- Baumgarten and Kant on Metaphysics ed. by Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers
The relationship between Baumgarten and Kant is famously as fruitful as any in the history of philosophy. It is well known that Kant adopted the former's Metaphysica for his lectures on metaphysics and anthropology almost uninterruptedly for about 40 years. Baumgarten's textbook represents a reference point for what a groundbreaking book of many years ago called "Kant's way to transcendental philosophy" (N. Hinske, Kants Weg zur Transcendentalphilosophie. Der dreißigjährige Kant, Stuttgart, Kohlhammer, 1970), and a key for the investigation of a considerable part of Kant's conceptual and terminological heritage. This historical circumstance has deeply influenced the destiny of the studies on Baumgarten, who—beside some remarkable exceptions, especially in Germany and in Italy—has been read almost exclusively through a Kantian lens. The main evidence for this is that the only modern edition of the Metaphysica was for many years the one included in the Akademie-Ausgabe of Kant's works.
The editors of the present volume, Fugate and Hymers, have recently published the critical English translation of the full text of Baumgarten's Metaphysica (Bloomsbury, 2014), which has contributed—together with the German translation by Gawlick and Kreimendahl (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 2011)—to make Baumgarten's Kathederjargon and his extremely concise prose more accessible to a wider range of scholars. In the same line, the fundamental idea at the basis of the eleven papers collected in their new Baumgarten and Kant on Metaphysics—most of which were presented at a conference on the Metaphysica organized at La Salle University in 2004—is that Baumgarten, like many other pre-Kantian authors, deserves to be understood well enough in his own terms in order to allow us to judge his relation to Kant equitably. In accordance with this claim, the papers in the volume may be divided into two groups: the first one includes those that deal with central issues of Baumgarten's metaphysics, questioning their originality within the German philosophy of the time, and in particular their relation to Wolffianism; the second one includes papers in which Baumgarten and Kant are put in direct dialogue.
In the first group, one may include the papers by Brandon C. Look, Clemens Schwaiger, and Corey W. Dyck, which share the purpose of proving that Baumgarten's understanding [End Page 763] of freedom, of rational psychology (especially of immortality), and of the relation between faith and reason reveals a peculiar awareness of the claims raised by the Pietists against Wolff. They offer convincing arguments for considering Baumgarten's philosophy a middle-path between the two major opponents of the Hochaufklärung and suggest a desirable revision of well-established patterns (like Rationalism, Wolffianism, etc.) that seem to hinder, rather than stimulate, the recent philosophical research. Beside the papers we have mentioned so far, the first group also includes the contributions by Angelica Nuzzo and Gary Hatfield, whose main concern is the long-lasting influence of Baumgarten's metaphysics on later ontological and psychological investigations, well beyond Kant's celebrated Revolution in der Denkungsart.
The second group of papers focuses instead on the importance of some specific issues in Baumgarten's metaphysical investigation and on his peculiar argumentative strategies in order to stress their role within the development of Kant's own critical and pre-critical philosophy. Rudolf A. Makkreel shows how Baumgarten's notions of clearness and distinctness can be seen at the origin of Kant's account of the faculties of the mind in the late Anthropology; John Hymers investigates Kant's development of the quadripartite table of nothing on the basis of his criticism of Baumgarten's understanding of nothing as contradiction; Jeffrey Edwards looks at the presence of the principle of determination in Kant's argument for the material ether in the Opus postumum; Henry E. Allison compares Baumgarten's reflection on freedom and Kant's account in his Lessons on Metaphysics from the mid-1770s; and Paul Guyer shows how Kant's refutation...