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Traditional histories of German philosophy often present the development of German Idealism as a linear, teleological progression from Kant, through Fichte and Schelling, to Hegel.1 This approach originates in Hegel’s own history of philosophy, which portrays the history of German Idealism as a cumulative, dialectical progression that terminates – rather conveniently – in Hegel’s own absolute idealism. Over the past twenty years, there has been a growth of scholarship on the development of post-Kantian idealism, and a reappraisal of figures who were afforded only minor, supporting roles in the traditional narrative (figures such as K. L. Reinhold, S. Maimon, F. Schlegel, and Novalis).2 The effects of this revisionary scholarship have been salutary: it has resulted in a more nuanced picture of the development of German Idealism that challenges the standard Hegelian narrative;3 it has led to the recovery of important philosophical arguments and insights;4 it has made salient previously neglected continuities with earlier traditions (e.g., the Leibnizian-Wolffian and Spinozist traditions);5 and it has led to a deeper understanding of the philosophies of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel by revealing their positions to be responses to hitherto unnoticed debates and questions.6
Scholarship on Kant's practical philosophy has often overlooked its reception in the early days of post-Kantian philosophy and German Idealism. This volume of new essays illuminates that reception and how it informed the development of practical philosophy between Kant and Hegel. The essays discuss, in addition to Kant, Hegel and Fichte, relatively little-known thinkers such as Pistorius, Ulrich, Maimon, Erhard, E. Reimarus, Reinhold, Jacobi, F. Schlegel, Humboldt, Dalberg, Gentz, Rehberg, and Möser. Issues discussed include the empty formalism objection, the separation between right and morality, freedom and determinism, nihilism, the right to revolution, ideology, and the limits of the liberal state. Taken together, the essays provide an historically informed and philosophically nuanced picture of the development of post-Kantian practical philosophy.
Fichte's Foundations of Natural Right (1796/97) was one of the most influential books in nineteenth-century philosophy. It was read carefully by Schelling, Hegel, and Marx, and initiated a tradition in German philosophy that considers human subjectivity to be relational and intersubjective, thus requiring relations of recognition between subjects. The essays in this volume highlight this little-understood book's most important ideas and innovations. They offer discussions of Fichte's conception of freedom, self-consciousness, coercion, the summons, the body, and human rights, together with new analyses of his deduction of right, his views on the social contract, and his arguments for the separation of right from morality. The essays expand and deepen ongoing debates in the scholarship and chart new avenues of thought about Fichte's most enduring work of political philosophy. They will be essential reading for students and scholars of German Idealism, nineteenth-century philosophy, and the history of political thought.