. 3
( 12)


¬rst two Critiques and his other works, there was in our general experien-
tial engagement with the world a necessary element of spontaneity on the
part of the mind in apprehending objects of experience; this spontaneity
was both underived and involved neither an apprehension of any given
object nor any self-evident ¬rst principle. Instead, its spontaneous char-
acter indicated the way in which it, as it were, sprang up by its powers.
In such spontaneity, the human agent produced the “rules” by which the
“intuitions” of our experience were combined into the meaningful whole
of human experience; without the rules being combined with such expe-
riential, intuitional elements, the results of such spontaneity were devoid
of signi¬cance (Bedeutung), in the sense that they were devoid of any objec-
tive relation to the world. When transferred to the moral realm, though,
such spontaneity was no longer chained to intuition for its signi¬cance,
and, in relation to action, spontaneity became autonomy, the capacity
to institute the moral law and to move ourselves to action by virtue of
having so instituted it.
There had long been a tradition in philosophical thought that held
that our individual perceptions of things and our deliberations about
what to do required us to have some conception of our own standing
in the overall scheme of things. In particular, the Christian worldview
had demanded that we have an adequate grasp of our own place in the
created order if we were to have any adequate grasp of what was true and
what we ought to do. Although Kant had in one crucial respect seem-
ingly undermined that whole line of thought in his denial that we could
ever have knowledge of things-in-themselves or of the “unconditioned”
totality of nature, in another respect he still subscribed to it, holding that
experiential knowledge and moral knowledge required us to understand

(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
our place in certain totalities. In the case of experience, spontaneity
(combined with intuition) produces not merely individual perceptions of
things, but an experience of a natural order governed by necessary causal
laws and ¬tting the a priori laws of mathematics and geometry; in the
case of action, it produces a moral order, a “kingdom of ends.” Both of
these conceptions “ of a natural order and a moral order “ require us to
appeal to Ideas of reason to make them intelligible to us, although such
Ideas could only be regulative, not constitutive of experience. They were
not true representations of things-in-themselves “ of the world conceived
as existing wholly apart from the conditions under which we could con-
ceive it “ but rather necessary ways of ordering the particular elements of
our experience into a meaningful whole. As regulative for the particular
judgments that fell under their respective domains, the theoretical and
practical ideas were, like all normative components of our experience,
instituted by us to serve the ends of reason.

®©© ®¤ © µ¤§®
The most obvious dif¬culty in Kant™s approach was also clearly seen
by Kant himself: how do we explain the way in which we are both
subject to the norms of reason and yet also the agents who institute those
norms? How, after all, can we actually be bound by laws we make? In
particular, Kant™s conception required some account of how “we” insti-
tute norms and whether the norms making up what we call “reason” are
not “instituted” by us at all but simply are what they are. Although Kant
had hardly avoided taking on that issue in his earlier works, he came
face to face with it in his characteristically radical way in The Critique
of Judgment (±·°), his de¬nitive statement of some ideas and themes
he had been working on for some time. In that work, Kant took on
the issue concerning our “institution” of norms by focusing on another
problem: how do we go about orienting ourselves in the moral and
empirical order, and how is such orientation tied into what is neces-
sary for us to make valid judgments? Putting the question in that way
required him to examine what he called “re¬‚ective judgments” as dis-
tinct from “determinative judgments.” In “determinative judgments,”
we have a general concept, and we subsume a particular under it.
(For example, we might have the concept of a “rose” and then judge
whether the ¬‚ower we are observing is indeed a rose “ is indeed an
“instance” or “instantiation” of the more general concept.) In the case
of “re¬‚ective judgments,” however, we begin with particulars, and we
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
then search for which or what kind of general concepts they might fall
Quite strikingly, Kant singled out both aesthetic and teleological judg-
ments as the prime exemplars of such “re¬‚ective judgment.” In the case
of an aesthetic judgment about something judged to beautiful, we en-
counter a beautiful object (for example, a work of art or a beautiful part
of nature), we judge it to be beautiful, and we experience a kind of plea-
sure with regard to our apprehension of its beauty; moreover, in judging
it to be beautiful, we make a judgment that it really is beautiful, not just
“seems to be beautiful” to us, and that commits us to saying that the
judgment is valid for others. Although we might be tempted to assim-
ilate such judgments to empirical judgments, to being simply instances
of the more general type found in ordinary statements such as “it only
looks green in this light, but it really is blue,” such assimilation would
be a mistake. Whereas we can state the general rules (with, of course,
great dif¬culty) for such empirical judgments (in the case of judging an
object to be blue, those having to do with the conditions that count as
normal lighting and so forth), in the case of aesthetic judgments about
the beautiful, we typically confront individual cases (such as works of
art) for which even in principle no such rule can be found. This might
tempt one to hold that such judgments are therefore merely subjective
responses, mere reports of the fact that it pleased the observer. That,
too, would miss the point, Kant argued, since prima facie there is a differ-
ence between saying that something is pleasant or agreeable (angenehm)
and saying that it is beautiful; the former is a purely private, subjective
judgment, whereas the latter seems to say more than that “ it seems to
assert not that the agent ¬nds something pleasant “to him” but that the
object is beautiful and will be experienced by others (who have “taste”)
as beautiful. Indeed, so Kant was to go on to conclude, the pleasure that
we experience in a beautiful object does not precede the judgment that
it is beautiful, but is instead attendant on it.
Since aesthetic experience paradigmatically involves a passive element
of pure experiential receptivity and an active element of (“re¬‚ectively”)
judging something to be beautiful, an investigation into aesthetic judg-
ment, Kant concluded, might hold the clue to comprehending the way
in which we are agents subject to norms that we ourselves also institute.
The key to understanding such judgments involves the re¬‚ective judg-
ment that what is experienced is beautiful. In such judgments, we are
not applying a general concept (that of the “beautiful”) to a particular
instance, but rather perceiving the instance as beautiful and, as it were,
(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
searching for a concept under which we could subsume it. (We do not, as
it were, walk into a museum armed with a de¬nite and precise concept
of the beautiful and then examine each painting to see if it is subsumed
under that concept.) Thus, judgments about the beautiful are “re¬‚ective”
in Kant™s sense; but, as Kant saw, classifying them as re¬‚ective only put
off answering the question about why or whether such re¬‚ection is nec-
essary for the intuitive apprehension of the beautiful.
The key to answering that question had to do with the fact that judg-
ments about both the agreeable and the beautiful are said to involve taste,
itself the most “subjective” of all the senses. However, to the extent that
we judge something to be indeed beautiful, we are making a judgment
that our subjective state of mind in such experience is, as Kant puts
it, “universally communicable,” something that is of more than merely
private signi¬cance and is subject to some universal norms. In making
a subjective judgment about what pleases oneself, however, one is not
making a normative judgment so much as stating some facts about what
one ¬nds pleasant and what one does not. The two senses of “taste”
therefore diverge. In making a subjective judgment about the beautiful,
one is making a normative statement about how oneself and all others
ought to experience something, not an empirical prediction about how
others actually will react to the objects in question; in making a subjective
judgment about what pleases oneself, one is merely reporting on one™s
own private mental states and, on that basis, is entitled to say nothing
about what others ought to feel in experiencing the same thing (although
there might indeed be room for empirical prediction, as when one ad-
vises a friend that something on the menu is not likely to be something
that he will ¬nd agreeable).
The experience in question must therefore be crucially different from
the private subjective experience of simply ¬nding something agreeable.
In making a judgment about some private experience of agreeableness,
we do not presume that we can communicate to others who do not
happen to share that kind of mental state (who do not, for example,
¬nd a particular smell “pleasing”) anything about why they also ought to
¬nd that state pleasant to themselves. In judgments about the beautiful,
however, we experience something that we can communicate, although
our judgment is not based itself on concepts, since we cannot prescribe a
rule about such beauty. We cannot, as Kant points out, “compel” people
to believing something is beautiful at least in the same way that we can
“compel” them to accept what follows from the evidence in objective
·° Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
Such experience of the beautiful as universally communicable must
therefore be structured by universal norms that cannot themselves be
explicated as concepts, since there are no rules for determining what
counts as beautiful. The condition of the possibility of such experience
is thus the possession of some “universal” or “shared” sense “ that is, the
