German Philosophy, 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism

German Philosophy, 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism

German Philosophy, 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism

German Philosophy, 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism

Synopsis

In the second half of the eighteenth century, German philosophy dominated European philosophy, changing the way Europeans and people all over the world conceived of themselves and thought about nature, religion, human history, politics, and the structure of the human mind. In this rich and wide-ranging book, Terry Pinkard interweaves the story of "Germany"--changing during this period from a loose collection of principalities into a newly-emerged nation with a distinctive culture--with an examination of the currents and complexities of its developing philosophical thought. He examines the dominant influence of Kant, with his revolutionary emphasis on "self-determination," and traces this influence through the development of romanticism and idealism to the critiques of post-Kantian thinkers such as Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard. His book will interest a range of readers in the history of philosophy, cultural history and the history of ideas. Terry Pinkard is professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University and is the author of the acclaimed Hegel: A Biography (Cambridge, 2000). He is honorary Professor of the Philosophy Faculty of T¿bingen University, Germany and serves on the advisory board for the Zeitschrift f¿r Philosophique Forschung.

Excerpt

In 1763, one of the many contenders for the title “the first world war” – in this case, the “Seven Years War” – was concluded. Its worldwide effects were obvious – France, besides being saddled with enormous financial losses as a result of the war, was in effect driven out of North America and India by Britain, never to recover its territories there – but, curiously, the war had started and mostly been fought on “German” soil, and one of its major results was to transform (or perhaps just to confirm) the German Land of Prussia into a major European power. It is hard to say, though, what it meant for “Germany, ” since, at that point, “Germany, ” as so many historians have pointed out, did not exist except as a kind of shorthand for the German-speaking parts of the gradually expiring “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.” Once a center of commerce and trade in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, “Germany, ” in that shorthand sense, had by the eighteenth century become only a bit player on the European scene, long since having lost much of its economic vitality as trade shifted to the North Atlantic following the voyages of discovery and the intensive colonization efforts in what Europeans described as the “New World.” After suffering huge population losses in the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), “Germany” found itself divided by the terms of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 into a series of principalities – some relatively large, some as small as a village – that were held together only by the more-or-less fiction of belonging to and being protected by the laws and powers of the Holy Roman Empire (which as the old joke had it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, and which was for that matter neither a state, a confederation, or a treaty organization but a wholly sui generis political entity difficult to describe in any political terms familiar to us now). For a good bit of its early modern history, “Germany” did not even denote a cultural entity; if anything, its major feature was its intense religious division into Protestant and Catholic areas, with all the wars and rivalries that followed fromthat division. Neither Protestant . . .

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