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The Abyss of Representation
Marxism and the Postmodern Sublime
George Hartley
Duke University Press, 2003
From the Copernican revolution of Immanuel Kant to the cognitive mapping of Fredric Jameson to the postcolonial politics of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, representation has been posed as both indispensable and impossible. In his pathbreaking work, The Abyss of Representation, George Hartley traces the development of this impossible necessity from its German Idealist roots through Marxist theories of postmodernism, arguing that in this period of skepticism and globalization we are still grappling with issues brought forth during the age of romanticism and revolution. Hartley shows how the modern problem of representation—the inability of a figure to do justice to its object—still haunts today's postmodern philosophy and politics. He reveals the ways the sublime abyss that opened up in Idealist epistemology and aesthetics resurfaces in recent theories of ideology and subjectivity.

Hartley describes how modern theory from Kant through Lacan attempts to come to terms with the sublime limits of representation and how ideas developed with the Marxist tradition—such as Marx’s theory of value, Althusser’s theory of structural causality, or Zizek’s theory of ideological enjoyment—can be seen as variants of the sublime object. Representation, he argues, is ultimately a political problem. Whether that problem be a Marxist representation of global capitalism, a deconstructive representation of subaltern women, or a Chicano self-representation opposing Anglo-American images of Mexican Americans, it is only through this grappling with the negative, Hartley explains, that a Marxist theory of postmodernism can begin to address the challenges of global capitalism and resurgent imperialism.


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After Parmenides
Idealism, Realism, and Epistemic Constructivism
Tom Rockmore
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Engages with one of the oldest philosophical problems—the relationship between thought and being—and offers a fresh perspective with which to approach the long history of this puzzle.

In After Parmenides, Tom Rockmore takes us all the way back to the beginning of Western philosophy, when Parmenides asserted that thought and being are the same. This idea created a division between what the mind constructs as knowable entities and the idea that there is also a mind-independent real, which we can know or fail to know. Rockmore argues that we need to give up on the idea of knowing the real as it is, and instead focus on the objects of cognition that our mind constructs. Though we cannot know mind-independent objects as they “really” are, we can and do know objects as they appear to us.

After Parmenides charts the continual engagement with these ideas of the real and the knowable throughout philosophical history from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, and others. This ambitious book shows how new connections can be made in the history of philosophy when it is reread through a new lens.

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As If
Idealization and Ideals
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Harvard University Press, 2017

“Appiah is a writer and thinker of remarkable range… [He] has packed into this short book an impressive amount of original reflection… A rich and illuminating book.”
—Thomas Nagel, New York Review of Books

Idealization is a fundamental feature of human thought. We build simplified models to make sense of the world, and life is a constant adjustment between the models we make and the realities we encounter. Our beliefs, desires, and sense of justice are bound up with these ideals, and we proceed “as if” our representations were true, while knowing they are not. In this elegant and original meditation, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests that this instinct to idealize is not dangerous or distracting so much as it is necessary. As If explores how strategic untruth plays a critical role in far-flung areas of inquiry: decision theory, psychology, natural science, and political philosophy. A polymath who writes with mainstream clarity, Appiah defends the centrality of the imagination not just in the arts but in science, morality, and everyday life.

“Appiah is the rare public intellectual who is also a first-rate analytic philosopher, and the characteristic virtues associated with each of these identities are very much in evidence throughout the book.”
—Thomas Kelly, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


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Autonomy After Auschwitz
Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity
Martin Shuster
University of Chicago Press, 2014
Ever since Kant and Hegel, the notion of autonomy—the idea that we are beholden to no law except one we impose upon ourselves—has been considered the truest philosophical expression of human freedom. But could our commitment to autonomy, as Theodor Adorno asked, be related to the extreme evils that we have witnessed in modernity? In Autonomy after Auschwitz, Martin Shuster explores this difficult question with astonishing theoretical acumen, examining the precise ways autonomy can lead us down a path of evil and how it might be prevented from doing so.

