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The three great epochs in modern philosophy are characterised respectively by the names of Descartes, Locke and Kant. Of these epochs, that inaugurated by Kant is the one to which the thought of our own day may be said to belong, and this in more than a special sense, for the influence of Kant is almost as deeply ...
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An excerpt from the chapter:


The three great epochs in modern philosophy are characterised respectively by the names of Descartes, Locke and Kant. Of these epochs, that inaugurated by Kant is the one to which the thought of our own day may be said to belong, and this in more than a special sense, for the influence of Kant is almost as deeply visible in the general current of speculation as in philosophy proper. There is, indeed, scarcely a doctrine or portion of modern science or controversy, the germ of which is not to be found in Kant, hazarded, it may be, in the form of a mere idle fancy, but unmistakably there. Kant was a Titan alike in the range and depth of his knowledge, as in his almost unequalled and certainly unsurpassed intellectual grasp. The only other thinker in the world’s history who can be deemed worthy of a place beside him for this all-but unique combination of qualities is perhaps Aristotle. But the results of the Königsberg philosopher’s labour have been incomparably richer than even those of the Stagirite. The works of the latter thinker may constitute an encyclopædia of ancient thought, but neither his own successors nor the ancient world generally showed any capacity for developing the hints and speculations thrown out by him. They became an oracle of appeal for his followers, of which the meaning was to be elucidated, but so far as any capacity for organic assimilation is concerned they fell upon barren ground. Ancient philosophy practically reached high-water mark in Plato and Aristotle. No real advance was made upon these thinkers. With Kant the case is different. He stands at the commencement instead of the culmination of an epoch. Though he also brought to a focus the speculation and research of his predecessors; the intellectual ferment of the 19th century lay before him, and it was in this fruitful soil that his doctrines were destined to germinate. With none but 18th-century materials he founded 19th-century thought. The Kantian system, as propounded by Kant, is too full of contradictions ever to become petrified into a code of phosophical dogma. It steadily refuses to crystallise. Many positions equally insisted upon fail to blend with one another, notwithstanding the profusion of ingenuity that has been lavished in the attempt to make them do so. This applies almost as much to the general bearings of the system as to its special points and technical details. Idealist and realist, theist and agnostic, severally draw from Kant’s writings arguments and expressions of approval for their respective standpoints; but no one has yet succeeded in placing the Kantian system as a whole beyond the reach of criticism. Hence, no two Kantians can be found to agree in its interpretation, one accentuating one line of thought and one another. The reason of this lies in the untrodden nature of the ground he was exploring.

There is no trace of Kant’s ever having studied Spinoza at first hand, though he unquestionably took up the mantle of the author of the 'Tractatus theologicopoliticus,' in matters concerning Biblical criticism and the free expression of opinion in theology and politics. The thinker with whom Kant was most in contact at the outset of his philosophical career was Leibnitz, especially through the medium of the Leibnitzians Wolff and Baumgarten. He subsequently entered on a thorough study of the English philosophic dynasty—Locke, Berkeley and Hume. He appears also to have had some acquaintance with the Scotch psychologists, Reid, Beattie, etc. Thus he became versed no less in the English empiricist, than in the dogmatic-metaphysical school then uppermost on the continent. It was Hume, he says, who first broke his dogmatic slumber with his statement of the causation problem. With no one is it more important than with Kant to bear in mind the sources whence the start was made on the philosophical voyage of discovery, a neglect of this rendering many elements of Kant’s thought well nigh incomprehensible. It cannot be too much insisted upon that in the ‘Critique’ two distinct lines of philosophic thought meet, but fail to coalesce satisfactorily.

The phenomenalism and scepticism of the British school appear uppermost at one time, while at another, repudiation of Berkeleyan idealism, and protestations as to the necessary existence of a world of things-in-themselves reveal the former disciple of Leibnitz and Wolff. A few words on the philosophy then dominant in Germany may be desirable to facilitate an appreciation of the influences under which Kant started.

Leibnitz had sought to bridge over the Cartesian dualism between matter and spirit by his hypothesis of an intelligible world as expounded in the ‘Monadology,’ and by the celebrated doctrine of a “Pre-established harmony.” The monads of Leibnitz may...
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940015500219
  • Publisher: OGB
  • Publication date: 9/30/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 949 KB

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