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The Cambridge Companion to Kant.

This is the third in a projected series of companion volumes to major philosophers. According to a prefatory note, the series is intended both for students and nonspecialists as well as for advanced students and specialists, serving the former as a reference work and the latter as a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of the philosopher. Since the essays comprising the volumes are specially commissioned for them, they can reinforce one another and present an internally coherent interpretation of the philosopher's thought as a whole. Such a collection should have the merit of a comprehensive introduction to the philosopher's work, while providing a detailed treatment of particular topics by authors with special expertise.

The format of this volume is well conceived. A general introduction to Kant's philosophy is followed by an essay on the development of his thought through the precritical works and, to the extent that it is possible, through the "silent decade" of the 1770s. As for the essays dealing with the critical philosophy, it is to be expected that Kant's theory of knowledge would claim the biggest share. Seven essays deal either with the main divisions of the Critique of Pure Reason or with themes arising in it. Two of the latter consider the relevance of the first Critique to the empirical content of natural science, one of them discussing the methodological import of regulative ideas of reason, the other tracing the development of Kant's treatment of causality in his later works. An essay on Kant's conception of reason is intended as a transition from the first Critique to his practical philosophy. The remainder of the volume consists of essays on Kant's moral philosophy as a whole, his theory of right and political philosophy, his aesthetics, and his philosophy of religion. The volume concludes with an essay on the initial reception of the critical philosophy and the subsequent dissatisfaction with its dualisms that led to the development of nineteenth-century German idealism. A highly selective bibliography is supplemented by an editorial note regarding more extensive bibliographical sources.

To what extent the volume fulfills the dual intent of the companion series is rather difficult to estimate. Of the essays on the divisions of the first Critique, some would seem to be more successful than others in balancing exposition with interpretation and criticism. It is, perhaps, in the nature of the undertaking that the essays comprising the remainder of the volume should be more accessible to students. Each presents an overview that could serve admirably as an introduction to the subject. A more advanced student or a specialist would test the framework against the text and determine the extent to which the former reflects the author's interests and assumptions. This category of reader might well complain about one or another assertion, or about matters of emphasis and omission, while yet regarding the essay as a good--in some cases, excellent--survey of the area. The concluding essay, which treats the historical Lessing-Jacobi-Mendelssohn affair as a questioning of the legitimacy of philosophy itself, throws new light on the emergence of German idealism.
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Author:Gregor, Mary
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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