Shuster uncovers dangers in the notion of autonomy as it was originally conceived by Kant. Putting Adorno into dialogue with a range of European philosophers, notably Kant, Hegel, Horkheimer, and Habermas—as well as with a variety of contemporary Anglo-American thinkers such as Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, John McDowell, and Robert Pippin—he illuminates Adorno’s important revisions to this fraught concept and how his different understanding of autonomous agency, fully articulated, might open up new and positive social and political possibilities. Altogether, Autonomy after Auschwitz is a meditation on modern evil and human agency, one that demonstrates the tremendous ethical stakes at the heart of philosophy. 

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Between Heidegger and Novalis
Peter Hanly
Northwestern University Press, 2021
This book brings a central figure of the early German Romantic movement—the poet and philosopher Novalis—into dialogue with the work of Martin Heidegger. Looking beyond the question of direct influence, the book demonstrates that Novalis and Heidegger pursued complementary endeavors as thinkers of relation. Implicitly operative in their thinking, Peter Hanly argues, is an excavation of the Greek conception of harmonia found in the fragments of the pre-Socratic thinker Heraclitus. This is a conception that understands harmony not as concordance but as primal dissonance. It is this experience of harmonia, Hanly proposes, that allows both Novalis and Heidegger to think relation in terms of dynamic and contradictory energies of separation and convergence. Between Heidegger and Novalis thus is a study of the “in-between,” associated in Novalis with energies of fertility and productivity and in Heidegger with energies of agonistic difference.
An entirely new approach to both Novalis and Heidegger, this book will interest scholars and students engaged with continental philosophy and the legacy of German Romanticism.  

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Binding Words
Conscience and Rhetoric in Hobbes, Hegel, and Heidegger
Karen Feldman
Northwestern University Press, 2006
In a provactive work that brings new tools to the history of philosophy, Karen S. Feldman offers an elegant account of how philosophical language appears to produce the very thing it claims to describe. She demonstrates that conscience can only be described and understood through tropes and figures of langugae. If description in literal terms is impossible, as Binding Words convincingly argues, perhaps there is no such thing. But if the word "conscience" has no tangible referent, then how can conscience be constructed as binding? Does our conscience move us to do things, or is this yet another figure of speech?

Hobbes's Leviathan, Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, and Heidegger's Being and Time dramatize conscience's relation to language and knowledge, morality and duty, and ontology. Feldman investigates how, within these works, conscience is described as binding upon us while at the same time asking how texts themselves may be read as binding. 

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The Culmination
Heidegger, German Idealism, and the Fate of Philosophy
Robert B. Pippin
University of Chicago Press, 2024
A provocative reassessment of Heidegger’s critique of German Idealism from one of the tradition’s foremost interpreters.

Heidegger claimed that Western philosophy ended—failed, even—in the German Idealist tradition. In The Culmination, Robert B. Pippin explores the ramifications of this charge through a masterful survey of Western philosophy, especially Heidegger’s critiques of Hegel and Kant. Pippin argues that Heidegger’s basic concern was to determine sources of meaning for human life, particularly those that had been obscured by Western philosophy’s attention to reason. The Culmination offers a new interpretation of Heidegger, German Idealism, and the fate of Western rationalism.

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Does History Make Sense?
Hegel on the Historical Shapes of Justice
Terry Pinkard
Harvard University Press, 2017

Hegel’s philosophy of history—which most critics view as a theory of inevitable progress toward modern European civilization—is widely regarded as a failure today. In Does History Make Sense? Terry Pinkard argues that Hegel’s understanding of historical progress is not the kind of teleological or progressivist account that its detractors claim, but is based on a subtle understanding of human subjectivity.

Pinkard shows that for Hegel a break occurred between modernity and all that came before, when human beings found a new way to make sense of themselves as rational, self-aware creatures. In Hegel’s view of history, different types of sense-making become viable as social conditions change and new forms of subjectivity emerge. At the core of these changes are evolving conceptions of justice—of who has authority to rule over others. In modern Europe, Hegel believes, an unprecedented understanding of justice as freedom arose, based on the notion that every man should rule himself. Freedom is a more robust form of justice than previous conceptions, so progress has indeed been made. But justice, like health, requires constant effort to sustain and cannot ever be fully achieved.