capacity for aesthetic taste. Just as possessing a concept does not mean that
one is in some particular subjective mental state but instead possesses an
ability “ that one knows how to “exhibit” the concept in experience, one
knows how to make judgments using it in accordance with universally
valid rules for its use and application “ the possession of taste means that
one has the ability to apprehend objects as beautiful. Taste is thus an
ability to have such aesthetic appreciation, not an ability to state rules
about what counts as beautiful.
Aesthetic appreciation itself thus cannot be equivalent to a simple
experience of pleasure itself, since that would not be “universally com-
municable.” This, of course, made such an ability very puzzling: since it is
a universally communicable state, it involves norms “ since only norma-
tive matters can be so communicated “ but it cannot involve conceptual
norms since there are no rules for such judgments. It must therefore in-
volve the cognitive faculties of the mind in a way that does not conform
to rules. Kant concluded that aesthetic appreciation must therefore in-
volve the way in which both imagination and intellect (der Verstand, “the
understanding”) are in free play with each other “ free in the sense that
their interaction with each other is not constrained by any rule. When
the result is a harmonious free play between intellect and imagination in
experience, it is an apprehension of something as beautiful.
The experience of the beautiful thus involves the imagination, al-
though in a crucially mediated way. Although the intellect is governed
by the concepts (the rules) necessary for the possibility of experience,
the imagination is free to combine the matters of experience according
to its own plan. When, however, the imagination constructs a unity of
experience that, although not guided by a concept (a rule), is nonethe-
less in harmony with the kinds of conceptual judgments produced by
the intellect (as guided by rules), and this harmony is itself spontaneously
produced without any rule to guide it, then one has the possibility of
an apprehension of the beautiful. Such harmonious free play, however,
is not itself directly experienced (at least in the same way in which a
feeling of agreeableness or pleasure is directly experienced); it is by an
act of attending to it, of re¬‚ective judgment, that the agent apprehends the
(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
In that way, aesthetic experience combines elements of both spontane-
ity and passivity: one must have the unconstrained harmony between in-
tellect and imagination at work, and the harmony must be spontaneously
attended to; and one must apprehend something as being beautiful, as
being an object of experience exhibiting in itself the same effect in which
imagination and intellect would spontaneously result if they were to pro-
duce the object. In experiences of the beautiful, we encounter objects
that re¬‚ective judgment judges as exhibiting the way in which imagina-
tion and intellect would have structured them if they had made them in
a fully harmonious free play of each other.
Because of this, the pleasure experienced in aesthetic appreciation
does not precede the judgment itself. Whereas in ordinary subjective ex-
periences of agreeableness or pleasure, one ¬rst has the experience and
then, following on that experience, the judgment that the experience was
indeed pleasurable (as a report on one™s experience), in aesthetic experi-
ence, one must have the re¬‚ective judgment that something is beautiful “
that one is spontaneously attending to the free harmonious play between
one™s intellect and imagination “ in order to experience the aesthetic
pleasure, which as harmonious free play is the pleasure itself (or, to state
the same thing differently, the pleasure experienced is not pleasure in
harmonious free play as distinct from it, but rather the harmonious
free play is the pleasure itself ). One is re¬‚ectively judging, in effect, that
this is the way that one™s experience really ought to be. The experience
of the beautiful is therefore like ordinary empirical experience in the
way that the beautiful simply appears to us and elicits a judgment from
us “ we cannot will something to be beautiful that is not beautiful “
but, unlike ordinary empirical experience, it involves a spontaneous
re¬‚ective judgment on that experience as an essential component of itself.
Kant saw that this raised an obvious pair of questions: on what grounds
are we saying that this is the way experience really ought to be, and what
necessitates the claim that judgments of taste really are to be analyzed in
the way Kant claims? That itself raised three other related and equally
crucial issues. What exactly is the capacity for taste and is it something
that all “minded,” rational agents have? Is there any greater signi¬cance
that taste is pointing toward? Is there any sense to saying that rational
agents ought to develop their capacity for taste?
The structure of aesthetic experience was thus made explicit. To have
the capacity for taste is to have an ability to respond re¬‚ectively to ob-
jects of experience as if they had been designed to elicit that experience.
Fine art displays one of the key features of objects that we encounter
· Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
as beautiful, and nature appears to us as beautiful in the same way: we
encounter something (for example, a beautiful landscape or waterfall)
that appears to us as if it were designed to match exactly what the result
of a spontaneously produced harmony between our unfettered imagina-
tion and intellect would have produced. Moreover, in both cases, we are
responding only to formal features of the experienced objects, since the
aesthetic pleasure happens in responding to the way in which the empir-
ically encountered object formally ¬ts what the free play of intellect and
imagination would have produced (as revealed in re¬‚ective judgment on
that experience).
Although ¬ne art is intentionally designed to produce such aesthetic
experiences, it must not, Kant stresses, show its design on its face. For us
to experience it as beautiful, it must seem to be as free from the constraints
of production-according-to-rule as anything in nature that we ¬nd beau-
tiful. In that way, the experiences of the beautiful in nature reveal more
of what such aesthetic experience is about. The experience of nature or
a natural object as beautiful is based on a re¬‚ective judgment about the
purposiveness of the world around us and how that world harmoniously
¬ts our nature as spontaneous beings. In the case of ¬ne art, we ¬nd that
purposiveness created for us by our artists, who must not allow any of the
material content of purposiveness to be exhibited in the work; in the case
of nature, though, we ¬nd works that, without any intentional design at
all, nonetheless meet the requirements of our own powers of imagination
and intellect, as if they had been designed that way. However, we may
not “ if we have learned the proper lesson from Kant™s ¬rst Critique “
conclude that the world actually was so designed to meet our require-
ments, since that would not only violate the conceptual conditions of the
possibility of experience, it would require us (impossibly) to know what
things are like in-themselves.
Experience of the beautiful is thus, as Kant phrased it, an experience of
“purposiveness without purpose,” a sense that things ¬t together accord-
ing to a purpose that we cannot state. The solution to the “antinomy” of
aesthetic judgment “ that aesthetic judgments are normative and thus
must be conceptual; and that aesthetic judgments cannot be conceptual
since judgments of taste cannot be based on concepts “ is that aesthetic
judgments are based on the “indeterminate concept of the supersensible
substrate of appearances.”± This, however, raised the obvious ques-
tion for Kant: since we cannot in principle know anything about the
± See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment (trans. Werner S. Pluhar) (Indianapolis: Hackett
Publishing Company, ±·), §µ·.
(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
“supersensible substrate of appearances,” are our aesthetic judgments
merely a matter of “as if ” (as if the world were ordered for us), or is there
some deeper account to be given? Or, to put it another way: is there any-
thing lacking in someone who does not have “taste” or does not develop
his power of aesthetic judgment?
Kant quite clearly thought that something would be amiss in someone
lacking or failing to cultivate taste, and, in a very revealing passage about
the superiority of the beauty of nature over that of art, he claimed that
the lover of ¬ne art who nonetheless ¬nds natural beauty to be superior
leads us to “regard this choice of his with esteem and assume that he has
a beautiful soul, such as no connoisseur and lover of art can claim to have
because of the interest he takes in his objects [of art].” The term, the
“beautiful soul,” had come to play a key role in Enlightenment thought;
as the belief in the theological grounding of morality had come under
suspicion, it was thought that only some kind of beauty could provide
the proper incentives for morality, and that “beauty” and “morality”
had therefore to be joined. The very way in which the beautiful spon-
taneously attracts one to it seemed to many to be exactly the kind of
internal motivation to leading the moral life that would be necessary in
a secular world. (This was most vividly laid out in the Earl of Shaftesbury™s
writings.) However, Kant ruled out appeal to such motivation in his writ-
ings on moral philosophy: morality was motivated by no prior interest,
and likewise aesthetic appreciation was also, he concluded, a disinterested
appreciation. One is prompted (passive voice) to take an interest (active
voice) in the moral good by the moral law itself; and, in the same way,
the apprehension of the beautiful in re¬‚ective judgment prompts one to
take an interest in it. Moreover, the moral and the aesthetic are linked,
for, as Kant puts it, “we consider someone™s way of thinking to be coarse
and ignoble if he has no feeling for beautiful nature,” preferring instead
what is merely pleasant, and, following from that, “whoever takes an
interest in the beautiful in nature can do so only to the extent that he
has beforehand already solidly established an interest in the morally

