Edinburgh Dictionary of Continental Philosophy
Working Definition of "Continental Philosophy"
Aims and Purpose of the Work
Temporal Scope & Criteria of Inclusion of Philosophers
Format of Entries and Principle of Selection
Type and Length of Entries
Recruitment of Authors and Generation of List of Technical Terms
Bibliography / references
Editorial Advisory Board
Edinburgh University Press
The Edinburgh Encyclopedia of Continental Philosophy (EECP) has found a home among the leading reference works of various formats ("Readers," "Companions," "Histories") now available for readers interested in "continental philosophy." These works, consisting of large essays (5-10,000 words) on major figures, movements, and topics in the field, serve certain purposes very well, but cannot serve all the needs of readers interested in help with continental philosophy, in particular those new to the field. Limited by the very size of the entries to a restricted number of subject headings, these works are not as nimble or user-friendly as they could be for quick orientation and as guides for further study. For instance, a reader wanting a quick orientation on a particular term used in continental circles (e.g., "difference") must be able to associate that term with a particular author and then wade through a long essay hoping for a discussion of it. And while that discussion may provide cross-references to uses of the term in other philosophers, it may again not do so. The Edinburgh Dictionary of Continental Philosophy (EDCP) aims then to complement the EECP by providing brief entries on a much wider range of subject headings. Along with explicit cross-references, these mini-orientations will enable readers to quickly and accurately target their subsequent research in the EECP and other resources.
"Continental philosophy" has always been an exceedingly difficult term to define. In fact, it may even be impossible to define. After all, Nietzsche tells us in On the Genealogy of Morals that "only that which is without history can be defined," and not only does continental philosophy have a history, but most-although perhaps not all-of its practitioners would agree with Nietzsche that a historical treatment (or what he would call a "genealogy") of philosophical texts is vitally important. Thus, in lieu of a definition, the Introduction will offer, and our editorial decisions will be guided by, a (synchronic) operational treatment and a (diachronic) genealogy of "continental philosophy."
By an "operational" treatment, we mean that we shall treat as "continental" those thinkers who are now or who have been at some time in the past so labeled by a reasonable portion of the philosophical or general intellectual community, whether or not that labeling constitutes a set whose essence can be defined by a set of necessary and sufficient conditions that demarcates it from other types of philosophy. Indeed we will not even bind ourselves to what Wittgenstein would call a "family resemblance,"since the fact that philosophers as diverse in aim, method, and style as Hegel and Nietzsche, Deleuze and Levinas, Heidegger and Habermas, Irigaray and Gadamer, have all been called "continental philosophers" would seem to strain even that generous way of treating groups.
By a genealogy of "continental philosophy" we mean to trace not only the history of the term, but also the various movements whose convergence and divergence have made up the shifting field of "continental philosophy" over the years.
First, what is the genealogy of the term "continental philosophy"? As Simon Glendinning points out in his Introduction to the EECP, it was first used as a term of opprobrium by the Oxbridge philosophers of the 1950s for those "not like us," those over there on "the Continent." Over the years "continental philosophy" has come to lose its geographical sense, however, due to the strong interest in such a philosophy in the Anglophone world -- it makes little sense to call someone working with Derridean concepts in North America, Australia (or indeed the United Kingdom or Ireland), a "continental philosopher" if that term is intended geographically! It has also lost some but not all of its polemical sting when used in "analytic" circles, and in fact it has come to be adopted as a positive self-designation by many, as evidenced by the shift of the title of the influential journal Man and World to its current Continental Philosophy Review.
Second, the genealogy of the various convergent and divergent movements of "continental philosophy" is often begun by citing a certain appropriation of Kant and has come to include the philosophical and intellectual movements of German Idealism, Marxism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, existentialism, Frankfurt School Critical Theory, that branch of feminism sometimes called "French feminism," structuralism and post-structuralism, the French"philosophy of difference" of the 1960s, philosophies based on or influenced by Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, and the multitude of subfields produced by the intersections and mutual influences these movements have exerted on each other.
Indeed the best reason for offering an operational and genealogical treatment of continental philosophy rather than a definition of it lies in precisely the sort of "combinatorial explosion" that results when these movements are put into relation with one another. The resulting field provides an ever-shifting profusion of positions, theses, methodologies, and so forth, no one of which can be said to unify the field. (The logic of Derrida's "quasi-transcendentality" could be cited here: any term that aspires to rise from an empirical field to a transcendental ordering or conditioning position will leave behind it a mark of its absence from the field.) Among the factors in the field of "continental philosophy" are: 1) a reaction to the transcendental turn of Kant; 2) a materialist "overturning" of Hegel; 3) the "overcoming of Platonism"; 4) a focus on corporeality or embodiment, often combined with a focus on gender; 5) a type of "linguistic turn" via Saussure; 6) the disbelief in "grand narratives"; 7) the structuralist or post-structuralist "death of the subject"; 8) the philosophical implications of the "new sciences" variously called catastrophe theory, chaos theory, or complexity theory; and many other themes, almost all of which can be combined with each other. For example, one could imagine a cross of the readings of Deleuze and Guattari by Brian Massumi and Elizabeth Grosz as a post-structuralist feminist appropriation of complexity theory to consider gendered embodiment in globalized capitalism. Only a genealogy considering multiple factors can offer ways to consider such a field; a definition seeking to isolate an essence could only be arbitrary and produce artificial distinctions. To twist Deleuze's famous quotation of Spinoza: "we don't know what the body [of continental philosophy] can do." An essential definition pretends to tell you what a body can do; a genealogy only tells you what a body has done (although it may draw some lines showing what it might do in the [near] future).
