Receptive Spirit: German Idealism and the Dynamics of Cultural Transmission by Márton Dornbach

96589d3026da5d2-261x361.jpg Author Márton Dornbach
Isbn 9780823268290
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Year 2016
Pages 304
Language English
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Category culture


RECEPTIVE SPIRIT GERMAN IDEALISM AND THE DYNAMICS OF CULTURAL TRANSMISSION MÁRTON DORNBACH Fordham University Press  New York  2016 this book is made possible by a collaborative grant from the andrew w. mellon foundation. Copyright © 2016 Fordham University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Fordham University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Fordham University Press also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. Visit us online at Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Dornbach, Marton, 1973– Receptive spirit : German idealism and the dynamics of cultural transmission / Márton Dornbach. pages cm. — (Idiom: inventing writing theory) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8232-6829-0 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Idealism, German. 2. Philosophy, German—18th century. 3. Philosophy, German—19th century. 4. Aesthetics. 5. Intercultural communication. I. Title. B2745.D67 2016 141.0943—dc23 2015023322 Printed in the United States of America 18 17 16 5 4 3 2 1 First edition CONTENTS Introduction: Idealism and Finitude Catching Then Becomes a Power, 1 • The Kantian Premises, 11 • Hegel’s Critique of Kant, 20 • Gadamer’s Reversal of Hegel, 24 1 Kant on the Formation of Taste The Quarrel Continued, 31 • Most in Need of Examples, 38 • The Ideal of Beauty, 49 • Exemplary Objects and the Artificiality of Taste, 59 • The Centrality of Art, 68 • Succession and Practical Criticism, 76 2 Kantian Revisionism and Revisionist Kantianism Kant on Better Understanding, 90 • Fichte as Explicator of Kant, 97 • Originality Disowned, 105 3 Esoteric Enlightenment in Fichte Choosing to Be Free, 110 • The Fichtean Experiment, 118 • Transcendental Pedagogy, 131 4 Friedrich Schlegel on Textual Communication Schlegel on the Spirit of Fichte’s Philosophy, 140 • Constructed Readers, 149 • Confused Authors, 153 • Characterization, 161 • Between Inspired and Methodical Reading, 169 5 Exoteric Enlightenment in Hegel Dialogue and Dialectics, 173 • Language as Universal Infection, 176 • The Voices of the Phenomenology, 186 Conclusion: The Afterlife of a Distinction A Glance Back and a Question, 191 • McDowell On Second Nature, 193 • The Last Distinction, 200 • The Unavailability of Reconciliation, 209 1 31 90 110 140 173 191 Acknowledgments 213 Notes 215 Bibliography 271 Index 285 RECEPTIVE SPIRIT  vii INTRODUCTION: IDEALISM AND FINITUDE CATCHING THEN BECOMES A POWER According to a scholarly truism, the characteristic gesture of modernity is the undertaking to start anew with a clean slate. In view of the abundant evidence favoring this view, it seems all the more remarkable that some of the boldest works of modern thought begin by citing a precursor. To mention only a few prominent examples, Kant borrows the epigraph to the Critique of Pure Reason from Bacon, Heidegger’s Being and Time opens with a quote from Plato, and Wittgenstein sets the stage for the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Philosophical Investigations with quotes from Ferdinand Kürnberger and Johann Nestroy, respectively. Although each of these thinkers sets out to renew thinking in a way that requires a break with received canons of inquiry, their opening acts of quotation bear witness to an understanding that the words of previous authors remain indispensable for orientation. Among the philosophical classics that acknowledge this constraint through their very manner of commencing Hans Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method deserves special mention, for its defense of tradition is prefaced with an epigraph that enacts and allegorizes this very theme. Written in the wake of the traumatic ruptures inflicted by two world wars, Gadamer’s book argues that the cultural past orientates us through varieties of hermeneutic experience that precede all methodical inquiry and make possible in the first place the freedom of rational thought. At the beginning of Truth 1 2 INTRODUCTION and Method, between the table of contents and the introduction, the reader finds a passage attributed to “R. M. Rilke,” without any further specification. The verses stem from an untitled poem that Rilke wrote in 1922, a mere few days before the celebrated bout of inspiration that enabled him to complete the Duino Elegies: Catch only what you’ve thrown yourself, all is Solang du Selbstgeworfnes fängst, ist alles mere skill and little gain; Geschichklichkeit und läßlicher Gewinn—; but when you’re suddenly the catcher of a ball erst wenn du plötzlich fänger wirst des Balles, thrown by an eternal partner den eine ewige Mitspielerin with accurate and measured dir zuwarf, deiner Mitte, in swing genau towards you, to your center, in an arch gekonntem Schwung, in