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Reviewed by:
  • Philosophical Romanticism
  • Simon Lumsden
Nikolas Kompridis , editor. Philosophical Romanticism. Routledge. xiv, 306. US $33.95

Nikolas Kompridis has drawn together an exceptionally fine collection of authors and topics for this volume. In the past fifteen years, interest in German idealism in the Anglo-American philosophical world has been nothing short of astounding, particularly when one considers that interest in Hegel by analytic philosophers was, until the early 1990s, either negligible or derisory. There has even been a revival of interest in Fichte. The resurgence of interest in Hegel is due to the numerous exceptionally fine scholars who have written on him, the most prominent being is Robert Pippin, whose work has led to a renewed interest in German idealism by analytic philosophers such as John McDowell and Robert Brandom. The research of these philosophers has made all the major figures of German idealism genuinely contemporary interlocutors in the core issues of recent philosophy. This volume represents a continuation of that exemplary work by stressing the continuity of concern of Romanticism with German idealism, Heidegger, Emerson, and Thoreau, as well as pressing contemporary issues in philosophy. It makes a particularly valuable contribution to broadening the critique of naturalism.

Any volume like this has to be selective, and the critic could always think of figures that might have been included and topics ignored. In the case of this volume, any apparent eclecticism is for the most part very well justified in the introduction. The introduction rises to the challenge of the skeptic who might ask how all these thinkers could possibly be categorized under the label of Romanticism. The provocative title of the work of the volume (given the figures examined) places [End Page 145] an unusual burden on the editor to justify its unity, which he does primarily by making modernity the core philosophical problem. While this essay, and the volume, does not foreclose who ought to be included in the cast of characters concerned with this problem, Nietzsche is the only really glaring omission.

The collection offers an excellent mix of scholarly work on nineteenth-century German philosophers, canonical Romantics such as Novalis and Schlegel, as well literary figures such as Goethe and Proust. Besides Pippin's essay on Proust and two on Heidegger, the collection focuses primarily on figures from the nineteenth century. One of the other excellent things about this collection is that it presents not just good, clearly written, historically focused essays, such as Frederick Beiser's and Richard Eldridge's, but there are also essays concerned with broad conceptual problems that have a genesis in Philosophical Romanticism, particularly those by Stanley Cavell and Martin Seel. These essays take the themes of Romanticism and translate them into contemporary concerns with how to preserve a place for the new as well as how to rework the receptive component of self-determination into a new theory of self-determination. On the face of it, Pippin's essay on Proust seems hard to incorporate into the unity of the volume, but the focus of his discussion on normativity, freedom, and fragmented and inadequate forms of life and the distinct role literature has to play in its the articulation places it firmly within the Philosophical Romantic frame that Kompridis establishes in the introduction. This is an immensely interesting collection of essays that will further consolidate the importance of classical German philosophy and Romanticism for contemporary debates in the humanities as well as key partners in the ongoing definition of modern self-understanding.

Simon Lumsden
Department of Philosophy, University of New South Wales at Sydney


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pp. 145-146
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