Snow’s Two Cultures: More Evidence of a Divide


Austin Bramwell

I am a freelance opinion-monger living in New York City.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Hyena says:

    Yet in the mathematically-driven disciplines we distinguish between science and engineering, with the latter being in it for “fame”. The arts are much the same: there are people whose goal is to be widely known and there are people working away at problems.Report

  2. Avatar MS says:

    I am just a student, and I am not particularly enchanted by continental philosophy. I attend a school that, among other things, specializes in it, and it’s not for me (at least right now). However, this post is, by my lights, rude and thoughtless in what it says about ‘continental philosophy’. Austin, can I what you mean by continental philosophy? And why you think what you do, regarding it?

    P.S. I refer you Brian Leiter, who has a useful item on his website about the ‘divide’ between continental and analytic (Anglo) philosophy.Report

  3. Avatar Austin Bramwell says:

    MS – I agree, I was lazy and a little philistine in my treatment of continental philosophy here (by which I mean Heidegger, Derrida, Lacan and all those guys). Leiter is a great scholar of continental philosophy. Of course, he translates continentals into an analytic idiom, and even he thinks some of these guys were charlatans.
    Anyway, as a sociological description of continental philosophy, I think charismatic gurus competing for the maximum of doting admirers is fairly apt.Report

  4. Avatar FreeDem says:

    Like the problem of the bird flying back and forth between oncoming trains, Wiles solved the infinite series side of the answer that was more difficult, IMHO Fermat glimpsed what is now known as the “butterfly effect” answer that is far more profound, that we dabble in tide pools of numbers we have access to, while the vast ocean cannot even be described.Report

  5. Avatar El Cid says:

    In fairness, it seems to me that mostly literature (fiction, poetry, to some degree which I haven’t thought through, nonfiction) is a social effort; certainly writers do and should write to express ideas or style notions or invention, but mostly it’s about introducing these themes to others.

    Even if a writer is as humble and self-effacing or shunning of any public recognition as possible, even to the extent of giving away works for free and under a pseudonym, it’s most frequently intended to be considered, appreciated by, or even a challenge and confrontation with others.

    Of course, ‘at best’ or ‘at root’ scenarios may have little or nothing to do with a particular writers.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to El Cid says:


      A literary work only understood by 12 people isn’t great, since the object of literature is communication.

      And while an advanced math/science theory might be understood by everyone, it’s merit isn’t base on people who don’t have training necessary to understand understanding.

      And distilling the writer’s efforts and the mathematician’s efforts to search for glory/fame is silly.

      And extrapolating the efforts of writers and mathematicians to the end of seeking fame vs. glory obscures and diminishes their effort. Not all mathematicians come up with new and difficult proofs, though they may be deep and gifted thinkers; not all novelists write blockbuster novels, though they might be gifted communicators.Report

  6. Avatar Freddie says:

    Has it come to this, League? Have you fallen so far?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Freddie says:

      @Freddie, Freddie if you feel the League has slipped excessively rightward or something I’m sure they’d welcome you back to contributing here with open arms. Not to steak Jay’s bit but be the change you wish to see.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to North says:

        @North, It’s funny- I’ve been thinking recently that the commenting has been more left-leaning and the posts more right-leaning around here. My own opinions are considerably more left-leaning now than they were roughly a year ago, but I still prefer blogging about Plato and poems and think it wouldn’t add anything if those posts were more overtly political.

        Anyway, I don’t know if that’s what he was saying, but nevertheless I’d applaud the occasional post from Freddie.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Rufus F. says:

          @Rufus F., Well I’ve always pegged the League as somewhat right/libertarian of center but only mildly so. With Jamelle and Freddie moving over I guess the stables on the left hand side as a bit empty. I’d offer to help but I’m already committed to a site (Scott would break my kneecaps) plus I’m a running-dog capitalist neoliberal.Report

      • Avatar MS in reply to North says:


        Maybe if we provoke Freddie we can get him to write again? Quick, Rufus, write a dismissive post about de Beauvoir and Spivak!Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to MS says:

          @MS, I like Simone de Beauvoir. Would it count that I don’t like Sartre?Report

          • Avatar MS in reply to Rufus F. says:

            @Rufus F.,

            I’m not sure – I think I remember Freddie saying something about how Sartre was important to him, but de Beauvoir was formative, and a hero. Maybe just rant about Heidegger’s Nazism, and then insinuate something nasty about postmodernism?Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to MS says:

              @MS, We could probably just link to a number of websites on the topic. I think the craziest one I’ve seen recently was a site claiming that “an entire generation of academics (!)” had their minds warped by Edward Said! I have my own differences with Said, but I’m not ready to blame him for warping the minds of an entire generation.Report

      • Avatar Austin bramwell in reply to North says:

        @North, I don’t get it. What did this post have to do with politics? I don’t know Freddie but I imagine that he objects to my continental philosophy bashing, which is definitely a bipartisan sport. Or perhaps he is upset by invidious comparisons between science and the humanities. Finally it may be that he is offended the “man” synecdoche.
        Another alternative-that Freddy objects to my presence on this blog-is too hurtful to contemplate.

  7. Avatar CM says:

    Fame gets the chicks; seekers of glory die penniless and celibate.Report

  8. Thanks for the link to the video, Austin. I became friends with Wiles’ daughter a few years ago and was later stunned to learn who her father was. Would have been a different matter had her last name been Foucault.Report

  9. Avatar zilifant says:

    “That is pretty much the point of doing continental philosophy.”

    As opposed to analytic philosophy, which plays pointless games refining “perfect” sentences that will never say anything meaningful to society? In any case, you are confusing po-mo and deconstructionism with continental philosophy, which is a strikingly lazy, even ignorant, approach.Report