The "odd man" out in last week's lovely set of remembrances of Michael Dummett used the occasion to grind his particular axe. Simon Critchley (New School) wrote:
As is well known [sic], professional philosophers are broadly and lamentably divided into two opposed camps: analytic and Continental. It is Dummett’s conviction that the only way to reestablish communication amongst philosophers is by going back to the historical and conceptual point where those traditions divided. This is Dummett’s strategy in his hugely influential 1993 book “Origins of Analytical Philosophy.” Dummett recounts the history of analytic philosophy from Frege onwards in the laudable hope that a clearer understanding of the philosophical past will be a precondition for some sort of mutual comprehension between contemporary philosophers. He wrote:
"I do not mean to pretend that one should pretend that philosophy in the two traditions is basically the same; obviously that would be ridiculous. We can re-establish communication only by going back to the point of divergence. It’s no use now shouting across the gulf. It is obvious that philosophers will never reach agreement. It is a pity, however, if they can no longer talk to one another or understand one another. It is difficult to achieve such understanding, because if you think people are on the wrong track, you may have no great desire to talk with them or to take the trouble to criticize their views. But we have reached a point at which it is as if we’re working in different subjects."
Unnoted, of course, is that Dummett's conception of "analytic" philosophy--as "an armchair subject, requiring only thought" and as trying "to clarify the concepts in terms of which we conceive of [reality], and hence the linguistic expressions by means of which we formulate our conception" as he put it in his last book--was such that huge numbers of philosophers in the Anglophone world today wouldn't qualify, though one can happily stipulate that Dummett is an "analytic" philosopher in his sense, and Heidegger is not.
The more interesting question is why it is so important for Critchley to pretend that "philosophers are broadly and lamentably divided into two opposed camps." The reason, if you are a scholar of the Continental traditions and have read Critchley, is obvious: by inventing the two "divided" and "opposed" camps, you insulate yourself from criticism by the opposing camp. In my experience, the "analytic" philosophers aren't much worried about this, but those who are very keen to carve out a "Continental" category (basically the Party-Line folks) are, and for good reasons as we have seen.
But back to Dummett: what did he mean by "the point of divergence" between the two traditions? Based on his earlier work, I take it he meant the Frege line of philosophy versus the Husserl line of philosophy (though, ironically, Frege and Husserl both represent anti-naturalist reactions to late 19th-century naturalism). That division makes some sense in the 20th-century, but only to some extent--Lukacs, who returned Hegel to 20th-century Marxism, was not operating in the thrall of Husserl, and nor were Horkheimer and Adorno in re-inventing Marx and Freud for 20th-century Critical Theory. And if one asks what the connection is between Frege and John Rawls, Bernard Williams, and G.A. Cohen (apart from the fact that they all probably read "On Sense and Reference" at some point) the limits of this dividing line even for the 20th-century becomes apparent.
The actual reality is this: there are a group of philosophers in the Anglophone world--at about a dozen PhD-granting programs in the US (basically the "SPEP universe"), and at a handful of places in the UK--who are marginalized from and not very knowledgeable about the main tendencies in Anglophone philosophy over the last fifty years, but who are deadly serious about Heidegger and who need to justify their existence to university administrators. Even though there are now literally hundreds of philosophers at the major "analytic" departments that award PhDs who work on the Continental traditions in philosophy (including Heidegger), these SPEPPies need to perpetuate the illusion of two different "camps" so they can explain why the folks in "their camp" aren't taken seriously outside their network. (A particular embarrassment for them is that they aren't even taken very seriously in Continental Europe anymore!) That's the real significance of Critchley's irrelevant intervention on the occasion of Professor Dummett's passing.