La force d’Alexander Schnell tient à ce qu’il est l’un des rares philosophes de notre temps à défendre l’idéalisme transcendantal, idéalisme dont on sait qu’il constitue pour Husserl l’essence même de la phénoménologie, en le rapportant d’une part à l’idéalisme allemand et plus particulièrement à la Bildslehre de Fichte, dont il est l’un des plus éminents spécialistes, et d’autre part au « réalisme » dominant aujourd’hui et plus particulièrement au réalisme spéculatif de Quentin Meillassoux. La défense du projet husserlien se fera donc dans ce nouvel ouvrage, ambitieux et de haute facture, sous deux angles.
Tout d’abord, une auto-fondation de la phénoménologie à la fois sujet et objet de la démarche de légitimation, de sorte que l’on pourrait parler d’un « discours de la méthode » à condition que le methodos soit son propre telos (sans quoi, à raison, il faut avec l’auteur en rejeter l’expression) : il s’agit là de la perspective indiquée par le sous-titre de l’ouvrage, à savoir des fondements, dont le pluriel lui-même indique qu’il ne saurait s’agir d’un simple retour à l’unique fundamentum inconcussum de la subjectivité absolue, et de fait la réflexion sur l’anonymat du sens se faisant, dans l’horizon heideggérien de l’herméneutique, invitera à un dépassement de la structuration purement égologique de la phénoménologique. Ensuite, et c’est le sens de « l’idéalisme spéculatif », cette auto-réflexion méthodologique – étant entendu que la méthode encore une fois ne s’applique pas de l’extérieur à un objet mais est le Tout même de la phénoménologie comme la réduction transcendantale en est l’Alpha et l’Omega, l’objet de la phénoménologie en en étant le Sujet -, doit être elle-même ontologiquement fondée, la réflexivité fondementielle du projet étant sise en l’autoréflexivité de l’Être. La spécularité de l’essai de « phénoménologie de la phénoménologie » transcendantale dont l’auteur reprend à Fink le projet, jamais conduit à terme, se trouve donc associé à une pensée de la spécularité ontologique, la réflexion sur ce qui est reposant sur l’essence ré-flexive de l’être : pas de retour sur soi – ce qu’est la philosophie en son essence -, sans être spéculaire, ou, pour le dire autrement, pas de fondation disciplinaire sans spécularité réelle, pas de réflexion sur le phénomène sans réflexivité de la phénoménalité.
Le projet, qui a ici un caractère inaugural – appelant à une reprise et collaboration, dans la droite ligne de la réflexion husserlienne -, et qui pose les jalons de l’idéalisme spéculatif en ramassant sous forme « systématisée » (ou plutôt « méthodologique ») ce qui avait été exposé dans les ouvrages précédents de l’auteur, est assurément original. Au-delà même du dialogue fécond qu’il instaure avec le passé et notre temps, il surmonte l’opposition entre le phénoménologique et le spéculatif : c’est d’ailleurs la force de l’essai que de montrer – il s’agit là du fil rouge à mon sens qui en traverse les sections -, que le dehors historique de la phénoménologique, le spéculatif, est en réalité non tant un dehors qu’un dedans non surmonté qui en constitue la vérité insigne. S’annonce en filigrane l’ouverture de la phénoménologie à son Autre comme à ce qui lui est le plus intérieur, le Métaphysique comme « interior intimo » de la phénoménologie, ce dont témoigne le dernier chapitre sur « le sens de la réalité », réel qui n’est ni dedans ni dehors, comme une torsion spéculaire où l’extase est l’envers de l’enstase, ce que l’auteur exprime en termes d’« endo-exogénéité de l’être ». Cette originalité est d’autant plus saisissante lorsqu’on confronte le projet de l’auteur à l’orientation majoritairement réaliste aujourd’hui de la phénoménologie : au réalisme qui prend pour fil directeur l’objet prédonné s’oppose l’idéalisme qui passe de l’objet à la réflexion sur la phénoménalité du phénomène, en une réflexion sur la possibilité de la phénoménologie qui appelle l’interrogation sur la possibilité même de la phénoménalité, en un transcendantalisme spéculatif qui se démarque, A. Schnell y insiste, du transcendantalisme kantien qui concerne les conditions de possibilité non de l’être mais de la seule connaissance. Encore cet idéalisme se donne-t-il moins pour l’opposant du réalisme que pour son fondement puisque la question posée d’entrée de jeu est celle de la conciliation entre d’un côté la reconduction à la subjectivité transcendantale (l’idéalisme) et de l’autre la fondation d’un concept fort d’être ou de réalité capable de rendre compte de la transcendance du monde (le réalisme), que si on ne saurait faire l’économie du sujet – contre cet appel généralisé au XXème siècle à la « mort du sujet » (et de « l’auteur ») -, on ne saurait pas plus résorber l’absoluité de la transcendance en l’intentionnalité d’une visée. On comprend que l’agent de liaison, ou de sursomption de l’opposition, sera établi par la redéfinition spéculative de l’idéalisme transcendantal, et que le spéculatif sera la clé permettant de sortir du conflit entre l’approche essentiellement gnoséologique de Husserl avec son projet de légitimation de la connaissance et l’ontologie phénoménologique de Heidegger où l’horizon du sens et du comprendre est irréductible au schème de la constitution transcendantale.
Est en jeu, cela est évident dès l’introduction, l’avenir même de la phénoménologie, qui se trouve forclos par une double attitude, de soumission à l’empiricité d’un objet pré-donné – c’est là le positivisme au double sens de ce qui sert la science mais aussi de ce qui est de l’ordre du « trouvé-d’avance » -, et de subordination historiographique de la philosophie à son passé. Le transcendantal, c’est précisément cet arrachement de la pensée au règne du fait déjà tout fait au profit d’une pensée pensante. Si la philosophie consiste à retourner à l’originaire, alors la phénoménologie en assume-t-elle la vocation, elle qui, « science des premiers commencements », ne cesse de recommencer pour interroger l’origine du sens et de l’être ou de ce que Husserl appelait « l’Énigme du Monde », c’est-à-dire non un problème mais une aporie qui exige que l’on se place à sa hauteur : le retour aux « choses mêmes » n’est pas de l’ordre d’un retour aux « faits » – en une dangereuse mythologie du Fait qui semble sous-tendre aujourd’hui bien des « ontologies » plates ou feuilletées orphelines de leur Sujet -, mais, suspendant l’en-soi à titre de préjugé, il consiste à faire de l’a priori de la corrélation entre ce qui se donne et son appréhension subjective son thème propre comme l’écrit Husserl dans un passage célèbre de la Krisis (§ 48). En effet, interroger l’être c’est questionner le sens d’être, ce en quoi la corrélation est a priori, originaire, irréductible qu’elle est au rapport entre deux termes hétérogènes. La corrélativité constitue la structure interne de la phénoménalité, ce que met au jour l’épochè phénoménologique, laquelle opère le passage de l’objet à la conscience d’objet. La corrélation désigne la structure sujet-objet inhérente à tout étant apparaissant, faisant tomber l’évidence apparente de la chose, la naturalité précisément d’une perception dont le propre est de s’effacer devant son objet. En d’autres termes, il s’agit de réfléchir la perception, de conduire la vision, obnubilée par la chose vue, à se saisir en un voir du voir : bref, le spéculatif est bien l’essence du phénoménologique, et l’enjeu de l’ouvrage est d’en décliner le thème en trois sections – qu’il est bien sûr impossible de « résumer » : il s’agit, encore une fois, d’un methodos et non de micro-thèses dont on pourrait transposer le contenu de façon ramassée -, la première exposant des considérations méthodologiques, la deuxième établissant un dialogue « historico-systématique » avec l’idéalisme allemand et l’empirisme anglo-saxon (humien), la troisième enfin, affrontant l’idéalisme spéculatif au réalisme spéculatif de Q. Meillassoux.
