Kantian Journal

2019 Vol. 38. No. 3

ARTICLES

Kant’s Philosophy

The Real Target of Kant’s “Refutation”

Abstract

Kant was never satisfied with the version of his “Refutation” published in 1787 (KrV, B 275-279). His dissatisfaction is already evident in the footnote added to the preface of the second edition of the Critique in 1787. As a matter of fact, Kant continued to rework his argument for at least six years after 1787. The main exegetical problem is to figure out who is the target of the “Refutation”: a non-sceptic idealist or a global sceptic of Cartesian provenance or both. In this last case, a related problem is to know whether either of them is the Cartesian sceptic of the first Meditation, the idealist sceptic of the second Meditation and first part of the third Meditation, or some other non-sceptic idealist. I present and defend a new reconstruction of Kant’s “Refu­tation” as a successful argument against Mendelssohnian idealism of Cartesian provenance. This defence is based on a simple logical sketch of the proof provided by Dicker, but essentially modified in the light of Dyck’s insight about Kant’s opponent. How shall I support my reading? First, by appealing to overwhelming textual evidence according to which the proof is of the existence of mind-independent things, showing that Kant’s main opponent is Mendelssohn’s idealism of Cartesian provenance. Finally, I support my reading by showing that Kant’s “Refutation” is doomed to fail against all forms of global scepticism, but is quite successful against Mendelssohn’s idealism.

Download an article

On the Role of Gesinnung in Kant’s Ethics and Philosophy of Religion. Part I

Abstract

Kant’s concept of Gesinnung reveals the whole range of its problematic potential when it has to be translated into other languages: there are no ready-made equivalents. The problem stems from the evolution of this concept in Kant himself from the pre-Critical (“mode of thinking”, “convictions”, “virtuousness”, “virtues”, “sentiments”, “inclinations”, “aspirations”) to the critical works and then in the Critical period in Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason. Further problems arise from the complex pre-Kant­ian history of the concept of Gesinnung which influenced Kant’s philosophy. Among the sources that had a particularly strong impact both on the meaning of Kant’s concept of Gesinnung and on its perception the most important are various translations of the Bible — both into German and into Russian — as well as Latin works by A. G. Baumgarten and German works by C. A. Crusius and M. Mendelssohn. I have also included an overview of English versions of translations of Kant’s term Gesinnung (disposition, attitude, conviction, sentiment, comportment of mind, intention, Gesinnung) and their more important differences and have shown the unhistorical character of the translation arguments in modern English-speaking Kant scholarship which totally ignores pre-Kantian history and the context of Kant’s contemporaries. Proceeding from this study the next part of the article will offer my own interpretation of Kant’s concept of Gesinnung in the Critical period and suggest a uniform translation of the term into Russian with a corresponding grounding of my choice.

Download an article

Kant: pro et contra

Affection of Law: Fichte on the Place and Boundaries of Pure Ethics of the Imperative

Abstract

In his popular 1806 lectures on religion Fichte considered five possible worldviews in the second of which, “the standpoint of legality”, one can readily recognise the ethics of law of the Stoical and Kantian type. Fichte stresses that in his youth he himself shared this worldview. However, he hastens to adduce a series of original arguments to show that this position is essentially incapable of delivering a pure and higher moral doctrine. I examine the substance of these critical arguments in the context of his later metaphysics. Fichte maintains that in the “second type” of worldview man himself feels and understands, respects and loves himself only as a subject of unconditional law, therefore the pathos and “affection of law” pervades all his assessments and motivations. This affects the impartiality of moral assessment if the requirements of the law are diverged from. The “man of law”, the Stoic and Kantian who is not conscious of direct violations of the law, can at most not despise himself, but he cannot, according to Fichte, positively respect himself: that would require surpassing the requirement of the law through action. Meanwhile the affection of the self-sufficient law conceals even this impossibility from such a person. Finally, I show that the ethics of the Stoical and Kantian type retains, according to Fichte’s diagnosis, a refined interest in preserving and indulging the sensual self and hence the idea of God as the warrantor of empirical happiness / bliss. Accordingly, the “overturn in the state of mind” sought by the Kantian himself implies “the highest act of freedom”, which is inaccessible to him and beyond which the perspective of the world as law is replaced for the subject by the perspective of the Kingdom of the Spirit in which the “selfhood” of each moral agent is practically overcome.

Download an article

Philosophy of the Enlightenment and its Relevance

Logic Manuals for Women in the Late Enlightenment Era

Abstract

In the focus of my attention there are six German-language textbooks in logic published in the second half of the eighteenth century. What distinguishes these books is that they were all written specially for women. While such works were fairly common in France and Italy during this period, they had something of an exotic character in the German-speaking world. Today these works and their authors are generally seen as secondary and marginal. Nevertheless, they may be of substantial interest in the study of the history of the formation of logic, a fundamental and still relevant discipline in university education. What is the status of logic for women? Is it a kind of publishing by-product paraphrasing classical logic textbooks under a new and unusual title or do they represent a new independent branch? To answer these questions I analyse the chosen works on logic and the reviews which they prompted. I demonstrate that logic manuals for women published in Germany in the second half of the eighteenth century constitute one of the numerous varieties of the popular philosophy genre. Simple language, dialogic or epistolary form, practical orientation and eclecticism — all this brings logic within the intellectual reach of any civilised person, providing him/her with an instrument of performing their own mission, i. e. the employment of their reason. The very fact that the content of logic for women is practically no different from the content of classical compendiums was a revolutionary development, a practical implementation of the postulate that logic is universal and can be understood by everyone, a principle formulated earlier in the works of C. Thomasius and C. Wolff.

Download an article

EVENTS

Freedom and Arbitrariness. The Relevance of Kant’s Ethics and the Modern World. Report of the 16th Saratov Philosophical Workshop (Saratov, 14 May 2019)

Abstract

This review presents the discussion on “Freedom and Arbitrariness. The Relevance of Kant’s Ethics and the Modern World”, which took place at the 16th Philosophical Workshop “I. Kant and the Current Problems of Modern Philosophy” held in Saratov on 14 May 2019. The discussion was organised by the Department of Ethics and Esthetics at the Philosophical Faculty of the N. G. Chernyshevsky Saratov State University and the Department of Ontology and Epistemology of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (Moscow). The discussion of Kant’s treatment of the problem of freedom was prompted by the historical and philosophical context of the perception of his ideas by German and Russian Neo-Kantians as reflected in the presentations and interventions during the course of the discussion.

Download an article