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Despite their aspirations to shine the light of reason on the world, and with notable exceptions, the thinkers of the Enlightenment provided posterity with numerous indictments of the Jewish character and religion. How much of an influence the writings of such figures as Voltaire and Kant had on the subsequent evolution of antisemitism remains a subject of scholarly debate.
Argues that Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms relies on an account of human subjectivity that he deliberately keeps in the background of his writings. Remarkably, even though Cassirer considers a systematic account of human subjectivity to be an essential component of a philosophy of culture, he never seems to develop one (5.1). This omission is the result of Cassirer’s belief that consciousness can only be approached through the mediation of diverse cultural products (5.2). Cassirer solves this difficulty by developing a ‘functional conception of human subjectivity’ that forms the exact counterpart of his account of objectivity and therefore needs no separate treatment (5.3). This conception allows him to characterize the human being as an ‘animal symbolicum’ in An Essay on Man (5.4). Cassirer’s posthumous text The Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms then merely translates this view of the human being into the language of his contemporaries ‒ rather than deviating from his published writings, as is usually maintained (5.5). In sum, this chapter retrieves the hidden, anthropological foundation of Cassirer's philosophy of culture.
Retraces how Cassirer transforms Kant’s transcendental philosophy into a philosophy of culture in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. First, Cassirer abandons Kant’s notion of the category and instead models his conception of the symbol on the schema from The Critique of Judgment (2.1). Second, he understands such symbols as constituting not only the theoretical, practical, and aesthetic sphere, but all cultural domains, including myth, language, and the human sciences (2.2). This forces Cassirer to adopt two conceptions of objectivity: a constitutive conception that pertains to each cultural domain (or ‘symbolic forms’) and a regulative conception that befits human culture as a whole (2.3).
Argues that Heidegger considers all three elements of his own view of the ‘concept and method’ of philosophy – ontology, phenomenology, and hermeneutics – to be at work in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. First, Heidegger's well-known ‘ontological reading’ of this work more specifically interprets it as a treatise on the possibility of general ontology (3.1). Further, he understands Kant’s critical approach as an attempt at developing the phenomenological method that such an ontology requires (3.2). Ultimately and most audaciously, Heidegger interprets the changes between the two editions of the first Critique as the result of Kant’s hermeneutical reflection upon this attempt (3.3). This chapter puts forward a new reading of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (GA 3) and Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (GA 25), but also draws from What is a Thing? (GA 41), Logic: The Question of Truth (GA 21), and Einleitung in die Philosophie (GA 27).
Offers a thorough reading of all texts in which Cassirer and Heidegger explicitly engaged with each other’s thought. I first sketch the philosophical context of the Davos debate, which constitutes only one moment of a dispute that started in 1923 and continued until the publication of Cassirer’s The Myth of the State in 1946 (1.1). Second, I argue that the public debate in Davos hinges on three interrelated topics: the proper interpretation of Kant’s philosophy, the human condition, and the task of philosophy. Concretely, I show that Cassirer and Heidegger’s diverging readings of Kant are motivated by their different views on the human condition, and that these views are in turn motivated by different conceptions of the task of philosophy, which I consider to be the fundamental breaking point between these two thinkers (1.2). Third, I explain that the same issues of contention also structure, in the same order and with the same increasing intensity, the entire, 23-year-long Cassirer‒Heidegger dispute (1.3).
Explains how Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant and his analysis of Dasein relate to the primary interest of his philosophical enterprise: the retrieval of the question of being. The introduction to Being and Time indicates that these three projects formally presuppose one another because Heidegger weds the ontological task of philosophy to its phenomenological and hermeneutical method (9.1). At the same time, this threefold conception of philosophy – ontology, phenomenology, hermeneutics – establishes a hermeneutic situation that informed Heidegger’s interpretations of Kant and Dasein (9.2). Heidegger admits to the circularity of this philosophical procedure, but defends it by distinguishing between a formal, a philosophical, and a factual ‘starting point’ of the ‘hermeneutical circle’ (9.3). At stake here is the relation between Dasein and philosophy, as well as Heidegger's contested choice to approach the meaning of being via our own existence.
The 1929 encounter between Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger in Davos, Switzerland is considered one of the most important intellectual debates of the twentieth century and a founding moment of continental philosophy. At the same time, many commentators have questioned the philosophical profundity and coherence of the actual debate. In this book, the first comprehensive philosophical analysis of the Davos debate, Simon Truwant challenges these critiques. He argues that Cassirer and Heidegger's disagreement about the meaning of Kant's philosophy is motivated by their different views about the human condition, which in turn are motivated by their opposing conceptions of what the task of philosophy ultimately should be. Truwant shows that Cassirer and Heidegger share a grand philosophical concern: to comprehend and aid the human being's capacity to orient itself in and towards the world.