Le premier temps est consacré au concept même de méthode en phénoménologie et à ce qui fait la spécificité de l’attitude transcendantale, laquelle engage les notions de science eidétique (contre la « cécité spirituelle » des empiristes selon Husserl), d’expérience transcendantale (contre le transcendantal abstrait – apagogique – de Kant), de sens (contre l’être « en-soi ») et enfin de corrélation, en vue d’une rapproche renouvelée du problème de la compréhension, dans l’effort de conciliation de l’approche herméneutique chez Heidegger et de la légitimation transcendantale de la connaissance chez Husserl : l’idéalisme spéculatif met en jeu ce « comprendre transcendantal » irréductible à la face subjective et psychologique d’un savoir dont la connaissance objective et scientifique serait l’autre face, comme ce « sens se faisant » de l’ordre de l’entre-deux, inassignable à une instance, subjective ou objective, entre l’activité de l’esprit (il faut un interprétant) et un champ prédonné de compréhension (qui oriente l’interprétation, la soustrayant à tout arbitraire). Autrement dit, la description qui était définitoire de la phénoménologie se trouve dépassée par la construction : le spéculatif, c’est déjà ce « comprendre », cette monstration du sens – occulté dans l’attitude naturelle -, une « donation génétisée ». Spéculer, ce n’est pas spéculer dans le vide, mais ce n’est pas non plus, tel est l’enjeu de cette section, rapporter une construction à un étant qui lui préexisterait.
La deuxième section vise à rapporter la phénoménologie comme idéalisme spéculatif à l’idéalisme postkantien, passant de l’approche strictement méthodologique à une approche historique dont l’objectif est clair : justifier l’idéalisme spéculatif en inscrivant le projet de fondation de la phénoménologie dans l’horizon de l’idéalisme allemand, permettant ici encore de dépasser le caractère descriptif de la phénoménologie – le « principe des principes » qu’est l’intuition et qui est eo ipso légitimante pour Husserl -, au regard de la Wissenschaftslehre – et de l’image – de Fichte où il s’agit bien de construire le fait et ses conditions de possibilité de façon génétique, non à partir de faits (pure description) mais à partir d’un acte de construction (ici de la Tathandlung) par quoi la construction (ou spécularité) coïncide avec l’intuitivité de ce qu’elle construit et donne à voir. Comme le dit A. Schnell, l’intuitivité est ici un voir de la genèse. Cette interrogation sur les fondements spéculatifs de l’unité de la phénoménologie – conditionnement mutuel, possibilisation, construction génétique, redoublement possibilisant, autant de concepts analysés par l’auteur -, se double d’une confrontation subséquente de la phénoménologie à l’empirisme humien sous l’angle de la thématique de la Lebenswelt. Si le mérite de Hume est en effet d’engendrer le monde, montrant que ce qui paraît aller de soi n’a rien d’assuré, que les vérités objectives sont des formations de vie – une subjectivité voilée -, bref de retourner au monde de la vie comme sol de notre rapport au monde et a priori subjectif au fondement de l’a priori objectif de la science, il s’agit en revanche pour Husserl, on le sait, de concilier cette « fiction » du monde à son projet de légitimation de l’objectivité de la connaissance en intégrant le débat de la validité menée par le néo-kantisme de l’école de Baden dans la problématique de l’être. Contre l’objectivisme, l’auteur étudie la formation transcendantale du sens en prenant en compte le concept de vérité exposé dans la Sixième recherche logique et la thèse heideggérienne de la vérité comme existential. L’idéalisme spéculatif se trouve ici approfondi, permettant de sortir de la perspective purement gnoséologique en vue d’un « rendre compréhensible transcendantal » – mis en avant surtout par la Krisis -, et la mise en avant du plan anonyme, pré-égotique, de la Sinnbildung. Autrement dit, de la seconde section ressortent l’irréductibilité de la phénoménologie à la description et intuition, le rôle fondamental joué par les modes de conscience « non-présentants » (la fameuse phantasia) et enfin le primat du plan du procès du sens sur la constitution égologique (le spéculaire), idée d’un auto-anéantissement du moi conduisant à une « Sinnbildung anonyme » pré-égotique (ou « subjectivité anonyme ») – ici évoquée seulement mais dont on peut imaginer la fécondité à la rapporter par exemple au champ transcendantal sans ego (Sartre) ou au plan d’immanence de conscience absolue et impersonnelle (Deleuze), c’est-à-dire à ce dont Jean Hyppolite avait avancé l’idée en 1959, à savoir la possibilité de dériver le « Je » transcendantal – le « Je » comme pôle qui accompagne toutes mes représentations -, d’un champ antérieur au partage entre Moi et non-Moi, pré-subjectif et pré-objectif, et ce contre l’égocentrisme de la donation transcendantale.
Mais c’est à l’aune de la confrontation au réalisme spéculatif dans la troisième section que l’on saisit l’un des motifs au principe de l’essai : sauver la phénoménologie contre l’attaque menée par Q. Meillassoux contre ce qu’il a appelé dans Après la finitude le « corrélationisme ». Si on comprend mal la référence au « Nouveau Réalisme » de Markus Gabriel dans la mesure où il s’agit d’un réalisme sans Réalité – « tout existe, sauf le Tout » -, qui ouvrant l’ontologie aux sens de l’être et aux laissés-pour-compte de l’ontologie traditionnelle comme les licornes se détourne de son principe et abolit l’idée de « réalité du réel » et de nature fondamentale de ce qui est, au nom d’un pluralisme ontologique et épistémologique si radical qu’il en perd tout sens – l’ouverture de l’être aux fictions reposant sur l’idée de fiction de réalité -, en revanche la discussion menée avec le réalisme spéculatif permet, par contraste, de légitimer le projet de fondation de l’idéalisme spéculatif phénoménologique. Au-delà de la critique de l’argument de l’ancestralité qui fait fond sur une confusion selon l’auteur entre l’empirique et le transcendantal – l’expérience possible ne doit pas être confondue avec la possibilité empirique, si bien qu’il n’est de sens à inscrire la survenue du sujet (transcendantal) dans la ligne temporelle objective -, c’est bien à mon sens la façon dont l’absolu se trouve revisité à l’aune de l’idéalisme allemand qui ressort de l’analyse : d’un absolu qui n’est plus pensé comme absolu objectif mais comme réel subjectif et pré-égotique contre l’ontologisation de l’irraison et l’absolutisation de la contingence de la corrélation. La réflexivité de l’être – sa « corrélativité » -, le procès du sens comme structure transcendantale tendant à l’auto-explicitation réflexive du réel, d’un être se réfléchissant comme sens sans en passer tout d’abord par la figure de l’ego, tel est au final ce qui justifie ontologiquement le projet de fondation de l’idéalisme spéculatif, l’auteur répondant au défi lancé par Q. Meillassoux qui invitait la phénoménologie à s’élever aux hauteurs spéculatives de l’idéalisme kantien et postkantien. Pari tenu.