 See Pippin, “Avoiding German Idealism,” in Idealism as Modernism; and “The Signi¬cance of
Taste: Kant, Aesthetic and Re¬‚ective Judgment,” Journal of the History of Philosophy,  (Oct. ±),
µ“µ. Pippin raises this issue as one of the keys to understanding the structure and signi¬cance
of the third Critique.
 Critique of Judgment, §. Italics added by me.
 See Robert E. Norton, The Beautiful Soul: Aesthetic Morality in the Eighteenth Century (Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press, ±µ).
µ Critique of Judgment, §.
· Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
Why, though, should “purposiveness without purpose” be the kind of
thing that prompts us to take such an interest? And why should nature
and not “¬ne art” be superior in this regard? Since the “purpose” that
we seek and which prompts such an interest in us cannot be encountered
in nature, we seek it, Kant said, “in ourselves, namely, in what constitutes
the ultimate purpose of our existence: our moral vocation,” which would
be the “highest good,” the union of virtue and happiness. The very
conception of the “highest good,” so Kant™s writings seemed to suggest,
requires us to have the Idea of nature as a purposive unity, as structured
in some way that is commensurate to our own cognitive faculties and our
own moral hopes, but for which we cannot offer any theoretical proof.
In aesthetic experience, we are apprehending something that we are
capable of communicating to all other rational beings (as a normative
matter) and for which we can supply no de¬nite concept (rule) to make
the judgment, and that shared sense of the beautiful is, moreover, not a
matter exclusively of individual contemplation but involves our taking
account of the way others would judge the same objects.· In a striking
passage, Kant says of such a sensus communis (shared sense):
Instead, we must [here] take sensus communis to mean the idea of a sense shared
[by all of us], i.e., a power to judge that in re¬‚ecting takes account (a priori),
in our thought, of everyone else™s way of representing, in order as it were to
compare our own judgment with human reason in general and thus escape the
illusion that arises from the ease of mistaking subjective and private conditions
for objective ones . . . we compare our judgment not so much with the actual as
rather with the merely possible judgments of others, and put ourselves in the
position of everyone else, merely by abstracting from the limitations that happen
to attach to our own judging.
Thus, we are adjusting our judgments about the purposiveness of nature
in light of an orientation toward what other spontaneous agents would
ideally be doing (not how they actually respond) in responding re¬‚ectively
 Ibid., §.
· This interpretation thus agrees with that offered by Paul Guyer about the link between the highest
good and aesthetic judgment in seeing the link as having to do with the notion of purposiveness;
however, it departs from Guyer in seeing the matter of “expectations of agreement” as a nor-
mative concern, not as a prediction of how people in fact will respond. See Paul Guyer, Kant
and the Experience of Freedom (Cambridge University Press, ±). The major difference between
my kind of interpretation and Guyer™s lies in Guyer™s wish to “naturalize” Kant, whereas my
reading takes the enduring legacy of Kant™s thought to be in the way he tried to work out a
non-naturalist but nonetheless non-dualist and non-reductionist conception of human agency.
See Paul Guyer, “Naturalizing Kant,” in Dieter Sch¨ necker and Thomas Zwenger (eds.), Kant
Verstehen/Understanding Kant (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, °°±), pp. µ“.
 Critique of Judgment, §°.
(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
to the same things. Something like the “kingdom of ends” thus seems to be
at play in aesthetic judgment, except that the “kingdom of ends” involves
the use of concepts (there are indeed moral rules and reasoned moral
arguments), whereas aesthetic experience does not involve concepts.
The feelings of respect for the moral law and aesthetic pleasure are
both empirical features of our mental lives that do not, indeed cannot,
precede our encounters respectively with the moral law and the beautiful
(particularly in nature); we are prompted by those encounters to take the
interest that produces those subjective states of ourselves. Even though
there can be no theoretical reason “ nothing consistent with the way we
must understand the physical universe “ for the necessity of such feelings,
we must presume nonetheless that there is something in the world, as
Kant puts it, that is “neither nature nor freedom and yet is linked with
the basis of freedom, the supersensible” that makes all of this possible.
Aesthetic experience, as oriented by the “indeterminate concept of the
supersensible substrate of appearances” apprehends that indeterminacy
in a way that we cannot in principle conceptually articulate but which
is absolutely necessary if we are to ful¬ll our “highest vocation” of be-
coming autonomous moral beings. The problem with “¬ne art” is that
it is too “conceptual”: it always displays, well or badly, not much or too
much, the intention of the artist to produce a work of such and such a style
and genre “ in short, displaying the conceptual background of the work
of art. Natural beauty, on the other hand, displays no such conceptual
background: a beautiful sunset over the mountains is not, except in the
most metaphorical sense, one of nature™s genres, and thus it is much more
suited to express, even reveal, the spontaneous, free play of the faculties
that Kant holds to be essential to aesthetic experience, and it moreover
intimates (non-conceptually, and thus literally inconceivably) the under-
lying sense of order in the “supersensible substrate” that is at issue in our
appreciation of art “ and thus only those who appreciate the superiority of
natural beauty to the beauty of ¬ne art have truly “beautiful souls.” (This
also led Kant to lay the importance of the notion of “genius” in ¬ne art;
the “genius” is the person who gives the rule to art without having to fol-
low any other already made rule; the “genius” is in effect the person who,
almost inexplicably, resolves the “Kantian paradox” by an act of legisla-
tion that is somehow not indebted to prior reasons, that is, concepts. This
was to have no small effect among the early Romantics, some of whom in
turn invoked the idea of the “moral genius” for much the same reason.)

