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Major German Idealists
March 13, 2009 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Society for German Idealism. Kant on the Web. North American Kant Society. North American Fichte Society. Hegel Society of America. Hegel Resource. Hegel. More Hegel. Schelling. Kant. Herder. Schiller.
posted by ornate insect (39 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Should I give up if I can't even understand the "Hegel for Beginners" section in the "Hegel Resource" link? Nothing has ever hurt my head more than Hegel, and that's coming from a guy who's had a lot of hangovers.
posted by Hoopo at 7:08 PM on March 13, 2009


Geoffrey Warnock on Kant

Kant on Metafilter

Arguably the best single-volume overview of German Idealism
posted by ornate insect at 7:15 PM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


How they went on to crush France, Poland and Czechoslovakia instead of boring themselves to death is beyond my comprehension. They should have collapsed into a black hole of ennui.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:16 PM on March 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


What drives me crazy is that nobody has started (at least not that I can find) a John Stuart Mill society. C'mon! Mill was way more important than Fichte, or Schelling, or Herder, or Schiller!
posted by paultopia at 7:16 PM on March 13, 2009


International Society for Utilitarian Studies: The John Stuart Mill Bicentennial Conference, 1806-2006
posted by ornate insect at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2009


Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.


I'll stop now
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:24 PM on March 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, sure, there's the ISUS, but that's not really a Mill society. Heck, Mill was only a utilitarian in the barest and most technical sense, not like Bentham and Sidgwick.
posted by paultopia at 7:26 PM on March 13, 2009


Hoopo : Don't ever give up! Hangovers might still be the way to go, though. And if you're experiencing pain, that could be treated with certain remedies which have proven to further the understanding of Hegel quite some time ago already.
posted by morizky at 7:31 PM on March 13, 2009


paultopia: fair enough, but just to be clear: only Hegel, Kant, and Fichte have academic societies. Schelling, Herder, Schiller do not. Also: I think a Mill society would be a good idea; why not start one? Also: philosophy need not be a competition: one can be a fan of both Mill and Kant, etc. Maybe my next post will be on the British Empiricists or American Pragmatists. I tend to be ecumical in my own views of philosophical history. I'm not picking favorites here.
posted by ornate insect at 7:34 PM on March 13, 2009


C'mon! Mill was way more important than Fichte, or Schelling, or Herder, or Schiller!

don't feed the troll!

having taken exactly one class on kant when i was a student i will say that modern philosophy tends to read kant rather badly because they have already internalized the notion that philosophy and by extension human thought is profoundly limited i.e. the box of questions that have true answers is vanishing small. the general tendency is to read kant as being a proto-critical philosopher who asks what questions have true answers. this is entirely backwards, his persepctive was post-enlightenment and a grand attempt to ask what must be true so that we have infinite knowledge of the world.

most scientists today hold onto a laughably naive empiricism when pressed or an equally laughable mystical idealism see: platonism.

the foundations of modern physics were laid largely in Germany. and the germans physicists could and did talk about Kant and Fichte and Schelling. but today, Kant is largely unread, largely because as I asserted before, those who do read him don't have the world view to get what he was trying to accomplish.
posted by geos at 7:43 PM on March 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


How they went on to crush France, Poland and Czechoslovakia instead of boring themselves to death is beyond my comprehension.

I think it's really hard for the post wwii anglo-saxon world to truly appreciate the intellectual accomplishments of late 19th century germany. the story of wwi and wwii is the story of the implosion of that culture.

i often wonder what the world would have been like if all those millions of fichte and herder and kant and hegel readers (and not just germans) hadn't been turned into fertilizer in france in wwi.
posted by geos at 7:46 PM on March 13, 2009


geos, you might be interested in this book

Also, FWIW: Kant's influence on Peirce, and therefore on American pragmatism, is difficult to overstate.
posted by ornate insect at 7:47 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


i often wonder what the world would have been like if all those millions of fichte and herder and kant and hegel readers (and not just germans) hadn't been turned into fertilizer in france in wwi.

I would think the Marxists might have prevailed. Interesting historical "what if."
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:52 PM on March 13, 2009


Why is Arthur Schopenhauer always left off these lists?
posted by dilettanti at 8:23 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is Arthur Schopenhauer always left off these lists?

Because he's usually seen as an anti-idealist, and a pre-cursor to the greatest anti-idealist of them all, Nietzsche. Schopenhauer, Neitzsche, and Kierkegaard are often seen as proto-existentialists.
posted by ornate insect at 8:27 PM on March 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I read Hegel's "The Science of Logic" (and a book that supposedly explained "The Science of Logic") because two characters in Emma Bull and Steven Brust's book "Freedom and Necessity" argued about it a lot. I never did decide who was right.