For Hegel, philosophy and history are inseparable. Pinkard’s spirited defense of the Hegelian view of history will play a central role in contemporary reevaluations of the philosopher’s work.


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For Badiou
Idealism without Idealism
Frank Ruda; Preface by Slavoj Zizek
Northwestern University Press, 2015

For Badiou serves both as an introduction to the influential French philosopher Alain Badiou’s thought and as an in-depth examination of his work. Ruda begins with a thorough and clear outline of the sometimes difficult main tenets of Badiou’s philosophy. He then traces the philosophers throughout Western thought who have influenced Badiou’s project—especially Plato, Descartes, Hegel, and Marx—and on whose work Badiou has developed his provocative philosophy. Ruda draws from Badiou’s oeuvre a series of directives with regard to renewing philosophy for the twenty-first century. For Badiou continues the interrogations of its subject and raises new materialistic and dialectical questions for the next generation of engaged philosophers.


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German Idealism and the Jew
The Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses
Michael Mack
University of Chicago Press, 2003
In German Idealism and the Jew, Michael Mack uncovers the deep roots of anti-Semitism in the German philosophical tradition. While many have read German anti-Semitism as a reaction against Enlightenment philosophy, Mack instead contends that the redefinition of the Jews as irrational, oriental Others forms the very cornerstone of German idealism, including Kant's conception of universal reason.

Offering the first analytical account of the connection between anti-Semitism and philosophy, Mack begins his exploration by showing how the fundamental thinkers in the German idealist tradition—Kant, Hegel, and, through them, Feuerbach and Wagner—argued that the human world should perform and enact the promises held out by a conception of an otherworldly heaven. But their respective philosophies all ran aground on the belief that the worldly proved incapable of transforming itself into this otherworldly ideal. To reconcile this incommensurability, Mack argues, philosophers created a construction of Jews as symbolic of the "worldliness" that hindered the development of a body politic and that served as a foil to Kantian autonomy and rationality.

In the second part, Mack examines how Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Franz Rosenzweig, and Freud, among others, grappled with being both German and Jewish. Each thinker accepted the philosophies of Kant and Hegel, in varying degrees, while simultaneously critiquing anti-Semitism in order to develop the modern Jewish notion of what it meant to be enlightened—a concept that differed substantially from that of Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, and Wagner. By speaking the unspoken in German philosophy, this book profoundly reshapes our understanding of it.

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The Grace and the Severity of the Ideal
John Dewey and the Transcendent
Victor Kestenbaum
University of Chicago Press, 2002
In this highly original book, Victor Kestenbaum calls into question the oft-repeated assumption that John Dewey's pragmatism has no place for the transcendent. Kestenbaum demonstrates that, far from ignoring the transcendent ideal, Dewey's works—on education, ethics, art, and religion—are in fact shaped by the tension between the natural and the transcendent.

Kestenbaum argues that to Dewey, the pragmatic struggle for ideal meaning occurs at the frontier of the visible and the invisible, the tangible and the intangible. Penetrating analyses of Dewey's early and later writings, as well as comparisons with the works of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Michael Oakeshott, and Wallace Stevens, shed new light on why Dewey regarded the human being's relationship to the ideal as "the most far-reaching question" of philosophy. For Dewey, the pragmatic struggle for the good life required a willingness "to surrender the actual experienced good for a possible ideal good." Dewey's pragmatism helps us to understand the place of the transcendent ideal in a world of action and practice.

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Hegel and Spinoza
Substance and Negativity
Gregor Moder, with a foreword by Mladen Dolar
Northwestern University Press, 2017
Gregor Moder’s Hegel and Spinoza: Substance and Negativity is a lively entry into current debates concerning Hegel, Spinoza, and their relation. Hegel and Spinoza are two of the most influential philosophers of the modern era, and the traditions of thought they inaugurated have been in continuous dialogue and conflict ever since Hegel first criticized Spinoza. Notably, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German Idealists aimed to overcome the determinism of Spinoza’s system by securing a place for the freedom of the subject within it, and twentieth-century French materialists such as Althusser and Deleuze rallied behind Spinoza as the ultimate champion of anti-Hegelian materialism. This conflict, or mutual rejection, lives on today in recent discussions about materialism. Contemporary thinkers either make a Hegelian case for the productiveness of concepts of the negative, nothingness, and death, or in a way that is inspired by Spinoza they abolish the concepts of the subject and negation and argue for pure affirmation and the vitalistic production of differences.

