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Lehner, Ulrich. Kants Vorsehungskonzept auf dem Hintergrund der Deutschen Schulphilosophie und-theologie.

LEHNER, Ulrich. Kants Vorsehungskonzept auf dem Hintergrund der Deutschen Schulphilosophie und-theologie. Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, vol. 149. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2007. ix + 532 pp. Cloth, 122.99--Most Anglophone Kant specialists were stunned two decades ago when J.B. Schneewind published his monumental The Invention of Autonomy. There he displayed with great authority the background (and perhaps the provenance) of Kant's moral philosophy--a philosophy many of us had studied minutely without any deep or extensive knowledge of its historical context. In providing this context, Schneewind opened up what had seemed an exhaustively explored field of study to a new and richer understanding. The ethical thought we had grown used to treating as a thing-in-itself, removed from the rough intimacies of temporal passage, was suddenly seen as part of a centuries-long conversation--a conversation in which names like Grotius, Pufendorf, and Crusius figured with a hitherto unguessed-at centrality. And this serious attention to the intellectual history in which Kant's moral philosophy was embedded made his arguments themselves more intelligible, impressive, and convincing.

What Schneewind did for Kant's moral philosophy, Ulrich Lehner has now done for Kant's philosophy of religion. Kants Vorsehungskonzept traces the notion of Divine providence in preKantian protestant scholasticism, both philosophy (pp. 31-155) and theology (pp. 159-81); then in Kant's pre-critical writings (pp. 219-98); and finally in the fully mature "canonical" works (pp. 301-463). There are many synopses along the way to guide the reader from one section to another, as well as a very helpful summary at the close (pp. 465-84).

This is an exhaustively (and, it must be confessed, sometimes exhaustingly) told story. Readers, many of us for the first time, can now see in detail how the greatest protestant scholastics--like Wolff, Baumgarten, Crusius, Reimarus, Jerusalem, and Stapfer--grappled with the notion of Divine providence, as well as the central role this notion played in the development--indeed in the fundamental orientation--of their various philosophical/theological systems. This alone makes Kants Vorsehungskonzept an invaluable resource. But the sections on Kant are no less instructive and fascinating.

Lehner demonstrates beyond any shadow of a doubt the deep and pervasive influence of protestant scholasticism on Kant's religious thought. From the early fragment on optimism to the late reflections on anthropology and history, Lehner doggedly traces the roots of Kant's thinking on Divine providence as well as its development. This labor culminates in the claim that Kant's conception of Divine providence was, in the end, a this-worldly or immanent one: "providentia socialis seu immanens." Those who disagree have a lot of work ahead of them.

So Kants Vorsehungskonzept is doubly illuminating--both about Kant and about those who preceded and, in various ways, influenced him. But the clear, detailed accounts of preKantian philosophical and theological argument and debate may prove, for many readers, the most valuable parts of the book; these shed stunning new light on the complexities of preKantian scholasticism, allowing us to appreciate anew Kant's later radical transformation of the options this scholasticism had seen as the only ones available to rational thought.

Kants Vorsehungskonzept is the published incarnation of Lehner's doctoral dissertation (University of Regensburg, 2005); that one so young was able to master material more seasoned scholars had hardly begun to tap, is truly astonishing. An English translation, perhaps slightly abridged, would be a gift to students everywhere.--Ronald K. Tacelli, Boston College.
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Author:Tacelli, Ronald K.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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