithstanding, Russell published in 1955 a collection of short stories entitled Nightmares of Eminent Persons.26 In order to further dispel the stereotypical dissociation between "analytic" philosophy and the arts, it might be appropriate to note here that Russell later wrote he regretted "that none of the Nightmares have been made into ballets."27 [End Page 259]

One of the stories involves the nightmare of Porphyre Eglantine, an existentialist "philosopher-poet … known far and wide for his subtle and profound writings."28 Russell begins his story by composing a parodic "existentialist" poem, which he attributes to Eglantine, titled "Chant du Néant" (Song of Nothingness). The poem is about a voice that repeats to the author the assertion that he does not exist. The rest of the story attempts to give an account of how the philosopher came to write his famous poem. Russell tells us that Eglantine deeply fears the possibility that he does not exist, and hears the voice the poem describes in his head. Based on his conviction that "nothing is so real as pain, and that he could achieve existence only through suffering,"29 Eglantine spends his life in an attempt to suffer. To this end, he goes to various extremes of suffering, yet each time the voice comes back. At last he finds true anguish and suffering when he realizes that his philosophy itself is nothing. He then wakes up from this dream and quits philosophy.30


Russell's parody does not involve some deep philosophical criticism of existentialism, yet it clearly alludes to a series of "analytic" criticisms of existentialism that begin with Carnap's attack on Heidegger's use of the word "nothing." Carnap's attack, in turn, repeats the kind of picture of philosophers as bad poets that Russell developed against Bergson. In his paper, published in December 1931, titled "Overcoming Metaphysics through the Logical Analysis of Language," Carnap makes a move similar to the one we have just seen Russell make.31 Carnap argues that, prior to the development of modern logic, philosophy had come to develop and discuss a number of metaphysical theories that had appeared to be meaningful. Though movements prior to the one that Carnap aimed at supporting—such as the ancient skeptics, empiricists, and Kantian critical philosophers—had attempted to find ways of limiting the domain of metaphysics, they did not yet have the necessary tools for achieving this ("EM," p. 60). The development of modern logic, Carnap claims, finally allows us to overcome metaphysics. The statements that metaphysics discusses, if analyzed in the correct way using modern logic, turn out to be devoid of cognitive content. Metaphysical statements are neither true nor false. They are nonsense.

Carnap's proposed "overcoming" of metaphysics is two-pronged. On the one hand, Carnap develops a critique of metaphysical pseudoconcepts that relies on a verificationist criterion. According to Carnap, [End Page 260] metaphysical pseudoconcepts are terms that cannot be empirically shown to refer to anything, and thus all the statements which include them can neither be shown to be true nor false. As is well known, this type of verificationism was later shown by its own proponents to be untenable.

On the other hand, Carnap's overcoming of metaphysics involves a critique of metaphysical pseudostatements. This part of his attack may still pose a challenge to Heidegger's work. In demonstrating his theory, Carnap handpicks a number of sentences from Heidegger's 1929 lecture titled "What Is Metaphysics?" Among these, Carnap focuses on the notorious phrase "the nothing nothings" (Das Nichts nichtet), demonstrating that it is impossible to correctly translate this into the language of modern logic. This task of translation, for Carnap, means moving from a surface grammar of an expression (or what he calls "historico-grammatical syntax") to an analysis that finds what Carnap calls its "logical syntax." The rules of "historico-grammatical syntax" allow us to slip into types of expression that are shown in the process of translation to be meaningless.

One example relates to expressions employing the term "nothing." Logical analysis shows these types of expression to involve quantification over a variable. Yet we do not ordinarily speak in such a way as to make this clear. Thus when it comes to such expressions, Carnap claims, we can easily "transition from sense to nonsense in ordinary language" ("EM," p. 70). To use Carnap's example, we can equally meaningfully say (1) "It rains outside" and (2) "There is nothing outside." We may go on, from (1), to ask (3) "What about this rain?" and equally, from (2), (4) "What about this nothing?" How were we led to the meaningless sentence (4)? According to Carnap, we had mistakenly imagined that the correct analysis for (2) was something like "Ou(no)" (where Ou stands for outside and no for "nothing"), i.e., that there is some kind of thing or object (the nothing) that is outside. We can go on to formulate (4) using Carnap's awkward notation, as something like "?(no)" ("EM," p. 70). Yet modern logic, through the use of quantifiers, teaches us that the correct translation for (2) would be: (5) ∼(∃x)Ou(x); thus we have eliminated the idea that there might be something which "nothing" names. Once we translate (2) as (5), it becomes clear that (4) is meaningless, as is a host of other sentences that employ "nothing" as a name.

