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Kantianism

KANTIANISM

The philosophy of criticism developed by I. kant and his followers. Since Kant's thought is exposed in the article devoted to him, this article concentrates on his first followers and opponents, the impact of his thought on his contemporaries, and its later influences on German idealism, neo-Kantianism, and neoscholasticism.

Characteristics. Kantianism was influenced by the preceding movements of empiricism, rationalism, and the philosophy of the enlightenment, and through them was led to formulate a profound synthesis of their views. In the process, it limited the speculative or theoretical reason to the area of possible experience. Accordingly, it conceived human knowledge as arriving at necessary and universally valid judgments by way of a priori forms, but it held that these judgments refer only to the appearances or phenomena. The noumena or things-in-themselves were conceived as remaining hidden, although their reality was never questioned by Kant. Another conclusion drawn from this was the impossibility of a metaphysics in the Kantian theory of knowledge; the ideas that reason forms when conceptualizing metaphysical reality have only a regulative function with respect to the knowledge of phenomena and have no constitutive or objective meaning. Thus man is not able to grasp the corresponding objects of these ideas.

In Kantianism, the practical reason or the purely rational will has a greater role to play than the theoretical reason. This role expresses itself in a categorical imperative that is plainly unconditional and thus absolute. The imperative is exclusively determined by the form of the law that the pure will gives itself in virtue of its autonomy (see ethical formalism). For the Kantian, he who lets himself be guided by concretely defined motives lapses into a heteronomy that destroys the ethical nature of his action. Because of its indeterminateness the ethical imperative embraces not only man but in general all intelligent beings. Consequently, it opens the way to the intelligible world, to the noumena and the thing-in-itself. This is the basis for the possibility of a practical metaphysics that rests upon a belief required by ethical considerations but that does not increase man's speculative knowledge.

The term criticism is often used as a synonym for Kantianism (see criticism, philosophical). But usually criticism is taken in the more strict sense of a critical theory of knowledge; it represents only the first and basic part of Kantianism, according to Kant's own words: "Criticism constitutes rather the preliminary organization necessary for arriving at a solid, scientific metaphysics" (B xxxvi). Its opposite is dogmatism, wherein pure reason develops itself "without a previous criticism of its own capacity" (B xxxv). In the fullest sense of the word, Kantianism designates not only the philosophical work of Kant himself but also the further development of the intellectual movement he started. This development led to a series of different interpretations because of the intrinsic tensions that existed within Kant's own thought.

Early Adherents. Among the early proponents of Kantianism the most important was K. L. Reinhold (17581823), who introduced Kant's thought to a wide audience; his popular Briefe über die kantische Philosophie (178687) were particularly effective, and through his efforts Jena became a center of studies on Kant. In his Versuch einer neuen Theorie des menschlichen Vorstellungsvermögens (Jena 1789) he applied himself to the dualism of sense knowledge and reason, both of which stood side by side in Kant's work without further reduction. Reinhold looked for their common origin and thought this to be the imagination. Thus he prepared the way for J. G. Fichte.

S. Maimon (17531800) focused attention on Kant and contributed heavily to a further cultivation of his thought with some penetrating and profound works. He rejected the thing-in-itself as a delusion or fiction of consciousness; multiplicity as given corresponds, for him, to the inner capacity of human thought itself and therefore need not be reduced to some thing independent of mind.

J. S. Beck (17611840) likewise turned against the thing-in-itself. When Kant affirms that things affect the subject, for Beck this must be understood as a purely didactic accommodation to dogmatically inclined readers. Thus both Maimon and Beck explained Kant's thought in a one-sided, idealistic way while suppressing its realistic elements.

In contrast to these authors C. G. Bardili (17611808) developed his abstruse "rational realism" that prepared the way for the ideas of F. W. J. Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel by reducing the real world and the ideal world to their unity in the absolute. Kantianism was defended also by many scholars in Holland, France, and England.

Opponents. The critical discussion that had already started among the followers of Kant was brought to a focus by his opponents. Among the independent critics must be included C. Garve (174298). As early as 1782 Garve published a review of the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, which he interpreted in the sense of Berkeley's idealism and came to overlook its realistic elements. In the second edition Kant replied to this by bringing out more clearly the realistic features of his work. Garve also furnished a critical study of Kantian moral philosophy that still merits the attention of scholars.

Under the inspiration of J. Locke and of G. W. Leibniz, D. Tiedemann (17481803) defended the objective validity of man's knowledge of reality, and in this opposed himself to Kant. J. A. Eberhard (17391809) also stood out among the followers of Leibniz; it was against his attacks that Kant wrote a special essay "on a discovery that would make it possible to dispense with every new criticism of pure reason on the basis of an older one" (Königsberg 1790).

The skeptic G. E. Schulze (17611833) argued in a penetrating way against Kantianism. In his Aenesidemus (Helmstädt 1792), he attacked the Kantian thing-in-itself on the grounds that the very affection that it produces, which Kantians regard as necessary, is impossible in the terms of their philosophy. Besides, he criticized the fact that Kant attributed logical validity to subjective forms; from this, for him, Hume's psychologism would be the only reasonable consequent.

