Among young students of continental philosophy, a certain orthodoxy seems to be taking hold. Heidegger and Derrida are out, and with them the various approaches to philosophical discourse that proceed via commentary. Suspicion of system-building is out, and accordingly Hegel is reemerging as a major point of reference — and one must have very firm convictions about the proper reading of Hegel, dismissing vast swathes of the existing traditional commentary. More generally, caution and qualification seem to be out. We must boldly speculate into new realms, it seems, having developed our own axiomatic ontology by the age of 23.
Alas, I have come too late to partake in such trends. I still think we have a great deal to learn from Heidegger and Derrida. I view commentary on past philosophers as a necessary education in philosophy, a productive grappling with vast minds. I’m more sympathetic toward Hegel than some, but I am willing to admit — as Zizek does in The Indivisible Remainder — that the traditional reading of Hegel does have a basis in the text and moreover I’m reluctant to take too firm a stance on the true meaning of an author who can be construed as embracing virtually every possible position. Most of all, though, I am unwilling to speculate out into the air, without the guardrail of working through the thoughts of those who have gone before me. The world will have to look elsewhere for a bold new form of jargon purporting to capture the essence of the things themselves.
I am, in short, an old man now.