Divergence of Analytical and Continental Philosophy

Notes on Cutrofello's identification of the point at which Analytical and Continental philosophy began to diverge. Kant's principle of homogeneity

  • Our reason seeks to unify every multiplicity
  • Our faculty of representations grounds the division between sensibility and understanding.

Kant denies we can have insight into this ground (CPR A15/B29; cf. AFPPV 53) (p. 12). In the Critique of Judgment Kant views the mind as an aggregate not a system, therefore he does not think it is possible to reduce sensibility and understanding to a single faculty (CPJ 11).This is illustrated by our distinction between actual and possible

  • actual - we intuit
  • possible - we think (section 76 of CPJ) (P. 12)

For humans these must be separate. Only for the divine is intellectual intuition possible. Though some of Kant's predecessors denied this, Hegel further developed Kant's idea here. "The intuition/concept dichotomy gives rise to dialectical conflicts that can only be resolved from the standpoint of 'absolute knowing' (in which thinking and intuiting somehow coincide)" (p.12).

Hegel and German idealists rehabilitated Leibniz's intellectualization of appearances. While another tradition, that of Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill, "rejected the idea of intellectual intuition in favor of Locke and Hume's sensualization of concepts" (p. 12).

The diverging path after Kant:

  • Romantics - art embodies intellectual intuition
  • Comte (positivists) - empirical science embodies "the true foundation of critical philosophy" (p. 12).


Richard Rorty, in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, characterized the divergence as one between determining and reflecting judgments "as paradigms of philosophical reflection." Further, "Kant could simply have noted that to make a judgment is to hold a particular position to be true" (p. 12). Thus the debate over empiricism versus rationalism would have been only about whether or not judgments about secondary qualities reduce to judgements about primary qualities. Rorty proposes what could have been. Systematic philosophy versus edifying philosophy--systematic description of the world using conventional vocabulary versus creative efforts to articulate new vocabulary to challenge how we conventionally describe ourselves.

Cutrofello turns to Rorty's Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity to provides some examples. Rorty refers to the edifying philosophers at ironists. Ones such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida aim at self-transformation and not at truth. Rorty identifies irony's value in the private life and finds systematic philosophy's value in the public life where we need "a sense of solidarity which reflects our shared commitment to a particular way of describing ourselves and the world around us" (p. 14).

However, Cutrofello contends that these Continental philosophers lay claim to the public realm and that Rorty's ironist-versus-systematist distinction really is not that different that Kant's original distinction between reflective and determinate types of judging (pp. 14-15).


Cutrofello, A., 2004, Continental philosophy a contemporary introduction, Routledge, New York; London.