Influence on Contemporaries. Under this heading are discussed thinkers who did important intellectual work on their own and in so doing came into dispute with Kantian doctrines.

J. G. hamann, who was on friendly terms with Kant and with J. G. Herder and F. H. Jacobi, rejected the dualism Kant assumed to exist in the source of human knowledge. This dualism, for Hamann, bespeaks an untenable one-sidedness that is the product of reason and its distinctions; moreover, it is refuted by language, through which reason attains its own sensible existence. Intellectual knowledge should be replaced by the individual certainty of faith, which enables the mysteries of Christianity to become a living experience.

F. H. jacobi clearly analyzed the difficulty inherent in Kant's doctrine of the thing-in-itself. By holding that the affection of the senses results from the thing-in-itself, Kantians apply the relation of cause and effect (which, according to Kantianism, is valid only within the world of phenomena) to the realm of the thing-in-itself. In virtue of sense perception Jacobi himself was immediately convinced of the existence of real things. With Kant he assumed that the theoretical reason is confined to finite and experiential things. While rejecting the Kantian doctrine of the metaphysical postulates, he defended an immediate perception of transcendental reality; this he called faith and claimed it is achieved by reason. Kant took a position against this view in his treatise Was heisst, sich im Denken orientieren? (Berlin 1786).

J. G. herder did not do justice to Kant in his bitter Metakritik (Riga 1799) of the transcendental analytics. Against Kant's gross dualism of matter and form and of nature and freedom, he asserted their essential unity and gradual development. Language, for him, testifies strongly against the apriorism of Kant; space and time are concepts derived from experience.

J. C. F. Schiller studied Kant's major works and particularly the Critique of Judgment. Under Kant's influence he wrote his important work Über Anmut und Würde (Leipzig 1793); in this he attacked the heart of the Kantian doctrine on duty because it could lead to a gloomy asceticism. Moral dignity, for him the surging of the spirit above nature, is complemented by moral grace, which is the harmony between spirit and nature, between duty and inclination. In opposition to this Kant observed that along such lines eudaemonism could easily creep into moral doctrine.

J. W. goethe occupied himself especially with the Critique of Judgment and admitted that it gave him the philosophical basis for his "creations, actions, and thoughts." He praised the work for giving its due both to nature and to art.

Later Influences. The philosophical work of Kant remained so fundamental for succeeding thinkers that not one who took his work seriously could avoid discussing it. Every competent mind thus felt Kant's influence, either positively or negatively, and the stimulating effect of his work has not yet been exhausted.

German Idealism. Kantianism was further developed, overcome, and at first supplanted by the vast speculative systems of German idealism; one may call this an "elevating process" (in Hegel's terminology a Vorgang des Aufhebens ) wherein, of course, not all the basic elements of Kantian thought were preserved, e.g., the finite character of human knowledge. Idealism received its decisive stimulus from the tensions that were typical in Kant's thought. The search went beyond sense knowledge and reason, appearance and the thing-in-itself, experiential and metaphysical reality, the theoretical and the practical, and nature and freedom toward an underlying, unifying principle that was ultimately found in absolute reality. From a methodological point of view this evolving idealism should be characterized as transcendental, insofar as it refers to Kant's transcendental problematics that he himself projected into the metaphysical realm. see transcendental (kantian). Its essentially dialectical method may also have been anticipated in Kant, particularly in the "logical requirements and criteria of all knowledge of things in general" (B 114) where the three steps of unity, multiplicity, and reduction of multiplicity to unity emerge. More specific details may be seen in considering the three principal authors of German idealism, viz, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.

J. G. fichte intended merely to bring Kant's basic insight to its logical and systematical conclusions; but Kant's idea differed sharply from Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre. More precisely, Fichte started with the practical reason and tried to develop this through transcendental deduction and also to derive from it the theoretical reason with its categories. The thing-in-itself, for him, coincides with the pure Ego or subject and its moral activity, and from this all else (except God) results. This amounts to an idealism that eliminates the realistic element proper to Kant's thought.

F. W. J. schelling aimed in a conscious and determined way at completing and thus surpassing Kant; to this effect his thought went back beyond that of Fichte. Following the example of Kant's three Critiques, he divided his transcendental philosophy into a theoretical and a practical philosophy, the unity of which he perfected with his doctrines on the finality of nature and of art. In doing so Schelling gave new emphasis to the Critique of Judgment. Against the background of the identity of nature and spirit, it is art that constitutes the highest union of freedom and necessity. Schelling departed from Kant not only as to content but also as to method by raising intellectual intuition to the status of being fundamental to philosophical activity.

G. W. F. hegel focused on theoretical philosophy and therefore put the Critique of Pure Reason in the foreground. His principal objection against Kant was that Kant did not go beyond the intellect, which was unable to reconcile oppositions. Hegel himself believed that he could achieve a comprehensive mediation of antitheses by way of reason; in this way the categories could be expanded beyond the phenomena and raised to the point where absolute reality could manifest itself. As to methodology, Hegel advocated intellectual intuition against Kant and with Schelling, but held that intuition presents itself only in the dialectical movement of the mind, a point on which he differed from Schelling.

