Kant declared that philosophy began in 1781 with his Critique of Pure Reason. In 1806 Hegel announced that philosophy had now been completed. Eckart Förster examines the reasons behind these claims and assesses the steps that led in such a short time from Kant’s “beginning” to Hegel’s “end.” He concludes that, in an unexpected yet significant sense, both Kant and Hegel were indeed right.
The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy follows the unfolding of a key idea during this exceptionally productive period: the Kantian idea that philosophy can be scientific and, consequently, can be completed. Förster’s study combines historical research with philosophical insight and leads him to propose a new thesis. The development of Kant’s transcendental philosophy in his three Critiques, Förster claims, resulted in a fundamental distinction between “intellectual intuition” and “intuitive understanding.” Overlooked until now, this distinction yields two takes on how to pursue philosophy as science after Kant. One line of thought culminates in Fichte’s theory of freedom (Wissenschaftslehre), while the other—and here Förster brings Goethe’s significance to the fore—results in Goethe's transformation of the Kantian idea of an intuitive understanding in light of Spinoza's third kind of knowledge. Both strands are brought together in Hegel and propel his split from Schelling.
Förster’s work makes an original contribution to our understanding of the classical era of German philosophy—an expanding interest within the Anglophone philosophical community.
Eckart Förster has written one of the most important books on German philosophy to have appeared in several decades, important both for the many new things it has to teach us about the history of the "twenty-five years" of philosophy, and for its remarkable contributions to philosophy itself. A truly path-breaking achievement.
In this book, a great Kant scholar asks two fundamental questions about the extraordinary period of German philosophy from 1781–1806. Why did Kant claim that he had begun philosophy anew—and why did Hegel think that he had brought it to an end? Eckart Förster's answers are historically cogent and philosophically challenging. They are rooted in the deepest learning yet, at the same time, presented with extraordinary clarity. The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy is a masterpiece.
For several years, scholars working in the vibrant field of German Idealism—philosophers, literary critics, historians of science, art historians—have been tensely awaiting the appearance of Förster's major synthetic study of the period. But The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy exceeds even the most extravagant expectations. In its combination of detailed historical and textual reconstruction with penetrating philosophical thought, in its unrivalled perspicuity of presentation, in its narrative drive, Förster's book will reward its readers' engagement in every respect. It is masterful in its command of the work of Kant, Jacobi, Spinoza, Fichte, Schelling, Goethe, and Hegel. It is moving in its commitment to philosophical reflection of the boldest order. Its clarity is marvelous to behold. No serious student of the period will read this book only once.
Kant maintained that philosophy finally had begun with his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. In 1806, Hegel claimed that philosophy was now completed. Therefore, philosophy existed for only 25 years. In this masterful book, Förster examines the conceptions of philosophy held by Kant and Hegel that required them to make such seemingly extravagant pronouncements. Förster argues that, astonishingly, they were correct. To do this, he provides synthetic and critical examinations of not only the crucial texts and arguments of Kant and Hegel but also those of Spinoza, Jacobi, Fichte, Goethe, Herder, and Schelling. Förster's command of the historical sources is most impressive. Moreover, this book is clearly written, and Bowman's translation is commendable. Scholars and graduate students will welcome this masterpiece.
- Harvard University Press
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