Pure Intellectuality

I’ve often thought that if I could abstract from my personal history, from moral commitments, from concrete ambitions — basically from everything except intellectual satisfaction itself — I would devote my life to the study of German Idealism. There isn’t even a real competitor.

About these ads

28 Responses to “Pure Intellectuality”

  1. irelandthehusky Says:

    Sigh ….. this is precisely my problem.

  2. Nate Says:

    Mine too. If you had to pick just one figure from there, who would it be? I haven’t made up my mind between Kant or Schelling.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m pretty sure I would choose Kant. (Hegel would be my next choice.)

    Is there anyone who would choose Fichte, I wonder?

  4. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    I would go Schelling and then latch onto someone really minor and crazy. Maybe Anton Guenther.

  5. Alex Says:

    I am mainly posting here to see if my new avatar shows up. But more significantly, I think there is time for everything and there is time for a revival of two theoretical moves: German Idealism via ecology (probably via APS) and existentialism, though read through phenomenology rather than trendy bendy stuff.

  6. bjaked Says:

    This is absurd. Pick up Fichte. It is incomprehensible. Anyway, German idealism is based on British empiricism, and it shares the same faulty assumptions. I would say Husserl and Heidegger and early Derrida. The lectures on passive synthesis have an irrational hold on me. Of course, I’ve seen him described as a Fichtean, so what do I know. Kant is dull.

  7. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    There is always a party pooper.

  8. Tusar N. Mohapatra Says:

    Why not pick up Sri Aurobindo instead, who holds up all that is best in the previous centuries with an engaging eye on the future.

  9. Brad Johnson Says:

    That damn husky of mine snuck over to my computer and exposed her undying love for German idealism. She learned it from watching me, though.

    Yes, Fichte is incomprehensible. But there are moments of lucidity. Which, basically, are enough. It doesn’t help, though, that he never really settled on what he wanted to say, or what he thought the implications of his thinking was. He was in the uncomfortable position of having Schelling & Novalis as almost immediate critics.

  10. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Obviously Indian philosophy is a whole other kind of black hole philosophy (not in a pejorative sense, just in a similar way that German idealism sucks you in). It is a shame that most of us here are mainly educated in Western philosophy only and that the cultural differences often lead to major misunderstandings of the varied philosophies of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and their subcontinents (usually the denigration new age is invoked, sometimes accurately and often times not). This shame is only intensified by the fact that many people within these local philosophies also know quite about our local philosophy, even if we think it is quite universal. It’s the shame of a native English speaker always finding accommodation.

    So now that you’re commenting here, I have to ask, why do you copy and paste blog posts and comments? Are you constructing your own blogological Arcades Project?

  11. Alex Says:

    Reason why analytical philosophy does silly stuff number 4,000.

    When they read people outside of the western tradition, the first thing that is done is “lets make them another analytical philosopher” – what they really thought was similar to Quine. Dull.

  12. Tusar N. Mohapatra Says:

    Anthony, thanks for the honest observations. I mentioned only Sri Aurobindo, but you have brought in a whole Arcade from “Indian philosophy” to “philosophies of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and their subcontinents.” That’s obviously is a tall order and also a nice pretext to evade them.

    Indian philosophy, of the Academia, is in fact a black hole (in a pejorative sense). Sri Aurobindo has been successful to rescue it and integrate it with the western tradition and thereby constructing a robust ontology the like of which is not available elsewhere.

    To copy and paste blog posts and comments is perhaps my way of flattering what I admire.

  13. Nate Says:

    Alex, how is that’s different from reading German Idealism through ecology, phenomenology, and existentialism? (Other than that you like these and presumably don’t like analytic philosophy.) I’ve decided I’d pick Kant too, if Adam wouldn’t mind sharing (every other weekend, say?)

  14. Alex Says:

    It is totally different because I like those and dislike analytical philosophy.

  15. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Nate,

    In all seriousness, and we are all about being serious here, it is different. It’s different in part because German Idealism is very much for the fore bearer of ecological philosophy, phenomenology (see Fink’s Sixth Meditation), and existentialism. It’s not a matter of reading German Idealism through these things, but of showing how German Idealism was thinking these sorts of issues avant la lettre. It’s also not the same because, at least I think, it would be silly to try and ‘turn Schelling into an ecologist’. It’s not about saying, ‘What they were really thinking about was X…’ Analytic philosophy does tend to overly universalize, which is just an inherent structural defect. I’m sure there have been internal critiques of this that I just am too ignorant to know about. And of course there must be some connection between German Idealism and analytic philosophy, even if only be reaction.

    It’s a good thing a certain somebody doesn’t read AUFS or I would have to explain that saying German Idealism is the fore bearer of phenomenology means something different than saying that it is romanticism. If anyone wants to say that I’ll just tell them to go read Fink. Retreat to your books!

