The Death of Philosophy: Reference and Self-Reference in Contemporary Thought

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Philosophers debate the death of philosophy as much as they debate the death of God. Kant claimed responsibility for both philosophy's beginning and end, while Heidegger argued it concluded with Nietzsche. In the twentieth century, figures as diverse as John Austin and Richard Rorty have proclaimed philosophy's end, with some even calling for the advent of "postphilosophy." In an effort to make sense of these conflicting positions—which often say as much about the philosopher as his subject—Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel undertakes the first systematic treatment of "the end of philosophy," while also recasting the history of western thought itself.

Thomas-Fogiel begins with postphilosophical claims such as scientism, which she reveals to be self-refuting, for they subsume philosophy into the branches of the natural sciences. She discovers similar issues in Rorty's skepticism and strands of continental thought. Revisiting the work of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century philosophers, when the split between analytical and continental philosophy began, Thomas-Fogiel finds both traditions followed the same path—the road of reference—which ultimately led to self-contradiction. This phenomenon, whether valorized or condemned, has been understood as the death of philosophy. Tracing this pattern from Quine to Rorty, from Heidegger to Levinas and Habermas, Thomas-Fogiel reveals the self-contradiction at the core of their claims while also carving an alternative path through self-reference. Trained under the French philosopher Bernard Bourgeois, she remakes philosophy in exciting new ways for the twenty-first century.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Tom Rockmore

Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel provides the first extended analysis of the theme of the end, or 'death,' of philosophy, which has been on the agenda since at least the early nineteenth century. Thomas-Fogiel, one of our most promising young French philosophers, writes clearly, persuasively, and insightfully. She ranges widely over both continental and analytic sources and concentrates well on arguments, weighing and evaluating different interpretations of major figures. This is an important book.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231147781
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 5/17/2011
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel is director of research in the Doctoral School of Philosophy at the Sorbonne. She specializes in the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, and aesthetics and has published five books in French.

Richard A. Lynch is instructor of philosophy at DePauw University and founder of the Foucault Circle. He has also translated works by Michel Foucault and François Ewald.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments IX

Translator's Note XI

Introduction XIII

Part I The End of Philosophy, or the Paradoxes of Speaking

1 Skeptical and Scientific "Post-philosophy" 3

The "Postanalytic" Moment 4

The Dissolution of Philosophy in a Positive Science 16

Naturalism as a Paradoxical Synthesis 26

Conclusions: Self-refutation and Oscillation Between Scientism and Skepticism 33

2 "Saying and the Said": Two Paradigms for the Same Subject 37

Opposition or Overlap of Paradigms? 37

The Evolution of the Linguistic Paradigm: Pragmatism 39

"Turning Phenomenology"? 49

Conclusions: Performative Contradiction and Oscillation Between Skepticism and Positivism 70

3 The Antispeculative View: Habermas as an Example 73

A Philosophy in Three Movements, Epitomizing Three Possible Antispeculative Approaches 73

Philosophy as Therapy: Knowledge and Human Interests 75

Philosophy as Inquiry into Conditions of Possibility: "Universal Pragmatics" 79

From Universal Pragmatics to Fallibilist Pragmatism 83

Conclusions: Confirmation of the Diagnosis 93

4 Kant's Shadow in the Current Philosophical Landscape 96

The Skeptical Future of Kantianism: Reconstruction from the Critique of Judgment 97

The "Strong" Version of the Transcendental: Karl-Otto Apel 104

Conclusions: The Impossibility of Speaking of the End of Philosophy 123

Part II Challenging the "Death of Philosophy": The Reflexive a Priori

5 A Definition of the Model: Scientific Learning and Philosophical Knowledge 129

Why This Moment Rather Than Another? 129

The Problem of the Status of the Philosopher's Discourse 131

The Concept of Reflexive Identity, or Self-reference 134

The Power of the Model: The Law of Self-reference and Philosophical Truth 136

Self-reference and Knowledge of Knowledge: Metacognitive Problems 139

Self-reference and the Act of Speaking 141

Conclusions: Congruence Between Statement and Utterance, Said and Saying 142

6 The Model of Self-reference's Consistency 143

The Theory of Reflexivity and Current Theories of Self-reference 143

The Theory of Reflexivity and the Prohibition Against Self-referential Propositions 150

Conclusions: The Application of Propositions to Themselves 159

7 The Model's Fecundity 162

A New Definition of Transcendental Argument 162

The New Version of the Argument as a Possible Overcoming of the "Dispute About Transcendental Arguments" 167

The Transcendental Argument's Positivity and the "Utility" of the Law of Reflexivity 170

Conclusions: A Proposal for a Model of Application 178

8 Beyond the Death of Philosophy 183

Part III The End of Philosophy in Perspective: The Source of the Reflexive Deficit

9 The "Race to Reference" 191

10 The Tension Between Reference and Self-reference in the Kantian System 195

Representation 196

Reflection 200

Use of the Term "Intellectual Representation" as an Expression of the Tension Between Representation and Reflection 203

Conclusions: The Two Orientations 214

11 Helmholtz's Choice as a Choice for Reference: The Naturalization of Critique 217

From the Transcendental to the A Priori 217

The Psychophysiological Interpretation of the A Priori 219

The Physiological Future of the Distinction Between Things in Themselves and Phenomena 221

Conclusions: A Single Orientation, the Origin of Two Paradigms 224

12 Critique: A Positivist Theory of Knowledge or Existential Ontology? 226

The Kantian Problematic in Heidegger and Cohen 226

Explaining Knowledge: Valorization of the "Aesthetic" or the "Analytic"? 228

Which Edition? 229

The Meaning of the Object 231

Radical Finitude and the Question of Being as Emphasizing an Orientation 234

Conclusions: Common Ground-The Exclusive Idea of Reference 237

13 Questioning the History of Philosophy 239

Overcoming Historicism Without Returning to the Past 239

Interpretation and Argumentation 244

Conclusion 250

Bibliography 253

Notes 273

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