Ever since Plato coined the metaphor, it has been tempting to treat the history of philosophy as a series of battles between Gods and Giants, as a ‘clash of argument’ between idealists and materialists, rationalists and naturalists, and idealists and realists. Many commentators, provoked by Hegel's combative remarks, have been led to see the Kant-Hegel relation in this way; and yet it has not always been easy to determine either what the issue between these two antagonists really is, or indeed which of them is the Giant and which the God. Robert Pippin, in his new book, Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989, pp. xii + 327, hb £30.00, pb £10.95) casts new light on the nature of the struggle, and makes clear what was at stake: a non-rationalist, non-metaphysical answer to the sceptic, and with it absolute knowledge.
Pippin's densely written but engrossing book provides the focus of discussion for this issue of the Bulletin. The contributions by H.S. Harris and Terry Pinkard offer critical comments on Pippin's approach to Hegel, and they are followed with a response by Pippin himself. These pieces were originally presented as a meeting of the Western APA, and assume an acquaintance with Pippin's argument, which I will try to outline in what follows.
Like many recent commentators, Pippin begins by insisting that we take seriously Hegel's claim to have ‘completed’ Kant, and so rejects any metaphysical, rationalist readng of Hegel. On the other hand, Pippin wants to understand Hegel's claim to have found a form of idealism that answers Kant's transcendental scepticism regarding the ‘thing-in-itself’, without collapsing back into rationalism.