Minding the Gap

Epistemology and Philosophy of Science in the Two Traditions
Seeks to bridge the divide between continental and Anglo-American analytic philosophy

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In this sweeping volume, Christopher Norris challenges the view that there is no room for productive engagement between mainstream analytic philosophers and thinkers in the post-Kantian continental line of descent. On the contrary, he argues, this view is simply the product of a limiting perspective that accompanied the rise of logical positivism. Norris reveals the various shared concerns that have often been obscured by parochial interests or the desire to stake out separate philosophical territory. He examines the problems that emerged within the analytic tradition as a result of its turn against Husserlian phenomenology and its outright rejection of what came to be seen as a merely "psychologistic" approach to issues of meaning, knowledge, and truth. Norris shows how these problems have resurfaced in various forms from the heyday of logical empiricism to the present. He provides critical readings of such philosophers as Willard Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty, Michael Dummett, Thomas Nagel, and John McDowell. He also offers a running discussion of Wittgenstein's influence and its harmful effect in promoting a placidly consensus-based theory of knowledge. On the continental side, Norris argues for a reassessment of Husserl's phenomenological project and its potential contribution to present day Anglo-American debates in epistemology and philosophy of science. He discusses Bachelard, Canguilhem, and the French tradition of rationalisme appliqué as an alternative to Kuhnian conceptions of scientific paradigm change. This leads him to suggest a non-Wittgensteinian way around the problems that have dogged more traditional theories of knowledge and truth. In two chapters on the work of Jacques Derrida, Norris explores the "supplementary" logic of deconstruction and compares it with other recent proposals for a nonstandard logic. Here again he stresses the community of interests between the two philosophical cultures and the extent to which continental thinking has engaged certain issues with a rigor largely ignored by Anglophone writers. By bringing a fresh perspective to questions that have often been considered the exclusive preserve of analytic philosophy, Norris offers an overview of current debates that is at once refreshingly open-minded and sure of its own argumentative bearings.

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