The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy

The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy: a systematic reconstruction

Eckart Förster
Translated by Brady Bowman
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 432
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Kant declared that philosophy began in 1781 with his Critique of Pure Reason. In 1806 Hegel announced that it had been completed. Förster assesses the steps that led from Kant’s “beginning” to Hegel’s “end” and concludes that both Kant and Hegel were indeed right. His study reveals Goethe’s significant contribution to post-Kantian thinking.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06498-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. Prologue: A Beginning of Philosophy
    (pp. 1-14)

    Why, according to Kant, was there no philosophy prior to the Critique of Pure Reason?

    An initial, though tentative, answer to this question can be taken from one of Kant’s letters to his former student Marcus Herz, written in 1772 and thus nine years before publication of the Critique. After briefly describing a book on which he has begun to work and which is to be entitled The Limits of Sensibility and Reason, Kant admits “that I still lacked something essential, something that in my long metaphysical studies I, as well as others, had failed to consider and which in...

  4. Part I: “Kant has given the results . . .”
    • 1 Kant’s “Revolution of the Mode of Thought”
      (pp. 17-40)

      Let us turn, then, to Kant’s solution to the problem of metaphysics. Here I can disregard the numerous problems of detail presented by the Critique, and concentrate on the three basic problems I referred to above as the ‘metaphysical deduction’, the ‘completeness proof’, and the ‘transcendental deduction’. Kant must begin with the question of whether a priori representations are to be found in each of the three faculties sensibility, understanding, and reason, and if so, how many. To this end, each faculty must be considered in itself, excluding any influence from sources external to it. “In the transcendental aesthetic we...

    • 2 Critique and Morals
      (pp. 41-56)

      With the Critique, the “tribunal of pure reason” had passed a sentence on theoretical metaphysics that was universally valid and promised a lasting peace between the parties to the dispute: The pretensions of dogmatic reason have been dismissed once and for all since it has been shown that there cannot in principle be any theoretical cognition outside of possible experience. The fundamental objections of skeptical reason are also overruled, since it has been shown that, in relation to possible experience, a priori cognition is indeed real and demonstrable: “Reason, when employed apart from all experience, can know propositions entirely a...

    • 3 From A to B
      (pp. 57-74)

      In the preface Kant makes perfectly clear what it is he intends to accomplish with the work: “The present groundwork is . . . nothing more than the search for and establishment of the supreme principle of morality” (4:392). For that the principle of morality had remained largely misunderstood and that the possibility of a categorical imperative was yet to be demonstrated, had been revealed to Kant by Garve and the Göttingen review. Hence, as he goes on to say, “this [groundwork] must come first, and without it there can be no moral philosophy at all” (4:390; emphasis added). The...

    • 4 How to Become a Spinozist
      (pp. 75-99)

      While traveling in the Summer of 1780, one year prior to the publication of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Jacobi had met Lessing, the guiding star of the German Enlightenment, and learned to his surprise that Lessing was a professed Spinozist. At that time, Spinoza was a thinker seldom read, but much maligned as a purported atheist and spoken of by many in tones befitting of “a dead dog” (JWA 1,1:27/193). Many knew of him only through the defamatory article in Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697)—an enormously influential work which went through five editions in the course...

    • 5 From One Make Three
      (pp. 100-124)

      The task of preparing a new edition of the Critique of Pure Reason presented Kant with a whole series of problems. On the one side, there was the matter of answering the various objections which had been raised in reviews and of eliminating the obscurities of the first edition as far as possible. Especially affected were the transcendental aesthetic (in part), the deduction of the categories, and the paralogisms. Kant rewrote the corresponding chapters without changing their basic idea. At the same time, however, the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science signaled the...

    • 6 The “Critical Enterprise”: Complete?
      (pp. 125-152)

      No book by Immanuel Kant gained such immediate success as the Third Critique, which eventually came out in 1790. In contrast to the first two Critiques, which had initially met with incomprehension and rejection, this work was hailed with instant enthusiasm. Schelling for instance called it “Kant’s deepest work, which, if he could have begun with it in the way he finished with it, would have probably given his whole philosophy another direction” (SW X:177). As I mentioned at the end of Chapter 4, Goethe too felt indebted to the book for a “most felicitous period” of his life, and...

    • 7 The “Critical Enterprise”: Incomplete?
      (pp. 153-176)

      “Thus with this I bring my entire critical enterprise to an end,” Kant writes in the preface to the Critique of the Power of Judgment. “I shall proceed without hindrance to the doctrinal part, in order, if possible, to win yet from my increasing age some time still favorable to that” (5:170).

      In the space of just a few years, the original question of the possibility of metaphysics—more precisely, of a metaphysics of nature with a defensible claim to being scientific—had given rise to something which at first was quite unforeseeable, namely a system of transcendental philosophy which...