Neo-Kantianism. After idealism began to wane, German philosophy lost itself to a large degree in positivism, materialism, and historicism. The first signs of renewal came from K. Fischer (18241907), E. Zeller (18141908), and O. Liebmann (18401912), who started the movement back to Kant; each chapter of Liebmann's book ended with the words: "Therefore, one must return to Kant." neo-kantianism, which was influential for several decades before waning in the 20th century, developed from these endeavors. It emphasized, in a somewhat one-sided way, Kant's theory of knowledge and of science. Basic to this movement was the conviction that the scientific content of reality was exhaustively dealt with by the particular sciences; therefore, the only possible task for philosophy was to develop a theory of science by investigating its nature and presuppositions. The Marburg school restricted its field of investigation more to the natural sciences and arrived in this way at an extreme form of idealism that no longer permits anything to be given in advance, but admits only whatever is produced or established by consciousness (H. Cohen, P. Natorp, and E. cassirer). The Baden school, on the other hand, was concerned with the historical sciences of culture and art and developed from this study its theory of values (W. Windelband, H. Rickert, and H. Münsterberg). H. Vaihinger founded the Kantstudien (1896) and the Kantgesellschaft (1904). The metaphysical element in Kant also came gradually into sight as some thinkers sought not to destroy, but to provide a new foundation for, metaphysics in line with Kant's principles (Liebmann, F. Paulsen, and above all M. Wundt). The ontological aspect of Kant's thought was worked out by G. Martin and H. Heimsoeth.

Traces of Kant's continued influence persisted in the phenomenology of E. husserl, particularly in his transcendental reduction and in constituting of essences; in the realism of N. hartmann, developed in opposition to neo-Kantianism, and particularly in Hartmann's conception of metaphysics as pure problematics; and finally, in the existentialism of K. Jaspers, especially in the limits ascribed to knowledge and in his metaphysics of philosophical faith.

Neoscholasticism. At first scholastic thinkers adopted a negative attitude toward Kant, seeing him mainly as one who opposed realism, founded idealism, and destroyed the proofs for the existence of God. The scholastic theory of knowledge developed in opposition to Kant's theories; based on realism, it argued for a rational metaphysics. A more positive view of Kantian philosophy asserted itself only gradually; its pioneers were, in France, A. G. sertillanges and A. Valensin and, in Germany, B. Jansen, T. Steinbüchel, and E. Przywara. The real breakthrough, however, was achieved by J. marÉchal, who elaborated Kant's metaphysical theory of cognition and established a lively confrontation with a more profoundly understood thomas aquinas. In particular, Maréchal, taking over the transcendental problematics and method and perfecting them far beyond Kant, indicated the correlation between Kant's a priori forms and Aquinas's formal objects, and unfolded the dynamism of the human mind. He made use of Aquinas to show that the tendency that for Kant discloses the metaphysical world only at the stage of practical reason is already inherent in theoretical reason. In scholastic circles Maréchal's interpretation of Kant met with much opposition but with even more approval; it opened up a new road that was taken and further extended by many authors, who proposed their own emendations. In this field new suggestions have been offered by M. Heidegger, who considers the Critique of Pure Reason as the foundation of metaphysics. These ideas have been crystallized in the Mélanges Maréchal as well as in Kant und die Scholastik heute (ed. J. B. Lotz).

Appreciation. For a critique of Kantianism, the reader is referred to the article on Kant himself. The point that touches the heart of the criticism is that the finite human mind is infinite to the extent that it arrives at being pure and simple, penetrates into the essences of sensible things, grasps the inner, objective reality, and finally discloses metaphysical reality, still within the sphere of theoretical knowledge. In the Critique of Pure Reason nothing but a faint trace of this infinity can be found. Only in the Critique of Practical Reason does it emerge, and this because the metaphysical realm is made accessible by the absolute character of the moral imperative, There, however, the infinity in man's autonomy is just as much overdone as it is weakened in Kant's faith regarding the metaphysical postulates. The succeeding development of Kantianism evolves around the same issues: it oscillates between the extreme infinity of the German idealists and the more or less extreme theories of finitude advocated by other Kantians.

See Also: neo-kantianism; hegelianism and neohegelianism.

Bibliography: a. riehl, Der philosophische Kritizismus, 2 v. (Leipzig 18761887). r. kroner, Von Kant bis Hegel, 2 v. (2d ed. Tübingen 1961). v. delbos, De Kant aux postkantiens (Paris 1940). j. vuillemin, L'Héritage kantien et la revolution copernicienne: Fichte, Cohen, Heidegger (Paris 1954). v. verra, Dopo Kant: Il criticismo dell'età preromantica (Turin 1957). m. wundt, Kant als Metaphysiker (Stuttgart 1924). Mélanges Jos. Maréchal, 2 v. (Brussels 1950). j. b. lotz, ed., Kant und die Scholastik heute (Pullach 1955).

[j. b. lots]

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