einem jener Bögen from the great bridgebuilding aus Gottes großer of God: Brückenbau why catching then becomes a erst dann ist Fangen-können power— ein Vermögen not yours, a world’s.1 Nicht deines, einer Welt.2 Gadamer does not comment on the meaning of the epigraph, a reticence suggesting that nothing less than the magisterial argument prefaced by Rilke’s verses could do justice to them. Perhaps for this reason the epigraph has attracted relatively little in the way of sustained discussion. Most commentators who take the trouble to mention it at all do so in a perfunctory fashion. Typical in this regard is the reading proposed by Gadamer’s biographer Jean Grondin, who construes the epigraph as a lyrical polemic against the arrogant claims made on behalf of the Cartesian cogito, that familiar bogeyman of modern philosophy.3 There is obviously much to recommend this broad-brushed interpretation. Rilke’s lines undoubtedly evoke the sense of impoverishment that has haunted Western modernity ever since Descartes’s attempt to ground humans’ rapport with the world in the self-relation of the thinking subject. There is, however, an intertextual echo at the heart of the epigraph which suggests that the target of the thought rehearsed in the poem is less generic than Grondin would have it. Unless we are willing to assume sheer coincidence, Rilke INTRODUCTION is catching and throwing back a ball that issued from Schiller’s hands more than a hundred years earlier, and which had originally been thrown by Fichte. The image unfolded in Rilke’s poem can be traced back to a letter written by Schiller to Goethe in October 1794. There Schiller made an exasperated remark about Fichte, whose pathbreaking Foundations of the Entire Science of Knowledge had just been published: “For him the world is just a ball that has been thrown by the I and which it catches again in the act of reflection!!”4 The same image appears in one of the distychs coauthored by Goethe and Schiller: “Children throw the ball unto the wall and catch it again; / But I praise the game when a friend is throwing the ball back to me.”5 Although the editor of the authoritative Hamburg edition of Goethe’s works quite plausibly reads this distych as a comment on the happy collaboration between the two poets, it also resonates with several other pieces in the same collection that playfully engage with idealist philosophy. Indeed it clearly shares its polemical target with Schiller’s original objection to Fichte’s theory of the subject. Radicalizing Kant’s claim that our sensible receptivity to the world must be mediated by the self-determining, or as Kant puts it “spontaneous,” activity of thought, Fichte advanced the striking thesis that knowledge of the world is underwritten by nothing other than spontaneous thought. Schiller’s analogy to a solitary ball game squarely equates this notion with solipsism. The objection registers a growing distance between Schiller and his less established but more popular junior colleague at the university of Jena, who was around this time eager to place an essay in Schiller’s journal Die Horen (The Horae). When disagreements between the two finally surfaced a few months later, this episode in the perennial dispute between poets and philosophers also heralded a parting of ways between Weimar Classicism and Jena idealism.6 Instead of taking sides in the debate on such a general level, however, Rilke’s lines take up the specific objection raised by Schiller concerning the proper manner in which the human mind should understand its stance toward the world. As an imaginative elaboration of Schiller’s critique of Fichte, the poem turns on the word power (Vermögen) at the end of the penultimate line cited by Gadamer, which also happens to be the technical term for mental faculties used in Kantian transcendental philosophy. By anchoring experience in the power of the world to give—a giving whose generous arc (Bogen) is almost imperceptibly traced by the enjambment between “Mitspielerin” and “dir”—Rilke calls into question the idealist emphasis placed upon the mind’s constitutive activity. In the face of the idealist paradigm, then, Rilke’s lines suggest that our projections of meaning presuppose a basic receptivity toward the world that preexists our 3 4 INTRODUCTION thinking. Experience becomes fruitful, or so the poem intimates, only if we relinquish the conceit that through acts of reflection we might come to see the world as a mere product of our own constitutive activity. Against the background of the argument unfolded in the subsequent course of Truth and Method, Gadamer’s invocation of the Rilke poem may be taken to link a central issue of hermeneutics—where does meaning originate and how does it become accessible to humans?