As Carnap shows, the meaninglessness of (4) has only become detectable through the use of modern logic, since ordinary language functions in such a manner to make such sentences appear meaningful. Once it has been found that they are meaningless, some of these [End Page 261] sentences—such as (2) above—can be corrected so as to be rendered meaningful, while others—like (4) or "Das Nichts nichtet"—are so far removed from meaningful statements that there is no possible way of formulating them correctly.

In this way, Carnap claims to have shown that analysis using the tools of modern logic allows us to see that metaphysics is nonsense. Yet what is perhaps most interesting for the purposes of this article is the conclusion Carnap reaches via the technical account outlined above.

Carnap's rejection of metaphysical nonsense relies on a distinction between two kinds of meaningfulness in language. A pseudoconcept or pseudosentence is, strictly speaking, nonsensical insofar as it does not have what Carnap calls "cognitive (designative, referential) meaning" ("EM," p. 80). Carnap distinguishes between this stricter type of cognitive meaning and a second aspect of meaningfulness, which involves "non-cognitive (expressive) meaning components, e.g., emotive and motivative" (p. 80). Sentences can have this second type of expressive meaningfulness without being cognitively meaningful (that is, without being capable of being shown to be true or false). The claim that metaphysics is not cognitively meaningful, which is the claim Carnap argues for, should not be confused with the claim that metaphysics does not involve some degree of expressive meaningfulness. The latter claim turns out to be central to Carnap's account of the overcoming of metaphysics.

Carnap in fact urges us to understand the history of metaphysics as one involving various failed attempts at expressing noncognitive attitudes. Carnap bundles such attitudes under the general banner of "the general attitude of a person towards life ('Lebenseinstellung, Lebensgefühl')" ("EM," p. 78). In other words, underlying the seemingly theoretical debates in metaphysics are, according to Carnap, various attempts at expressing general personal attitudes toward life. Overcoming metaphysics amounts to stripping away all false claims toward cognitive meaningfulness, in order to point out the underlying attempts toward expressions of Lebensgefühl. For Carnap, the goal of overcoming metaphysics is not to completely eradicate all such attempts toward expression. Rather, it is to show that such attempts have been confusedly incorporated into the history of philosophy, under the false guise of cognitive meaningfulness.

Carnap thinks that once this is shown, via modern logic, it becomes clear that metaphysicians were arguing over nonsense. They were attempting to provide theoretical demonstrations, i.e., to talk in a manner that presumes the employment of sentences that can be shown to be either true or false. Theoretical debate may be an appropriate medium [End Page 262] for arguing over the truth or falsehood of meaningful statements. It is, however, simply irrelevant to the expression of Lebensgefühl. According to Carnap, we tend to acknowledge this in the clear-cut cases where we recognize that what is at stake is expressive meaningfulness rather than cognitive content.

We do not tend to argue over the truth or falsehood of sentences in literary works, not in the same way that one would argue over the truth or falsehood of an observation statement in the natural sciences. The problem with metaphysics, according to Carnap, is that its pseudosentences misleadingly appear to be cognitively meaningful, thus leading metaphysicians to proceed by employing them in debates over their truth or falsehood. Carnap contrasts metaphysicians to lyrical poets, who also employ "language as the medium of expression and declarative sentences as the form of expression" ("EM," p. 79). By contrast with the former, the latter do not go on to debate over the truth and falsehood of their sentences. Overcoming metaphysics is to admit that metaphysicians are no more rigorous theorists than lyrical poets are.

In order to understand what Carnap had in mind here, it is helpful to see that this was not a purely negative project. Take for example, what Carnap has to say about Nietzsche:

Our conjecture that metaphysics is a substitute, albeit an inadequate one, for art, seems to be confirmed by the fact that the metaphysician who perhaps had artistic talent to the highest degree, viz. Nietzsche, almost entirely avoided the error of that confusion. A large part of his work has predominantly empirical content. We find there, for instance, historical analyses of specific artistic phenomena, or an historico-psychological analysis of morals. In the work, however, in which he expresses most strongly that which others express through metaphysics or ethics, in Thus Spake Zarathustra, he does not choose the misleadingly theoretical form, but openly the form of art, of poetry.