  16. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    “That’s obviously is a tall order and also a nice pretext to evade them.”

    Yes, it does become that, doesn’t it! Constructed quite an iron cage here.

  17. JD Says:

    So I thought through this whole thread that that was the other ‘Nate.’

  18. Brad Johnson Says:

    I’d argue that romanticism is a variant of idealism, rather than the other way around. This seems esp. true in terms of what came out of Germany in the 18th & 19th centuries. Granted, early German romanticism was very quickly bastardized, and became something very different. But I cling to the Jena core.

  19. Daniel Says:

    I have no idea how people could find Fichte unreadable. “The Vocation of Man” is clearer than anything Kant or Hegel ever managed of similar length. Compare VoM to the “Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics” or the introduction to the “Phenomenology of Spirit” and the contrast is stark.

    If you chose one figure to study among the German Idealists, you obviously go with Hegel — that way you can read any of them you please, and you’re still “on-topic”.

  20. Nate Says:

    Anthony,

    Who is this Fink of whom you speak?

    I’m all for reading present concerns in relation to past philosophy, I think that’s really valuable. I always natter on about this great book by Andrew Bowie about Schelling which reads Schelling in relation to both Derrida and Davidson. The thing is, though, that it’s hard to say “philosopher X was a thinker of Y avant la lettre” in a way which isn’t subject to a charge of universalization – unless one wants to make claim for actual historical influence of ideas (X got it from reading W in translation, the work was translated by Q who later gave lectures attended by Z etc). That is, I don’t buy the claim that the idealists (or whomever) were _really_ phenomenologists avant la lettre but not analytics avant la lettre unless it’s a claim of intellectual history. What the ‘avant la lettre’ claim amounts to, I think, is “we can read philosopher X productively in relation to Y which we are concerned with” which is not only legitimate but fun and a source of potential insights. I just don’t see why it’s okay for continental folk to do that but not analytics. (Also, in case it wasn’t clear, I’m not saying people who don’t like analytic philosophy have to read it.)
    take it easy,
    Nate

  21. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    It’s a bit different saying X is a Y avant le lettre and Chinese X is really just Quine and we can ignore all the secondary qualities. I think what you’re saying is perfectly correct, but it doesn’t change this tendency in analytic philosophy. And, of course, this isn’t a damnation in and of itself of analytic philosophy. We all know the sins of Continental philosophy, but I still think it is a worthy thing to study and participate in.

    Eugen Fink was a student of Husserl’s and basically his closest intellectual friend in his later years. His stuff is very good. He has a shortish section in The Sixth Cartesian Meditiation on the relationship of phenomenology to German idealism.

  22. Nate Says:

    Hi Anthony,
    Fair enough. I’ve never encountered an argument like that, in part because I’ve not read much stuff on thinkers outside the canon of western philosophers. An argument like that would be annoying though, as it’d basically say “we don’t need to read this person, we’ve got Quine.” I agree that continental philosophy is a worthy subject. I think I probably think analytic philosophy is more worth than you do, but if pressed to pick teams I’d pick the same side of the ocean as you.
    take care,
    Nate

  23. old Says:

    Physics. I think I’d devote my life to physics. But that’s probably because I was listening to talk about the soon to be functioning uber particle accelarator on CBC this morning. It’s a fancy that comes up every now and then in life. Of course, to be able to do that (or the equivalent of that in biology) AND Hegel would be the ultimate dream of a narcissitic German Idealist.

  24. Brad Johnson Says:

    Nate, Bowie’s book on Schelling is fantastic — though it has been eclipsed, I think, by Jason Wirth’s Conspiracy of Life. Also well-worth looking at is Bowie’s book on Early German Romanticism and its relation to contemporary philosophy. He’s supposed to be working on something about Adorno. Maybe it’s finished. Not sure.

  25. Nate Says:

    hi Brad,
    I’ll have to check out the Wirth book, thanks for the reference. I’ve read his book on of EGR (From Romanticism to Critical Theory, right?), I think it’s a good book but I’m less familiar with most of the work in that so I had harder time with it. I had a course with Bowie when I studied in the UK for a semester in undergrad, on Hegel. It was really fantastic, best formal education experience I’ve had. He would take debates involving, say, Fichte and Schelling, Derrida and Lacan, and Putnam and Rorty, and render them contiguous such that they didn’t seem totally discrete nor did it seem forced. That was a lot of his project, that the history of philosophy generally and early german romanticism in particular is relevant to contemporary philosophical debates on both sides of the english channel, and a way that those debates can be made to talk to each other.
    best,
    Nate

  26. ben wolfson Says:

    Brad, are you familiar with Bowie’s Aesthetics and Subjectivity? Is it good?

    (Color me surprised by the revelation that German Idealism is British Empiricism redux.)


Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,417 other followers