Review of Metaphysics 35 (4):785-821 (1982)

Daniel Breazeale
University of Kentucky
IN 1787, six years after the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason, one year before the publication of the Critique of Practical Reason, and three years prior to the appearance of the Critique of Judgment, Duke Karl August of Sax-Weimar was persuaded to establish at the University of Jena the world's first university chair designated for the promulgation and explication of the new Critical Philosophy associated with Immanuel Kant. The first occupant of this chair was Karl Leonhard Reinhold, an Austrian ex-monk, whose main qualification for the new position was his fame as the author of a series of well-received magazine articles promoting the new philosophy. At Jena, however, Reinhold's own "Kantianism" underwent an interesting metamorphosis; in the books and lectures that he wrote during his seven year tenure there he profoundly revised the Kantian system and produced a new version of it which he called "Elementary Philosophy." It is altogether appropriate that when Reinhold finally left Jena his successor should have been an even more innovative follower of Kant and admirer of Reinhold's Elementary Philosophy, J. G. Fichte. Fichte arrived in 1794 and immediately began constructing and laying before the public what is perhaps the most imaginative and remarkable of all the great post-Kantian speculative systems: his Wissenschaftslehre, or "Theory of Scientific Knowledge." Concurrent with the widespread revival of interest in German Idealism generally, interest in Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre has increased remarkably in recent years. Often viewed as the first step "from Kant to Hegel," Fichte's system was in fact not the first attempt to convert Kant's philosophy into a more consistent and thoroughgoingly speculative system. The honor--or onus--of making the "first step" in this direction belongs to Reinhold, and the aim of this essay is to indicate why this is so by surveying the Elementary Philosophy and examining those of its features which most influenced other philosophers, most notably Fichte. Though it may be claiming too much to say that one cannot properly understand Fichte's early presentations of his system without some acquaintance with Reinhold's Elementary Philosophy, it is certainly true that a familiarity with the latter is a tremendous aid to anyone trying to penetrate the former. Though the chief purpose of this survey is to emphasize Reinhold's contributions to the development of German Idealism, an ulterior aim is to introduce contemporary readers, especially English-language readers, to Reinhold's Elementary Philosophy and to suggest reasons why this neglected and all but forgotten system might still merit serious study.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph198235469
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Fichte's Striving Subject.Simon Lumsden - 2004 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 47 (2):123 – 142.

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