International Journal of Philosophical Studies 14 (4):539 – 559 (2006)
One of the more important and under-thematized philosophical disputes in contemporary European philosophy pertains to the significance that is given to the inter-related phenomena of habituality, skilful coping, and learning. This paper examines this dispute by focusing on the work of the Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger-inspired phenomenologist Hubert Dreyfus, and contrasting his analyses with those of Gilles Deleuze, particularly in Difference and Repetition. Both Deleuze and Dreyfus pay a lot of attention to learning and coping, while arriving at distinct conclusions about these phenomena with a quite different ethico-political force. By getting to the bottom of the former, my hope is to problematize aspects of the latter in both philosophers' work. In Deleuze's case, it will be argued that he adopts a problematic position on learning that is aptly termed 'empirico-romanticism'. While I will agree with the general thrust of Dreyfus' foregrounding of habit and skilful coping, even in the political realm, it will also be argued that there are some risks associated with his view, notably of devolving into a conservative communitarianism.
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