This New York Times article on the Analytic/Continental divide states that:

"Because of its commitment to clarity, analytic philosophy functions as an effective lingua franca for any philosophical ideas. (Even the most difficult writers, such as Sellars and Davidson, find disciples who write clarifying commentaries.) There is, moreover, a continuing demand for analytic expositions of major continental figures."

So it is possible to "translate" continental ideas into analytic style prose, and presumably it has been done before many times (per the continuing demand).

Have there been any such analytic expositions of Heidegger, and Derrida? I find Derrida hard to understand, and Heidegger outright impossible, and none of the lectures or sources I've looked at make any sense at all w/r to the latter.


5 Answers 5


For Heidegger, an example would be Ernst Tugendhat. He was educated in the German traditional philosophy and not in the least in Heidegger. He was influenced by the analytical approach after a semester in the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After that he combined an analytical/linguistic approach with a 'charitative' (i.e. not [immediately] dismissive) reading.

Relevant references:

  • Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die sprachanalytische Philosophie. (1975, English: Traditional and analytical philosophy. Lectures on the philosophy of language)
  • Selbstbewußtsein und Selbstbestimmung. (1979, English: Self-consciousness and self-determination)
  • Philosophische Aufsätze (1992)

Another is Dutch analytical philosopher Herman Philipse, who wrote a thorough book on Heidegger. He succeeds quite well in a 'translation', especially in untangling the different motive in the question of Being. But his ultimate conclusion is less charitable than Tugendhat's.

  • Heidegger's Philosophy of Being: A Critical Interpretation. (1998)

Briefly, I don't think an analytical "translation" would be possible, since both writers are heavily invested in the medium of language and their idiosyncratic philosophical concerns. It would be like asking for an accurate, "realistic rendering" of a Matisse.

But there are lots of secondary and introductory texts, as you know, and lexicons. These help with the framework and crucial terms, then you can begin to ease into sense of the work. Among analytical types, Rorty was somewhat sympathetic to, and wrote essays on, the continental philosophers, and I'm sure there are others. Heidegger's student Gadamer is relatively clear, though I haven't read his works on Heidegger himself.

I read some Heidegger along with secondary texts, and enjoy it almost in the sense of poetry and for glimpses into the history of philosophy. I now have the new translation of "Being and Time" (Stambaugh) and a "Heidegger Dictionary" (Dahlstrom), but will have to report on my misadventures at a future date.

However, I do think Heidegger, in particular, is kind of philosophical cul-de-sac leading only further and further into Heidegger. I would not expect to discover fruitful connections to the concerns of the analytical lineage. I'll know more when I finish B&T...about 30 years from now.

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    "However, I do think Heidegger, in particular, is kind of philosophical cul-de-sac leading only further and further into Heidegger." -- To me he makes no sense whatsoever, in a Jabberwocky kind of way -- but then every now and then someone refers to him as the greatest/most important philosopher of the 20th century (Political sympathies not withstanding) and I get the nagging feeling that I am the one missing something. Dec 2, 2015 at 23:55
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    That's not surprising, because he was attempting to completely revise modern philosophy, turning from Cartesian epistemology back to ontology. He is really struggling to recapture some ancient, primal way of thinking in relation to objects that has been, in his view, covered up since Plato. He is no dummy or fake, extremely knowledgebale about the origins of philosophy in Greek "words." His sense that philosophy, like everything else, must "go through" words is not unlike Wittgenstein, equally oracular. I would first read "about" Heidegger... and the transition from Husserl. Dec 3, 2015 at 2:02

The following link is not a direct answer to your question.

But the text shows how the result could look like when translating Heidegger into clear English by an analytic philosopher.

The present text is a translation - in the sense of rational reconstruction - by Popper of a text from Habermas.


The translation starts at p 92 of the original, i.e. at page 6 of the clip.


