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Continental philosophy

Continental philosophy is a general term for several related philosophical traditions that (notionally, at least) originated in continental Europe, in contradistinction to Anglo-American analytic philosophy. This distinction is relatively recent, probably dating from the early twentieth century, but finds its roots in texts dating at least to Immanuel Kant.

Continental philosophy includes phenomenology, existentialism, post-structuralism and post-modernism, deconstruction, Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, critical theory such as that of the Frankfurt School, psychoanalysis and the work of Sigmund Freud, and most branches of Marxism and Marxist philosophy (though there also exists a self-described analytic Marxism). There are such large differences among these schools of thought that the term probably has no great descriptive value; furthermore, much (if not most!) "continental" philosophy at least since the 1980s has been taught and written in the United States and Great Britain. While analytic philosophy is generally taught in university philosophy departments, often continental philosophy is taught in various other departments, including literature, film, architecture, and art history among the humanities (where it is often known as literary theory), and sociology, anthropology, social psychology, and economics among the social sciences (where it is sometimes known as social theory or critical social theory).

Though the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy is not absolute, it does at least denote certain general differences in emphasis and style.

One common theme of continental philosophy might be a certain kind of anti-transcendent skepticism, which holds that thought can not be abstracted away from some natural or material preconditions, and also that the philosopher must struggle with this impossibility. For example, in Hegel thoughts can't be abstracted away from history. For Marx they can't be abstracted away from the class struggle. For Nietzsche from the will to power. For Heidegger and Sartre thought would always have to deal with some version of "being." And for Derrida the contingent histories and interdependencies of words themselves cannot be transcended.

In contrast, continental philosophers might see analytic philosophers as believing methodologically that they can work unproblematically with abstract ideas and their relationships. Sometimes they might derive similar skepticisms as a result, but it would not be as strong a methodological presumption.