Que serait un en-soi qui serait pensé non comme chose mais comme sujet, en-soi comme Soi ? Si l’on se plaît depuis Wittgenstein à parler d’un « mythe de l’intériorité », la démarche radicale d’immanentisation chez Husserl consistait au contraire, tirant le fil cartésien, à interroger ladite « réalité du réel » et à rebours de l’attitude naturelle à mettre au jour ce qu’on pourrait appeler un « mythe de l’extériorité », révélant le dehors du dedans au sens du génitif subjectif. La phénoménologie procédait à une libération spectaculaire (mais n’est-ce pas le sens même de l’amour du Vrai, de la Philalethia en son sens originaire, i.e. initiatique ?) : libération de la conscience à l’égard du monde, renvoyé à son insuffisance ontologique et au caractère immanent de sa transcendance, libération de la conscience à l’égard d’elle-même dans son auto-appréhension limitante comme « moi psychophysique » – si l’épochè est l’acte inaugural de la philosophie c’est bien en tant que nul ne saurait se mettre en quête de Vérité qui reste prisonnier du sens de son identité -, et libération contre la philosophie moderne à l’égard de Dieu en tant qu’absolument Autre. Il ne faudra plus chercher le fondement ailleurs qu’en soi-même, quitte à ce que cet en-soi soit le lieu de révélation de la Vie divine, que l’égologie soit un théocentrisme, que l’ego soit porté par ce qui, plus haut, est ego transsubjectif, en un solipsisme transcendantal au fondement de l’intersubjectivité, intra au principe de l’inter. C’est là une direction qui me paraît passionnante, en une pensée de l’intériorité transcendantale et « cosmique », comme l’appelait Ravaisson, dont une confrontation cette fois-ci avec la Métaphysique du Veda, le Vedanta, permettrait de renouveler l’approche. Au-delà du cercle strictement phénoménologique ainsi tracé – avec son style parfois sibyllin et elliptique -, la phénoménologie eût pu s’ouvrir à un public plus large, dans le renouvellement urgent de la question originaire de la Vérité de Soi et de celle du Monde dont l’identité ouvre le rationnel à son autre en un rationalisme élargi. Mais c’est là ce dont le positivisme encore latent – mais Husserl était aussi fils de son temps – de la Strenge Wissenschaft, ce qu’engage la thématique de la validité, de laquelle participe l’essai de fondation de la phénoménologie, nous détourne. Certes Husserl concluait ses Méditations cartésiennes par un passage aussi beau qu’exigent : « L’oracle de Delphes gnôthi seauton acquiert alors une signification nouvelle. La science positive devient science en perdant le monde. Il faut commencer par perdre le monde avec l’épochè pour le reconquérir dans l’auto-réflexion universelle. Noli foras ire, dit Augustin, in te redi, in interiore homine habitat veritas ». Ce serait toutefois emprunter une voie différente, celle d’un philosophique roulant sur l’écume des catégories de l’entendement occidental et nourri par l’océan du philosophal : la « porte du dedans », ainsi que l’appelait Rûmî, conduirait alors à un immanentisme radical, intériorité qui n’est plus celle d’un « moi » mais d’un « nous » qui n’est Nous que d’être Un, et dont la réalisation, sans doute, nécessiterait de déchirer le voile des phénomènes – l’image dudit « réel » – de faire de la phénoménologie le tremplin vers son auto-dépassement.
Immanuel Kant’s Third Critique has been extraordinarily influential. Some see it as a foundational text for aesthetics and the philosophy of art. For others, it is the cap stone to Kant’s critical project. It makes aesthetics revelatory of the conditions of human cognition, and so is central to Kant’s reception generally. Stefano Marino and Pietro Terzi’s collection of essays is an enjoyable and rewarding testament to the diversity of twentieth-century thinkers in the West for whom the first half of the Third Critique has been an inspiration. Arranged over eighteen chapters, this book provides readers with a history of the influence of the Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgement (“CAPJ”). It describes how key thinkers have turned to the CAPJ and the complex relationships between key twentieth-century ideas and Kant’s text. The volume does not aim to address the reception of the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgement.
It is not practical to summarise the contents of eighteen chapters. Even so, in this review I want to give a sense of the topics covered. I will discuss the aims of Marino and Terzi’s edited collection, how it sets about this task and what contribution it makes. I should clarify that the aim of the book is not to provide an explanatory approach to the interpretation of the CAPJ within the terms of Kant’s own project. As the book’s subtitle indicates, it is not so much a companion to the text itself as a companion for those interested in tracing its legacy. The book is motivated by two thoughts. First, the CAPJ’s far-reaching influence has nourished many debates, broadly spread across different philosophical traditions and disciplines. Secondly, in comparison to the history of nineteenth-century romanticism and German idealism, scholars have overlooked the far-reaching influence of the CAPJ on twentieth-century philosophy. Marino and Terzi explain that their aim is to address this blind spot with contributions from experts in various fields. They have produced a book that describes a history of reception ‘capable of cutting in a unique way across different traditions, movements and geographical areas’ (30). They are at pains to explain their intention is to bridge any gap between the so-called analytic and continental traditions.
Marino and Terzi gather a collection of essays by sixteen different academic philosophers, in addition to themselves, from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Each chapter, generally, takes up one or two Western twentieth-century philosophers and explores how they have turned to the CAPJ in order to advance their own philosophical projects. The editors’ multi-author approach ensures ‘a plurality of perspectives and competences’ (28). Fifteen chapters tend to prioritise describing how twentieth-century thinkers turned to Kant. That said, many chapters also draw attention to how these interpretations have aften been tendentious and strained readings of Kant. The body of book is organised broadly chronologically and according to the geographies of Germany, France, Italy and USA. This seems to be a pragmatic choice and it makes the structure of the book easy to navigate. These chapters are positioned between an introduction and, at the end of the book, two contributions that explore the influence of the CAPJ on two contemporary issues. The helpful introduction offers a brief history of the Third Critique’s reception, first in the nineteenth century and then in the twentieth century. It discusses the methodology underlying the collection of essays. In what follows, I want to give an overview of the topics covered in subsequent chapters.
Arno Schubbach opens the first group of chapters on German philosophers with a contribution on how the Third Critique is taken up by Hermann Cohen and Ernst Cassirer. Schubbach explores different interpretations of the position of the Third Critique within Kant’s overall philosophical system, and how these interpretations inform Cohen’s and Cassirer’s own philosophies of culture. It makes an interesting contrast between two adaptations of the CAPJ by philosophers developing their own systematic theories. According to Schubbach, Cohen performed ‘interpretive violence’ (42) on Kant’s text to construe aesthetics narrowly as a philosophy of the experience art. Cassirer, by contrast, argued for a systematic connection between the aesthetic and teleological sections within the Third Critique. Schubbach explains how Cassirer’s interpretation of the structure of Kant’s critical project is ‘a question of systematic importance for Cassirer’s philosophy of culture’ (50).
In the next chapter, Gunter Figal explores how Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer criticised Kant for failing to account for an essential truth-character of art. Heidegger took philosophical aesthetics to be fundamentally concerned with emotional responses and a hedonistic consumption of art. Yet for Heidegger, the significance of art did not lie in emotional responses. Figal observes that Heidegger seemingly entirely ignored Kant’s Third Critique, and interpreted the CAPJ as offering an account of art as nothing but an object of emotional experience. Figal points out that Kant’s conception of aesthetic experience is far more sophisticated than the simplistic picture Heidegger maintained. Gadamer also shared the view that art had an essential truth-character. Nonetheless, he did engage with the Third Critique. Gadamer’s criticism of Kant, according to Figal, was that aesthetic experience for Kant is an autonomous and purely subjective sphere that fails to grasp the cognitive value of art. Figal turns from Heidegger and Gadamer to advance his own argument: that ‘the Third Critique offers the most elaborate version of an aesthetical conception of art’ (69). Even so, Kant’s aesthetics is too narrow to accommodate any cognitive value of art. Figal’s objection is that artworks are ‘a kind of blank spot’ in Kant’s conceptual framework. That said, Figal does not address Kant’s notion of dependent beauty or how Kant conceives of fine art as expressions of aesthetic ideas.
Dennis Schmidt’s chapter describes in more detail Gadamer’s critique of notions of aesthetic experience that separate it from the possibility of claims to truth. According to Schmidt, Gadamer exposed once dominant guiding assumptions about how art is thought and experienced as autonomous. He did this through tracing the historical development of this idea back to Kant’s Third Critique. Gadamer’s criticism of Kant’s aesthetics was that it closed-down questions about art. Schmidt explains, ‘from the vantage of pure aesthetic judgement, the work of art contributes nothing to what is disclosed’ (80). Gadamer argued that this was even the case in Kant’s treatment of fine art and genius. With Kant, the aesthetic object disappears. Although it is recuperated by his successors, it is as an autonomous phenomenon. Tracing a close association of aesthetic experience with subjectivity led Gadamer to develop the idea of ‘aesthetic differentiation’ (88) to explain how the artwork lost its place in the world to which it belonged. As Schmidt points out, Gadamer’s intention towards Kant was not to get the Third Critique right. Instead, Gadamer’s reading played a pivotal role in his argument about the contingent historical disengaging of art from questions of truth during parts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Hans-Peter Krüger’s chapter concerns Helmuth Plessner’s philosophical reflections on the conditions for empirical law formation. Krüger states that Plessner ‘functionalizes Kant’s reflective judgement for modern research into a procedure’ (95). Plessner’s thought was that reflective, rather than determining, judgements are central to scientific research that is directed towards discovering something new. Krüger gives an overview of Kant’s teleological judgement and its regulative a priori principle. He also summarises the demand for universal agreement in judgements of taste, even though they cannot be proven. Plessner argued that these characteristics of reflective judgement inform modern research procedures.
