- Historical Dictionary of Kant and Kantianism
The authors are emeritus professor and research associate (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) at the University of Zurich. Although Holzhey is founding director of the Hermann Cohen Archive, Neokantianism is not disproportionately represented here. The emphasis is on Kant, with supplementary treatment of Kant’s predecessors and successors adequate to grasp Kant’s role in various developments in the history of philosophy. At the same time, a reader interested in the various forms of Kantianism will find ample useful information here; for example, Kant’s influence on ethical socialism is documented from several different directions. Even without these supplements, this would be a formidably comprehensive treatment of the central terms in Kant’s writings from the pre-critical period through the Opus postumum. The authors include references to the Reflexionen (Notes and Fragments) where appropriate. They also helpfully adjudicate certain English translation problems from the perspective of native German speakers.
A number of articles stand out as especially noteworthy. “Categories” traces this term from Kant’s 1770 Inaugural Dissertation through to its reception by Peirce and C. I. Lewis. “Copernican Revolution” gives in a brief article a surprisingly comprehensive treatment of Kant’s term and its probable origins that is based on very wide study of the scholarship. “Dimensions of Space” deftly clarifies Kant’s changing attitudes toward non-Euclidean geometries. “Ether” discusses Kant’s uses of the term in the Opus postumum against the background of his pre-critical works. “Hegel” is admirably balanced, summarizing Hegel’s encounter with Kant without trying to defend Kant against Hegel’s critique. “Mathematics” includes a breathtakingly concise overview of the philosophy of mathematics from Descartes through Hilbert. “Noumenon” provides a nuanced explication of this term and “thing in itself” based on the differing roles the two expressions play in Kant’s discourse. “Object” gives the clearest explanation of Kant’s use of this term the reviewer has seen anywhere. “Pre-Critical Philosophy” discusses every philosophically relevant aspect of this period of Kant’s writings and its significance for later developments. “Substance,” among other articles, highlights differences between the first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason. “World” outlines the developments in Kant’s views of the significance of this term for physics, astronomy, epistemology, ethics, and biology.
Although one might assume that having only two authors for a reference work might result in a certain narrowness or bias, the presentation here is comprehensive and balanced. The dictionary has the feel of a project that has been ripening over the course of many years. The advantage of the two-author model is a consistency of voice that makes reading the dictionary through cover to cover pleasant and rewarding. The chronology and sketch of Kant’s life provide an excellent overview, and the judiciously selected bibliography is preceded by the best compact orientation to Kant scholarship available. The topical arrangement of the bibliography, while it creates some difficulty in locating a work cited in the text of the dictionary, allows a reader interested in one area of Kant to find the most important relevant secondary sources instantly.
The reviewer is at pains to find something here to criticize. There is the occasional linguistic indiscretion, such as the unidiomatic “dignity to be happy.” The authors refer to Kant-Studien as “Kant Studies,” so that a reader might search in vain for a journal of this name. Such infelicities are notable because they are rare in this well-edited volume. Sometimes information might be better placed under another heading; the reviewer often noted defects in one article that were remedied in a related one. (Following up the cross-referenced terms was the solution in every case.) There are also occasional omissions. Distinguished Kant scholarship taking place in Latin America should be recognized. “Antinomy” overlooks the clearest definition of this term: a necessary conflict of reason with itself. “Cognition” neglects Kant’s puzzling references to “practical cognition” (praktische Erkenntnis). Christian August Crusius, mentioned in...