Yesterday, my health care ethics class was presented with a fictional case. A pregnant woman is in the hospital and requires a blood transfusion. She refuses the transfusion on religious grounds (she’s a Jehovah’s witness). Obviously, one ethical consideration is whether she has the right to make this decision on behalf of the fetus. One of my students responds: well, since the fetus would be raised as a Jehovah’s witness, s/he will have approved of the mother’s refusal of the transfusion should the mother survive without the recommended procedure.
The student is likely right, but the anachronistic nature of the fetus’s approval raises a fascinating puzzle. Comments on this are encouraged, as I’ve never thought through a problem like this one.
It’s not completely unfunny that James Williams has posted a comment on Leiter’s post about so-called ‘party line’ continental philosophers. Williams notes that he’s ‘slightly surprised and worried’ about having Dundee included on the list of PLC departments. This is basically my response about Duquesne’s inclusion, although I admit that I was not surprised…just worried.
Of course Williams would be one of those to respond to Leiter’s post. And of course he would respond with the response he’s given. The unfortunate part is that it doesn’t matter what his defense is. It has already been decided that the kind of work that he does, along with that of his colleagues, is of that not-really-what-we’re-looking-for in ‘scholarship’ type. Now, I think what needs to happen is that Leiter has to be more specific about methodology. General labels like ‘phenomenology’, ‘postmodernism’, ‘Derrida-approved’, are insufficient. Basically, what is it precisely that gets you on the PLC list?
Just as we need to discontinue the notion that ‘analytic philosophy’ still exists in its early twentieth-century form, or that ‘analytic philosophy’ is anything more than a convenient label (like ‘continental philosophy’), the philosophical community must be more mindful of the most recent developments in the continental world. It seems like happenings in the analytic world–especially new hires and faculty migrations–are more readily detected and tracked than they are in the continental world. Is there a Twitter account I can subscribe to to keep up with these trends? The current state of the historically continental programs should have the same degree of transparency.
I’m pretty certain that Brian Leiter’s assessment of philosophy graduate programs remains influential, which is why posts like this hinder the progress of graduates from continental philosophy programs. I’ve posted some comments on Leiter’s page, and won’t recall them here. Suffice it to say that, although he denies that there is a determinate rift between ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ philosophers, he nevertheless promotes the myth in his denial. The effective injury of this myth results from his nomination of certain graduate programs (Duquesne included) as ‘party line continental’. Despite his attempt to cast doubt on the notion that there is a homogeneous tradition known as ‘continental philosophy’, and his dismissal of postmodernist and deconstructive theory (which I sympathize with, mind you), the rhetoric of his post continues to cast suspicion on philosophy programs waving the continental flag. This suspicion can only put us at a disadvantage–we who seek employment in philosophy departments nationwide.
The difficult bit to swallow is that I don’t substantially disagree with Leiter’s critique of continental philosophy carried out in the ‘party line’ spirit, and I have almost no gripe with his rejection of so-called postmodernism. I would simply like to see Duquesne’s name dissociated from his critique. I’m sure that students in other continental programs would desire the same, but I cannot speak on their behalf. (I note, however, that Derrida has much more influence in many of the other American continental programs than he does at Duquesne.)
The ironic part: I don’t even know any party line philosophers among my colleagues–claiming some kind of philosophical purity for what ‘we’ do is just not something any of my colleagues would do. Unmasking the myth of such purity is one of the hallmarks of continental philosophy (understood in the popular sense).
Now I’ve regained internet access at home. I’ve had it for some weeks now, but I’ve been away from blogging trying to get my dissertation ready for defense. In related news, I will defend on Thursday, November 19. I’ve also been busy thinking and planning a spring course on love, sex, and friendship. This is the first time I’m teaching it and I’m quite enthusiastic, also having trouble narrowing down the course readings. Recommendations are welcomed.
I’ll resume substantial posts shortly. Until then, here’s something to chew on at Brian Leiter’s blog.