The closest I’ve seen is the chapter on Heidegger in Friedman’s Parting of the Ways. He describes the genesis of Heidegger’s views in response to epistemological difficulties in neo-Kantians Lask and Rickert, and in Husserl’s phenomenology, and then gives a detailed review of Sein und Zeit in “analytic translation” (Friedman is more of a neo-Kantian, but he speaks the language).

In some ways, Heidegger was Hegel to Husserl’s Kant. The analogy extends, Hegel revived metaphysics and fused it with Kant’s epistemology by radically reinterpreting both, and injecting social and historical dimensions. Heidegger similarly gave a metaphysical “ground” to Husserl’s phenomenology, by radically reinterpreting (along with Kanty and Hegel themselves), and infusing it with existentialist themes. His Dasein, the main character of Sein und Zeit, is an existentialist replacement for high minded sterility of Cartesian subject and Husserl’s “pure consciousness”. The analytic/continental divide has a parallel in empiricist/idealist divide of 19th century. I’d put Heidegger as #2 for the 20th because Husserl’s range and influence, like Kant’s, extends over both camps, he stands as the last major unifying pillar of scientific and humanistic rationality.

I second that Heidegger’s writing is a philosophical poetry in prose, that presupposes slow meditation style reading. To get a taste however his short essays like Anaximander Fragment or What is Metaphysics are much better places than Sein und Zeit.

As for Derrida, I can only commiserate, in his essay on geometry the subject imposes some restraint, and the preface gives a nice commentary.


Jabberwocky language is an interesting comparison; here's the first two lines of Lewis Carrols delightful verse:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe

For comparison, here, I'd suggest the first line of Joyce's Finnegans Wake - which might be thought as a sustained attempt at a novel in Jabberwockian style.

riverrun, past Eve and Adams, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us back from commodius vicus of recirculation to Howth Castle and environs.

Now, the first extract, at least to me gives me a picture of dolphins gambolling in the waves in a brilliant sunny day - but to translate into this removes entirely the wordplay and alliterative music which is essential to this poetic effect - it also works against the grain of conventional poetry which ties in, I suppose, with Carrils unconventionality.

The second extract, from Joyce has a gloss but it moves in deeper waters, as it references myth, Christianity, cyclical time and therefore natality and mortality.

Again the resources of language that Joyce brings to bear is essential to the artistic effect; still one might say, it's some serious effort to read in this manner, because the inter-textuality needs to be natural for one to appreciate the artistry in itself, as opposed to discursively - which is a step away.

Similarly, I would suggest that philosophers that are heavily invested in language, and it's modes of expression do require glossing, and commentaries as an initiation into that tradition - which might seem only to be a tradition unto themselves - but aren't as they are speaking to each other - as they should be.

One example: the word, suture, appears both in Badiou and Lacan; and a proper glossing has to take a horizontal perspective (ie comparative by several thinkers) as opposed to vertical (ie comparative within one thinker).

Perhaps, in the internet age - I mean the possibilities of actual intertextuality - as opposed to one of the mind - it may become much easier to penetrate this 'fog' of language without getting thoroughly lost and bewildered - this itself was an admission by Agamben who said he was rescued from the Heideggerian mists, I think, Foucault.

But this doesn't solve the problem of aboutness - how does one find out what a philosophy is about? This is a question of orientation; for example as someone trained in the physical-mathematical traditions of the West, I was interested in things that are, and how they are in the slipstream of time - so hearing that Heidegger Being and Time, is a profound meditation on such-like, I looked at it and was puzzled, irritated and annoyed by its opacity - it's unapproachability.

It takes time to learn new habits, which doesn't mean losing old habits - but sometimes it does; and of course there is the hurdle of mutually incomprehensible languages - I mean easily.

And for me there, it was a question of ontology; if one is trained into thinking of mass or energy as basic, this doesn't help - or rather it does somewhat as it's one aspect - in Spinozan language a mode; and in Aristotle, he points to this:

But it may be possible for everything to be made of the same stuff; this ... is the sense in which some natural scientists say that everything is one.

PS I just read the first chapter of Time & Being, in Joan Stambaughs translation - and it wasn't so bad...

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