Tom Huhn develops an account of how Theodor Adorno took up themes in Kantian aesthetics, read in part through Hegel. According to Huhn, Adorno criticised Kant for leaving no room for the historically conditioned nature of the relationship between artwork and subject. Kant mistook a historically specific feature – a sentiment described as aesthetic pleasure – and made it universal and timeless. Whereas for Adorno, pleasure is a ‘historically specific feature of aesthetic experience’ (117). According to Huhn, Adorno took from Hegel the idea that the history of consciousness involves a ‘resistance’ between sensuousness and rational consciousness within aesthetic experience. In Adorno’s view, Kant ‘misses the objectivity of resistance within subjective consciousness’ (120). Rather than aesthetic experience merely registering as purely subjective affect, the experience some artworks afford includes a ‘resistance’ in the relation between sensuousness and rational consciousness. For Adorno, such artworks are at odds with the world they are in, eliciting a correlate sensuous otherness of subjective experience. Huhn’s overall approach is not to assess the fairness of Adorno’s criticism of Kant. He describes how Adorno picked-up on ideas like taste, disinterestedness and beauty, to argue that Kant’s account of taste was inadequate to ‘measure the meaning and truth of the artwork’ (123). This helped Adorno to develop his own aesthetic theory.
According to Nicola Emery, there is a Kantian notion taken from the Third Critique that oriented Max Horkheimer’s thoughts throughout his life. Horkheimer had an early interest in the potential of modernist art. By referring to Kant’s sensus communis, ‘albeit very concisely’ (137), Horkheimer related modernist art’s emancipatory potential (from dominating social conditions) to an otherwise hidden shared ‘communitarian sense’ of free people. However, for historical and methodological reasons, Horkheimer could not endorse the empirical possibility in modernity of a communitarian sense of aesthetic experience. Even so, Emery argues for Horkheimer’s ‘covert recovery of the sublime’ (149). He links Horkheimer’s ideas about ‘inhospitable’ modernist art with the counter-purposiveness of the sublime. Emery suggests that Horkheimer’s later rejection of modern art was because of its failure in practice to go beyond art for art’s sake. In the end, it was modern art’s failure to revive the experience of the sublime that led Horkheimer to declare modern art a failure. Even so, Emery claims, Horkheimer retained a somewhat Kantian notion of communitarian sense, which underpinned the possibility of critical analysis of modern society.
Serena Feloj explains that Hannah Arendt’s interpretation of the Third Critique departed fundamentally from Kant’s own position. Feloj claims that Arendt was unusual in taking seriously Kant’s claims, in the two introductions to the Third Critique, that his fundamental concern was with judgement in general, rather than only with the specific forms of aesthetic and teleological judgement. Feloj suggest that sensus communis displays in Kant ‘a very peculiar transcendental character’ (164). For Kant ‘shared humanity is what lays the ground for the public dimension of judgment, not the human need for communicating with one’s peers’ (164). According to Feloj, Arendt’s distinctive suggestion was that the significance of the Third Critique resided in political philosophy. Arendt claimed that Kant’s theory of judgement ‘is based on men’s needs to communicate with the others and that sociability is the prerequisite for the functioning of the capacity for judging’ (166). Sociability and communicability make judgements by people possible. As Feloj points out, Kant himself denies that such an explanation is adequate. Yet Arendt reinterpreted Kant’s transcendental principle as an empirical foundation for the possibility of judgements that we share with others.
Opening a group of chapters on France, Patrice Canivez explains German exile Eric Weil’s interpretation. On Weil’s view, the major discovery of the Third Critique was a way of understanding nature which left room for the possibility of answering ‘how can meaningful (moral) ends be pursued in a world of meaningless (natural) facts’ (178). The natural facts in question were the beautiful, the sublime, artistic genius and the purposiveness of living organisms. In their presence we experience the world as meaningful and ‘we affirm that all human beings have the same cognitive structure’ (180). According to Canivez, Weil argued that Kant’s discovery was a great turning point in the history of philosophy, although ‘this result is obscured by the way Kant presents it’ (184). The conceptual language Kant had to use to reach his contemporary audiences meant that Kant was compelled to view the existence of meaningful natural facts as fortuitous. In contrast, Weil argued that experiencing the world as meaningful was foundational: ‘the experience of such reality is prior to any distinction between the possible and the necessary’ (187). Canivez uses the idea of Kant being committed to a particular conceptual language to introduce Weil’s own ideas about how distinct philosophical categories develop distinct discourses around particular concepts.
Anne Sauvagnargues argues that Giles Deleuze developed his philosophy of art through a ‘critical and renewed mediation’ (195) on Kant’s work. She chooses ‘meditation’ carefully. Her argument is that Deleuze created something personal and original through his reading of Kant. Sauvagnargues describes how Deleuze took from Kant questions about the relationship of the faculties of imagination, understanding and reason to one another. Deleuze at first regarded Kant’s three critiques as all on the same level, unified in their analysis of the faculties, and each focussing on internal relationships where one faculty takes the regulatory lead over the others. But Sauvagnargues tells us that Deleuze subsequently elevated the Third Critique, discovering in it something innovative and important about art. Deleuze reworked the ‘Analytic of the Sublime’. Sauvagnargues notes: ‘but this is where Kant is forced by Deleuze to undergo a radical distortion’ (198). What he found there was a productive ‘discordant accord’ of the faculties, which ‘carries the faculties to their point of maximum tension’ (202). For Deleuze, this discordant accord of the faculties was involuntary and played a crucial role for the possibility of creative thought. Through his reflections on Proust, Deleuze argued that the discordant accord, where cognition is pushed to its limits, reveals the importance of art for philosophy.
Pietro Terzi tells us how Jacques Derrida used the CAPJ to illustrate a claim about how philosophy, as an academic discipline, deals with a subject area (in this case art) through imposing its own legislative function on that subject. Philosophy does so by reserving for itself the right define the subject area as a distinct area of practice and experience. This presupposes some kind of unity of meaning for the subject area and its concepts. But in the end these definitions are the result of well-established discursive “protocols” of conceptualisation. Derrida illustrated this claim through an analysis of the CAPJ. According to Terzi, Derrida emphasised that Kant’s aesthetic pleasure turned the discourse of beauty into its purely formal elements, stripping from artworks any social or historical significance. Derrida questioned what called for this formal pureness that separates art from contextual concerns and from sensuous “charms” and “emotions”. He argued that it follows from epistemological presuppositions drawn from the First Critique, namely the four categories of the logical form of judging. In this way, questions about art were inscribed within a theory of logical judgements. Derrida argued this inscription was arbitrary: ‘the frame fits badly’ (220). Art is subordinated to a particular purpose through the imposition of a theory of judgement.
Dario Cecchi explains Jean-François Lyotard’s interest in Kant’s notions of the faculty of judgement and of the sublime. For Lyotard, no unified system or theory can subsume all human experience. There are ‘islands of cognition’ that make up ‘archipelagos of experience’, each with its own theory and language. A central concern for Lyotard was the question of how to transition from one field of experience to another. His interest in Kant’s theory of reflective judgement related to the question of what theory and language is most appropriate. The sublime was the focus of Lyotard’s use of the Third Critique, even though for Kant it was a ‘mere appendage. In the sublime, the relationship between aesthetic judgement and ideas of reason is characterised as a struggle between reason and imagination. Reason diverts imagination’s attention from its usual task of the synthesis of sensible experience. Instead, imagination presents ideas of reason to the subject. These are not direct representation, because ideas of reason exceed the bounds of sensible experience. The significance of the sublime, for Lyotard, lay in the faculty of reason forcing the imagination to ‘present the unpresentability’ (239) of ideas like freedom, justice and moral law. In the sublime, these ideas are experienced as signs which open the subject’s experience on to an ethical realm. Cecchi ends his chapter by explaining the political significance of the sublime for Lyotard. It resided in the possibility of art offering audiences an array of sublime feelings, including respect and commitment.
