The Legacy of Idealism

Pinkard, Terry.  German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism.  Cambridge.

The more I think about Terry Pinkard’s work, the more I am inclined to say that Idealism facilitated modernity’s exhaustion. Kant introduced his paradox: exactly how coherent is it to say that we are subject to the laws we legislate for ourselves? This was the problem that all of the philosophers after Kant dealt with.

Perhaps one of Kant’s more interesting suggestions is found in his third critique:the experience of natural beauty gave us the indeterminate concept of the supersensible substrate of both nature and freedom. What is this substrate? Possibly the Absolute or something. And this is where Pinkard gives a summary of thinkers from Fichte to Schelling to Hegel.

More attention is paid to Hegel, obviously, and while Pinkard does offer some interesting insights, it is not much of a thorough analysis. He does anticipate, even if he doesn’t say so, later moves by Heidegger and Gadamer: We are “thrown” into a social space and when we ask and give reasons for reasons, we are usually asking (and answering) questions that have already been supplied to us.

All in all, it is a fine survey of German Idealism if at times it is a bit short. Interestingly, Pinkard’s account gives more attention to analytic philosophers than one would normally find in treatises on Idealism.

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