The fate of transcendental reasoning in contemporary philosophy

In James Williams, Jack Reynolds, James Chase & Edwin Mares (eds.), Postanalytic and Metacontinental: Crossing Philosophical Divides. Continuum (2010)
A significant methodological difference between analytic and continental philosophers comes out in their differing attitudes to transcendental reasoning. It has been an object of concern to analytic philosophy since the dawn of the movement around the start of the twentieth century, and although there was briefly a mini-industry on the validity of transcendental arguments following Peter Strawson’s prominent use of them, discussion of their acceptability – usually with a negative verdict – is far more common than their positive use within a philosophical system or to justify a specific claim. By contrast, in the continental traditions starting with Kant but enduring throughout the twentieth century and beyond, some form of transcendental reasoning is close to ubiquitous, notwithstanding that what one means by the transcendental is significantly reconfigured by phenomenology, and then the genealogical turn, as well as by a more constructivist understanding of philosophy. Concerns about the status of transcendental reasoning certainly exist for continental philosophers, but continued creative use persists, and there is no general agreement that transcendental argumentation is especially problematic. In fact, it is more commonly claimed, and it is certainly frequently implied, that a transcendental dimension is of the essence of philosophy. Any philosophical activity that does not reflect on its own conditions of possibility is naïve, or pre-critical, and the sometimes pilloried continental enquiries into the ‘problem of modernity’ are but one way of attempting to reflect on the conditions of contemporary philosophical discourse, subjectivity, and cultural life more generally. Much of this chapter will hence be concerned to offer both an explicit and implicit rationale for the divergent attitudes of analytic and continental philosophers vis-à-vis transcendental reasoning. We give an incomplete account of what transcendental arguments are, review the major analytic criticisms of them, gesture towards some of the recent continental appropriations of such arguments (focusing on the themes of embodiment and time), consider the extent to which analytic criticisms apply to such usages, and attempt to bring to the fore the differing explanatory norms that justify these divergent practices.
Keywords transcendental  embodiment  time  analytic philosophy  continental philosophy
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