For a stopover in Italy, Claudio Paolucci describes how Umberto Eco connected the Third Critique to more recent work in cognitive sciences on Predictive Processing, and to an earlier idea of abduction offered by Charles Sanders Pierce. The issue in common is explaining how perceptions are partly conceptualised. According to Paolucci, in Predictive Processing the brain is active in providing ‘top down’ predictions of sensory inputs and comparing those predictions with actual sensory evidence in forming world-revealing perceptions. Paolucci explains how this topic has an antecedent in Pierce. Eco picked up certain key Kantian ideas, developed in the Third Critique, but was not primarily concerned with a close analysis of Kant’s claims themselves. Eco claimed that the relationship between perception and prior knowledge that the brain stores about the world is a reformulation of the Kantian notion of schematization. Reflective judgement produces or finds concepts through which experience is made possible. According to Paolucci, Eco developed this with the help of further Kantian notions of regulative principles and ideas of reason. For Eco, we interpret the world as if it were a narrative. Yet nothing in the world guarantees our conjectures. We pursue the semblance of order we need to find in the world in order to make experience possible. But the principles that underpin the kind of order or narrative with which we structure the world are not constitutive.
Turning to America, Scott Stroud describes how Kant’s aesthetics motivated John Dewey’s own pragmatist theory of aesthetics and art. According to Stroud, ‘Kant becomes the foil for the pragmatist’s novel theorizing, a respected, but wrong, thinker who set so many on the wrong path’ (274). Whilst Dewey had broader objections to Kant’s transcendental idealism, he specifically rejected Kant’s conception of aesthetic experience as essentially disinterested contemplation. Dewey objected to Kant’s separation of distinct domains of human experience and distinct faculties of the mind. Kant’s domain aesthetic experience is markedly separated from the fields of knowledge and practical action. In contrast, Dewey sees aesthetic experience on a continuum with the practical nature of human activity, always located in some context or environment. Stroud is careful not to become involved in analysing whether Dewey’s reading is right or not. His aim is to explain how resistance to Kant’s ideas, together with Dewey’s commitment to humans belonging to a Darwinian natural world, helps explain why Dewey’s ideas on the experience of art took the shape they did. Despite Dewey’s outward antagonism towards Kant, Stroud tries to find some common ground. Although continuous with other forms of experience, Stroud explains some characteristics of aesthetic experience for Dewey. These include the sense that aesthetic experience has a kind of intensity and absorption. Stroud finds parallels between this and what he sees as Kant’s internalising of ends to the means of aesthetic experience, and with Kant’s claim that the experience of the beautiful is a symbol of the morally good.
A central figure in Diarmuid Costello’s contribution is the American art critic Clement Greenberg. Greenberg was the leading modernist art critic and theorist. In the 1970s, when his ideas were facing serious challenges, Greenberg co-opted a kind of Kantian aesthetics to bolster his argument. Greenberg’s theories were nevertheless discredited. Costello argues that aesthetics in general, and Kantian aesthetics in particular, became marginalised as Greenberg hegemony was overthrown. This was because postmodernist art theorists continued to operate with a Greenbergian view of aesthetics. Costello explains how Greenberg’s aesthetics were a misreading of Kant, and claims that subsequent theorists continued to operate with a distorted view of the Third Critique. He argues that both Thierry de Duve, in his attempt to revive Kantian aesthetics for contemporary art theory, and Arthur Danto, in his rejection of aesthetics as an adequate basis for explaining contemporary art, both perpetuated aspects of Greenberg’s misreading. The reproaches levelled at both by Costello are, first, their failure to recognise Kant’s distinction between free and dependent beauty (which is centrally important to aesthetic evaluations of works of art), and, secondly, their failure to engage adequately with Kant’s theory of artworks as expressions of aesthetic ideas. Costello goes on to argue for a rehabilitation of Kantian aesthetics within the discourse of contemporary art, an interpretation that Costello sees as more faithful to the original text. Costello identifies resources within the CAPJ that have been overlooked in contemporary theory.
Thomas Teufel aims to articulate a more systematic interpretation of the Third Critique than that offered in the writings of his chosen author, Stanley Cavell. Teufel turns his attention to Kant largely in defence of the methodological commitments that Cavell employed. Teufel describes Cavell’s ‘kindredness of spirit’ (301) with Kant generally. He explains Cavell’s position in relation ordinary language philosophy and the foundations of language, and some ‘scathing’ criticism Cavell received. Cavell investigated self-descriptions by ordinary language philosophers, as native speakers, of their linguistic communities’ practices and conventions. Cavell defended a position which claimed that such statements could reveal truths about what we mean when we say what we say. In response to his critics, Cavell found parallels with pure judgements of taste and argued that meta-linguistic statements had a normative force analogous with the legitimacy of judgements of taste. Teufel shows some weaknesses in how analogous Cavell’s position is to that of Kant. But he goes on to offer a deeper analysis of reflective judgements and suggest a closer affinity between Cavell and Kant than Cavell himself made explicit. In doing so, Teufel touches one of the central debates in contemporary scholarship of the Third Critique. This is the question of whether Kant made a convincing case in support of his aim to demonstrate a unifying theme that links aesthetic judgements, teleological judgements and reflective judgements in general.
The final two chapters mark a change of tack. They do not offer a commentary or explanation of leading twentieth century interpretations. They introduce two areas of contemporary philosophy and discuss their relation with the CAPJ. Alessandro Bertinetto and Stefano Marino’s chapter discusses the CAPJ in the context of improvisation, especially in jazz music performances. The central claim is that Kant’s aesthetic reflective judgement helps illuminate the creative process of artistic improvisation. The authors find parallels in self-regulating and non-ruled driven characteristics. As the chapter acknowledges, indeed relishes, this is ‘surely a free interpretation’ of the Third Critique; although, as the authors say, it is not arbitrary. This stands in contrast to the more systematic interpretations of Kant offered in the previous two chapters by Costello and Teufel. Whilst this is illuminating of the kind of service for which the CAPJ is conscripted, it is not immediately clear why the topic of musical improvisation was chosen. The chapter certainly does help ‘testify to the plurality’ of readings and philosophical practices. And perhaps illustrating how Kant can be called upon, in a very loose way, to illuminate a present-day area of interest explains why this topic was chosen.
In the final chapter, Thomas Leddy argues that the CAPJ offers resources for understanding everyday aesthetics. Like the previous chapter, the aim here is not to offer an account of another leading thinker’s reading of Kant. Leddy explores to what extent the concerns of the Third Critique illuminate an area of contemporary aesthetics. In everyday aesthetics such an appeal might appear at first sight a stretch. ‘Everyday aesthetics takes its origins … not from a transcendental philosophy but from one that is naturalistic and pragmatist’ (339). This being so, a priori transcendental principles for reflective judgement have little appeal. Moreover, making rigid distinctions between pleasures of mere sensation, delight in the morally good and reflective aesthetic pleasure in the beautiful lacks plausibility for many involved in contemporary everyday aesthetics. Leddy nevertheless argues for series of areas of overlap. These include free and dependent beauty, the ideal of beauty, the rejection of geometric regularity and the expression of aesthetic ideas. During his analysis, Leddy addresses what, on the face of it, seems a large obstacle to appeals to Kant to explain everyday experiences and objects: the notion of disinterested pleasure. Leddy’s response is to argue that disinterestedness helps to illustrate the differences in attitudes we adopt towards objects of aesthetic attention. This is to say that aesthetics is not solely a matter of classification of objects, whether every day, fine art or natural. Leddy’s claim is that, with some modification, an interpretation that resists the radical separation between aesthetic categories (as Kant may have insisted on), ‘we end up instead with a multifarious usage of Kant for everyday aesthetics’ (356).
What major contribution does this book make? The editors explain that they aim to offer a comprehensive and coherent contribution to the investigation of the legacy of the Third Critique. ‘We hope other scholars will dare to follow this promising lead’ (33). I imagine that the book will primarily appeal to readers already familiar with the CAPJ, especially those concentrating on a particular aspect of the text or its reception. This absorbing book helps to widen, dramatically, readers’ grasp of the kind influences the text has provoked. It gives readers a way, via Kant, into the work of thinkers outside their own areas of familiarity.
