Sunday, 17 December 2017

On Garve's Review of Kant’s First Critique

In January 1782, the Göttingen Learned Notices published a review of  Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason (1781). The review was by Christian Garve but it had been extensively revised by the journal’s editor J. G. Feder. In Garve's original review there were 312 lines—Feder left only 76 lines unchanged. He made minor changes in 69 lines and extensive changes in the rest. Feder added a new element to the review by comparing Kant with Berkeley and Hume. But this comparison was in line with Garve’s intention in the original review because Garve’s characterization of Kant’s idealism was not different from what Feder proposed in his revisions.

Kant was not satisfied with the review. He took the charge that he is an idealist like Hume and Berkeley (which is Garve’s key charge against him) very seriously. He complained that Garve had not understood him, and decided to write a response, which came in the form of a new book, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783). In the Prolegomena, Kant summarizes and explains the key arguments of the Critique. In the book’s appendix he offers his rebuttal of Garve’s review.

In August 1783, a journal published a short piece on the Prolegomena and called special attention to Kant’s charge that Garve had not understood him. Garve responded with an article in which he said: “If the honorable and witty man [Kant] did not live so much in the clouds, if he did not use a terminology of his own and if his sentences were shorter and simpler, he might be less exposed to this danger [of being misunderstood].” Later on the original version of Garve’s review of the Critique was published in another journal, but Kant was still dissatisfied with it.


Roger Bissell said...

I agree with Kant (and with Objectivist philosopher, George Walsh) that Garve did indeed misunderstand Kant in characterizing him as an idealist philosopher. I also agree with Garve that it wouldn't be so easy to misunderstand Kant if he wrote more simply and with less idiosyncratic terminology.

Anoop Verma said...


I am with Kant on this issue. The problem with Garve is that he reviewed Kant's book very quickly and that is why he didn't have the time to understand Kant. Later on Garve did realize that he had misunderstood Kant, but by then there was too much of bad blood between the two philosophers, because Kant took revenge by going after Garve's book on Cicero and virtually destroyed Garve's entire thesis.