This chapter provides a brief overview of the history of the development of quantum theory, with a critical focus on the antirealist tradition inaugurated by Niels Bohr. The distinction between “principle theories” and “constructive theories” is discussed, and it is noted that quantum mechanics is a “principle theory.” It is argued that quantum theory is amenable to a fully realist interpretation provided we let go of the demand that reality be classically picturable.
This chapter shows how the modern thought that has shaped the current intellectual landscape played a role in the extermination of the Jews. Very often the millennial history of Christian antisemitism is blamed for the Holocaust. It is not so often, however, that the speculative philosophical tradition, particularly in the modern period, is taken to task. This chapter examines the ways in which the modern philosophical period is characterized by a process of thinking God out of the picture. From here Martin Heidegger emerges as the culmination of modern philosophical thought. Levinas has observed, “Heideggerian philosophy precisely marks the apogee of a thought in which the finite does not refer to the infinite … in which every deficiency is but weakness and every fault committed against oneself - the outcome of a long tradition of pride, heroism, domination, and cruelty. Heideggerian ontology subordinates the relation with the other to the relation with the neuter, Being, and it thus continues to exalt the will to power, whose legitimacy the other alone can unsettle, troubling good conscience.” This chapter demonstrates the truth of Levinas’s statement.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte addresses Creuzer’s skeptical concerns in this highly critical review published in 1793. Fichte specifically considers Creuzer’s assertion that the capacity to determine oneself to moral and immoral action violates the principle of sufficient reason. Fichte dismisses the objection as having already been refuted by Reinhold in the second volume of the latter’s Letters on the Kantian Philosophy. In that work Reinhold argues that it is absurd to inquire after an objective ground through which the free will determined itself to a given action because it is supposedly intrinsic to the freedom of our will that it have the capacity to determine itself independently of objective grounds. Furthermore, Fichte affirms Reinhold’s claim that the (logical variant) of the principle of sufficient reason demands not that all existents have an external cause, but only that nothing be thought without a ground. Although Fichte agrees with Reinhold that reason has a very real ground to think of freedom as an absolute cause, he criticizes Reinhold for supposedly naturalizing the will’s supersensible capacity of self-determination.
In the Introduction to the Metaphysical Foundations of the Doctrine of Right, Kant assigns the will the function of giving laws and identifies it with practical reason. As merely lawgiving, Kant maintains, the will is neither free nor unfree: only the power of choice can be called free by virtue of its relation to action through maxims. Kant argues that this freedom cannot be defined as the capacity to choose for or against the moral law because this phenomenon of choice pertains to the human being qua appearance and therefore cannot define freedom, which is necessarily intelligible. For Kant, the negative concept of freedom of the power of choice consists in independence from determination by sensible impulses and the positive concept consists in the ability of pure reason to be practical. Furthermore, he claims that the possibility of deviating from the moral law is an incapacity (Unvermögen). Thus, Kant seems to hold that freedom is restricted to moral action. Nevertheless, there is room for interpretation: Kant’s remark might not be a blanket statement about free will per se but a specific claim about its definition. The matter is still contested in the secondary literature.
In his 1789 On Determinism and Moral Freedom, Snell treats the compatibility of determinism and morality. Drawing on Kant’s distinction between the empirical and intelligible character, Snell tackles the issue of how the determinism of the phenomenal world can be reconciled with freedom, specifically with respect to the capacity to do otherwise. Anticipating the contemporary charge that intelligible freedom understood as entailing the capacity to do otherwise would contradict the causal connection of appearances, Snell advances a Leibnizian interpretation of Kant’s account of free will and rejects the proposition that an indeterministic conception of the capacity to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral imputation. He defines freedom principally as the absence of external constraint and argues that this in no way infringes upon the hypothetical necessity of occurrences in the world of sense. Furthermore, Snell maintains that the agent’s consciousness and inner feeling of self that his action is the expression of his own self-activity is all that is required for morality and moral imputation.
Carl Christian Erhard Schmid’s Lexicon for the Easier Use of the Kantian Writings defines technical terms in the Critical philosophy. The lexicon offers insight into Schmid’s understanding of the concepts relevant to free will and anticipates his later position that freedom is restricted to moral actions. The text is particularly noteworthy for its entry on autonomy. There Schmid asserts that free actions and morally good actions are synonymous.
In his “General Overview of the Most Recent Philosophical Literature” (1797), Schelling considers Reinhold’s claim that the will must be separate from practical reason in light of Kant’s treatment of the distinction between the will and the power of choice. By divorcing the will from reason, Reinhold supposedly cannot account for our obligation under the moral law. Schelling observes that the discrepancy between Kant’s claim that the will is neither free nor unfree and Reinhold’s assertion that the will is free only insofar as it has the capacity to be good or evil is rooted in the nature of the will itself. Kant’s and Reinhold’s variance is, as it were, the result of a partial perspective of an issue properly conceived of only through a unified standpoint. Kant considers the will insofar as it is not an object of consciousness, Reinhold insofar as it occurs in consciousness. For Schelling, these seemingly disparate perspectives are integrated in the recognition that the power of choice is the appearance of an absolute will and, as such, indicates the action through which what is intellectual becomes empirical, the absolute becomes an object, and the infinite becomes finite.
