The Fate of Reason is the first general history devoted to the period between Kant and Fichte, one of the most revolutionary and fertile in modern philosophy. The philosophers of this time broke with the two central tenets of the modern Cartesian tradition: the authority of reason and the primacy of epistemology. They also witnessed the decline of the Aufklärung, the completion of Kant’s philosophy, and the beginnings of post-Kantian idealism.
Thanks to Frederick C. Beiser we can newly appreciate the influence of Kant’s critics on the development of his philosophy. Beiser brings the controversies, and the personalities who engaged in them, to life and tells a story that has uncanny parallels with the debates of the present.
In undertaking this survey of the course pursued by German philosophy during the concluding decades of the eighteenth century, Frederick C. Beiser has produced a far-ranging and carefully documented contribution to the history of ideas… [A] scholarly, richly illustrated and well-integrated account of a fascinating moment in the history of thought.
[The Fate of Reason] is a model of lucidity and ease of style, and these are traits which will certainly make it excellent reading for the general reader. But its freedom from pedantry only accentuates the formidably complete knowledge of the period on which it is based. The book offers a genuine contribution to the interpretation of the development of German Idealism, and for this it will also become an important source book for the specialist.
[This book] will undoubtedly serve as an authoritative reference work in its field for many years to come and [it] deserves to be read by anyone interested in the history of German philosophy ‘after Kant’… There exists no better or more reliable guide to the ‘era’ in question than Beiser’s The Fate of Reason. Every student of post-Kantian German philosophy will want to own this book.
[Beiser’s] analysis of the period is by far the most thorough to date, and it is certainly one that everyone seriously interested in the history of modern philosophy should read.
The story Beiser’s book tells is an absolutely crucial one for anyone who wants to understand Hegel. More than that, the epistemological and metaphilosophical crises it relates are of considerable general contemporary interest. It can and should be read with profit by philosophers with no antecedent interest in German philosophy of the time. I found it very exciting a—‘cracking good read’ of the sort one finds too seldom in intellectual history.
This is a unique, original, and important work. It undertakes a project never before attempted in English, nor likely soon to be attempted again; nor is there, at least as far as I know, any comparable twentieth-century work in German. This is not, however, because everyone else has thought better of the idea; it can only be because anyone else who ever considered it has been daunted by the magnitude of the task involved. What Beiser has written is the history of German philosophy in the epoch of Kant, a history focused primarily on the issue of the authority of reason. There is a great unity to Beiser’s treatment: it presents a picture of a whole generation of philosophical activity in all its richness, greater fish as well as lesser ones included. [The account] is fascinating, because it has rarely been attempted at all and because this generation of German philosophy is the first such generation of professional, university-oriented philosophy in modern times. Thus, Beiser gives us a wonderful glimpse into the origin of our profession as such. The richness of the fabric, the detailed presentation of the views, makes [the movements treated] come alive.
This treatment of a neglected chapter in the history of philosophy ranks in thoroughness with the best German sources and is philosophically acute enough to engage the English-speaking philosophical reader. The book is very well written and holds the reader’s interest extremely well. Beiser has a talent for seeing the lasting philosophical substance behind disputes couched in the language and problems of another age and culture. The mixture of well-handled philosophical substance and fascinating historical detail will make the book attractive to a wide variety of readers.
- 410 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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