All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism

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9780674018884: All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism

Interest in German Idealism--not just Kant, but Fichte and Hegel as well--has recently developed within analytic philosophy, which traditionally defined itself in opposition to the Idealist tradition. Yet one obstacle remains especially intractable: the Idealists' longstanding claim that philosophy must be systematic. In this work, the first overview of the German Idealism that is both conceptual and methodological, Paul W. Franks offers a philosophical reconstruction that is true to the movement's own times and resources and, at the same time, deeply relevant to contemporary thought.

At the center of the book are some neglected but critical questions about German Idealism: Why do Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel think that philosophy's main task is the construction of a system? Why do they think that every part of this system must derive from a single, immanent and absolute principle? Why, in short, must it be all or nothing? Through close examination of the major Idealists as well as the overlooked figures who influenced their reading of Kant, Franks explores the common ground and divergences between the philosophical problems that motivated Kant and those that, in turn, motivated the Idealists. The result is a characterization of German Idealism that reveals its sources as well as its pertinence--and its challenge--to contemporary philosophical naturalism.

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About the Author:

Paul W. Franks is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and the University of Notre Dame.

Review:

"A notable feature in recent Anglo-American professional philosophy is the mounting return of attention to the post-Kantian development of German Idealism-- that development, or outburst, of philosophical activity that became largely off limits in the analytical pedagogy adopted in virtually all of the dominant English-speaking departments of philosophy over most of the twentieth century. The unfailing historical sophistication and the persistent illumination of philosophical questioning that characterize Paul Franks's All or Nothing, as well as its narrative scope, make it an early culmination of this revived attention. Franks's presentation demonstrates that a massively influential era and register of Western philosophical heritage need no longer remain strange to those who have not yet found their way to it-- or, to put the matter positively, and more accurately, that this register may now become pertinently strange, in a way such that it itself, as Franks insists, recognizes its own unavoidable strangeness. It is part of the pedagogical generosity of his book that Franks includes references and quotations marking various moments from that tradition which help, in their differences as well as their similarities, in articulating the progress of the tradition he has remarkably set in motion. (Stanley Cavell, Harvard University)

What Franks has managed to do is to drive a single, unified line of argument through the historical material without distortion or suppression, and in a way which on the contrary throws so much light on the figures and themes dealt with that his central contentions emerge with a very high degree of historical corroboration. He has provided a cogent demonstration that the fundamental thrust of German idealism is not philosophically arbitrary and not of merely antiquarian interest, but has a strong, legitimate claim on our contemporary philosophical interest. (Sebastian Gardner, University College London)

The subjects that Franks has taken on are both timely and enormous. He shows what the problems were in Kantian philosophy that ultimately drove the development of what has come to be known as German Idealism, and he shows what motivated those who moved away from Kant. Even more ambitiously, he shows the inherent plausibility of those moves in terms of their own inner dynamics and logic. This is no easy task, and Franks has pulled it off superbly. (Terry Pinkard, Georgetown University)

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