Thursday, 4 May 2017

Kant and the Nineteenth Century by W. T. Jones

I am now reading Kant and the Nineteenth Century which is the Volume four of W. T. Jones’s five-volume work on history of Western philosophy. But I wonder why Jones decided to name this volume on Kant? After all, he has not named the first volume in the series, which is on Ancient Greek philosophy, after Aristotle or Plato—he called it The Classical Mind.

The Volume four has nine chapters out of which four are on Kant. In comparison, David Hume has only one chapter in Volume three. It is possible that W. T. Jones has devoted more than 50 percent of the Volume four to Kant because he is himself a Kantian. But as of now I am not sure about his personal philosophy.

W. T. Jones’s survey of Kant begins in the chapter 2, “Kant: Theory of Knowledge.” This is followed by the chapter, “Kant: Theory of Value.” I find the sections in chapter 4, “Reactions Against Kantianism:  Hegel and Schopenhauer,” quite surprising.

While I can understand Schopenhauer’s description as a philosopher who reacted against Kant, I don't think that Hegel, who has made several philosophical contributions, deserves to seen purely from the perspective of Kantianism. However, the chapter is of 60-pages, in which 40-pages are on Hegel, and the rest is on Schopenhauer.

The Chapter 5, “Science, Scientism, and Social Philosophy” starts with a discussion on Kant’s heritage and it has sections on the Utilitarians, Comte and Marx.

The Chapter 6 is on Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The chapters 7, 8 and 9 are on C. S. Pierce, William James and F. H. Bradley. The structure of the chapters 6 to 9 is also surprising, because famous names like Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche do not have independent chapters, while C. S. Pierce, William James and F. H. Bradley have it.

However, I am having these thoughts after reading only the Table of Contents, the Preface and the Introduction. I am sure that in the chapters that follow I will find an explanation for the book's structure.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction in which W. T. Jones describes his view of the Post-Kant philosophy:
“Philosophy since Kant has been largely a series of modulations of, and reactions against, his formulations. Kant maintained first that since cognition involves construction, things into which this constructive activity has not entered are literally unknowable, and second that there is a realm of reality that is unaccessible to human minds because they have not participated in its construction. Post-Kantian philosophy has divided into two main streams, depending on which part of this double thesis was accepted and which part rejected. Some philosophers agreed with Kant that knowledge is limited to the spatiotemporal world but rejected his unknowable things-in-themselves as mere vestiges of an outmoded metaphysics; as a result they concentrated their attention on this world and its problems. Other philosophers agreed with Kant that there is a reality independent of human minds but did not want to admit that this reality is unknowable. Accordingly, since these philosophers accepted Kant’s contention that reason is limited to the spatiotemporal world, they had to rely on some other mode of access to the reality they believed lay behind the phenomena. The result was a reaffirmation of metaphysics, but in an antirational (or at least arational) form very different from the pre-Kantian rationalistic metaphysics.”

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