—to the epistemological problem at stake in the disagreement between Fichte and Schiller. As the epigraph anticipates, it is specifically against the German idealist notion of the spontaneously active subject that Gadamer will unfold his vision of hermeneutic experience, premised as it is on our receptivity toward the inherited languages, traditions, and artifacts in terms of which we have come to understand ourselves. Indeed, Gadamer’s commitment to this notion of receptivity is evident from the very gesture of beginning with a literary quotation that itself refers back to an earlier statement. Yet Gadamer’s opening quote also shows the limits of his readiness to listen. By truncating the poem—and indeed truncating the last of the verses he quotes—Gadamer violates the integrity of the text that he is receiving here. Without signaling the incompleteness of the quote, and indeed dispensing even with quotation marks, Gadamer silently drops the second, longer, half of the poem. The omitted half celebrates the responsive agency of the mind as it throws back what the world has thrown: “And if you even “Und wenn du gar had the strength and courage to throw it back, zurückzuwerfen Kraft und Mut besäßest no, more marvellously yet: if you forgot courage and strength nein, wunderbarer: Mut und Kraft vergäßest and had already thrown..… (as the und schon geworfen hättest..… (wie das Jahr year throws the birds, the swarms of migrating birds, die Vögel wirft, die Wandervogelschwärme flung by an older to a die eine ältre einer jungen young warmth Wärme 5 INTRODUCTION over the seas—) only hinüberschleudert über Meere—) erst through such daring can you play along in a way that is valid. in diesem Wagnis spielst du gültig mit. You then no longer make the throw easier for yourself; nor Erleichterst dir den Wurf nicht mehr; erschwerst any more difficult. From your hands issues dir ihn nicht mehr. Aus deinen Händen tritt the meteor and speeds into its spaces…” das Meteor und rast in seine Räume…”7 When one considers the way in which these lines complement the image of reception envisioned in the first half, their omission by Gadamer cannot but appear significant. To be sure, the upshot of the omitted lines is less readily clear than that of the lines quoted by Gadamer. Rilke first extends the allegory of the ball play and then immediately corrects and at the same time intensifies this extension (nein, wunderbarer) by suggesting that the “strength and courage” evident in the subject’s reciprocating agency are not virtues yet to be mustered so much as powers that must always already be in self-forgetful play. Poetic form follows this expansion of the initial argument as the neatly alternating rhymes of the first eight verses give way to the less predictable rhyme scheme of the second half. The concluding verse about the meteor that “speeds into its spaces,” with its unexpected slant rhyme followed by an ellipsis, combines a sense of finality with a suggestion of open-endedness. The overall movement of the poem may be taken to convey the idea that our ability to catch and fling back what the world has thrown us stems from a primordial and impersonal act of projection. As it should be clear from Rilke’s use of the simile of migrant birds driven by the seasons, there can be no question here of returning to the sort of subjective idealism to which Schiller took exception in such strong terms. Still, Rilke’s way of developing the opening image of reception appears to present an unwelcome complication for Gadamer. Following eight verses that describe and imitate the play of throwing and catching, Gadamer’s quotation ends with a truncated line that falls out of this pattern and leaves the last word to what Gadamer sees as the origin of all hermeneutic interplay: “a world.” For the world, as Gadamer will 6 INTRODUCTION go on to argue, is not something that we project with “daring” (Rilke’s Wagnis) but a historical horizon of intelligibility that linguistically endowed finite beings must accept if they are to make any sense at all of their lives. The epigraph violates this demand in the very act of asserting it. Thanks to Gadamer’s opening quote, the reader who approaches his book finds herself right at the outset in the midst of a silent negotiation between the impulse to assert human spontaneity and the need to maintain receptive openness in one’s experience. Spanning 165 years and arising from iterated gestures of reception, the web of allusions just delineated bears witness to the persistence of a tension between the idea of the spontaneously active subject at the heart of German idealism and the notion that human experience is fundamentally receptive. It is neither possible nor necessary to give a comprehensive overview here of the genesis of this tension out of the major conceptual shifts and innovations of Western modernity. For the present purposes it suffices to note a key development in Renaissance humanism, namely, the conjunction of the PlatonicAristotelian insight that the human animal does not have a fixed nature with the Christian view of the human being as the lesser image of a creative, omnipotent god. Combining these notions, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola inverted the scholastic principle that “the operation of anything follows the mode of its being” and proclaimed that humans were