From the introduction to my proposal for a concentration in Modern Critical Philosophy:
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the American academy is faced with two strikingly different philosophical traditions. Anglo-American philosophers explicitly embrace the empiricism and mathematized logic that emerged from the European Enlightenment. Today, their traditional pursuits of ethics, epistemology, logic, and politics continue to seek modes of analysis able to handle the logical challenges of direct thought experiments. Were one to name the governing aesthetics for analytic philosophy, it would have to be the stability and unity of proposed theories. In contrast, the continental tradition of critique seeks to theoretically destabilize the “common sense” knowledge of the Enlightenment through a careful process of what Louis Althusser calls reading. This critical approach is homogenous neither in its methodology nor in its conclusions; indeed, many of its early proponents were not professional philosophers and would not have necessarily seen the connections with contemporaries that we now retroactively assert.
Nevertheless, there exists today a dynamic, diverse, and vital collection of critical writers and texts that look to Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud for inspiration. While acknowledging the reductivism of any generalizations of their ideas, there are common themes among these continental writers that radically challenge the philosophical edifice of the dominant, analytic tradition. Broadly speaking, the continental tradition of critique attends to the primary importance of symbolic systems of representation, the uncertainties and slippages of totalizing knowledges, and the false unities forged by systemic suturing of contradiction.
The proposed concentration in modern critical philosophy will stake out a position in line with contemporary critical theory while building a secure foundation in traditional philosophy. For a student interested in critical theory, there is perhaps no better place to study than Brown. Though the Modern Culture and Media department is certainly the center of the University’s critical establishment (it was formerly known as “Semiotics”), there are professors teaching their subjects using the methodologies and concepts of (post-)structuralism scattered throughout the university from Africana Studies to Gender Studies to Comparative Literature.