How to take aim at the heart of the present and remain analytic

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In his famous lecture on Kant's essay 'An Answer to the Question What is Enlightenment' Foucault distinguished between two traditions in modern philosophy coming out of Kant's work: 'an analytic of truth' and 'an ontology of present reality [ actualite ]' or 'a genealogy of ourselves'. The paper presents this distinction as a fruitful displacement of the distinction between 'analytic' and 'continental' philosophy,which gives the latter precise cultural and philosophical meaning. The paper clarifies the distinction and argues that almost without exception, analytic philosophers are not interested -in their capacity as philosophers - in interpreting and understanding their historical present. Some possible reasons and some possible consequences of this lack of interest are examined briefly. Within the continental tradition itself, two major contemporary forms of 'an ontology of present reality' are distinguished, one exemplified by Habermas and the other by Foucault. The difference between these two forms of 'taking aim at the heart of the present' (to use Habermas' phrase) is explicated as a difference between distinct genres of critical discourse, or forms of critique. The difference is presented in respect to two major aspects: historical time and historicity, and critique's mode of engagement with 'an analytic of truth'. The last point, namely the presence of a crucial analytic moment in the philosophical interpretation of present reality, suggests a possible modification of the initial distinction between the two philosophical traditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-415
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Foucault
  • Habermas
  • Ontology of the present


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