You posted this too late for me to check out the links, but I will come back to it.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:28 PM on March 13, 2009


Also, FWIW: Kant's influence on Peirce, and therefore on American pragmatism, is difficult to overstate.

Perhaps of broader interest is Kant's influence on both Hilbert and Goedel. (And through Hilbert, Husserl.)

I can't find a good link that explains the influence on Hilbert, but it's important enough to spell out briefly. I think typically Kant is presented as opposed to Hilbert because they disagreed on the status of mathematical propositions; Kant thought such propositions were synthetic apriori, Hilbert took them to be analytic. But Hilbert took a lot of his philosophy of mathematics straight from Kant.

Kant had a wonderful correspondence with Lambert, who was one of the first to try to extend techniques of axiomatization from geometry into other disciplines, and one of the first to conceive of what we would now call a formal theory. (Leibniz was groping in the dark for this notion, you can see it in his logical papers, but he never quite got it to work.)

Anyway, Lambert spent a long time working through the problem of whether or not the Parallels Postulate of Euclidean geometry could be derived from the other four axioms -- lots of people had realized that it was logically much more complex than the other axioms, and thought for that reason that it might eventually be derived as a theorem. Lambert decided to assume that the Parallels Postulate was false and see if he could derive a contradiction. Long story short, he failed to find a contradiction, but realized that you could prove a ton of interesting theorems about the other geometries he was investigating. In fact, he realized, these other geometries were perfectly consistent: the Postulate was independent of the other four axioms.

Now Kant got wind of this, and took it as evidence that he was right about the ideality of space...if there are a bunch of different ways space could actually be structured, and we happen to see it in one particular way rather than another for no apparent reason, that suggested to Kant that our own minds were doing the structuring. That is, instead of taking the axioms of geometry to be truths about the world, Kant took them to be only truths about the organization of our experiences.

Hilbert took this same approach his philosophy of mathematics. A lot of mathematicians and logicians at the beginning of the 20th century thought that the goal of mathematics was to find the "true" axioms -- Russell, for instance, following Frege -- but Hilbert argued that the purpose of mathematics was simply to isolate consistent axiom systems. He thought it was the task of physics or philosophy to find out which of them were true, if the question could even be answered. His programmatic purging of intuitions from mathematics was due to his Kantian dream of isolating the structure of things in themselves from our intuitions/experiences of those things. Mathematics is, in some sense, supposed to get at the possible structures of the world itself, human experience be damned.

I don't much care for Kant's writing, but the dude had some ideas, I tell you what.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:58 PM on March 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Kant can be an interesting stepping stone to mahayana buddhism as well. Both agree that the only world we can know is a mental construction.
posted by flotson at 9:33 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kant can be an interesting stepping stone to mahayana buddhism as well.

With only a layman's understanding of Buddhism (as opposed to my formal training in and experience of teaching, say, Kant) this may very well be the case. I'd encourage folks to check out Karl Jaspers' interpretation of Kant's project if you'd like to try and connect these dots more fully. It's been some time since I've read Jaspers' take, but I seem to recall his reading would be more sympathetic along these lines. I think the book I'm thinking of was from a series edited by Arendt.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:27 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I once owned the domain ikant.com. I intended to use it as a platform for domain humor, eg., iwont.ikant.com and iwont.ikant.youcantmakeme.com.

but turns out i kan underestimate my laziness.
posted by mwhybark at 11:27 PM on March 13, 2009


Geos: are you saying I'm a troll because I think Mill is important, and grieve the absence of a society for him when the less important Fichte has one? Damn.

Ornate: I'd kind of like to start a Mill society. Except I have no organizational skills. :-) (I'm one of those weird people who is s.t. if I say "you might want to do X," everyone in the world immediately does ~X. I could easily kill by advising poisoning victims to take the antidote.)
posted by paultopia at 11:34 PM on March 13, 2009


Great post, ornate insect. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 12:36 AM on March 14, 2009


Kant -> Hinduism and Hume -> Buddhism in a paper by Nesta Smith.
posted by stonepharisee at 3:35 AM on March 14, 2009


This is nice! As someone who hopes one day down the line to be recognized as a Kant scholar, I love seeing things like these links. I've found that I specialize in a very under studied area with Kant (his political philosophy), but I am happy to have worked with two very awesome Kantian scholars in the last two years. And though my interests are primarily in terms of who influenced Kant's work, its very important to remember just how wide spread his influences went. In fact, one of the big points I had to cut from my MA thesis was a discussion on the possibility of Jefferson having read Kant while he was the ambassador to France. There is no real indication that he did, but in many places Jefferson's ideas read much like Kant's. However, this is more likely due to the fact they were both HUGE fans of Rousseau.
However, the real lasting impression he left philosophy with is the analytic / continental split - German Idealism is the root of the analytic tradition, and its roots are firmly in Kant. Yet for some reason, when the analytic philosophers talk of their history, Kant always gets left out, because of course, he is a continental topic. Tooth grindingly frustrating, for a Kant scholar in what is becoming an analytic department.
posted by strixus at 3:38 AM on March 14, 2009