free to give themselves a determinate nature through active self-fashioning.8 In the course of early modernity, all areas of human culture were brought under the purview of the principle of human selfdetermination. In a process charted by Hans Robert Jauss, first technical invention and mathematical knowledge, then the arts, and finally history too came to be seen as products of the human mind. This transformation was paralleled by the progressive liberation of the concept of poiesis from the constraints of merely reproductive labor and from the humble imitation of preexisting models.9 The redefinition of the human being as a second creator culminated in Giambattista Vico’s claim that we understand that which we make, and first and foremost the realm of history.10 German idealist philosophy from Kant to Hegel may be seen as a series of increasingly ambitious attempts at explicating the idea of productive mental activity at the heart of the emergent self-understanding of Western modernity.11 This project of clarification was made all the more urgent by the upheavals experienced by Europeans in the decades following 1789. The dramatic events of that period drove home the fact that the authority of the norms governing human life could no longer be justified by recourse to sources external to the human being. To explain why humans were committed to certain moral principles, why INTRODUCTION they took reality to consist of mathematizable physical objects and not Platonic ideas, or why they considered Don Quixote a work of enduring worth, it was no longer enough to appeal to innate ideas, received wisdom or the tribunal of experience. All such attempts at justification beg the question of why we should treat such putative givens as authoritative in the first place, and every attempt at justifying our commitments in this regard must eventually invoke our own selfdetermining activity as thinking subjects. Assuming that a satisfactory answer along these lines is possible at all—and Kant and his followers believe it is—a further daunting question still persists. If the fundamental feature of our mental life is self-determining activity, how can we recover a sense of being open and responsive to the world in our diverse epistemic, ethical, political, and aesthetic orientations? German Idealist philosophy tends to stress the moment of agency in the mind’s stance toward the world, conceiving of representation as something enacted rather than passively received by the mind. Within the conceptual framework defined by this conception of spontaneous subjectivity, it is difficult to account for our ineradicable sense that we often find or are found by the meanings that matter to us. Once the activistic view of understanding is asserted, the reader of a novella, the listener in a concert hall, the viewer of a painting find themselves faced with conflicting demands. On the one hand, our engagement with a meaningful artifact cannot count as a response to that artifact unless we are willing to adopt a posture of receptive openness with regard to the singular specificity of the object and allow ourselves to be determined by it. On the other hand, meaning does not simply emanate from the object of interpretation and is never just passively absorbed by a recipient. If meaning can be said to inhere in the object at all, it inheres there as a potentiality, usually one among many, whose actualization requires a capacity for active thought. How these two demands are to be reconciled can become a vexing question, even if we mostly go about our quotidian and professional practices without being paralyzed by it. It is when interpretations clash or intelligibility breaks down that the question forces itself upon us: if indeed we are the ones who make sense of that which strikes us as meaningful, can we still say that the meanings thus established pertain to that of which we make sense? Most schematically put, the difficulty concerns the conjunction of making and finding, or indeed founding and being found. The difficulty is familiar from contemporary debates in the humanities. Some form or other of the opposition between receptivity and spontaneity is usually at work in attempts at getting clear about the stance that humanists ought to adopt toward their objects, as well as in admonitions about the pitfalls that they must 7 8 INTRODUCTION take care to avoid. To be sure, the alignment of putative alternatives with the dichotomy of receptivity and activity seems conspicuously unstable and varies from one polemical context to another. Some theoretical interventions would seem to confront humanists with a stark choice between a fidelity to facts that threatens to degenerate into sterile positivism and a celebration of the creative powers of humanistic study that can in the wrong hands veer into narcissistic willfulness, blinding one to the dense specificity of the artifacts under scrutiny. Yet the two conceptual oppositions—receptivity versus activity, disciplinary rigor versus subjective vagaries—can just as well be aligned the other way