 Ibid., §µ.
· Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy

®©© ®¤ ¬¬§©¬ µ¤§®
As Kant quite clearly understood, the far-reaching conclusions he had
reached about the nature of aesthetic judgment required him to say
something about teleological judgment, since the force of aesthetic judg-
ments rested on seeing nature as a purposive unity suited for the kinds
of activities of the creatures we are.
First of all, teleological judgments, Kant noted, seem to be necessary
in at least a perfunctory way. To classify something, for example, as
an “organ” (or anything in general as “organic”), we need to judge it
in terms of some purpose it serves. To see something as an eye, for
example, requires us to understand it in terms of serving the goals of
sight. A researcher discovering a new type of insect or a new type of crab
might say of some feature of the animal, “that is its eye.” In making that
judgment, the observer is making a re¬‚ective judgment in light of what
he takes to be the key purpose(s) served by the feature, what the feature™s
function is. (It would make little sense to say of some animal™s feature that
it is an eye but has nothing to do with seeing, even vestigially.)
Teleological judgments are thus also judgments of re¬‚ection, since
they clearly go beyond judgments based on purely physical attributes.
No law of nature is violated by a damaged or malfunctioning organ; a
damaged eye obeys the same laws of physics as a healthy eye. To say, for
example, of an eye that it is damaged, is to impute certain functions to it
that it no longer can serve, not to say that it violates any natural laws. Or,
to put it another way, to judge an eye as damaged is to judge it as being
not the way it should be, in light of the purposes it is supposed to serve.
Clearly, such teleological re¬‚ective judgments raise the issue about
whether this is only an “as if ” judgment, since the purposes seem to be
imputed by us, not encountered in nature itself. Must we make judgments
about organs “as if ” they were designed for a purpose, or must we judge
them purposively because of some other reason? On the one hand, Kant
thought that we cannot eliminate teleological explanations from biology;
without teleological explanations (or, to be very anachronistic, without
what we would call “functional” explanations), it would be impossible
for us to speak of organs as organs. For us to make judgments about
organs in terms of purposes that they serve, though, it would also seem
to be necessary to see what purposes those lesser purposes serve; and that
would require us to see nature as a whole as purposive. On the other
hand, although we might subjectively consider all of nature as ordered
in terms of purposes “ as when we offhandedly say that such and such
(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
feature appeared in an animal species to help them survive “ we cannot
objectively consider nature as a system of purposes. As it reveals itself to
our empirical investigations, nature seems, as Kant puts it, more like a
“state of chaos,” working in a mechanical, savage way that displays no
intentional design whatsoever.±° There simply is no good empirical or a
priori theoretical reason to see nature as purposive as a whole. Neither
biology nor the earth sciences (such as geology, ocean studies, etc.) gain
any extra explanatory power by including purposes within themselves.
Moreover, the empirical investigation of humanity reveals only more of
the same; viewed naturalistically, man is merely one link among others in
a natural chain, and such investigation gives us small hope for optimism
about the human species, since it so clearly reveals the various destructive
natural forces at work in people™s personalities that are just as much part
of humanity as its more agreeable sides.
Yet, from the moral point of view, we necessarily must judge humanity
to be an end in itself, to be the ultimate purpose in terms of which
everything else is a means. For that to be the case, Kant concluded, we
must see the world as having the purpose within itself to bring about
the existence of man as a moral being. Indeed, to see man as a moral
being is already to impute some kind of purposiveness to him; it is not
to describe him or explain him naturalistically “ the most evil person
follows the same natural laws as the greatest saint “ but to evaluate him
normatively. It is to regard him, that is, as a member of the “kingdom of
ends,” as a creature capable of both giving and asking for reasons and
also capable of determining himself to act on his conception of what
those reasons demand of him.
Building on arguments found earlier in his Critique of Practical Reason,
Kant argued that such a moral conception of humanity requires that we
think of the whole world as purposively structured in terms of providing
the possibility for man™s achieving the “highest good” as the union of
virtue and happiness, and that requires us to conceive of a moral initiator
(Urheber) of the world who has designed the world in that way. Kant made
it quite clear that he was not reversing himself on the priority of morality
and religion; such arguments are “not trying to say that it is as necessary
to assume that God exists as it is to acknowledge that the moral law
is valid.”±± It is simply that, without such an assumption, we cannot
rationally take ourselves to be aiming at the highest good, since it is not
something we alone could accomplish.

±° ±±
See Ibid., §. Ibid., §·.
· Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
Because of that, we must therefore also come to understand human
history itself as a whole as if it were guided by some purpose within
nature itself for bringing about the kingdom of ends as the “ethical
commonwealth.” That moral task, though, poses a particular problem,
a theme Kant only hinted at in his third Critique but explored in more
depth in some independent essays. Given our empirical natures, we ¬nd
ourselves ¬lled with the natural desire to enter society, yet we also ¬nd
that our inherent egoism (manifested in the moral realm as “radical
evil”) produces in us an “unsocial sociability.” We wish to be with others,
and yet we wish to maintain our own private sovereign realms at the
expense of those others. Those tensions and con¬‚icts resulting from that
“unsocial sociability” “ from, as Kant puts it, the “social incompatibility,
enviously competitive vanity, and insatiable desires for possession or even
power” “ provide the empirical motives for the human race as a whole
to develop from barbarism to culture.± However, given man™s “unsocial
sociability” and his natural propensity to twist the moral law to his own
advantage, the production of the “ethical commonwealth” as the goal
toward which history is ideally (as if ) aiming would also require that
mankind have a human master who could break his will and force him
to obey a will that is universally valid and who would himself be perfectly
just and not subject to radical evil. The complete solution to this task is
therefore impossible: in Kant™s famous phrase, “from such crooked timbers as
man, nothing straight can be built.”±
Yet, although the solution is impossible, and no utopian scheme could
possibly resolve that unsolvable problem, we must nonetheless view hu-
man history as a whole as if it were tending to that end, since, without
doing so, our capacity for moral motivation would be severely under-
mined. On the one hand, such a view gives us an ideal for improvement;
on the other hand, it is more than just an ideal; it is also a practical
requirement. To act according to the moral law and to seek the improve-
ment of man™s lot, we must have some practical faith that doing so makes
a difference, that the seeds we sow now are not in vain, that nature does
not conspire against our highest ideals. If we do not, then we ultimately
have to see all of history and humanity™s role in it, as Kant phrases it, as
a “farce” “ to which Kant adds, “and even if the actors do not tire of it “
for they are fools “ the spectator does, for any single act will be enough
for him if he can reasonably conclude from it that the never-ending
± Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose,” in Kant™s Political
Writings, p. µ.
± Ibid., p.  (translation altered).
(III): Aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order
play will go on in the same way forever.”± But, as Kant goes on to say,
“confronted by the sorry spectacle . . . of those evils . . . which men in¬‚ict
upon one another, our spirits can be raised by the prospect of future
improvements. This, however, calls for unsel¬sh good will on our part,
since we shall have been long dead and buried when the fruits we helped
to sow are harvested.”±µ However, since we cannot place much weight
on the hope that people will have “unsel¬sh good will” “ we humans are,
after all, built of “crooked timbers” “ we must have a practical faith that
somehow history works according to unknown laws that are nonetheless
compatible with the normative moral law and which inch us toward our
ideal outcome.
That ideal means that we understand how the historical succession
from Greece to Rome to rule by the barbarians (the “Germanic nations”),
and the replacement of rule by barbarians by modern “civilization” and
“culture” requires us to conclude that there is indeed “a regular process
of improvement in the political constitutions of our continent (which
will probably legislate eventually for all other continents).”± Ultimately,
the triumph of right in Europe will be legislative (“probably,” as Kant
cautiously hedges his statement) for all humanity; the ideal of rights,
rule of law, the sharp separation of public from private realms, indeed, the
whole modern setup of liberal, property-owning, representative (in some
fashion) states of modern Europe, whose principles are established by
the ideals of science and reason, is destined for all of humanity, “as if ”
guided by an invisible hand we cannot discern; and the three great
Kantian Critiques were supposed to be the blueprint of what reason could
produce for that emerging modern European order.
± Immanuel Kant, “On the Common Saying: ˜This May Be True in Theory, but It Does Not
Apply in Practice,™ ” in Kant™s Political Writings, p. .
±µ Immanuel Kant, Ibid., p. ; KW, ©, p. ±; (·).
± Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose,” p. µ.
° ©©

