Q:For me, the skepticism of human nature sorta just follows a fortiori from broader anti-essentialist commitments - just out of curiousity, where's it coming from for you?
For skepticism of human nature within a realist framework, see Leiter : “The Hermeneutics of Suspicion: Recovering Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud” and also perhaps : “The Epistemic Status of the Human Sciences: Critical Reflections on Foucault”
Q:I'm not really taking them at face value because I honestly have no idea what's going on. All of this is pretty much outside the scope of what I do, and Leiter is a complete unknown to me! Canada's philosophy departments seem to keep to themselves so I'm just diving in through the channels I follow. I have never heard of this Buffet. hahah
I’m a regular reader of Leiter’s blog, so while I am biased in that respect, I also am familiar with his views. Despite Cogburn’s idea that SR isn’t continental or analytic in any substantive sense, I think Harman is guilty of what Leiter calls ‘party-line continentalism:’ he’s just as provincial about his preferred brand of philosophy as he accuses the analytic philosophers of being. I’ll let Leiter speak for himself for more on this point:
I am not an “analytic.” I do not even know what that means. I can certainly tell you the basics of Quine and Kripke, though I’ve read relatively little David Lewis; I think metaethics deals with important philosophical problems, but find most Anglophone normative theory embarrassing; I could give you a short lecture on the Gettier problem and the responses to it, but I think “analytic metaphysics” is a seriously wrong turn in the field and ignore it. I can also tell you the basics about Habermas, though I am not a fan and much prefer Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse; I think Derrida is a charlatan, and am sorry to see Foucault, whom I think is the most interesting diagnostician of the ‘iron cage’ of modernity since Weber, associated with him so often; I agree with Deleuze that phenomenology is our “modern scholasticism,” but have a soft spot for Sartre. I enjoy Hume and Nietzsche, Spinoza and Marx, but haven’t much affection for Leibniz or Hegel.
I am interested in philosophy and philosophical problems that crop up in various traditions, but often have an interest and existence that transcends them. But why is it so important to cabin me off as an “analytic” in contrast to the “Continentals” (who are then, wholly bizarrely, equated with Postmodernists by our commenter)? Who are these “Continentals”? If I have written extensively on Nietzsche, occasionally on Marx and Foucault; if I have taught Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault, Adorno, and Horkheimer with some frequency; if I have co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy, and I am not a “Continental,” then who is?
This is what I meant when I said Harman was being wholly unfair about Leiter. I’m increasingly in sympathy with Leiter’s views about the distinction being less important than we think, and as he notes in the interview, it’s used by people on both sides of the divide to allow themselves to ignore relevant scholarship on the issues they’re working on. That being said, I have more familiarity with and tend to prefer the style of those writers considered ‘analytic,’ because I think they tend to be clearer. But I also agree with Cogburn in that I am a non-naturalist (like Parfit) and also am ‘anti-anti-metaphysics.’ But given that Parfit’s views support my own, and Parfit is most assuredly considered an ‘analytic,’ I don’t think Cogburn gets it right when he tries to cast analytic philosophy as uniformly sharing naturalist and anti-metaphysical views.
Nigel Warburton interviews Brian Leiter on the Analytic/Continental Distinction.