Oh, stonepharisee, whenever I read Hume, its bloody creepy how often it echos what I know of Buddhist philosophy. Particularly his bundle theory of the self and discussion of induction. Sometimes I wonder if he got a hold of some very primitively translated texts, but I can't think HOW he would have.
posted by strixus at 3:40 AM on March 14, 2009


most scientists today hold onto a laughably naive empiricism when pressed or an equally laughable mystical idealism

With their laughable naiveté about philosophy, the scientists and engineers have split the atom and read DNA, put men on the moon and satellites into orbit. Doesn't seem to have set us back much at all. What has Hegel done other than give succeeding generations of arts undergraduates splitting headaches, nauseous boredom, and suspicions of their own intellectual inadequacy?

What is truth, what is good, blah blah blah. We are going in fitful little circles and are no further ahead in that game than we were 2000 years ago in Greece. Actually, no that isn't true - at least Plato's Socratic dialogues are fun to read for the layman. The naive philosophy of the person on the street is just as (in)effective for living the good life as the densest and most impenetrable bullshit spun by these dead Germans.

Philosophy is mental masturbation. There is nothing wrong with masturbation, I quite enjoy it myself, but let's not pretend we are building rockets here.

/end jaded philosophy undergrad rant - do not feed the troll
posted by Meatbomb at 3:59 AM on March 14, 2009


To this day I don't understand why on earth you would group Kant together with guys like Hegel etc. as boring and inaccessible.
Kant is very clear and crisp in his way of thinking and writing - which was in fact remarked by many of his contemporaries. Long sentences do not mean that a text is inaccessible - Incoherence means that a text is inaccessible. I've rarely found incoherence in Kant. Kant absolutely rocks. (And I say that although I'm a staunch, no-nonsense utilitarian myself.)
posted by The Toad at 5:25 AM on March 14, 2009


Geos: are you saying I'm a troll because I think Mill is important, and grieve the absence of a society for him when the less important Fichte has one?

sorry, i was joking.

Philosophy is mental masturbation. There is nothing wrong with masturbation, I quite enjoy it myself, but let's not pretend we are building rockets here.

funny the assumptions that go into this: what would make having orgasms more purposeful? making babies?

all science proceeds from the assumptions that it starts from. how can you advance without an understanding of those assumptions?
posted by geos at 5:31 AM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Philosophy is mental masturbation.

So true. Every modern human being - man or woman - should do it at least once a day without feeling guilty. And the world would be a better place.
posted by The Toad at 5:36 AM on March 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


But those sticky memes are so hard to clean up afterwards.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:57 AM on March 14, 2009


You obviously need a philosopher towel for that.
posted by The Toad at 6:00 AM on March 14, 2009


dilettanti: Why is Arthur Schopenhauer always left off these lists?
ornate insect: Because he's usually seen as an anti-idealist, and a pre-cursor to the greatest anti-idealist of them all, Nietzsche. Schopenhauer, Neitzsche, and Kierkegaard are often seen as proto-existentialists.


Sorry for the question without explanation - wife came home as I was typing, and I had to help with stuff. The reason I asked was because I generally understand "idealism" to mean something reasonably similar to the definition in the Wikipedia article, in line with how the word is used in describing the philosophy of, say, Bishop Berkeley. That is, "idealism" indicates an appreciation for how our mental faculties shape the world we experience, that our experience of the world is mediated by our cognition, that causal or spatio-temporal relations are mental frameworks we "impose" on the world of experience. Kant's distinction of the phenomena from the noumena, and epistemic cabining of the noumena, is more "phenomenalism" than "idealism" as I have understood the term. And in that sense, Schopenhauer out-idealised Kant. His doctrine of world as will was simply an attempt to make sense of Kant's postulation of a "thing-in-itself" with his epistemic claims that the "thing-in-itself" was essentially unknowable. Schopenhauer held that Kant was unjustified in positing multiple "distinct" noumena, and ascribed the term "Wille" [will] to whatever "reality" undergirds our perceptions, while criticizing the notion that the "thing-in-itself" causes our perceptions. Nietzsche, too, was an idealist in this sense - he criticized Kant for hanging on to the "thing-in-itself" to which he was not entitled.

