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By Richard Kearney

Continental philosophy is without doubt one of the 20th century's most vital and not easy philosophical pursuits. This significant quantity contains fourteen chapters on its significant representatives and faculties, together with phenomenology, existentialism and postmodernism.

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Pieces are parts that are separable from their wholes. Moments are parts that are so interrelated with one another, or with their wholes, that they cannot be given separately. We learn to recognize the various relationships between parts and wholes by attempting successfully or unsuccessfully to vary these relationships in imagination. For example, we may conclude that the colour of a thing is inseparable from its surface (or extension) because we cannot successfully imagine eliminating one without also eliminating the other.

Indeed, he often expressed admiration for the sceptical tradition in philosophy, and thought that Hume’s radical critique of presuppositions made him the greatest of modern philosophers. He also rejected the arrogance and chauvinism of those who claimed that philosophy had achieved its culmination in German thought and expression. Philosophy, he argued, cannot be the exclusive property of any single culture or language, for the emergence of the philosophic spirit introduced a new mode of teleology characterized by the complementary traits of universality and infinity.

Intentionality is our openness to the world, our transcending mode of being. Husserl also developed the implications of this fundamental thesis. He repudiated Locke’s interpretation of ‘mind’ as an inner space set off from the rest of nature, and he rejected Kant’s distinction between phenomena and things-in-themselves. He also rejected the view that the task of philosophy is to guarantee that our concepts and theories somehow mirror the world. These themes brought a sense of liberation to many philosophers who by the early decades of the twentieth century had become weary of the insoluble problems generated by the modern account of cognition.

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