The revolution continued: post-Kantians
Introduction: idealism and the reality
of the French Revolution

It is worth noting again the dates of Kant™s early works: the ¬rst Critique
appeared in ±·±, and the new, and in some places radically reworked
edition, in ±··. In ±·µ, he had published the Groundwork of the Metaphysics
of Morals, which was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason in ±·.
However, as Kant was forging ahead with his work with the German
reading public somewhat anxiously following each new intellectual ex-
plosion coming out of K¨ nigsberg, another event took place that was just
as important both to the reception of Kant™s thought and to development
of post-Kantian philosophy as the intellectual currents circulating in the
universities and journals: the French Revolution of ±·.
Kant™s own philosophy in some ways helped to prepare people for a
certain type of reception of the Revolution. The dual consciousness that
characterized so many re¬‚ective Germans during the pre-Revolutionary
period had been reformulated by Kant in a manner that quite surpris-
ingly had made philosophy the inheritor of the energies that Werther had
unleashed. In Kant™s own distinctions between the phenomenal world
and the world of things-in-themselves “ and thus between ourselves as
pushed around by nature and society, and ourselves as noumenal, au-
tonomous agents “ people found both an explanation of their condition
and (something that Werther did not give them) an inkling of a way out of
that condition. The dual consciousness was to be explained as the relation
between the rational self and the empirical self, and, as Kant had put it
in “What Is Enlightenment?,” the remaining problem was only to realize
our autonomy, which required us only to have the courage to think for
ourselves, which in turn only required an act of will; and to many the
Revolution had only demonstrated that such an act of will was in mod-
ern times collectively possible. The freedom promised by the Revolution
seemed, at least at ¬rst glance to be that realization of the autonomy
elaborated by Kant, and, even better, Kant™s thought seemed to hold
out the hope that Germans could shake the chains of the past without
having to undergo the bloodshed and upheaval experienced in France.
Reason, which had been put in the service of the old order, now seemed
on the verge of instituting bloodlessly a brand new order in German life.
The Revolution proved to be a signal event for the younger genera-
tion. That the Revolution took place in what most educated Europeans
regarded as the most advanced and civilized country in the world only
intensi¬ed its effect on people™s minds, and many in Germany began
thinking of it as a new “Reformation,” a harbinger of a new spiritual
order destined for German life. Kant himself sided with the Revolution
(although he was hardly an enthusiastic polemicist for it), and the possible
connections between his own thoughts about spontaneity and autonomy
and the events of the Revolution were quickly drawn by younger intel-
lectuals if not by the master himself. Moses Mendelssohn had already
taken to calling him the “all destroying” Kant, who demolished classical
metaphysics and all that was tied to it; Heinrich Heine, long after Kant™s
death, described him as the Jacobin of philosophy who had effected a
revolution that executed the philosophical and religious past with a kind
of ruthlessness characteristic of the revolutionary Terror in France. It
was clear that however much Kant thought of his philosophy as having
¬nally put metaphysics on the road to becoming a science, his thoughts
were taken up in a much more passionate and engaged fashion by his
younger contemporaries than any purely “scienti¬c” theory would have
The rapidly moving events of the end of the eighteenth century only
solidi¬ed the importance of the Revolution in people™s minds. In ±·±,
Austria and Prussia had publicly vowed to defend the principles of
monarchy against the threats of French-style revolution, and, by ±·,
relations between the German lands and the new revolutionary French
government had deteriorated to a declaration of war between them.
A German force led by the Duke of Braunschweig, regarded as the pre-
eminent military man of his day, marched into France to put a decisive
end to all the revolutionary upheaval, only to suffer a crushing defeat on
September ° at Valmy near Paris in a battle famous for its carnage and
for the fact that Goethe was present as an observer, noting (supposedly
as he watched the unbelievable slaughter on both sides unfold) that those
present were witnessing the beginning of a new epoch in world history. To
make matters even more horrifying for traditionalists, the newly elected
National Convention in France abolished the monarchy in France the
day after the victory at Valmy. As the Revolution progressed, the king
was publicly tried, condemned, and executed. As the Terror (with its
 Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
great symbol of the guillotine serving to behead all of the Revolution™s
“enemies”) became an ongoing fact of life of the new regime of “virtue,”
many of those who had at ¬rst enthusiastically endorsed the Revolution
began to recoil from it in horror, while others cheered its successes, and
still many others more or less held their breath, waiting to see how things
might turn out.
The Revolution™s conceptual link with the Kantian philosophy of free-
dom was nonetheless noted by many people; in some quarters, Kant was
explicitly compared both to the great French revolutionary thinkers and
to the giants of the religious reform of a few centuries back “ for ex-
ample, Konrad Engelbert Oelsner, a Silesian German who had been
reporting on the Revolution from Paris for the German journal Minerva
later remarked: “Calvin and Luther, Siey` s and Kant, a Frenchman and
a German, reform the world.”
In the aftermath of the Revolution, what happened was unprece-
dented. Philosophy suddenly became the key rallying point for an entire
generation of German intellectuals, all of whom had begun reading
Kant™s works as they gradually appeared in the ±·°s and ±·°s not just
as academic treatises but as harbingers of a new order. The explosive
combination of Kantian critical philosophy and political revolution, in-
terpreted through the German experience of the Reformation as having
reformed the church while leaving the corruption of society woefully in-
tact, gave a new impetus to thinking about a reconciliation within the dual
consciousness that educated Germans carried around with them. This
hit particularly hard on the new generation that was coming of age just
as Kant™s works were being published for the ¬rst time; the Revolution
inspired a whole set of those young men and women to imagine very
different lives for themselves and to hope for a new world and for new
political, moral, and religious order to be realized within their own life-
times. They experienced the conjoined events of the new philosophy and
the revolutionary upheaval not simply as political or social events but as
signaling a new epoch. The successors to Kant, the German idealists “
Fichte quite notoriously and explicitly “ at ¬rst explicitly identi¬ed their
thoughts with the Revolution. The time-line of the development of post-
Kantian thought in the ±·°s and ±·°s tracked the time-line of the
Revolution, and much more than merely an academic movement seemed
to be at stake for those involved as actors in the drama or as members of
± Quoted in Otto P¨ ggeler, Hegels Idee einer Ph¨ nomenologie des Geistes (Munich: Karl Alber, ±),
o a
p. . The Abb´ Siey` s was famous for his revolutionary work, “What Is the Third Estate?,” one
e e
of the key texts of the French Revolution.
the reading public. The whole shape of the modern world was in play
and up for grabs, and the young people involved in the movement turned
to Kantian thought and its aftermath to make sense of that world for
themselves and to begin to think about its possible shapes.
However, in that debate several other things intruded. Starting in ±·µ,
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi created a name for himself that came to rival
that of Kant™s through his published attacks ¬rst on the Enlightenment
in general and then later against Kant explicitly. Jacobi in effect accused
the Enlightenment (and, shortly thereafter, the Kantian philosophy itself )
of tearing everything down while having nothing to build up in its place;
of pretending that unfettered reason could actually produce an alter-
native modern world to the old order now under ¬re. Moreover, as the
Revolution began to lurch into the most violent phases of the Terror, with
the guillotines working overtime, many, even those initially sympathetic
to the Revolution, began to wonder whether Jacobi was perhaps right;
they began to wonder whether the new world of promised freedom was
as compelling as it had originally seemed only a few short years before,
and whether the Revolution™s turn to violence clearly showed how the
academic hope for a free, rational world would, when unleashed into
the real world, only produce the devastating results that were intimated
in Jacobi™s attacks. To those who had suspected Jacobi might be right,
the Terror only reinforced their fears; and to them, instead of being the
new guide to the new epoch, the Kantian philosophy of the “invisible
church” uniting all in the name of virtue began to seem perhaps more
dangerous to put into practice than anybody had previously thought.
Even as Kant was writing, the stakes “ socially, religiously, politically,
and philosophically “ had suddenly come to seem very high indeed.
Jacobi™s attacks, although beginning before the Revolution, really took on
their full force after the events of ±·; and Kant™s ¬nal works, culminat-
ing in his philosophy of history, must be read in light of the dates of their
appearance, since after ±· everything Kant did and had done began
to take on new meanings, and the stakes had been raised yet higher
° 