  5. Part II: “. . . the premises are still missing”
    • 8 Fichte’s “Complete Revolution of the Mode of Thought”
      (pp. 179-204)

      Kant’s renewal of philosophy, his attempt to raise philosophy to the level of a science, had originally begun with the question of how non-empirical, veridical reference to objects is possible, and it ultimately had led to a system of transcendental philosophy that comprised three Critiques. Initially, the first two critiques comprised two freestanding works with no integral connection to each other. For while on the one hand freedom is defined in explicit opposition to the laws of nature, it is supposed on the other hand to be capable of realization in the natural world. It is only the Critique of...

    • 9 Morals and Critique
      (pp. 205-229)

      At the beginning of the last chapter we derived two corollaries from Fichte’s determination of the third principle of the Wissenschaftslehre:

      Ap) The I posits the non-I as determined by the I; that is, the I determines the non-I—it acts or is practical.

      At ) The I posits itself as determined by the non-I; that is, the I posits itself as affected—it perceives or is theoretical.

      So far we have only dealt with the second proposition, the basis of the theoretical part of the Foundation. This part culminated in an “main antithesis” between the I as a representational,...

    • 10 Spiritus sive natura?
      (pp. 230-249)

      When Schelling arrived in Jena as a newly appointed professor in October 1798, he was twenty-three years old. His reputation, established by his numerous publications, preceded him, and the students were filled with anticipation. They were not disappointed: “Indeed, there was something marvelous, something magical about the man, the way he stood at the lectern in the auditorium, which though not especially large was crammed full . . . two candles before him that left the rest of the room almost dark, and the whole audience at the very height of anticipation. How I felt when, speaking of the ascending...

    • 11 The Methodology of the Intuitive Understanding
      (pp. 250-276)

      Before turning to Goethe, however, we must clarify why Kant denies intuitive understanding to humans. Since he introduced the notion of intuitive understanding as a contrasting concept that could shed greater light on the peculiar nature of our own discursive understanding, it will in turn illuminate the notion of the intuitive understanding if we start from the discursive understanding—the only kind of understanding Kant considers possible for humans. Kant elaborates this point in numerous passages: “From the side of the understanding, human cognition is discursive, i.e., it takes place through representations which take as the ground of cognition that...

    • 12 Does Philosophy Have a History?
      (pp. 277-305)

      With the result of the preceding chapter I have once again skipped ahead in the order of events: Goethe was writing the Theory of Colors—the first work he consciously based on the methodology of the intuitive understanding—at the same time that Hegel was at work on the Phenomenology of Spirit. So we need to catch up on the steps leading up to this time. For when Hegel arrived in Jena in 1801, he was still very far from the Phenomenology. It is true that from 1802 onward he repeatedly announced a work that was to be entitled “Logic...

    • 13 Hegel’s “Voyages of Discovery”: Incomplete
      (pp. 306-350)

      Hegel’s contractual negotiations with the Bamberg publisher Goebhardt make it evident that by this point in time he had a clear conception of the demonstrability of the idea. The volume they agreed on was to have the title System of Science and include two parts: the introduction entitled “First Part: Science of the Experience of Consciousness,” and, as its second part, the “Logic.” The printing of the first part commenced in February 1806 and the contract specified that it was to be completed by Easter, which fell on April 6, 1806. Only then was Hegel, whose financial situation was precarious,...

    • 14 Hegel’s “Voyages of Discover y”: Complete
      (pp. 351-372)

      Why the dispute with the publisher? An answer begins to emerge when we look back at the actual course that consciousness has taken up to this point, which comprises three circles or three turns along a spiral ascent (Figure 14.1).

      The last circle is not yet complete; only the dialectic of natural consciousness has come to an end. One step beyond section V.B still remains to be taken before the final circle is completed. Natural consciousness, at the conclusion of its dialectic, has arrived at ‘our’ standpoint, that of the philosophical observer. It now knows, as we do, that the...

  6. Epilogue: An End of Philosophy
    (pp. 373-378)

    The twenty-five years of philosophy are the years in which philosophy became a science, thereby also arriving at knowledge of itself. Let us look back over the path that we have traveled.

    Philosophy (metaphysics) claims to be cognition of the world purely on the basis of thought. It thus presupposes non-empirical, but nonetheless veridical reference to objects. In order to investigate whether and in what way such a thing could be possible at all, Kant inaugurates transcendental philosophy, which accordingly abstracts from all given objects in order to consider the human cognitive faculty by itself. Before it had arrived at...

  7. Translator’s Note
    (pp. 379-382)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. 383-384)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 385-402)
  10. Index
    (pp. 403-408)