Robert Hanna on Martin Shuster’s “Autonomy after Auschwitz”


MARTIN SHUSTER | Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity | University of Chicago Press 2014


By Robert Hanna

In Autonomy After Auschwitz, Martin Shuster argues for five basic claims:

(i)  that in the hands of Adorno himself, Horkheimer and Adorno’s ‘dialectic of enlightenment’ becomes the dialectic of autonomy,

(ii) that the classical Kantian concept of autonomy, as spelled out in the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason, under the historical and sociopolitical pressures of twentieth-century totalitarianism and post-World War II advanced capitalism, was tragically deformed into a deeply alienating and morally oppressive notion,

(iii) that Kant himself has a prescient reply to the real possibility of this kind of tragic deformation of human rationality, under the rubric of ‘radical evil’, in Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, by way of his thesis that we all have a fundamental, innate religious commitment to the highest good, aka God, the rational Idea of a proportioning of moral virtue to happiness, spread out over all the members of a universal ethical community, each of them a person of good will, acting individually, but also in a mutually coordinated and socially-shaped way, for the sake of the Categorical Imperative—“a people of God under ethical laws” (RGV, AA 6:98), jointly constituting “a kingdom of God on earth” (RGV, AA 6:93), “which cannot be realized (by human organization) except in the form of a Church” (RGV, AA 6:100),

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Reply to Howard Williams


ALLEN W. WOOD | The Free Development of Each: Studies on Freedom, Right, and Ethics in Classical German Philosophy | Oxford University Press 2014


By Allen Wood

I must begin by thanking Howard Williams for a most generous as well as insightful set of comments on my 2014 book The Free Development of Each. His first few pages state with admirable brevity and clarity some admirable propositions about how philosophers should regard the history of philosophy, how they should study past philosophers, interact with them philosophically and apply their study of them to present-day problems, not only in philosophy but also in present-day culture, society and politics. That he does so by describing what he takes me to have done in my book is certainly flattering and humbling, but I think the main lesson to be drawn from what he says is that this is the way all philosophers should deal with important figures in the history of philosophy. I urge everyone to read again what he says there, ignoring references to me or my book and instead understanding what he says as advice, or as a set of ideals, concerning the way the history of philosophy should be studied and appropriated. I may live up to these ideals imperfectly, but Williams presents them very well. Read more

Howard Williams on Allen Wood’s “The Free Development of Each”


ALLEN W. WOOD | The Free Development of Each: Studies on Freedom, Right, and Ethics in Classical German Philosophy | Oxford University Press 2014


By Howard Williams

Allen Wood’s The Free Development of Each demonstrates the great range of his scholarship and his deft philosophical skill in handling some of the most complex and challenging philosophers of the modern age. Wood has developed a specialist academic interest in the philosophies of German idealism and Marxism which is almost unique in the English speaking world. Other philosophers who stand out as sharing a comparable range of interests and scholarly accomplishments are almost exclusively European and to my knowledge, predominantly German and French. The most striking similarity is with the range of interests of the members of the Frankfurt School with whom Wood shares a heretical admiration of Marx’s writings. Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and, more recently, Jürgen Habermas have shown a comparable facility in interpreting and bringing alive German idealism and Marxist thought, but Wood has exercised his facility in a manner that contrasts markedly with their reception of the canon.

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Review of Lara Ostaric (ed.) “Interpreting Schelling: Critical Essays”


LARA OSTARIC (ed.) | Interpreting Schelling: Critical Essays | Cambridge University Press 2014


By G. Anthony Bruno

That Lara Ostaric’s Interpreting Schelling: Critical Essays is the first English-language collection of papers devoted to the philosophy of F.W.J. Schelling is timely, yet overdue. Renewed Anglophone interest in German idealism has been in full swing since the turn of the century, exposing scholars and students to the continuing relevance of the problems tackled and solutions offered during the tract of time stretching von Kant bis Hegel. Longstanding inaccuracies resulting from heavy reliance on this refrain—neglect of the positions and challenges that enabled Hegel’s attempt to overcome Kant, misperception of Hegel as the culmination of German idealism—have been slowly corrected by increased attention to figures falling within this tract, including Jacobi, Maimon, Reinhold, Fichte and, gradually, Schelling. A large portion of Schelling’s massive oeuvre has received English translation over the past fifteen years alone. Yet he is the least understood or studied of the idealists. Read more