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  • Die methodische Philosophie Hugo Dinglers und der transzendentale Idealismus Immanuel Kants
  • Wybo Houkes
Kirstin Zeyer . Die methodische Philosophie Hugo Dinglers und der transzendentale Idealismus Immanuel Kants. Hildesheim: Olms, 1999. Pp. 175. Cloth, DM 65.00.

History has not been kind to Hugo Dingler. Almost half a century after his death, philosophers of science primarily know him, if at all, from brief remarks in works of Carnap and Popper. Yet anyone who bothers reading Dingler's work can only be struck by the profundity of his attempt to account for developments in mathematics and the sciences—the very factors that shaped, for instance, Carnap's early work.

This merits a revival of historical interest in Dingler's philosophy. Yet, in her ambitious first book, Kirstin Zeyer intends to instigate more than that: in the final chapter, she argues that Dingler's "methodical" philosophy is still relevant to contemporary philosophy of science. This may seem a surprising finale to a book devoted to comparing Dingler's thought and Kant's critical philosophy. But in fact there is no topical discontinuity; the earlier, exegetical chapters already carry apologetic overtones and only sketch the historical context of Dingler's work.

A mathematician by training and a student of—amongst others—Husserl, his work also shows the influence of Dilthey's analysis of the human will. And as the work of so many philosophers of his generation, Dingler's work was partly shaped by a dialogue with Kant. Therefore, Zeyer's choice of topic is justified. On the other hand, Dingler's background virtually guaranteed that he had to adapt the critical philosophy in places. For example: the criticism of intuition as a source of knowledge was hardly typical of [End Page 607] Dingler, but part of a broad intellectual movement, sometimes called the "crisis of intuition." Therefore, a comparison between Dingler and Kant bears the risk of being rather trivial, unless, for instance, the way in which Dingler adapted Kant is explained in reference to the historical context.

Zeyer presents many similarities and differences between Dingler and Kant. Her presentation of Dingler's philosophy is detailed and precise. Dingler's originality, which is amply stressed by Zeyer, lies in his attempt to replace an "intuitive" a priori with a practical one (Herstellungsapriori), which brings out the close connection between knowledge and action, and which focuses on the will rather than the understanding. Unfortunately, however, Zeyer's explication of Kant is less systematic and is more intimately connected to the presentation of Dingler's philosophy than to its own structure. As a result, elements of the critical philosophy surface throughout the book and poignant comparisons, such as between Dingler's and Kant's appeals to "pure synthesis" (29-36), are intermingled by less informative ones, e.g., on the use of regulative ideas of reason (116-126), which fails to bring to light a clear contrast. Moreover, Zeyer presents differences between Dingler and Kant in a rather "internalist" manner, as the result of Dingler's criticism of Kant. Consequently, the emphasis lies on the way in which Dingler corrected Kant's views with respect to a more or less fixed set of problems, rather than on the way in which he attempted to adapt the critical philosophy to changing intellectual circumstances, using elements from phenomenology and Lebensphilosophie. As a result, Zeyer neglects the fact that some of Dingler's central problems, such as that of univocality (e.g., 53) and rejection of ontological presuppositions (45), are not Kantian in origin. At this point, a comparison of Dingler with his contemporaries is indispensable. Again: that certain elements of Kantianism were criticized after 1900 is hardly illuminating, but how the critical philosophy was adapted to the intellectual circumstances by various philosophers is a fascinating topic, as for instance the recent reappraisal of early logical positivism by Michael Friedman and others shows. By approaching her topic in an internalist rather than a contextualist manner, Zeyer misses an opportunity to show the relevance of Dingler's methodical philosophy.

This choice of exegetical method is, of course, connected to her ultimate apologetic aim. Contextualizing Dingler's work may show the rationality of some of its elements in his...


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