Kantian Journal

2021 Vol. 40. №3

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Kant as the German Theorist of the French Revolution: the Origin of a Dogma

DOI
10.5922/0207-6918-2021-3-3
Pages
63-92

Abstract

The origins in Marxist-Leninist philosophy of the dogma about Kant as the German theorist of the French Revolution requires some analysis and I explain how a phrase of Marx later gave rise to the dogma. I first look at the sources that influenced K. Marx’s view of Kant and the French Revolution, above all С. F. Bachmann and H. Heine. I then examine the form in which Kant’s philosophy was compared with the French Revolution in the non-Bolshevik milieu before the 1917 Russian Revolution (P. Ya. Chaadayev, V. S. Mezhevich, the Dostoyevsky brothers, V. F. Ern, Archbishop Nikanor, P. A. Florensky). Then I look at how Marx’s phrase influenced Russian social democrats and specifically the Bolsheviks (G. V. Plekhanov, V. I. Lenin, V. M. Shulyatikov). I cite the example of the discussion triggered by a letter of Z. Ya. Beletsky concerning the third volume of The History of Philosophy (1943) to demonstrate the non-canonical status of Marx’s thesis on Kant and the French Revolution in the Soviet Union in the first half of the twentieth century. Finally, the first Soviet edition of Kant’s works in the 1960s canonised Marx’s phrase and gave the exact source. The reason why it took so long to give chapter and verse for the Marx quotation is that it occurs as early as 1842 in “The Philosophical Manifesto of the Historical School of Law” which belongs to the idealistic period of the early Marx.

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