As to the editors’ selection of contributions, the aim seems to be eclectic, reflecting a wide range of philosophical topics and disciplines covering analytic and continental traditions (31). The editors themselves raise a worry about such a volume, which aims to ‘provide a selective and synoptic view’: it risks appearing ‘scattered or extremely partial’ (32). Whilst I am not sure that this concern is properly answered, the volume certainly succeeds in tracing enough of the history of the CAPJ’s reception to capture a strong sense of variegated and pluralist interpretations. Overall, this makes the book lively and engaging. The contributions evidence the breadth of influence, and how that influence is performed through very different kinds of interpretations, or uses, of Kant. Some take aspects of the CAPJ as points of resistance, others employ highly selective readings, still others represent more systematic engagements. The book gives a wide-ranging account of ‘the various appropriations of a complex but crucial text’ (32).
Understanding the key ideas in the reception of Kant’s Third Critique can at times be as forbidding as reading the text itself. The complexity seems amplified when subsequent twentieth thinkers have used Kant as a provocation for their own complex claims. Indeed, many of the contributors note how their authors “do violence” to the spirit of Kant’s claims. However, the reader is offered, in a relatively compact volume, an introduction to how philosophers have attempted to relate their own work to Kant’s. As such, it offers a fascinating overview of how the Third Critique has taken on a life of its own. A volume like this, dedicated to tracing Kant’s legacy across different philosophical traditions, seems to face an inescapable trade-off. Were such a volume to be written by a single author, it might offer an organising style and thread (beyond chronology and geography). A reader might be able to follow a more thematic exposition of the issues a stake, and more easily make comparative reflections about the ways in which Kant’s ideas have been taken up. As they explain in the introduction, Marino and Terzi instead chose an edited volume in order to capture ‘a polarity of perspectives and competences’ (28). The undoubted richness that this variety offers to readers comes together with problems of wrestling with differences in authors’ styles, and challenges of communicating across philosophical traditions and geographies.
Marino and Terzi make an underlying assumption that texts like the Third Critique have their ‘own performativity’, ‘endowed with a sort of intentionality of their own’ (5). Their volume certainly succeeds in demonstrating that the CAPJ has enjoyed variegated uses. This account of its reception might seem like, in the words of Otfried Höffe, ‘the history of productive misunderstandings’ (318). But it prompts an obvious question: is there something about the particular nature of the Third Critique that underwrites the productivity evidenced in this collection? The book gestures towards, but does not fully address, the source of the CAPJ’s provocative and far-reaching influence. It describes its character as ‘complex, multi-layered, heterogeneous, discontinuous and, so to speak, “patchy” work’ (4). Bertinetto and Marino seem to suggest the source of its productivity resides in the ‘ambiguities and obscurities’ of the work (317). This all may be true, but seems unsatisfactory as an explanation of the extraordinarily productive status of the Third Critique and the richness of thought it helped to spawn. This volume does not aim to provide an answer. But it is certainly is an engaging and ‘promising lead’ in motivating questions like this.
Kant famously wrote in the Preface to his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (released two years after the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason) that: “I freely confess: it was the objection of David Hume which first, many years ago, interrupted my dogmatic slumber” (4:260). In Kant, Hume, and the Interruption of Dogmatic Slumber, Abraham Anderson attempts to understand what Kant meant by this locution. Amongst the central theses that Anderson defends in the book include: [i] the contention that it was Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding that awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber, and not Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature; and [ii] the claim that is was Hume’s challenge to the principle of sufficient reason which awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber, not a denial of the causal principle governing experience—the thesis that every event has a cause.
In what follows, I will present a summary, and commentary, of Abraham’s defence of these two theses which take place over the course of 5 main chapters, and a lengthy introductory chapter. Before doing so, it is important to clarify some key concepts. First, how does Anderson construe the term ‘principle of sufficient reason’? Anderson tells us that he:
shall use [the term] to refer to the causal principle not restricted to experience, which was supposed to be known by reason, and which Hume led Kant to reject (xii).
Abraham claims (xiv) that Kant was awoken from his dogmatic slumber because he accepted Hume’s criticism of this principle—Hume’s point being that we cannot know causal relations by pure reason. Why is the principle important in the first place? The rationalist principle of sufficient reason is important because without it we cannot know any causal claim that goes beyond experience, such as the claim that something cannot come from nothing. We may be more explicit about this key principle by looking at how it differs from the causal principle—a thesis which Anderson is also concerned with in the book.
The Causal Principle [Hereafter, ‘CP’]: “the principle that every event has a cause” (xi).
We can see how this differs from the former by considering the following:
Principle of Sufficient Reason [Hereafter, ‘PSR’]: “the causal principle extending beyond experience” (xi).
What is the key difference between these two theses? PSR is concerned with what we are justified in believing—that is, it limits our knowledge of causes to experience. Whereas CP is making a definitive claim (albeit one that is negative). PSR claims that we are entitled to hold causal beliefs only insofar as they cohere to experience. If a claim about a matter of fact goes beyond experience, then we are not justified in believing it, even if doing so is natural or useful. CP, on the other hand, is making a negative metaphysical claim—namely, that it is false that every event has a cause. Anderson claims that PSR more accurately allows us to see Hume’s attack as one about metaphysics—the term ‘metaphysics’ in this context referring to the science of objects “beyond experience” (xi). Hume, according to Anderson, is not attacking the causal principle: what he is doing is presenting the limits of our grounds of justification—which is of course limited to experience for Hume. This dispute is an important one to solve, Anderson claims, because it gives us a “clue to the meaning of the Critique” (xi). Anderson point outs (xv) that since Hume is not explicit about his rejection of PSR in either the Treatise or Enquiry, his own proposal is controversial.
In the introductory chapter, titled the ‘The State of the Question’, Anderson provides a survey of the secondary literature which focuses on the issue of how to interpret Kant’s claim in the Prolegomena that, “I freely confess: it was the objection of David Hume that first, many years ago, interrupted my dogmatic slumber” (4:260). The introduction is the longest chapter of the book (42 pages). In it, Anderson considers several different answers to the question of what Kant meant by “the objection of David Hume”, and how such an objection awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber. Given there is no scholarly consensus about how to understand what Kant meant by the “objection of David Hume”, or how the objection interrupted Kant from his “dogmatic slumber”, Anderson summarises the different perspectives that have been taken on the issue. Anderson also points out that the issue is not only about how to interpret Kant’s famous locution, but also whether Kant should be taken at his word. Anderson states that some think Kant’s claim about being awoken by Hume is a “confusion and misremembering” (1) and should not be taken literally. Anderson thinks that Kant should be understood literally, but he also considers reasons for thinking he should not be. These include Kant’s 1798 letter to Christian Garve, where Kant states that it was the Antinomy that awoke him from his dogmatic slumber—thus apparently contradicting what Kant himself says in the Preface to the Prolegomena. Given that Hume is not mentioned by name in the first edition of the Critique until the very last part, Anderson considers views which propose that this letter lends support to the claim that Kant was not awoken by Hume.
One of the most important views considered in the introduction is Norman Kemp Smith’s, which comes from his 1923 Commentary to Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. Kemp Smith claims that Kant was awoken by Hume’s attack on the ‘causal axiom’ (referred to as ‘CP’ above)—the thesis that every event has a cause. This is a view Anderson returns to throughout the book. It represents an important rival to Anderson’s own view. The view is considered by Hume in the Treatise as follows.
’Tis a general maxim in philosophy, that whatever begins to exist, must have a cause of existence (T 18.104.22.168; SBN 78-9).
Kemp Smith’s claim that Kant was awoken by the Treatise, and his claim that Hume denied CP, are controversial because, as Anderson points out, the Treatise was not translated into German until the Critique of Pure Reason was already published. This is a problem because it is commonly understood that Kant could not read English. Anderson gives several other reasons for doubting Kemp Smith’s proposal. One of the examples he cites comes from Hume’s 1754 letter to John Stewart, which says the following:
I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that any thing might arise without a Cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falshood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from another Source (Hume, 1754).
