Continuing with some thoughts and research related to posts that Eric, Catarina, and I have written regarding the history of the continental-analytic distinction (see here, here, and here) and the importance of turning the discussion to methodological differences in order to better understand this history, I stumbled across Sidney Hook's 1930 essay in the Journal of Philosophy, "A Personal Impression of Contemporary German Philosophy". After reading this essay I've concluded it's likely that Nagel's 1936 "Impressions and Appraisals" essay that Eric discusses in his post (linked above) was influenced by Hook's essay.
There are also 5 points I gleaned from this essay that are relevant to recent discussions regarding the methodologies of analytic and continental philosophy.
1. The most striking "impression" Hook walks away with with respect to the philosophical culture of Germany was the emphasis it placed on history. "To be without historical antecedents in Germany is to be without standing, a stranger in the realm of mind...Consequently, the study of the history of philosophy and its reformulation is the chief activity of academic philosophers. The problems of philosophy tend to be presented in terms of their history, not in terms of their logic." (p. 145).
2. Related to this emphasis upon the history of philosophy - and a relationship that is not accidental according to Hook as we will see below (point #5) - is an indifference to science. As Hook surveyed the philosophical landscape of Germany, he concluded that "Save for the Neo-Kantians and positivistic disciples of Mach, all schools are amazingly indifferent to the methods and results of modern physical science." (p. 147). This is surprising, Hook adds, precisely because the work of Planck, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger was an instance of contemporary Germans who were making key contributions to physical science.
3. In his observations concerning Husserl, Hook makes two points that are especially relevant considering contemporary discussions within and outside continental philosophy regarding realism. First, Hook identifies the phenomenological tradition spearheaded by Husserl as "the strongest analytical group in Germany and [secondly] closest to the English and American school of neo-realism." (p. 152). Whether justified or not, Hook sees Husserl as closely aligned with the Russellian tradition in anglo-american philosophy. What is important for Hook's fourth point is that the same is not true of Heidegger.
4. In an earlier post when I discussed Abraham Stone's essay on Carnap and Heidegger, Carnap and Heidegger were seen to be more closely aligned than Heidegger and Husserl. Hook comes to a similar conclusion, though for very different reasons. First, Hook criticizes Heidegger for his terminology: "His book [referring to Sein und Zeit] is such a jungle of arbitrarily-invented tecnical terms, that only the natural belief that where there is so much smoke there must be at least a little fire, keeps the reader at the grueling task of trying to make sense out of its pages." (p. 154). Hook's criticism of Heidegger is much more in line with what was generally assumed to be Carnap's criticism of Heidegger, which Stone shows is not the dismissive criticism it may come across as being. Secondly, Hook offers an anticipatory critique of Rorty: "Parts of Heidegger's work sound as if someone were trying to translate Dewey into a transcendental mythology. And there have been those who have been misled by some of the pragmatic undertones into looking for a bridge from American to German philosophy." (p. 155). And finally, though one gets the sense there's more, Hook claims Heidegger's philosophy is nothing more than the culmination of a German tendency to produce a "disguised metaphysical theology," whereby "Instead of creation by divine fiat, creation by the ego--natural or transcendental--took its place." (p. 156). The German tradition, in other words, is correlationist; or, as Hook puts it, "German philosophers constitute one great idealistic family..." (p. 144). But there is hope, hencee...
5. Along comes Nicolai Hartmann, who Hook thinks (wrongly) "will soon be greeted as Germany's leading philosopher." (p. 157). And what Hartmann has going for him is that his "method is analytic, his style lucid and vigorous" (ibid.), and he had "training as an astronomer" (p. 159). This last point is critical for it connects with Hook's own interest in Peirce, and in particular Peirce's advice to students "to master some specific discipline before studying philosophy," (a point Nagel repeats in his 1936 essay). Rather than being self-absorbed within the history of philosophy, as was the wont of the German tradition, following the Peircean dictum pointed to a way out, which Hook then connects positively with Reichenback, Schlick, Carnap, and Grelling.
With point 5 in mind, one could say that Nagel's 1936 essay was a follow up to Hook's, focusing in this instance on the positive trends Hook only gestures towards at the end of his essay.