Using our operational and genealogical method, then, we will attempt to cover in the EDCP the primary, secondary, and tertiary figures and topics and associated technical terms, of the movements and themes sketched above.
The EDCP will be addressed not only to professional philosophers who would identify themselves as "continental," but also to beginning students in philosophy and other humanities disciplines, to professional philosophers in the analytic tradition, and to the educated lay public.
The EDCP aims to be a standard reference tool for the above readership. It will provide authoritative, accurate, and objective (yet sympathetic) treatments of thinkers, topics, and technical terms in clear, jargon-free language. As one of the foremost difficulties of continental philosophy is the specialized terminology and complex writing style of many of its figures, the EDCP will provide an encouraging introduction to the field for those at first intimidated by its difficulties. But in providing this help, it will at the same time attempt to explain what philosophical reasons led those thinkers to adopt those terms and styles in the first place. Accuracy without jargon or paraphrase and simplicity without superficiality or naivete will be the foremost editorial criteria.
We will begin our treatment of major philosophers with Kant and work to include contemporary figures of note. The inclusion of figures presents difficult problems of judgment however, which we will illustrate with financial metaphors. With regard to historical figures, we must balance the contemporary interest in their work (their current "value") with their historical importance, as measured both by the highest point of interest in them at any one time (their "peak price") and by their "staying power," the length of time they sustained such interest. With contemporary figures we must balance the current interest in their work against our best guesses as to the future "worth" of their philosophical "stock." A further issue is the relative "value" of articles treating philosophers versus those treating topics or technical terms for the research needs of our intended audiences. We will assume that treatments of philosophers are readily available in other works, and so will give the benefit of the doubt to the inclusion of articles treating terms rather than people. Thus while we will provide a reasonable survey of important figures, we do not propose a comprehensive treatment of figures, although we do aim at as wide a coverage as possible of important terms.
The EDCP will consist of alphabetically arranged entries of limited size (maximum 1000 words; see below for details) on a wide variety of figures, topics, and technical terms. The figures, topics, and technical terms will be selected following the above-named "operational" criterion: those figures, topics, and technical terms most often mentioned as "continental" will be covered, whether or not the EDCP list as a whole forms a set whose criteria of selection can be exhaustively or consistently named. We will also treat figures who, while not philosophers, have influenced many continental philosophers or one philosopher particularly strongly (e.g., Freud, Gödel, Saussure), analytic philosophers who are often treated by continental thinkers (e.g., Frege, Austin), and finally figures and movements which, while not strictly speaking philosophical, are closely linked to continental thinking (e.g., Paul DeMan, Pierre Bourdieu, Edward Said, Fredric Jameson, ecocriticism, race theory, queer theory).
1000 words for Primary Figures and Primary Topics; 500-750 words for Secondary Figures and Topics; 250 words for Tertiary Figures, Tertiary Topics, and Technical Terms. Total = 250,000 words (includes a 5,000 word Introduction, but not the Bibliography). We attach a series of preliminary lists of each category. We stress however that these lists are only for help in editorial decisions and that the EDCP will be presented in strictly alphabetical order. We have not produced an exhaustive list of each category, and in particular have decided not to generate a list of technical terms at this point, for reasons we explain below. To cover late additions, we propose to reserve 25,000 words to be used if necessary.
Authors will be commissioned for articles on Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Figures and Topics. At the time of commissioning, they will be asked to propose up to ten technical terms per Primary Figure or Topic and five per Secondary and Tertiary Figure or Topic. The General Editor will then collate the proposals for technical terms, generate a final list, and commission authors for each term; often, but not necessarily, those authors will be the ones who propose specific terms. We have decided that it would be best to take advantage of the specialized knowledge of the commissioned authors in generating the list of technical terms on the principle that the distributed cognition of expert workers is far superior to the ability of any one generalist in generating such a list of specialized terms; the final decision on inclusion of terms will however, for the sake of efficiency, rest with the General Editor in consultation with the Editorial Board.
Entries will provide the appropriate number of cross-references at the end of each article. Names or terms used in the entry will be appropriately marked (i.e., by boldface or italics) when they have their own entries. A number of entries will not contain text, but will instead direct readers to other articles by a "see" reference (e.g., the entry for "sense" might read "See phenomenology; language; Husserl; Frege; Heidegger; Merleau-Ponty; Deleuze).
There will be a select bibliography at the end of the volume. Internal references will be keyed to that bibliography with the Name/Date system (e.g., Derrida, 1978a).
June 2002 - December 2002: commissioning of authors of entries for Major and Minor Figures; generating and collating list of technical terms; commissioning of authors for Technical Terms.
December 2002 - December 2003: writing of articles
December 2003 - June 2004: editing and revising of articles
June 2004 - December 2004: preparation of final ms.
December 2004: Delivery of final ms.
June 2005: Publication
Editor (recruitment, design, content): John Protevi, French Studies, Louisiana State University.
Commissioning Editor (commissioning, contract negotiation, financials, overall project management, selection of personnel for subsidiary roles as enumerated below): Jackie Jones, Edinburgh University Press.
Editorial Assistant(s) (copy-editing, checking facts, liaising with authors, etc.).
Project Development Editor (day-to-day running of the project, style sheet, track progress, etc.)
Assistant Editor (contributors' contracts).
Tina Chanter (DePaul University, USA)