This passage seems to support Anderson’s reading, as Hume is quite upfront here about the nature of his scepticism about causation. Anderson, further, quotes Kant who says in the Prolegomena that Hume’s question “was not, whether the concept of cause is correct, usable, and indispensable for the whole knowledge of nature, for this Hume never doubted” (4:258). Hume’s passage, and Kant’s own admission, seem to go against Kemp Smith’s view, as Anderson suggests.
The rest of the introduction is concerned with several other controversial topics and summaries of scholarly views. For example, Anderson considers the remarks of Manfred Kuehn, Günter Gawlick and Lothar Kreimendah, who argue that it was Treatise 1.4.7. (The conclusion to Book 1) that awakened Kant from his slumber. He considers Lorne Falkenstein’s view, which says that the seeming contradiction between the letter to Garve and Kant’s Preface can be reconciled by accepting that Kant had a gradual awakening. And also, Eric Watkins’s view, which says that Kant is trying to refute Hume’s sceptical challenge to the idea of having any causal knowledge.
In chapter one, Anderson begins to address the book’s central question about what Kant meant by the ‘objection of David Hume’ in the Preface to his Prolegomena. Further, Anderson seeks to understand what Kant meant by being awoken from a ‘dogmatic slumber’. Anderson’s contention, which is further developed in subsequent chapters, is that the objection of David Hume equates to Hume’s attack on Metaphysics (Anderson call this “another name for the objection of David Hume” p. 44). This attack, Anderson tells us, is seen by Kant as a contribution to the Enlightenment because of its implications for the liberation of the human mind—one of which includes a challenge to theological authority.
The chapter touches upon many important issues. One is the directness of Kant’s writing style. Anderson notes that it was dangerous at the time to make attacks on metaphysics too openly (50), since the battle over metaphysics had significant implications for certain religious and political matters. Another issue has to do with Kant’s actual references to Hume. If it was really the objection of David Hume which awoke Kant, then why isn’t Hume mentioned by name in the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason until late in the work (until the Discipline of Pure Reason)? Might this be a reason to doubt the veracity of Kant’s claim? Anderson thinks not, given the way Hume’s work had been received at the time. He notes of the hostile reception that Hume’s Dialogues of Natural Religion received upon its release. Anderson (53) references a 1779 review of Dialogues featured in the Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen, which was quite critical of the work. The review charged the text of corrupting the youth. This is an interesting reason for why Kant may have been relucent to refer to Hume explicitly initially, and Anderson does a good job of exploring it. It is interesting to note that Hume himself was also conscious of the reception of his own work, which affected the way it was written. In Hume’s December 1737 letter to Henry Home, he says: “I am at present castrating my work, that is, cutting off its nobler parts: that is, endeavouring it shall give as little offence as possible” (Hume, 1737).
To make sense of Kant’s defence of Hume, Anderson also discusses what Kant said about Hume’s critics. These include Thomas Reid, James Oswald, James Beattie, who appealed to common sense to overcome Hume’s concerns about the causal principle. Kant rejects these kinds of appeals to common sense, and Anderson shows why Kant takes Hume’s objections seriously, and how they were misconstrued by others. On page 62, for example, he looks at Priestley’s claim that Hume actually doubted the concept of cause and that the concept was useful. But as Anderson points out, Hume did not think the notion of causation was useless; and neither did he cease to believe in it. Such discussions help to show why Kant found Hume so troubling and help to understand the nature of Hume’s scepticism.
Another interesting puzzle has to do with why Kant is so explicit about Hume’s influence in the Prolegomena. If Kant wanted to avoid the controversies associated with the Dialogues, as Anderson proposes, then why is Kant so open about his debt to Hume in the Prolegomena—two years later after the release of the first edition of the Critique, where he is not so explicit? Anderson’s claim is that Kant’s avowal of his debt to Hume in the Prolegomena is a response to the Göttingische Anzeigen review of the Critique, which came out 2 years after it was released. It may have been that Kant wanted to make his point more explicit since, as Anderson notes (55), Kant regarded the review as a radical misunderstanding of the text. By that point Kant may have felt he had nothing to lose. Anderson offers a second reason for why Kant is more ready to acknowledge his debt to Hume in the Prolegomena. Also published in 1781 was the edition of the works of Sulzer, published by Blanckenburg. Anderson notes that in the Preface to the work, Blanckenburg evoked Sulzer’s Preface to Hume’s Enquiry, which was also included in the work (originally published 26 years earlier), that Hume’s writings would “pull German philosophers by the sleeve and rouse them from their peaceful rest” (cited in Anderson’s text on p. 64). It is hard to know for certain that Kant is responding directly to this passage, but it certainly looks very similar to what Kant writes in his Preface as Anderson points out (p.65).
In the second chapter, Anderson attempts to define the “Objection of David Hume.” After claiming that the objection of David Hume is really attack on metaphysics, Anderson attempts to be more specific about what this attack amounts to. According to Anderson, this attack on metaphysics has three steps, which are divided up further in the chapter. These include:
 “no one can know from pure concepts a priori that because one thing is, another must necessarily exist also.” (72)
 leads, in Anderson’s view, to two implications. The first is:
[C1] “cause is not a legitimate child of reason but a bastard of the imagination, and that all the other purportedly a-priori-subsisting cognitions of reason are mere falsely reminted common experiences.” (72)
And the second is,
[C2] “That there is no metaphysics and cannot be any” (72). (Here Anderson takes metaphysics to be reasoning beyond experience.)
Anderson suggests that Kant located this attack on metaphysics (what Anderson calls ‘Hume’s Objection) in the Enquiry and not in the Treatise, as some commentators such as Kemp Smith have suggested. This attack, Anderson tell us, is substantial because it undermines Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, and the causal principles of Descartes and Locke. This is consequential, as such arguments were employed to prove God’s existence (76). So  is clearly a significant result.
Anderson is right, in my view, to characterise Hume’s attack on the “rational origin of the concept of cause” (77–78). This seems to cohere more succinctly with Hume’s radical empiricism, rather than a denial of the causal principle, as Kemp Smith maintains. Further it also seems to cohere with what Kant himself says in his Preface to the Prolegomena. Kant claims Hume’s question:
was not whether the concept of cause is correct, useful, and indispensable for the whole knowledge of nature, for this Hume had never doubted; but whether it is thought by reason a priori (4:258–59).
Next, Anderson engages with the question of whether it was the Treatise or Enquiry that was the key source which awoke Kant from his slumber. Anderson describes the view of Kemp Smith, who follows Vaihinger and Erdmann, in thinking that it was Treatise 1.3.3 that awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber. Anderson rehearses points made in previous chapters, noting that the Enquiry was published in German in 1755; but the Treatise was not published until 1790, putting it after the 1781 edition of the First Critique. And given that Kant did not know English, this timeline is problematic. This is not a knock down argument, of course, as there were parts of the Treatise translated and Kant knew people who could have read it. For example, Treatise 1.4.7—where Hume advanced a series of sceptical claims—was translated. Yet Anderson claims (89) that the Treatise was less well known in relevant circles.
So where in the Enquiry, then, does Anderson claim Kant located Hume’s attack? There are various places he cites—not all of them are discussed in this chapter. One claim Anderson makes is that [C1] is stated in parts 1 and 2 of Enquiry 7, “Of the Idea of Necessary Connexion.” (90). This is where Hume argues that we have no idea of necessary connection beyond constant conjunction. Another is Anderson’s discussion of [C2], which says that there cannot be any metaphysics, by looking at section 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Enquiry. For example, he focuses on Hume’s claim at 11.30 which says that, since the idea of necessary connection is grounded in constant conjunction, there is a problem of determining a unique cause. This has implications for the concept of a divine cause. Anderson suggests that the first step, , is to be found in Section 4, part 1 and at 12.29 note (d) of the Enquiry. Such a position is defended in later chapters.
In chapter 3, Anderson attempts to locate where in the Enquiry Hume’s first step in Hume’s attack on Metaphysics is (recall this is the thesis that we cannot have knowledge of causation independent of experience). Anderson also attempts to defend the thesis that the Enquiry supports his own proposal that Hume’s first step is really an attack on the principle of sufficient reason.