("EM," p. 80)

Thus he points to Nietzsche as a philosopher who had acknowledged the fact that metaphysics is meaningless, and therefore set out to express his ideas through nontheoretical media. Carnap, whether correctly or mistakenly, therefore interprets Nietzsche's Zarathustra as a purely poetic text, and one that thus overcomes metaphysics.

Carnap in fact first presented the ideas that would make up his attack on Heidegger to students at the Dessau Bauhaus.32 There, he explicitly linked his attack on metaphysics to an opening up of the field for artists and designers. Where metaphysicians had failed, artists, primarily musicians and poets, must succeed. [End Page 263]


Threads from Carnap's attack on Heidegger reappear in Derrida's notorious controversy with Searle in the 1970s. The Derrida-Searle dispute has been seen as another case of misunderstanding between "analytic" and "continental" philosophers, even though both agree that they are not engaged in a confrontation between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy.33

The relation to Carnap comes through Derrida's interpretation of J. L. Austin in "Signature Event Context," the text that gave rise to the controversy. Austin's speech-act theory famously criticized philosophy's obsession with the kinds of sentences, which he calls "constative," that are either true or false. These are the only types of sentence that Carnap considered to be cognitively meaningful. "Performative" utterances, by contrast to constatives, are irreducible to statements that are either true or false, but, in Austin's account, are still meaningful in relation to particular actions, which they enact.

Derrida prefaces his interpretation of Austin's speech-act theory with a discussion of Edmund Husserl's theory of meaning, which may be paralleled with Carnap's view of meaning.34 Husserl, like Carnap, had thought that what he called "logical grammar" contains a set of rules by which meaningful sentences abide and which, when broken, lead to nonsense. Derrida, following Austin, emphasizes that Husserl's theory of meaning applies only in "a context determined by a will to know, by an epistemic intention, by a conscious relation to the object as cognitive object within a horizon of truth."35 This, as we have seen, is also the way Carnap defines designative meaning, as opposed to emotive meaning components ("EM," pp. 80–81). Extending Derrida's claim, we could say that what Carnap claims, in his overcoming of metaphysics, is that a statement like "Das Nichts nichtet" is meaningless only in relation to such a context. Derrida uses Austin in order to put forward the claim that this particular type of context, i.e., one that relates to knowledge, is only one among many possible contexts involved in communication. Communication, in other words, for Derrida via Austin, goes beyond Carnapian designative meaningfulness, since it involves more than constative assertions that are either true or false.

One should not take the multiplication of contexts proposed by Derrida, via Austin, to function as a possible defense of Heidegger from Carnap. Carnap already admits the possibility of other contexts in which Heidegger does communicate something, which is however [End Page 264] not cognitively meaningful. In this sense, Carnap is in agreement with Derrida.36 Both look toward an overcoming of metaphysics (a task they both relate to Heidegger, in different ways) through the use of some philosophical technique (logical analysis or deconstruction). For Carnap, however, logical analysis overcomes metaphysics by showing it to be a failed attempt at writing poetry. Derrida's "deconstruction," on the other hand, seems to embrace the Carnapian identification of metaphysics with literature, and thus to treat philosophical texts in the same way that it would treat literary texts, that is, as potentially existing in contexts beyond those determined by attempts to make assertions that can be shown to be either true or false.


I have shown that the above clashes between prominent figures in either tradition involve direct or indirect discussion of the proper relation between literature and philosophy. Representatives of the "analytic" camp, with Russell and Carnap as paradigm cases, appear to have favored dissociation between literary and philosophical writing. By seeing their targets as involved in poetic (rather than philosophical) forms of expression, Russell and Carnap both conclude that no case can be made for or against them. When poetic expression is mixed with philosophical argument, the former subtracts from the latter's dialogical potential. Whereas an argument can be critically scrutinized, it would be inappropriate to similarly scrutinize an expression of feeling. From this perspective, the goal becomes a technically minded philosophy that is, ideally, to be freed from the age-old burden of selecting the appropriate medium for its expression. On the one hand, Russell and Carnap are, in a sense, stylistic modernizers, since they propose an innovative way of writing philosophy that is tied to modern logic and cut off from the poetic in its style. On the other hand, they seem to be proposing a style that will become characteristic of how most philosophy is written nowadays, being suitable for piecemeal analyses of problems that can fit into the journal article form.