I note that the term "German Idealism," used as a designator of a particular grouping of philosophers who espoused "idealist" philosophies to differing degrees, is not always used terribly consistently. There are some who even place Schopenhauer as the "last great representative of German Idealism in systematic philosophy." I haven't read Pinkard's book, and I don't have ready access to it, but I note his last chapter discusses Schopenhauer, and I am curious whether he groups Schopenhauer as an idealist.
posted by dilettanti at 6:44 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I read the Hegel for Beginners linked above, wondering if I could understand it, and at first I was annoyed because the author was abusing math metaphors and being incredibly vague about everything.

But then I get to the conclusion and I realize he's calling concepts fractal not just because they continue to exhibit complexity when examined in finer detail, but because a concept itself, its boundaries, its very shape in our minds is an emergent property determined by the recursive process of examining what it is and not is.

So then I visualized the shape of this concept itself, the words it is dependent upon, the way each part of it is dependent on an amorphous blob of associations that each themselves demonstrate their boundaries as the result of recursive examination.

And realized that all of this exists somehow in the web of my neural architecture, that the physical manifestation mirrors the conception in my mind, but that manifestation is completely opaque to me, and I would never understand it even if I could look at it as plainly as a graph on paper.

And I realize that all of this is the consequence of a graph, and the graph itself generates near infinite complexity by the simple linking of nodes and evaluating their weighted connections in a non-centralized recursive process.

And that somewhere in all of this, between the quantum mechanical substrate of a brain and the amorphous web of the noosphere, is me, looking at this, and I wonder, am the emergent property of molecules or am I the emergent property of ideas, or do none of these things exist without me looking at them? Does reality itself exist as the emergent property of the recursive examination of what is and not is?

And then I realized, holy fuck, I have a woody.

I'm going to need a philospher towel.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 7:03 AM on March 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why did the most prominent Kantians—Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, the best philosophical brains Germany has ever produced—become Spinozists? One will try in vain to find an answer to this question in our histories of philosophy, which do not even ask that legitimate and obvious question. And there is no other answer to it than this one: that it could not have been otherwise, since these truly philosophical men necessarily saw and felt how different Benedict Spinoza's stance within philosophy was from that of Kant, who—to say it in my blunt way—had nothing in common with philosophy.—Constantin Brunner / Spinoza contra Kant.

"German Spirit Due To Kant, Not Nietzsche: Professor Dewey Traces Prussian Militarism Back to the Famous Philosopher of the Eighteenth Century and His Categorical Imperative" (New York Times Review of German Philosophy and Politics by John Dewey, July 18, 1915).
posted by No Robots at 7:08 AM on March 14, 2009


dilettanti--be careful what you wish for; I think grouping Schopenhauer among the Kantians and Hegelians tends to actually do a disservice to Schopenhauer's genius.

Kant's influence on Schopenhauer is indeed great, and Schopenhaur's early work reveals that influence. But Schopenhaur's later work provides a twist...just as Feuerbach showed himself to be Hegel's greatest student by inverting Hegel's principles (and thus paving the way for Marxism), so too Schopenhauer inverted the supposition, common to both Kant and Hegel, that reason is what guides the spirit and grounds the world.

Schopenhauer is thus a transitional figure, and his work set the stage stage for the radical Nietzschean critique of rationalism and idealistic system-building. If, like Feuerbach, Schopenhauer sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, it's not because he's less important: on the contrary, his importance is so great it often goes unnoticed.
posted by ornate insect at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2009


boinked link corrected: Schopenhauer's early work.
posted by ornate insect at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2009


Should I give up if I can't even understand the "Hegel for Beginners" section in the "Hegel Resource" link?

No, you should get the original (since retitled by Totem Books). The excerpts taken out of context in the marxists.org link deprive you of all the explanatory lead-in material.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:52 AM on March 14, 2009


I still don't understand why Kant is considered the greatest modern philosopher by so many people. He was just wrong about so many things. For instance he starts his whole argument for the existence of synthetic a priori truths by using mathematics as an example, when every one else now or since agrees that math is the archetypal analytic truth and he seems to think that scientific laws should be metaphysically true, a laughable concept since Popper if not much longer.

I would guess that people like him so much because it allows them to avoid thinking about Hume's skepticism by pretending that Kant offered a credible critique.
posted by afu at 11:33 AM on March 15, 2009


I would guess that people like him so much because it allows them to avoid thinking about Hume's skepticism by pretending that Kant offered a credible critique.

You would guess wrong. While Hume's skepticism famously woke Kant from his dogmatic slumber, and features as one of many aspects of Kant's philosophy, it would be a distortion to assert that Kant's legacy lives or dies according to such a narrow concern.

Kant's relevance to contemporary analytic epistemology, for instance, remains quite strong: see here and here and here for some fairly recent examples.

But in general I think your concerns about Kantianism are misplaced. My own view is that one can and should study philosophy for something other disputation or "final" arguments. Kant's work bears upon such metaphilosophical questions as well.
posted by ornate insect at 8:34 PM on March 15, 2009


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