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This volume endeavors to explain the most important developments in philosophy since the end of the Second World War. Yet even when we restrict our focus primarily to those insights and movements that most profoundly shaped the English-speaking philosophical world (as we reluctantly found it necessary to do), it still remains the case that no one – and no one volume (not even a volume like ours, filled with more than fifty chapters from a diverse range of leading philosophers) – can tell this whole story. This is not only because there is no one single overarching story to tell, but also because the overlapping and sometimes conflicting stories that together constitute this complex history are still being written – here in this book, for example. Two of the reasons for the history of philosophy’s necessary incompleteness came to the fore of (what we risk calling) the general self-understanding of Western philosophy during this historical period. These interconnected philosophical reasons (or self-realizations) merit emphasis here, especially because they remain subtle undercurrents throughout the book.
Almost everyone who studies the philosophical issues surrounding “the analytic/Continental divide” now recognizes that the supposed dichotomy between “analytic” and “Continental” philosophy is itself deeply problematic philosophically.1 I’ll drop the quotes before they become tedious, but I do want to insist that, as Bernard Williams (2006) famously pointed out, cross-classifying the main division within contemporary Western philosophy in the mixed, geographical-cum-methodological terms analytic and Continental is rather like trying to sort cars into two (would-be) mutually exclusive groups, those “with an automatic transmission,” on the one hand, and those “made in Germany,” on the other.2