One of the possible objections that Russell and Carnap's proposal faces, and which is partly pointed to by Derrida's interpretation of Austin, relates to the possibility that the poetic can never be truly expunged from the philosophical. Derrida would point out that what appears as purely technical in one context may turn out to be pure poetry once the context shifts. A single and precise method to construct an ideal [End Page 265] language in which to write philosophy might be incapable of eliminating the possibility of either: (i) writing poetry in that language, or (ii) reading the philosophy written in that language as poetry.

However, a more serious point is raised here with regard to the connection between the theses on the relation between philosophy and literature discussed above, on the one hand, and the divide between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy on the other. As a consequence of the above discussions of "continental" philosophers, what results is their stereotypical depiction as somehow involved in a more poetic or literary conception of philosophy than that held by "analytic" philosophy. The abovementioned discussions did contribute to the formation of the idea that such a thing as the "analytic"/"continental" divide exists. Yet the divide itself is not reducible to any one of the particular issues debated between prominent figures on either side. It might be convenient for someone to look at the series of examples I have explored in order to reach the easy conclusion that "analytic" philosophers are the ones who try out their elenchtic devices on the unsuspecting "continentals," who are reduced to mere literary figures. This is not the view that emerges from my discussion. Clearly, the opinions involved are divergent. None of them align with a divide between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy.

This misalignment applies to a number of debated questions, including the question of the relation between literature and philosophy. Encounters between "analytic" and "continental" philosophers did help reinforce the stereotype according to which the former are involved in the task of separating between philosophy and literature, while the latter blend the two. I do not wish here to question that such tendencies do exist throughout the history of philosophy. Whether or not they can all be consistently bundled together into two camps cannot be proved within the confines of my current endeavor. What can be argued, based on my conclusions above, is that this division does not coincide with that between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy. Rather, the all-too-general specter of the "analytic"/"continental" divide constitutes a barrier to a more detailed approach to the question of the relation between contemporary philosophy and literary style. The above aspires to have partly contributed to the barrier's removal. [End Page 266]

Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus


I owe many thanks to the Department of English Studies at the University of Cyprus, and in particular to Tziovanis Georgakis, for having invited me to present a first version of this paper. I am grateful for all comments and suggestions by those who attended the presentation, including Antonis Balasopoulos, Christos Kyriakou, and Christos Hadjichristos.

1. The literary self-reflexivity of these texts may often clash with other literary forms; see, e.g., Eva Brann, "Socrates: Antitragedian," Philosophy and Literature 38 (2014): 30–40; Michael P. Foley, "The Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy in the Early Dialogues of St. Augustine," Philosophy and Literature 39 (2015): 15–31.

2. That is not to say that this type of philosophical writing has no literary worth, or is not an art form. On the question of the conditions under which philosophy may be considered art, see St. Hope Earl McKenzie, "Sculpting Ideas: Can Philosophy Be an Art Form?" Philosophy and Literature 40 (2016): 34–43.

3. That is not to say that literary style within the bounds of these norms is insignificant; see, e.g., Noёl Carroll, "Danto's Comic Vision: Philosophical Method and Literary Style," Philosophy and Literature 39 (2015): 554–63.

4. On the relation of the divide to style see, e.g., Hans J. Glock, What Is Analytic Philosophy? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 151–78; James Chase and Jack Reynolds, Analytic versus Continental: Arguments on the Methods and Value of Philosophy (Stocksfield: Acumen, 2011), pp. 145–52.

5. See, e.g., Gilbert Ryle, "Phenomenology vs. The Concept of Mind," in vol. 1, Critical Essays: Collected Papers (London: Hutchinson, 1971), pp. 179–96 (182).

6. See, e.g., Michael Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993); Simon Glendinning, The Idea of Continental Philosophy: A Philosophical Chronicle (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006); Glock, What Is Analytic Philosophy?

7. For a more extensive account of this issue, see Andreas Vrahimis, Encounters between Analytic and Continental Philosophy (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013).

8. But see, e.g., Glock, What Is Analytic Philosophy?, pp. 134–46; Matthew Sterenberg, "Tradition and Revolution in the Rhetoric of Analytic Philosophy," Philosophy and Literature 34 (2010): 161–72.