The ±·°s: the immediate post-Kantian reaction:
Jacobi and Reinhold

«®™ µ ®¤  © ¦ ®
One of the great and striking overall effects of Kant™s philosophical
achievement was the way in which he had managed to pull off one
of the most in¬‚uential and lasting redescriptions of the history of phi-
losophy. In one fell swoop, Kant had managed to convince his public
that the great body of the history of philosophy had consisted in one
of two only partially successful (and necessarily ¬nally unsatisfactory)
approaches to human knowledge and action: on the one hand, there
were the rationalists who claimed that we know nothing of things-in-
themselves except what we discover through pure reason and logic; on
the other hand, there were the empiricists who said that we know nothing
of things-in-themselves except that which we gather from our experience
of them. Kant™s solution was to say that both camps were partially right
and partially wrong, and that his “critical” philosophy was the correct
synthesis between them. Not only did it offer a better theory, it also
explained why there had only been a see-saw and stand-off between ra-
tionalism and empiricism until the Kantian philosophy had been itself
Kant™s assertion of the autonomy of reason “ of its capacity to set
standards not only for itself but for everything else “ had some clear and
immediate practical implications. In Kant™s day, the theological faculty
typically held sway over the other faculties and particularly over philos-
ophy. Professors in theology were typically also professors in philosophy
and vice versa, and the theological faculty had to approve the books used
in the philosophy classes (although, of course, not vice versa). The image
of philosophy as an ineffectual underling “ as presenting, in Kant™s dev-
astating metaphor, “the ludicrous spectacle of one man milking a he-goat
and the other holding a sieve underneath” “ was to be replaced by Kant™s
having ¬nally established philosophy as a science alongside other already

 Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
emerging and established sciences.± Indeed, so Kant was to argue in a
book on the nature of the university (The Con¬‚ict of the Faculties, ±·,
his last published book), in modern times the philosophical faculty had
¬nally developed itself to the point where it no longer needed to be re-
garded simply as a preparatory study for other subjects (especially for
theology); having become an autonomous faculty (mirroring reason™s au-
tonomy), it could even lay claim to being the central faculty of a modern
university. Through his radical revolution in philosophy, Kant was also
calling, quite speci¬cally, for a revolution in higher education that also
threatened to overturn the long-standing structure of authority in the
German university system.
This was, however, one instance where Kant™s own conclusions had
already been anticipated by his followers before he had publicly reached
them. By ±·, the faculty at the university at Jena was engaged in pre-
cisely that project almost thirteen years before Kant had made explicit
his own views on the matter of the place of philosophy in university
education. Jena, a very small town of artisans and an insigni¬cant uni-
versity, had suddenly emerged as the center of the new revolution in
philosophy and in German intellectual life in general. A good bit of the
credit for this had to go to the newly installed minister at the court in
Weimar, Johann Wolfgang Goethe himself; Goethe made Jena into a
center of free intellectual inquiry, something almost unheard of in its
time in Germany, and its university quickly became the model of a re-
formed, even “Kantian” university. The rise of Jena ¬t the temper of
the times well: the dominant opinion in Germany (and elsewhere in
Europe) was that universities were outmoded, medieval institutions,
staffed by tenured professors who taught students useless knowledge, and
whose traditions of drunken student revelry were detrimental to the stu-
dents™ moral health; and the conventional wisdom was that it just might
be better to abolish the universities and replace them with more forward-
looking academies and institutes that would train students in more useful
skills. (France actually did that for a while after the Revolution in ±·.)
Against that trend, Jena offered up a vision of the union of teaching and
research at a single institution, an idea of bringing serious students into
contact with the best minds of the time working on the latest ideas, and,
even more striking, the linchpin of the whole institution was to be the
philosophical and not the theological faculty. In fact, the very ¬rst pub-
lic lectures ever delivered on Kantian philosophy (besides Kant™s own)
± See Critique of Pure Reason, µ = .
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold 
were given in Jena in ±· and ±·µ, and the literary journal founded
and edited there “ the Allgemeine Literatur Zeitung “ became the widest read
intellectual journal in Germany, serving to further disseminate the new
Kantian ideas.
Among the public that read journals like the Allgemeine Literatur Zeitung,
Kant began being discussed with the same intensity as novels and more
popular literature. Part of the explanation of Kant™s popularity had to
do with the tensions within the German intellectual scene itself. Besides
the dry-as-dust Wolf¬ans with their scholasticized modes of thinking,
and the small group of people in¬‚uenced by the materialism of the
French Enlightenment, there were the proportionately large class of
Popularphilosophen, the “popular philosophers,” who argued philosoph-
ical issues in a manner accessible to a general, educated public and who
typically made a living (or at least part of it) off their literary endeavors.
Moreover, the German “popular philosophers” tended to champion the
ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment, in particular the school of Scottish
“common-sense” philosophy and its corresponding versions of episte-
mological and moral realism (along with its realism in theological mat-
ters). (To be sure, though, many “popular philosophers” championed
Rousseauian notions of “nature” and virtue; indeed, it would falsify the
whole period to underestimate the in¬‚uence of Rousseau on German
thought during that time.)
However, growing legions of Pietists, old style evangelical believers
in the literal truth of the Bible, and conservative theologians were in-
creasingly on the attack against the importation of Enlightenment ideas,
especially as they came to be applied to matters like biblical scholar-
ship; and hovering in the background of all the various expositions of
Scottish common-sense philosophy was the ¬gure of David Hume, al-
ways in that context interpreted as a dangerous skeptic with the effrontery
to throw the world and its religious underpinnings into question. Against
Hume, the “popular philosophers” liked to invoke the common-sense
realism of thinkers like Thomas Reid as offering the appropriate anti-
dote to the anti-Enlightenment religious reaction to modernity in gen-
eral. However, anti-Enlightenment philosophers, such as J. G. Hamann
(±·°“±·), increasingly invoked Hume himself as a proof that the pre-
tensions of the Enlightenment as a whole were in fact only pretensions;
the irony behind this “ Hume was a proudly self-professed member of
the Enlightenment™s own party “ was only all too evident. (The story of
Hamann™s friendship with and eventual estrangement from the very
young professor Kant over the issue of Hume is itself a fascinating piece of
° Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
intellectual history. ) Among the “popular philosophers,” Kant™s system
came to be seen as an answer to Hume™s otherwise corrosive skepticism,
and thus much of the early discussion of it centered on whether he had
indeed satisfactorily “refuted” Hume (and about what that might even
In the mid-±·°s, however, Kant (and the Jena school) had to deal
with the blistering attacks coming from F. H. Jacobi; those attacks, the
rise of the faculty at Jena, and the Revolution in ±· created an in-
tensely combustible mixture. Kant had offered what at ¬rst seemed like
the right solution for the con¬‚icted self-understandings of the German
reading public. The deadening conformism of day-to-day life, increas-
ingly experienced by the generation born between ±·µ and ±··µ as in-
tolerable and irrelevant, was only the sensible covering of a more radical,
non-empirical freedom that reconciled itself with faith while implicitly
calling for a reorganization of church life and theological teaching. The
fate of Kantianism thus seemed to hang together with the fate of the pos-
sibility of reform in Germany that would somehow evade (what seemed
from the outside to be) the disorder and bedlam taking place in France.

