The origins of the Analytic/Continental divide and how it arose from the different temperaments of their founding fathers Gottlob Frege and Edmund Husserl

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Frege and Husserl are strange people to chose for the founders of Continental and Analytic Philosophy. For one, its not even clear that we can call Husserl the founder of Continental Philosophy, or that we could determine a founder of Continental Philosophy, seeing as Continental Philosophy only really gains any kind of systematic unity not on the Continent, i.e. its a creation of Anglo-American Philosophers. No French Philosophers, unless they are commenting on Anglo American trends, say they are doing Continental Philosophy. Similarly, Frege has goals and positions that are quite distinct from later Analytic Philosophers, nor is he really committed to the project of logical analysis as the analytics are. It would be better to say that Carnap is the father of Analytic Philosophy, seeing as his basic project is far more in line with the current outline of what Analytics want to do. Namely, commitments to naturalism and the primacy of empirical science. In this respect the more natural dualism would be Carnap and Heidegger and the more natural split would be their diverging readings of Nietzsche.


I also agree that Hume and Kant have things in common that makes them sort of predecessors to the analytic tradition. What we now call as continental tradition, on the other hand, was a reaction to Hegel/Marx and in some way, following Nietzche. But Hegel, Marx and Nietzche were themselves answering to Kant, Hume, and the rationalists and empiricists. (I actually think that the study of the structure of consciousness held by Husserl was influenced by the Kantian project.) These minds were all called modernists by postmodernists. Hence, in my opinion, postmodernism is a reaction both to the analytic and continental traditions. As for me, I don’t see empiricism as leaning towards the study of the objective world, it is rather leaning towards agnosticism. Both Hume and Kant aren’t sure of objective reality. The connections or relationships of events were established only by habit for Hume, or reason, for Kant. Both Hume and Kant aren’t sure whether the conclusions that came from habit or reason really refer to the objective world, if there is one. From here, it would be easy to see that empiricism also ascribes knowledge to human perception or mind. Their difference with the rationalists is they’re not so sure how real their knowledge is. Whereas the thinkers we have come to call as rationalists are so sure of knowledge that came from mathematical/ logical foundations, building every other knowledge on it, seemingly downplaying the importance of empirical evidence. The leaning of the analytic school towards logical/ mathematical rigour came from this rationalist influence. The continental tradition of trying to identify the structures of consciousness follows also from Kant and other rationalists. So, I think the continental-analytic divide is overestimated, and the divide is not drawn between the emphasis on the subjective and the objective.


Abstract: the divide between Analytic and Continental Philosophy arose at the end of the 19th century with the thinking of Gottlob Frege and Edmund Husserl. The differences between the schools can be understood as being more of a metaphilosophical question of temperament than a strictly philosophical disagreement. Frege coming from a mathematical background precipitated a paradigm shift in logical notation that gave rise to the Analytic tradition. Husserl was concerned with creating a rigorous science of consciousness and with isolating the structures of consciousness for study. Both shared a modernist outlook and wanted to make philosophy more rigorous but despite their correspondence and critique of each other’s thinking, their different tendencies led to two very different traditions. This divide had become irreparable by the time of their heirs Bertrand Russell and Martin Heidegger. These can be seen against the broader temperamental difference that underpinned the British Empiricist/European Rationalist divide a couple of centuries earlier. The Anglophone mindset tended/tends toward an objective (with respect to humans) perspective while the European mindset tended/tends towards the subjective perspective. For the empiricist we must strive to understand reality objectively; for the rationalist reality must be reached by dealing with the problems of the subjective filtration mechanism.


I thought the Divide came from the rationalists vs the empiricists in the 17th century, more than 200 years before Frege v Husserl.


There’s actually a great lecture from Michael Dummett that was put into print on this very topic. He identifies Frege and Husserl as two reference points for the origins of the analytical and continental traditions respectively, arguing that both their analyses of language were in response to work done by Franz Brentano, and that the supposed gap was and is actually much smaller than often presented. It’s called Origins of Analytical Philosophy and ought to clear things up for those questioning why Frege and Husserl would be identified as “founders” of the two traditions, though I’m not sure Dummett would refer to them as “founders”.