9. See David Rudrum, "Introduction: Literature and Philosophy: The Contemporary Interface," in Literature and Philosophy: A Guide to Contemporary Debates, ed. David Rudrum (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006), pp. 1–8.

10. For a recent example of an "analytic" philosopher's work in opera, see Roger Scruton, "Violet: An Opera by Roger Scruton,"

11. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, ed. and trans. Paul Guyer and Allen B. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 103–4 (A xviii).

12. S. R. Postrel, E. Feser, and J. R. Searle, "Reality Principles: An Interview with John R. Searle," Reason Magazine (February 2000): 42–50.

13. Clarity is not necessarily opposed to literary worth; see, e.g., Warren Heiti, "Introduction: What Is Lyric Philosophy?" Philosophy and Literature 39 (2015): 188–201.

14. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. Georg Henrik Von Wright, trans. Peter Winch (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), p. 28.

15. Simon Critchley, Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 41–48; Jonathan Reé, "Continental Philosophy," in The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy, 3rd ed., ed. J. O. Urmson and J. Rée (New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 79–80. For a more detailed discussion of the alignment between the division Mill discusses and that within contemporary philosophy, see John Skorupski, "Mill, German Idealism, and the Analytic/Continental Divide," in A Companion to Mill, ed. C. Macleod and D. E. Miller (Oxford: Blackwell, 2017), pp. 535–50.

16. John S. Mill, "Coleridge," Essays on Ethics, Religion and Society, vol. 10 of The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. John M. Robson (London: Routledge, 1969), pp. 117–64 (119–20).

17. See John S. Mill, Autobiography (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1873), pp. 132–40.

18. See also Edward Skidelsky, "The Strange Death of British Idealism," Philosophy and Literature 31 (2007): 41–51. On the transition from "British idealism" to "continental philosophy," see Glendinning, The Idea of Continental Philosophy, pp. 79–81.

19. See Mary Ann Gillies, Henri Bergson and British Modernism (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996).

20. See Bertrand Russell, Logical and Philosophical Papers 1909–13, ed. John Slater and Bernd Frohmann, vol. 6 of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 315–19.

21. See Russell, Logical and Philosophical Papers, pp. 309–42. See also Andreas Vrahimis, "Russell Reads Bergson," in The Bergsonian Mind, ed. Mark Sinclair and Yaron Wolf (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

22. Russell, Logical and Philosophical Papers, p. 320.

23. Russell, Logical and Philosophical Papers, p. 330.

24. Russell employs a similar line of thought against Nietzsche, whom he also deems incapable of refutation through argument. Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, book 3 (Oxford: Routledge, 1996), chap. 25.

25. Russell, Logical and Philosophical Papers, p. 336.

26. Bertrand Russell, Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories (London: Bodley Head, 1954).

27. Bertrand Russell, Autobiography (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 526.

28. Russell, Nightmares, p. 36.

29. Russell, Nightmares, p. 37.

30. It could be suggested that Russell is here parodying the kind of optimism involved in early "analytic" philosophy, which can be caricatured as thinking that a sufficient application of the tools of modern logic will make non-"analytic" philosophers give up philosophy altogether.

31. Rudolf Carnap, "The Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of Language," trans. A. Pap, in Logical Positivism, ed. A. J. Ayer (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1959), pp. 60–81 (70); hereafter abbreviated "EM." Note that Pap mistakenly translates "überwindung" as "elimination" rather than "overcoming," thus effacing the Nietzschean allusion in Carnap's original.

32. Hans J. Dahms, "Neue Sachlichkeit in the Architecture and Philosophy of the 1920s," in Carnap Brought Home: The View from Jena, ed. S. Awodey, C. Klein (Chicago: Open Court, 2004), pp. 357–76.

33. See Vrahimis, Encounters, pp. 175–78.

34. Husserl's theory of meaning was influential on Carnap's critique of Heidegger; see Guillermo E. Rosado Haddock, The Young Carnap's Unknown Master: Husserl's Influence on "Der Raum" and "Der logische Aufbau der Welt" (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), p. 100.

35. Jacques Derrida, "Signature Event Context," trans. S. Weber, in Limited Inc, ed. S. Weber (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), pp. 1–24 (12).

36. See also Stanley Cavell, A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 83–85.

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