around. In that case the activity of thought becomes associated with systematic research following a method honed through the critical self-reflection of a particular discipline. In opposition to this scientistic model it then becomes tempting to uphold receptivity as the prerogative of an avowedly subjective mode of criticism, one that surrenders the neutral standpoint of the observer to the authority of the object, inviting charges of naïveté or impressionism.12 These contestations ultimately concern the status, the applicability and indeed the very meaning of an elementary concept. The concept in question is that of experience. At issue here is not experience in the narrowly technical sense centered on cognition of the invariant and mathematizable order of nature, as envisioned in the modern natural sciences. Nor is it a question of that easily commodifiable sphere of immediate lived experience for which the term Erlebnis was coined in the nineteenth-century German context. Rather, our question concerns experience as a constituent of humans’ historically changing self-understanding. The very possibility of experience so understood becomes problematic once German idealism takes on a historicized shape in the works of the post-Kantians—a problematic that culminates in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, originally intended as a “science of the experience of consciousness.” The often unthinking use of the term experience in reference to our dealings with novels, commercials, musical performances, theoretical treatises, and urban landscapes rests on the assumption that our encounters with such human-made artifacts can be events of potentially transformative reception, of learning in the broadest sense of the term. That view, in its turn, is bound up with an understanding of the human animal as underdetermined by its natural endowment and hence in need of models and norms established and passed on by earlier generations. To recognize the cultural dimension of human life is to keep a question open that has been succinctly formulated by György Márkus: “What happens to us through our own makings?”13 Ever since Kant made spontaneity central to our self-understanding, modernity has been haunted by the anxiety that, very simply put, nothing can INTRODUCTION happen to us any more, that our infinite capacity for making precludes any transformative reception of what others have made. In a far-ranging meditation set off by the realization that even the death of his own son has left his self-reliance intact (“Grief too will make us idealists”), Emerson suggests that a reader encountering a book may be no different from a cat chasing her own tail: If you could look with her eyes you might see her surrounded with hundreds of figures performing complex dramas, with tragic and comic issues, long conversations, many characters, many ups and downs of fate—and meantime it is only puss and her tail. How long before our masquerade will end its noise of tambourines, laughter and shouting, and we shall find it was a solitary performance? A subject and an object—it takes so much to make the galvanic circuit complete, but magnitude adds nothing. What imports it whether it is Kepler and the sphere, Columbus and America, a reader and a book, or puss with her tail?14 Given this nightmarish impasse, it is difficult not to hear Emerson’s trustful concluding words about a receptivity exceeding and preceding any particular gift as whistling in the dark. The persistence of scenarios of circularity and entrapment from Schiller through Emerson to Rilke suggests that the problem is too pervasive to be resolved through such forced cheerfulness. Since the human mind depends for its very constitution on inherited models and patterns of significance deposited in historically evolved languages and traditions, its capacity for active self-determination cannot be asserted at the expense of receptivity toward such repositories of meaning. Yet it is far from obvious how the conception of spontaneity developed by Kant and his successors can be reconciled with the moment of receptivity involved in cultural transmission. Nor is it obvious, however, that this tension must become an outright antinomy. The purpose of my book is to show that the pressure to avoid that antinomy was a key driving force of theorizing in the German idealist context. In examining how authors writing in this context envisioned and enacted the dynamics of cultural transmission, my aim is to bring out a relatively neglected, yet highly important, strand in the endlessly complicated and fascinating story of the intellectual developments that led from Kant to Hegel.15 Throughout the chapters that follow, my focus will be on the dynamics of cultural transmission, that is, on the conjunction of receptivity and activity required for the transmission of human-made models of mindedness. By revisiting a decisive juncture in modern thought with a view to this problematic, I want to identify a range of approaches to the issue of cultural transmission whose availability