- New Anti-Kant ed. by Sandra Lapointe and Clinton Tolley
New Anti-Kant is the title of the book. New? Yes, it was a new Anti-Kant when it was first published in 1850. Another Anti-Kant, this one by Benedikt Stattler, had appeared in 1788—the year in which František Příhonský, the author of New Anti-Kant, was born. Příhonský is well-known as the editor of Bernard Bolzano’s brilliant posthumous booklet Paradoxien des Unendlichen, which appeared in 1851 and was quoted with great respect by a number of eminent mathematicians, Richard Dedekind, Georg Cantor, and Bertrand Russell among them. Only a few copies of Příhonský’s Anti-Kant survived. It took more than 150 years for a new German edition of the book to be published in 2003 (in Beiträge zur Bolzano-Forschung, Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag). Lapointe, who had already edited a French translation of the book in 2006, now provides, together with Tolley, a careful English edition.
As the subtitle of the book tells us, it is an “Examination of the Critique of Pure Reason according to the Concepts Laid Down in Bolzano’s Theory of Science.” The potential scholarly interest for such a book is all the greater because the attention paid to Bolzano’s philosophy has grown tremendously over the course of the last few decades. For Bolzano was an important part of the process that led to the publication of New Anti-Kant. Not only did Příhonský write the book as the result of Bolzano’s encouragement, under his supervision, but considerable parts of the book were adopted verbatim from Bolzano’s Theory of Science and from his correspondence with Franz Exner.
For Bolzano, Kant’s doctrines had always been somewhat like a philosophical anvil. Bolzano’s critical discussions of Kant’s philosophy permeate Bolzano’s two main works, the Theory of Science and the Textbook of the Science of Religion, providing their subject matter with a number of comments and notes scattered about his works. To gather these views in a systematic way was to be the task ascribed to his friend and pupil, Příhonský.
In the main text of the book, the “Treatise,” Příhonský goes, step by step, through the Critique of Pure Reason. He always presents, first, Kant’s relevant doctrines, either in Kant’s own words or in a short summary. He then proceeds to assess it critically, mostly using Bolzano’s concepts and citing his doctrines. Příhonský restricts himself for the most part to Kant’s doctrines as presented in the Critique of Pure Reason, the only exception being Kant’s views on ethics (187-206) in which case his Critique of Practical Reason and his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals are also taken into account.
Lapointe and Tolley have done a splendid editorial job. The main challenge for the editors resided in the fact that Příhonský’s New Anti-Kant deals with two divergent philosophical systems that are presented in two divergent philosophical languages. The difficulties associated with providing appropriate translations of Kant’s works are notorious, but in this case the translation of Kant’s German had in addition to be matched with Bolzano’s German. And even Bolzano’s relatively plain German offered several different terminological alternatives. While it would be a near-miracle if everybody agreed with the editors’ decisions, no problem will arise from their decisions, given the glossary they included (148-53).
Příhonský’s complete text comprises xxiv and 233 pages, which makes for roughly 130 pages of the translation. The editors’ illuminating introduction already makes clear most of what has to be said on the text itself so that the book does not need additional commentaries. The editors, however, add four papers on topics closely related to the main theme of the book—Kant and Bolzano. The comparison between Kant’s and Bolzanos’s views pertain [End Page 556] to four main philosophical concerns: space and outer intuition...