 ©©±µ ¦ ® µ®¤ §©® «®: ©
One of the key ¬gures to use Hume to argue against what he saw as the
pretensions of the Enlightenment was Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (±·“
±±), who burst onto the literary scene in ±·µ as a key participant
in one of the most widely followed disputes of the day, the so-called
“pantheism dispute.” Although the dispute did not originally concern
Kantian thought itself, its application to Kantianism was clear enough
eventually to draw even Kant himself into the debate, and, after the
initial debate had settled down, Jacobi got around to turning his critical
talents onto Kant himself.
Jacobi was born into a family of merchants, and, although he be-
came fairly successful at business himself, his heart was never really in it,
and he withdrew from business activities as soon as he had managed to
put his ¬nancial holdings in good order. By his own description, Jacobi
had been interested in religious matters since he was a child (not en-
tirely to his parents™ pleasure), and he used his fortune to establish an
estate at Pempeldorff (near D¨ sseldorf ) at which he was able to attract
 The standard account in English of the relation between Hamann and Kant is to be found in
Frederick C. Beiser, The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, ±·), ch. ±.
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold ±
such luminaries as Goethe and Diderot to visit. (He also married Betty
von Clermont, herself the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who shared
his intellectual interests, and brought no small amount of capital her-
self into the family.) By all accounts, Jacobi was a gracious and affable
Although Jacobi has a reputation in our times as a kind of dark ¬gure
in German intellectual life and as having been one of the key instigators of
German irrationalism, such a view is more of a caricature than it is fair to
his thought. He instead belongs to that line of thinkers, of whom Pascal
is another prime representative, who are skeptical of reason™s capacity to
provide its own justi¬cation, who think that the drive of reason to explain
everything in its own terms is a chimera, and who, like Pascal, think that
reason ultimately takes its ¬rst principles from the “heart,” not from its
own cognitive activities. Jacobi did not completely scorn reason; he
simply thought that faith in reason to solve all of life™s problems was
misplaced, and he argued passionately for that view. Jacobi™s thought
was in effect a protest against and rejection of any concept of “religion
within the limits of reason alone” and in particular against the idea that
a rational “system” of philosophy could adequately capture what was at
stake in human existence. Jacobi™s own thought, however, was always too
much tainted with the sentimentalism of the time. Pascal tends toward a
more “existential” line of thought; Jacobi always tends to sentimentalism.
With the publication in ±·µ of his book, On Spinoza™s Doctrines in Letters
to Herr Moses Mendelssohn, Jacobi became a luminary in German intel-
lectual life. The setting for the book had to do with the wide, although
 The basis for Jacobi™s bad reputation comes from both Heinrich Heine and Isaiah Berlin. Heine
famously said of Jacobi: “The most furious of these opponents of Spinoza was F. H. Jacobi who
is occasionally honored by being classed among German philosophers. He was nothing but a
quarrelsome sneak, who disguised himself in the cloak of philosophy and insinuated himself among
the philosophers, ¬rst whimpering to them ever so much about his affection and sofheartedness,
then letting loose a tirade against reason,” Heinrich Heine, “Concerning the History of Religion
and Philosophy in Germany,” in Heinrich Heine, The Romantic School and Other Essays (eds. Jost
Hermand and Robert C. Holub) (New York: Continuum Books, ±µ), p. ±±. Isaiah Berlin in
his well-known piece, “Hume and the Sources of German Anti-Rationalism” “ in Isaiah Berlin,
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (New York: Viking Press, ±·), pp. ±“±· “
made much the same point as Heine. A more balanced picture can be found in George di
Giovanni, “Introduction: The Un¬nished Philosophy of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi,” in George di
Giovanni (ed. and trans.), F. H. Jacobi: The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill (Montreal:
McGill-Queen™s University Press, ±), pp. “±·; Beiser, The Fate of Reason, chs. , ; and Beiser,
Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism, ch. .
 In Pascal™s formulation: “We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our
heart. It is through the latter that we know ¬rst principles, and reason, which has nothing to do
with it, tries in vain to refute them,” Pascal, Pens´es, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (Baltimore: Penguin
Books, ±), p. µ (No. ±±°, Lafuma edition).
 Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
still not completely public, discussion of Spinoza™s philosophy. Kant had
tantalizingly spoken in the Introduction to the ¬rst Critique of the two
distinct “stems of human knowledge, namely, sensibility and understand-
ing, which perhaps spring from a common, but to us unknown root,”µ
and repeatedly in the Critique of Judgment he spoke about the indetermi-
nate and indeterminable supersensible substrate of appearances that is
“neither nature nor freedom and yet is linked with the basis of freedom.”
This naturally raised the issue for many people as to whether Kant was
claiming that appearances and things-in-themselves, sensibility and un-
derstanding, and even nature and freedom were perhaps only different
aspects of some one underlying, “absolute” reality. Indeed, Kant himself
had seemed to say as much.· If so, then that suggested that Kant and
Spinoza were not that far apart, for Spinoza had held that the one sub-
stance of the world appeared to us in different aspects “ for example, as
mental events and as extended matter. Spinoza had quite explicitly held
a “monist” position: there was only one basic reality, and there were two
very different ways in which it manifested itself to us.
Kant, of course, had dismissed as “transcendental illusion” Spinoza™s
own claim to be able to grasp this one substance by pure thought, since
Spinoza™s cognitive claims clearly went beyond the boundaries of pos-
sible experience and thus in Kantian terms were without any cognitive
signi¬cance. However, many people found Kant™s own rigid distinction
between appearances and things-in-themselves too much to swallow and
were already looking for ways to reinterpret Kant so as to keep the key
Kantian doctrines of knowledge, autonomy, and moral duty without hav-
ing to swallow the whole Kantian metaphysics of things-in-themselves “
just as legions of Kant scholars continue to do nowadays. In that context,
a Spinozistic “neutral monism” not only seemed the most promising way
of accomplishing such a task, it also seemed to be something for which
Kant himself had opened the door in his own speculations about the
“supersensible substrate” in his third Critique.
However, in Germany of the last part of the eighteenth century, in-
voking Spinoza was in effect raising a red ¬‚ag. For Spinoza, God, as
identical with the one substance of the world, was everywhere and in
µ  See Critique of Judgment, §µ.
Critique of Pure Reason, ±µ = .
· The often-cited passage from the Critique of Pure Reason to support such a dual aspect interpretation
of Kant is the following: “But if our Critique is not in error in teaching that the object is to be
taken in a twofold sense (Bedeutung), namely as appearance as thing in itself . . . then there is no
contradiction in supposing the one and the same will is in the appearance, that is, in its visible
acts, necessarily subject to the law of nature, and so far not free, while yet, as belonging to a thing
in itself, it is not subject to that law, and is therefore free,” xxviii.
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold 
everything, and the logical conclusion that this was therefore incompati-
ble with any doctrine of a personal God “ and therefore with the whole of
Christianity “ was only too obvious. In fact, the incompatibility of
Spinozism with orthodox Christianity led many quite explicitly to equate
Spinozistic “pantheism” with atheism per se.
Independently of the discussion surrounding Kant, Jacobi entered the
German debate in the context of the emerging discussion of Spinozism
in Germany, but his own contribution to the debate was ultimately to
change the way Kant was debated. The background to Jacobi™s book
had to do with some letters exchanged between Jacobi and Moses
Mendelssohn, a widely (and justi¬ably) revered philosopher of the time.
After Gotthold Ephraim Lessing™s death, his old friend, Mendelssohn,
had been planning to write a laudatory piece on him. Hearing of this,
Jacobi wrote to Mendelssohn to tell him of a conversation he had had with
Lessing in which Lessing confessed to being a Spinozist. Mendelssohn,
astounded by this news, exchanged a series of impassioned letters with
Jacobi on the matter. Jacobi then put his recollections of conversations
with Lessing, some other thoughts of his on free will and knowledge, and
his letters to Mendelssohn into book form and published them in ±·µ;
the ensuing “pantheism debate,” as it was called, electri¬ed the German
intellectual public. The forbidden “ Spinozism “ had come out into the
open, and none other than a cultural giant such as Lessing had been
allegedly shown to be a Spinozist.
However, rather than sinking Lessing™s reputation, the controversy
only elevated Spinoza™s. This did not particularly bother Jacobi, who
took himself at least to have brought the key issues to light; he summed
up his position as the theses that “Spinozism is atheism,” “Every av-
enue of demonstration ends up in fatalism,” and “Every proof presup-
poses something already proven, the principle of which is Revelation,”
and thus “faith is the element of all human cognition and activity.” To
show this, Jacobi appealed to the old argument that any demonstration
requires some principles from which it can be demonstrated, and that, in
turn, requires a stopping point, a set of ¬rst principles (or a ¬rst principle)
that cannot itself be proved. Such ¬rst principles, Jacobi argued, could
only be vouchsafed in some kind of “immediate certainty.” Playing on
the slack in the word “belief ” (Glauben) as indicating both secular belief
 See Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, “Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza,” in F. H. Jacobi, The Main
Philosophical Writings and the Novel “Allwill,” (ed. and trans. George di Giovanni), pp. “; Briefe,
pp. ±·±“±·.
 The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel “Allwill,” p. °; Briefe, p. ±.
 Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
and religious faith, Jacobi concluded that all our knowledge must rest
therefore on some kind of faith: “Through faith we know that we have a
body, and that there are other bodies and other thinking beings outside
of us. A veritable and wondrous revelation!”±° And if our belief in our
own bodies and in a mechanical, natural world is ultimately grounded
in “faith” (or “immediate certainty”), then why not go the whole route
and accept on faith the existence of a personal God? Indeed, all the
problems encountered providing grounds for such knowledge “ whether
it be belief in physical objects or, more particularly, belief in God “ can
only be solved by making a “leap,” as Jacobi put it, a salto mortale (quite
literally, a “mortal somersault”), and only in such a “leap” can we be
con¬dent of our own radical freedom and of there being anything of
enduring value that could claim our allegiance.±±
Jacobi™s argument rested on an “inferentialist” presupposition, itself
based on a “regress” argument, that was also to be equally assumed
by many of the authors writing in the period up until ±°°, and which
was itself to come under attack in that same period in the debate sur-
rounding Kantianism and the alleged “post-Kantian” development of
Kant™s views. The regress argument (which says that we must have some
stopping point somewhere to our justi¬cations) rests on the principle
that all “epistemic” dependence (all relations of dependence that have
to do with “grounding” or justifying some claim to knowledge) is always
“inferential” dependence. The basic idea is that if one believes some-
thing, then one must be able to justify that belief, and one can justify it
only if one can show that it follows logically from some other true belief
or proposition; the logic of that position drives one inexorably to the con-
clusion that there must therefore be something that one knows without
having to know anything else, some proposition or set of propositions
that one just knows without having to deduce it from anything else. That
is given to us by the “heart,” by “feeling,” since it cannot obviously be
given to us by “reason” (which sets the regress into motion in the ¬rst
place). The early Romantics, writing only a few years after Jacobi ¬rst
dropped his bombshell with his book on Spinoza and themselves greatly
under Jacobi™s in¬‚uence, in effect threw that presupposition into ques-
tion. Although they did not formulate the matter in quite this way, they
effectively challenged the basic presupposition by holding that there is a
difference between the evidence for a claim and all the other factors that
also must hold for that evidence to count as evidence; indeed, so they
±° The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel “Allwill,” p. ±; Briefe, p. ±.
±± The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel “Allwill,” p. ±; Briefe, p. ±·.
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold µ
were to argue, for us to know anything, we must be in possession of a
large amount of pre-re¬‚ective knowledge that we cannot even in princi-
ple articulate. This pre-re¬‚ective knowledge is certainly not “evidence”
for ordinary epistemic claims, but it must be in play if we are to be able
effectively to redeem any such claims in the ¬rst place. That supposition
and the way it was found to be unsatisfactory, so it turned out, gave rise
to a good bit of the subsequent debate.
In ±··, however, Jacobi followed up his discussion with the remarkably
titled book, David Hume on Faith; or Idealism and Realism: A Dialogue, a book
that, despite its title, had virtually nothing to do with Hume or Hume™s
doctrines. In some ways, the real focus of attack in that book “ made
explicit in the “supplement” at the end of the book, “On Transcendental
Idealism” “ was Kant himself; and the main charge against Kant was
devastatingly simple: Kant claimed that things-in-themselves caused our
sensations (which then get synthesized into intuitions); but causality was
a transcendental condition of experience, not a property of things-in-
themselves; therefore, even the great Kant had contradicted himself.
We must therefore conclude, Jacobi argued, that Kant had not in fact
refuted Hume (interpreted as a skeptic) and that the only proper response
to Hume™s thoroughgoing skepticism was the salto mortale. To that end,
near the beginning of the book, Jacobi cited a long passage from Hume™s
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, citing with particular relish the
passage where Hume says: “And in philosophy we can go no farther
than assert that belief is something felt by the mind which distinguishes
the ideas of the judgment from the ¬ctions of the imagination.” Curiously,
by invoking Hume (whom Kant claimed to have refuted) in a manner
calculated to have little to do with Hume himself, Jacobi was trying to
justify Pascal™s skepticism about reason against the claims of the Kantian
“rationalist” critical philosophy.
In David Hume (as in all his writings), Jacobi argued that the only really
sensible position is that of ordinary realism (as the belief that objects
exist independently of our experiences of them) coupled with the neces-
sity of having a “faith” in the way the world “reveals” itself to us and
the eschewal of any need for “system” in philosophy. (In that context,
Jacobi used the religiously loaded term, “Offenbarung,” “revelation.”) Life
is more about experience than pure reason, and any attempt to rely “on
reason alone” can only have disastrous consequences for “life.” Indeed,
once the European way of life had taken the Cartesian turn and decided
that it needed to prove the existence of objects independent of our expe-
riences of them, as Jacobi put it, “they were left with mere subjectivity,
with sensation. And thus they discovered idealism” “ and even worse,
 Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
once Europeans subjected religion to the demand for scienti¬c, rational
proof, “they were left with merely logical phantoms. And in this way
they discovered nihilism.”± ( Jacobi in fact coined the term, “nihilism.”)
The stakes in this debate, so Jacobi had argued, were really quite
In the second, ±· edition of On Spinoza™s Doctrines in Letters to Herr
Moses Mendelssohn, Jacobi extended his criticism and made his position
even more clear. Kant had proposed that reason must by its own nature
seek “the unconditioned,” although it can never satisfy itself in this
regard; Jacobi by contrast claimed that we can only become conscious of
the unconditioned when we elect to make a salto mortale. The scienti¬c un-
derstanding of nature itself consists in a set of premises and conclusions,
and each premise in turn is itself the conclusion of other premises. Thus,
as Jacobi put it, “as long as we can conceptually comprehend, we re-
main within a chain of conditioned conditions. Where this chain ceases,
there we also cease to conceptually comprehend, and the complex that
we call nature also ceases . . . the unconditional must [thus] lie outside of
nature and outside every natural connection with it . . . therefore this un-
conditioned must be called the supernatural.”± The lines of battle had
been drawn: either one opted for Enlightenment rationalism, with its
concomitant skepticism and ensuing nihilism; or for faith, which could
only be attained in a salto mortale. Kantianism had already been under
attack from the old guard for its dramatic claim to have demonstrated
the failure of the previous rationalist and empiricist metaphysics; now
Jacobi had upped the ante considerably.