to denizens of the early twenty-first century is hardly self-evident, but which 9 10 INTRODUCTION can nevertheless help us keep our bearings in the contemporary intellectual landscape. My presentation of these models roughly follows chronological order. However, the organization of the chapters also reflects a thematic shift affecting the terms in which the problematic of cultural transmission is formulated. Chapters 1 and 2 are concerned with diachronic versions of the problem, that is, with attempts at reconciling cultural transmission with spontaneity on a historical scale, in relation to predecessors in one’s area. In chapters 3 and 4, the focus will shift to a synchronic variant of the tension between spontaneity and receptivity, namely, the dynamics of the interaction between author and reader. Both the diachronic and the synchronic dimension of the problematic will be central to chapter 5 and the conclusion. Let me complement this scheme now with a slightly more fleshed-out overview. Against the backdrop of the eighteenth-century discourse on originality and succession, chapter 1 argues for the inherently historical character of Kant’s concept of taste and asserts on that ground, rectifying a long-standing interpretive tradition, that art has a systematically central role to play in Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790). Since my argument for the latter claim is partly reconstructive and as such has affinities with certain post-Kantian models, it raises the question of how the autonomy of thought can be reconciled with succession in relation to a precursor thinker. Chapter 2 takes up this question by examining how the Kantian idea of “understanding an author better than he himself” is turned against Kant himself by his successors in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The key figure in this chapter is Fichte, whose work from the Jena period (1794– 1799) also serves as a pivot between the diachronic and the synchronic chapters. Fichte’s radical revision of Kantian philosophy gives rise to new difficulties attendant on the transmission of insight from author to reader. As the very possibility of communication is thrown into question, authors and readers find themselves faced with unusual challenges. Chapter 3 deals with this predicament as it arises in the works of Fichte. Responding to the impasse of Fichtean authorship, the texts from Friedrich Schlegel’s early romantic period (1796–1800) adumbrate a radical strategy of literary communication, which will be the topic of chapter 4. In chapter 5, I turn to the dialectical alternative to Schlegel’s dialogical model and examine the way of thinking about cultural transmission that emerges from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). Whether the Kantian distinction between receptivity and spontaneity still has a bearing on our self-understanding today is the question I take up in my concluding engagement with John McDowell’s recent revival of the German idealist legacy.16 INTRODUCTION THE K ANTIAN PREMISES Initial orientation requires that we first establish certain fundamental alternatives. To that end, the following sections present three theoretical frameworks. These conceptions may be called paradigmatic in the sense that they purport to resolve the tension between spontaneity and receptivity in the most basic terms. The first of these models, Kant’s account of the reciprocally informing relation between sensibility and thought, takes up this problem at a level of abstraction that precludes overt attention to the problem of cultural transmission. The relevance of that topic, however, will become abundantly clear from the second model, which emerges in Hegel’s critique of the Kantian conception, and even more so from the third option, which receives its most incisive formulation in Gadamer’s response to Hegel. By rehearsing the debate among these three positions we can get a preliminary sense of the conceptual space within which the arguments of my authors unfold. Not very surprisingly, then, we have to start by going back to Kant. The theory of knowledge developed in the Critique of Pure Reason is arguably the most intricate and influential attempt at working out the relationship between receptivity and activity in humans’ mental life. Its pertinence to the issue outlined in the above should be immediately obvious from the fact that it gave the decisive impetus for the Fichtean conception repudiated by Schiller. To be sure, the broader implications of the Kantian theory tend to be obscured by the fact that Kant himself tended to state the problems he set out to resolve in highly specific terms. In a nutshell, these problems concerned the foundations and limits of experience and metaphysics, where the former is understood in a restrictive sense defined with a view to Newtonian natural science and the latter is taken to be the system of what we can know independently of experience so understood. Throughout the first Critique, Kant all but brackets the forms of experience through which cultural