Anderson begins by focusing on section 4.11 of the Enquiry, and its debt to 4.2, where Hume talks about our knowledge of matters of fact—namely that, when it comes to matter of fact it is always possible to imagine things being different to the way they, are or what we are used to. While it would be odd, we can easily imagine that a rolling white billiard ball will float up when it hits the black or stop completely. This is because no contradiction materialises: as long as we reason a priori, anything can cause anything. It follows from this, Anderson claims (102), that we cannot know a causal necessity a priori. And further, Anderson states: this “implies a denial of the principle of sufficient reason” (102). This is because we could not say of a cause that it was a sufficient reason of its effect. To put things more precisely, Anderson claims this means that we cannot know a priori, of anything at all, that it must have cause (102). This is drawn from what Hume says at 4.13 of the Enquiry:
When we reason a priori, and consider merely any object or cause, as it appears to the mind, independent of all observation, it never could suggest to us the notion of any distinct object, such as its effect; much less, show us the inseparable and inviolable connection between them (EHU 4.13; SBN 31-32).
Does Anderson’s suggestion do a better job of explaining such a passage compared to the one put forward by Kemp Smith—namely, that Hume denies that every event has a cause? I think so. Anderson’s account—that Hume is rejecting the principle of sufficient reason—seems to capture the spirit of this passage in a more adequate way than Kemp Smith’s.
The chapter also features an interesting discussion about Hume’s disavowal of a thesis that Lucretius called ‘Ex nihilo, nihil’ (119)—nothing comes from nothing. This idea is important because it was taken by some to prove the existence God (as Locke and Clarke tried to do.) Anderson claims that Kant would have seen Hume’s rejection of this the principle as a rejection of the principle of sufficient reason. Anderson claims that
In rejecting Ex nihilo, nihil fit, then, Hume is not rejecting the principle that every event has a cause, which he emphatically accepts. Rather, he is rejecting the principle that Descartes, Locke, and Clarke had used to prove the existence of a divine Cause (109).
It is important, Anderson points out, that this principle does not disprove god; only that it cannot be used to prove god. Again, I think this does a good job of capturing the spirit of Hume’s sceptical empiricism, which is to draw the limits of what we can be justified in believing—namely, to experience.
In chapter 4, Anderson supports his reading of Kant’s interpretation of Hume by examining the Treatise. His main contention is that Treatise 1.3.3 is not, as Kemp Smith supposed, an attack on the causal principle governing experience. He investigates Treatise 1.3.3 in order to undermine Kemp Smith’s claim.
It is important for Anderson to consider Treatise 1.3.3. because, as he states, Hume does not say explicitly in the Enquiry that he is attacking the principle of sufficient reason “in so many words” (123). In addition to arguing against Kemp Smith’s interpretation of 1.3.3, Anderson also draws upon Hume’s letter to Henry Home: the ‘Letter from a Gentleman.’ This letter is important for several reason. First, because it features a candid remark by Hume about the construction of his text—namely, that he went about “castrating” the Treatise, meaning that he cut “off its noblest parts.” Anderson notes that this is most likely because of its implications for theology. What this means is that some interpretive work is needed to determine what Hume is claiming. And second, and more importantly for the content of his argument, Anderson notes of Hume’s reply to critics of the Treatise. Hume claims:
The Author is charged with Opinions leading to downright atheism, chiefly by denying this principle, that whatever begins to exist must have a cause of existence (cited on p. 135 of Anderson’s text).
This is the causal principle listed above—the one which Kemp Smith claims Hume is denying. Hume’s response to this charge is interesting, however. He claims that he is not denying the principle, but rather disputing that the principle was “founded on demonstrative or intuitive Certainty”. This passage supports Anderson’s reading because it shows Hume’s focus is on justification, not on whether the causal principle is false.
Later in the chapter Anderson considers why readers have failed to see the Enquiry as the source of Kant’s awakening. He considers the claim that the causal principle is attacked in Treatise 1.3.3. Anderson disputes this on two grounds because he thinks that:
a) “The causal principle is attacked in the Enquiry too” (139)
b) “The causal principle [Hume] attacks is not the [CP] but the [PSR]” (139)
Anderson considers why Erdmann, Vaihinger, and Kemp Smith failed to see this. One reason he suggests is that while Hume in Enquiry 12.29 note (d) is direct in his rejection of the causal principle Ex nihilo nihil fit, he is indirect in his rejection of the PSR. Another reason he offers is that, while the Treatise is long and detailed in its steps, the Enquiry is “brief and elliptical” (140).
In the final chapter, titled ‘Hume’s Attack on the “Impious Maxim” as the Hidden Spine of the Critique’, Anderson attempts to locate several places in Kant’s Critique which support his contention about the PSR. He does so by examining four places in the Critique that recall Hume’s rejection of the impious maxim (Ex nihilo, nihil fit) at 12.29 note (d). Recall this is the claim that Anderson says is the most direct attack on the PSR. The four places include: the Transcendental Ideal, the Postulates, the Analogies and the Antinomy.
One example that Anderson cites is from the ‘Postulates of Empirical Thought’, in the ‘General Note on the System of the Principles.’ There Kant says that by beginning with mere categories, “We can easily think the non-existence of matter. From this the ancients did not, however, infer its contingency” (B290n). Anderson notes that Kant discusses this matter not to argue that matter is necessary, or contingent, but to suggest that we cannot prove that it is contingent or necessary. Anderson notes that this resembles a discussion Hume makes at 12.28-29 note (d), where Hume rejects the Ex nihilo, nihil fit maxim. The two sections are as Anderson suggests, quite similar. It is one example of the interesting connections Anderson makes between the two works.
In closing, we can ask: is the central claim that Anderson defends in the book plausible? Recall that this is:
Hume interrupted Kant’s dogmatic slumber…by attacking the rationalist principle of sufficient reason, and showing that we are not entitled to it, since we cannot conceive effects as logically necessary given causes, or vice versa, and since we cannot know, either intuitively or demonstratively, that there can be nothing without a reason why it is thus and not otherwise (159).
To my mind, Anderson’s contention does better than some of his rivals—which are, it should be noted, charitably considered in the book. Anderson is, further, careful in his analysis and does not draw any hasty conclusions when advancing his own views. Where there is speculation, it is supported with passages from Kant’s and Hume’s texts, historical documents, and possible counter interpretations. This careful nature of proceeding is one of the virtues of the book.
The book will obviously be of interest to Hume and Kant scholars who seek to understand how Hume’s ideas influenced Kant’s. But it will also be of interest to those seeking to understand the nature of Hume’s scepticism. Given this, I did wonder why Anderson did not discuss how Hume’s radical scepticism affected Kant. As Kevin Meeker (2013, 2) points out, many early readers of Hume—he includes Kant here—interpreted Hume as a radical sceptic. (An interpretation that goes against the scholarly consensus today.) Thinkers like Thomas Reid, for example, thought that if we accept Hume’s system, then we would have to say that we lack rational grounds for holding our everyday common sensical beliefs. It would have been interesting to see whether Anderson thought this radical scepticism played an integral part in Kant’s awakening.
I have only been able to touch upon a few of the issues of the book in this review. It is my hope that I conveyed the great interest of it. I found the book to offer a thorough and convincing account of the influence Hume had on Kant’s thought.
Hume, David.  1932/2011. “Hume to Henry Home, December 2, 1737, Letter 6.” In The Letters of David Hume, ed. J. Y. T. Greig, 2 vols, 1:23– 25. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hume, David. 1739-40 [2000 ]. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hume, David. 1748 . An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hume, David.  1932/2011. “David Hume to John Stewart, February 1754.” In The Letters of David Hume, ed. J. Y. T. Greig, 2 vols, 1:187. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Meeker, Kevin. 2013. Hume’s Radical Scepticism and the Fate of Naturalized Epistemology. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kant, Immanuel.  2003. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by Norman Kemp Smith. With a new introduction by Howard Caygill. 2nd ed. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kant, Immanuel.  2004. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. Ed. Gary Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.