In his 1790 Attempt at a Moral Philosophy, Schmid presents his doctrine of intelligible fatalism. He makes the Kantian claim that consciousness of the moral law entails that reason is capable of determining the will independently of sensibility, a capacity which Schmid calls moral freedom. Moral actions bear the imprint of reason’s self-activity whereas immoral actions are the result of a lack of reason’s activity. Drawing on Ulrich’s claims that there is no middle path between chance and necessity and that chance is irrational, Schmid holds that there must be some ground for reason’s failure to determine the will in the case of immoral action. Accordingly, Schmid posits intelligible obstacles which prevent reason’s efficacy in determining the will. Despite the thoroughgoing necessity of all actions as a result of intelligible forces, Schmid holds that imputation is still possible because the agent is unaware of those forces.
Kant’s preliminary notes for the Introduction to the Metaphysical Foundations of the Doctrine of Right offer insight into his claims in the published text and his attempt to differentiate the legislative and executive moments of volition. In these notes Kant addresses the distinction between the will and the power of choice as well as the definition and scope of freedom of the power of choice. However, rather than settle the question of whether the capacity to choose to transgress the moral law belongs to freedom of the will, several of Kant’s statements seem to contradict. On the one hand, he claims that the free power of choice can be determined only by the law of the subject’s own causality and that there is no unlawful volition. On the other hand, he asserts that the power of choice is free to observe or transgress the law’s command. While Kant claims that only the power of choice, not the will, can be considered free, he also states that the will is free in another sense insofar as it is lawgiving. The context of these apparently conflicting claims suggest a nuanced account of freedom of the will and offer material for further scholarship.
August Ludwig Christian Heydenreich’s On Freedom and Determinism and their Compatibility (1793) presents the central tensions between determinism and indeterminism prior to the Critical philosophy and outlines how the latter is able to resolve these tensions. He notes that for all that Kant’s conception of free will was able to accomplish, there is still considerable disagreement on how this conception is to be understood, particularly between Carl Christian Erhard Schmid and Karl Leonhard Reinhold. The originality of Heydenreich’s position consists in his assertion that the moral power of choice cannot belong to the sphere of nature or to the supersensible world. If it belonged to the former, then its actions would necessarily be determined in accordance with the law of causality. If it belonged to the latter, then its actions would necessarily be determined by the moral law and culpability for immoral actions would be abolished. Instead, the moral power of choice must be situated between the two realms and constitute the boundary and bridge between them.
Salomon Maimon argues in “The Moral Skeptic” (1800) that Kant’s conception of freedom as the capacity of the power of choice to be determined by reason independently of sensible determinations is an empty concept, or, as Maimon puts it, a “term without a concept.” He holds that a determinate capacity is inconceivable without laws through which its efficacy is invariably determined. Although we might conceive of laws of nature as the determining ground of immoral action and the moral law as the determining ground of moral action, there is no law to determine which of these two opposed grounds is to become the determining ground of action in a given case. Thus, the actual determination of the power of choice would be left to chance, which is absurd since chance indicates the lack of a determining ground. Maimon’s critique is embedded in a broader treatment of the difference between the moral skeptic and the moral dogmatist in view of the Critical philosophy.
In his “On the Freedom of the Will” (1789), Johann Heinrich Abicht rejects the proposition that freedom immediately reveals itself to us through consciousness or some special feeling. Were that the case, Abicht maintains, then freedom would be knowable, which is impossible given that it is transcendental and inaccessible to our understanding. Nevertheless, on Abicht’s view, consciousness still plays a role in demonstrating that our will is free. He grants that we are conscious of certain internal volitional appearances, e.g. approval, decision, inclination, desire, etc. In order to demonstrate the concept of freedom, which Abicht understands as the capacity to be the self-contained ground of volition, we must prove that the ultimate grounds of these appearances are internal to the I and therefore not subject to external determination.
Karl Heinrich Heydenreich contends in “On Moral Freedom” (1791) that the human being is originally endowed with consciousness of freedom. Moreover, Heydenreich explicitly denies that our consciousness of freedom is a consequence of consciousness of the moral law and instead maintains that the moral law provides only indirect support for our innate consciousness of freedom. Similar to Snell’s contention that our freedom is revealed to us through the feeling of our own self, at one point Heydenreich refers to our feeling of freedom. According to Heydenreich, the task of philosophy is to secure this feeling of freedom from the skepticism of speculative reason.