models are transmitted, appropriated, and reconfigured. Yet we shall see that the terms of Kant’s attempted solution to these problems could not fail to inflect the ways in which issues of cultural experience and transmission are addressed in modernity. It is obviously not possible to present the Kantian model here in its full complexity. Since, however, a dutiful summary rehearsing some putative scholarly consensus would give at best a semblance of intelligibility, I cannot avoid delving into some of the intricacies of Kant’s relevant arguments. Although my construal of these details depends on an understanding of the deep structure of Kant’s thinking that is anything but self-evident, my goal here is not to defend 11 12 INTRODUCTION that overall interpretation. Rather, I aim to show that these features of the Kantian model, far from being sterile technicalities, are fraught with issues of farreaching importance for modernity (to use a deliberately broad formulation). In keeping with that purpose, I begin by proposing a relatively simple framework for understanding Kant’s well-known distinction between sensibility and discursive thought. On the view that I propose, this dichotomous model is underwritten by two basic premises. Although these premises are not explicitly stated by Kant, they nevertheless enjoy something of an axiomatic status in his thinking. The first premise stipulates that humans are ineluctably finite beings. The second one asserts that humans are nonetheless capable of objective knowledge. Taken together the two premises suggest that we are neither creators of the world nor passive recipients of its impingements. Not only do these elementary presuppositions shed light on numerous puzzling features of Kant’s theory, they also help explain why Kant’s highly technical theoretical model should have had such a widely ramifying impact on modern thinking about mind and culture. In order to be properly understood, however, each of these premises has to be considered against the background of the other. To begin with the presupposition of finitude, its precise meaning can be formulated only within the framework defined by Kant’s complementary assumption that, qua subjects of knowledge, we are not just objects in the world but self-conscious and active beings capable of making judgments about the world. The presupposition of finitude stipulates that we do not create that which we thus cognize. What we cognize is, rather, already there independently of us and therefore has to be given to us in order to be known (A19).17 What we know about the world is thus contingent in a double sense: it is contingent upon what exists independently of us and contingent upon how we can receive impingements of the latter. The latter form of contingency entails the doctrine that the object as it appears in the context of our knowledge must be distinguished from the same object as it exists in itself (the “thing-in-itself”). Although it is generally understood that this key distinction drawn by Kant registers an epistemic limitation, it takes considerable work to unpack the complex conception of the human standpoint that it implies. If the acknowledgment that our knowledge is contingent upon our standpoint expresses a sense of epistemic limitation then this is because our standpoint itself is fundamentally contingent. Although subjects of finite knowledge are not reducible to objects in the world that they cognize, they are not exactly looking at that world from a disengaged outside standpoint either; presumably, only the hypothetical cre-

Author Márton Dornbach Isbn 9780823268290 File size 3MB Year 2016 Pages 304 Language English File format PDF Category Culture Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Premised on the assumption that the mind is fundamentally active and self-determining, the German Idealist project gave rise to new ways of thinking about our dependence upon culturally transmitted models of thought, feeling, and creativity. Receptive Spirit elucidates the ways in which Kant, Fichte, Schlegel, and Hegel envisioned and enacted the conjunction of receptivity and spontaneous activity in the transmission of human-made models of mindedness. Their innovations have defined the very terms in which we think about the historical character of aesthetic experience, the development of philosophical thinking, the dynamics of textual communication, and the task of literary criticism.Combining a reconstructive approach to this key juncture of modern thought with close attention paid to subsequent developments, Marton Dornbach argues that we must continue to think within the framework established by the Idealists if we are to keep our bearings in the contemporary intellectual landscape.     Download (3MB) A Short History of the German Language Teaching English Creatively Advanced Arabic Literary Reader: For Students of Modern Standard Arabic Literary Mapping in the Digital Age “Homeric Receptions Across Generic and Cultural Contexts” Load more posts

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