©®¬¤,  “®· µ®©©,”®¤  ¤¦®
¦ «®©®©
In that context, hot on the heels of Jacobi™s writings, another series
of articles appeared in ±· (and in ±·° in book form as Letters on
the Kantian Philosophy) defending Kantian thought; not surprisingly, this
occurred at Jena, the birthplace of the “new university.” The author,
Karl Leonhard Reinhold, brie¬‚y occupied the highest points of German
philosophy and helped set the stage for the rapid development of post-
Kantian thought in the ±·°s and early ±°°s. Reinhold himself was born
in ±·µ in Vienna in the reign of Joseph II of Austria, the paradigmatic
enlightened despot of his time. In ±··, he became a Jesuit novitiate,
± The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel “Allwill,” p. µ; David Hume (±±µ edition), p. ±°.
± The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel “Allwill,” p. ·; Briefe, p. µ.
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold ·
and, when the order was dissolved in ±··, he continued with his priestly
studies and was ordained in ±·°. However, for some reason, around ±·
Reinhold experienced a religious crisis and became disenchanted with
Catholicism in general, having come to see it as resting solely on blind
faith and dogma. Having also become a freemason, he ¬‚ed Vienna in the
depth of night in ±·, travelling ¬rst to Leipzig and then later to Jena.
Once in Jena, he converted to Protestantism, made the acquaintance of
Cristoph Martin Wieland, married Wieland™s daughter, and helped to
edit an in¬‚uential literary journal Wieland had founded.
In that journal Reinhold published the original Letters on the Kantian
Philosophy. The tone of the Letters was that of a Popularphilosoph, and even
Kant himself warmly praised the clarity and evenhandedness of the pre-
sentation. Reinhold had quite obviously found in Kant the answer to
his own existential problems about religion and reason. In Reinhold™s
telling of the story, Kant had already answered Jacobi™s challenge by
having demonstrated that reason and faith dealt with different aspects of
reality. Indeed, Kant™s philosophy showed that it was indeed impossible
to use theoretical reason to attain a knowledge of God (thus agreeing
in principle with both Jacobi™s thought and with that of the religious
skeptics), but it had also demonstrated that there were necessary reasons
for postulating on practical grounds both human freedom and the exis-
tence of a personal God. Thus, one could acknowledge all the claims of
modern, scienti¬c reason while holding ¬rmly to (at least a Protestant)
faith in God. Through Reinhold, the notion of Kant as a dual-aspect
theorist thus gained even further ground.
However, as Reinhold was writing this, Jacobi had already raised
the stakes with his charges about the internal inconsistency regard-
ing things-in-themselves in Kantianism, and with his counterclaim that
the “unconditioned” could itself only be the object of an “immediate
certainty,” itself requiring a salto mortale. Although Jacobi™s challenge only
served to strengthen Reinhold™s resolve to defend the Kantian system,
Reinhold™s own background took him nonetheless in a much different
direction than Kant. Although Kant himself had been heavily in¬‚uenced
by Leibniz and his followers, he had been equally in¬‚uenced “ and maybe
even more so “ by the Scottish philosophers. (Kant was so enamored of
the Scots that he was convinced “ wrongly, as we now know “ that his an-
cestors were Scottish.) Reinhold on the other hand was Austrian, initially
trained in Scholasticism, and far less enamored than Kant of the Scottish
philosophers, particularly, the Scottish “common-sense” philosophers,
all of whom seemed to him to have utterly failed to refute Hume™s
 Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
skepticism with their appeals to “common sense” and “feeling.”±
Jacobi™s challenge thus led Reinhold to the conclusion that if the grand
Kantian reconciliation between faith and reason were to be salvaged,
Kantianism would have to be shown not merely to be one point of view
among many others but to be the authoritative point of view; and to
do that, Kantianism had to be demonstrated to be a rigorous body of
theoretical knowledge, a Wissenschaft, a “science.” Kant himself had al-
ready declared his intention to put metaphysics “on a secure path of a
science” in his ¬rst Critique; but Reinhold decided, in light of Jacobi™s
claims, that Kantianism was still merely on the path toward becoming a
science, whereas what it needed was actually to be a science. Only as a
science would philosophy have the authority it needed.
In ±··, Reinhold became an “extraordinary professor” of philos-
ophy at Jena. (The title meant that his remuneration did not come
from the university endowment, which funded “ordinary professors,”
but from special funds granted by Duke Karl August of Sachse-Weimar.)
Emboldened by this, Reinhold set out to provide Kantianism with the
scienti¬c form that he thought it lacked, and he abandoned his stance as
a Popularphilosoph in favor of that of a professorial “scientist.” To that end,
he distinguished between the “spirit” and the “letter” of the Kantian
philosophy, making it clear that he now had no intention of giving a
historical exposition of Kant™s position but instead intended to offer a re-
construction of Kant™s arguments. Only that approach, he argued, would
be consistent with philosophy™s being a “science” and therefore a suit-
able, professionalized subject for a reformed university. As many people
in the history of philosophy were to do after him, Reinhold made it clear
that he was not as much concerned with what Kant actually said as with
what Kant should have said if he wanted to conclude such-and-such. He
was interested in the “arguments,” not the contingent, philosophically
unimportant historical details. This was to have no small consequence
for the development of philosophy after him.
Reinhold also began calling his new approach “Elemental Philosophy”
(Elementarphilosophie), and, in making this move, he shifted Kantianism
in yet another direction.±µ Like Jacobi, Reinhold was impressed by the
“regress” argument. If Kantianism were to be put into rigorous, scienti¬c
± ¨
See Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Uber das Fundament des Philosophischen Wissens (ed. Wolfgang
H. Schrader) (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, ±·; photomechanical reprint of the ±·± edition,
Mauke, Jena), pp. µ“µµ.
±µ For good overviews of Reinhold™s views, see Beiser™s chapter on Reinhold in The Fate of Reason;
Daniel Breazeale, “Between Kant and Fichte: Karl Leonhard Reinhold™s ˜Elementary Phi-
losophy,™ ” Review of Metaphysics, µ ( June ±), ·µ“±; Marcelo Stamm, “Das Programm
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold 
form, it needed, so Reinhold concluded, a secure foundation. Respond-
ing to Jacobi™s argument that all knowledge rests on something that we
know with “certainty” and which we also know non-inferentially, or
“immediately” (as Jacobi was to call it, a choice of terminology that was
adopted by others such Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel to follow), Reinhold
argued that the only proper response to Jacobi™s challenge was to rest
philosophy on one fundamental principle (Grundsatz) that was itself
“certain” and which could be known “immediately.” Kantianism was
thus taken to be a form of foundationalism, itself seen as the only proper
response to skepticism, and Reinhold peppered his writings with various
metaphors about buildings and structures resting on secure foundations.
The key to ¬nding this foundational principle was to realize that the
most fundamental element in all consciousness is the notion of repre-
sentation (Vorstellung). Kant had argued that there were two separate and
independent stems of conscious knowledge: intuitions and concepts. Both
of them were, however, representations, and thus the very notion of what
it meant for a subjective element of consciousness to represent something
in the world (or even to represent something within our stream of con-
scious life, such as a sensation of pain) was for it to embody within itself
a claim about something independent of the representation, that would
be either true or false; this representational feature of consciousness was
its most fundamental element, and it thus formed the fundamental, core
element of the Elementarphilosophie. (To drive this point home about repre-
sentation, Reinhold even spoke of these “Vorstellungen” as “Repr¨ sentanten”
of objects. ) The principle expressing the basic nature of representations
lay in what Reinhold dubbed the “principle of consciousness” (Satz des
Bewußtseins): “In consciousness the subject distinguishes the representa-
tion from the subject and object and relates it to both.”±· This principle
was, so Reinhold claimed, “elemental” in that it was not a conclusion
drawn from any other premise, but was itself derived from re¬‚ection on
a fundamental, non-explainable fact of consciousness. As he put it: “That
by which the S. d. B. [the principle of consciousness] is determined is also
immediately that which it expresses, namely the self-illuminating fact of
consciousness, which cannot itself be further analyzed and allows of no
reduction to more simple characteristics than those which are denoted
des methodologischen Monismus: subjekttheoretische und methodologische Aspekte der Ele-
mentarphilosophie K. L. Reinholds,” Neue Hefte f¨ r Philosophie, µ (±µ), ±“±; Manfred Frank,
Unendliche Ann¨ herung (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ±·), chs. ·“±µ, ±.
± Reinhold, Uber das Fundament des Philosophischen Wissens, p. ±.
±· ¨
Reinhold states this in various places; this citation is taken from Uber das Fundament des Philosophis-
chen Wissens, p. ·.
±°° Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
by itself.”± Indeed, as Reinhold emphasized, this principle requires only
“mere re¬‚ection on the meaning (Bedeutung) of the words, which it itself
determines for the fact that it expresses.”± This otherwise undemonstra-
ble fact of consciousness, expressed in the “principle of consciousness,”
constitutes the basic, ground-level complex, or “element,” of all knowl-
edge: a subject, an object, a representation of the object, and the subject
ascribing the representation to itself as a subjective state of itself, while at
the same time taking that subjective state of itself to be a representation
of an object different from and independent of that state.
Components of Reinhold™s strategy for interpreting Kant were to be
replayed time and again in the history of the reception of Kantian philos-
ophy. As that strategy laid out the terms of debate, the central problem to
which Kant was supposed to have responded was that of epistemological
skepticism; the solution to that skeptical problem was supposed to consist
in demonstrating or ¬nding some truth that the skeptic could not doubt;
for that to work, such a truth had both to possess “certainty” and to be
something with which we are directly acquainted. Since we cannot sensi-
bly deny that we are conscious, and since a close attending to the “fact” of
consciousness discloses the elements of the “principle of consciousness,”
a close analysis of what is meant by the terms, “subject,” “object,” and
“representation” should suf¬ce to put philosophy on a scienti¬c footing,
give philosophers the professorial authority they should have, and an-
swer once and for all the doubts raised by the skeptic. This, Reinhold
concluded, was the answer to the question that Kant should have asked
but did not. Indeed, understood in that light, the whole of Kant™s own
critical enterprise, Reinhold concluded, should be considered as a kind
of grand theorem of his Elementarphilosophie.
However, as is always the danger in interpreting the “spirit” and not
the “letter” of a particular view, Reinhold did not seem to notice or to
mind that he had subtly moved Kantian philosophy in a direction that
could only tendentiously be labeled Kantian. Kant had intended his
“deduction” of the categories not to be a derivation of conclusions from
absolutely certain ¬rst premises; Kant™s use of the term, “deduction,”
had more in common with legal usage of the term than with the purely
logical use of deriving conclusions from premises; a “deduction” of
the categories was intended to demonstrate their normativity, their
bindingness on us as we make judgments about the world ( just as an
± Ibid., p. .
± ¨
Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Uber die M¨glichkeit der Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft (ed. Wolfgang
H. Schrader) (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, ±·; photomechanical reprint of the ±·° edition, Mauke,
Jena), p.  ( p. ±µ in reprint).
The ±·°s: Jacobi and Reinhold ±°±
eighteenth-century legal “deduction” was to demonstrate the binding
quality of a legal principle in a set of cases).° However, for Reinhold with
his Jesuit, Austrian background, a “deduction” meant a logical deriva-
tion from unshakable ¬rst premises. He was not thereby tempted to ¬nd
anything like a “transcendental argument” in Kant to the effect that,
since the skeptic had to presuppose as a condition of experience some
feature of experience he was explicitly denying, the skeptic was therefore
always being (perhaps unknowingly) inconsistent with the force of his
own commitments. Reinhold was instead convinced, like Descartes, that
he had to ¬nd a principle that was so absolutely certain that even the skep-
tic could not deny it. Reinhold thus offered a way of interpreting Kant to
which people have time and time returned (often without knowing how
Reinhold paved the way): the normative force of the Kantian categories “
their character in determining how we ought to judge things or “must”
judge them if we are to make any sense at all “ had to be derived from
some basic, itself non-derivable fact, and the issue has remained how any
such fact could serve as the basis for normative claims in general.
From the “principle of consciousness” (understood as an undeniable
fact of consciousness) and from the conclusion that “representation” was
the most basic category of any theory of consciousness, Reinhold con-
cluded that an Elementarphilosophie must therefore be a general, a priori
theory of our human capacities (or “faculties,” Verm¨gen) for representa-
tion, and he proceeded to write a lengthy and rather dense book on it,
An Attempt at a New Theory of Human Capacities of Representation, published in
±· and dedicated both to Kant and Wieland.± Reinhold distinguished
this new form of philosophical “science” (which as a science rightfully
took its place at the table in the emerging modern university, a place that
the Popularphilosophen could not claim for themselves) from other more
mundane explorations of our representational capacities by sharply dis-
tinguishing what he called the “internal” (and therefore conceptually
analyzable) from the “external” (and therefore only, by and large, em-
pirically discoverable) conditions of knowledge. Whereas “a sensation
° The classic analysis of Kant™s use of “deduction” and its relation to legal theory is to be found
in Dieter Henrich, “Kant™s Notion of a Deduction and the Methodological Background of the
First Critique,” in Eckart F¨ rster (ed.), Kant™s Transcendental Deductions: The Three Critiques and the
Opus Postumum (Stanford University Press, ±).
± Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Versuch einer neuen Theorie des menschlichen Vorstellungsverm¨gens (Prague
and Jena: Widtmann and Mauke, ±·; photomechanical reprint, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, ±).
 Karl Ameriks, “Kant, Fichte, and Short Arguments to Idealism,” Archiv f ur die Geschichte der
Philosophie, · (±°), “µ. Ameriks has made the well-known charge that this involves a “short
argument” to idealism, which as “re¬‚ection on the mere notion of representation, or on such very
general features as the passivity or activity involved in representation, is what is meant to show
±° Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
of red” might be a matter for empirical (although still introspective) psy-
chology to study, the representation of a red object as a representation was
a matter for the a priori philosophizing of the philosophical “scientist”
since it concerned not the details but the “formal” features that transform
a merely subjective state of mind into a cognitively signi¬cant representa-
tion of an objective state of affairs. In vaguely Kantian fashion, Reinhold
explained this in terms of the subject™s spontaneously bestowing a repre-
sentational “form” on “matter” (Stoff ) that results from the subject being
affected by objects independent of itself; and, in making that distinction,
Reinhold went to great lengths to af¬rm the existence of objects as in-
dependent of our representations of them (as existing in-themselves). In
his Attempt at a New Theory, Reinhold also tried to develop an account of
how the “matter” (Stoff ) of representations is linked to the actual make-
up of the objects that affect us: “To every representation there belongs as
an internal condition . . . something to which the represented (the object
as differentiated from the representation by consciousness) corresponds;
and I call this the matter (Stoff ) of representation,” which is itself to
be explained in the way that the represented object causes the “matter”
of representation to appear in our consciousness, even though the way
in which that “matter” functions as a “picture” of the external state of
affairs depends on the way in which the subject takes it up and bestows
a “form” upon it. (It would, though, be stretching matters to say that
Reinhold thoroughly worked out this conception.) Reinhold painstak-
ingly catalogued all the ways in which he thought previous philosophy
had failed to notice crucial ambiguities in words (such as the “matter,”
Stoff, of representations) and almost always quali¬ed all his assertions
with large measures of “insofar as” and “to the extent that.” Only such
that knowledge is restricted from any determination of things in themselves” ( p. ). Whereas
Kant took a “long argument” to idealism (involving claims about the necessary ideality of space
and time and the restriction of knowledge to possible experience), Reinhold (and, later, Fichte)
seemed to think that the ideality of our knowledge lies in the fact that it is a representation. While
Ameriks is certainly correct about Reinhold™s ignoring the complex way in which Kant actually
sets up his argument for idealism, the accusation of the “short argument” is not quite fair to
Reinhold™s own procedure; although Reinhold does say that “representation” is the most basic
category, and re¬‚ection on it should therefore serve to “ground” idealism, he also makes it clear
that such re¬‚ection on “representation” brings to bear his arguments concerning the “principle


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