Hegel and Spinoza traces the historical roots of these alternatives and shows how contemporary discussions between Heideggerians and Althusserians, Lacanians and Deleuzians are a variation of the disagreement between Hegel and Spinoza. Throughout, Moder persuasively demonstrates that the best way to read Hegel and Spinoza is not in opposition or contrast but together: as Hegel and Spinoza.

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Hegel's Energy
A Reading of The Phenomenology of Spirit
Michael Marder
Northwestern University Press, 2021
Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit has been one of the most important works of philosophy since the nineteenth century, while the question of energy has been crucial to life in the twenty-first century. In this book, Michael Marder integrates the two, narrating a story about the trials and tribulations of energy embedded in Hegel’s dialectics. Through an original interpretation of actuality (Wirklichkeit) as energy in the Hegelian corpus, the book provides an exciting lens for understanding the dialectical project and the energy‑starved condition of our contemporaneity. To elaborate this theory, Marder undertakes a meticulous rereading of major parts of the Phenomenology, where the energy deficit of mere consciousness gives way to the energy surplus of self‑consciousness and its self‑delimitation in the domain of reason. In so doing, he denounces the current understanding of energy as pure potentiality, linking this mindset to pollution, profit-driven economies, and environmental crises. Surprising and deeply engaged with its contemporary implications, this book doesn’t simply illuminate aspects of The Phenomenology of Spirit—it provides an entirely new understanding of Hegel’s ideas.

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The Idea of Hegel's "Science of Logic"
Stanley Rosen
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Although Hegel considered Science of Logic essential to his philosophy, it has received scant commentary compared with the other three books he published in his lifetime. Here philosopher Stanley Rosen rescues the Science of Logic from obscurity, arguing that its neglect is responsible for contemporary philosophy’s fracture into many different and opposed schools of thought. Through deep and careful analysis, Rosen sheds new light on the precise problems that animate Hegel’s overlooked book and their tremendous significance to philosophical conceptions of logic and reason.

Rosen’s overarching question is how, if at all, rationalism can overcome the split between monism and dualism. Monism—which claims a singular essence for all things—ultimately leads to nihilism, while dualism, which claims multiple, irreducible essences, leads to what Rosen calls “the endless chatter of the history of philosophy.” The Science of Logic, he argues, is the fundamental text to offer a new conception of rationalism that might overcome this philosophical split. Leading readers through Hegel’s book from beginning to end, Rosen’s argument culminates in a masterful chapter on the Idea in Hegel. By fully appreciating the Science of Logic and situating it properly within Hegel’s oeuvre, Rosen in turn provides new tools for wrangling with the conceptual puzzles that have brought so many other philosophers to disaster.

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Idealism and Liberal Education
James O. Freedman
University of Michigan Press, 2001
With refreshing eloquence, James O. Freedman sets down the American ideals that have informed his life as an intellectual, a law professor, and a college and university president. He examines the content and character of liberal education, discusses the importance of letters and learning in forming his own life and values, and explores how the lessons and the habits of mind instilled by a liberal education can give direction and meaning to one's life. He offers a stirring defense of affirmative action in higher education. And he describes how, in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, liberal education helped him in that most human of desires--the yearning to make order and sense out of his experience.
Part intellectual biography and part examination of the world of higher education, Idealism and Liberal Education is a quintessentially American book, animated by a confidence that reason, knowledge, idealism, and the better angels of our natures will further human progress.
Freedman offers, as models for shaping one's life, profiles of some of his heroes--Thurgood Marshall, Alexander M. Bickel, Václav Havel, Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo L. Black, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., George F. Kennan, Ralph J. Bunche, and Harry S Truman.
This volume speaks to all Americans who are drawn to the power of liberal education and democratic citizenship and who yearn for the inspiration to lead thoughtful, committed lives.
"This thought-provoking book should be required reading for young people entering college and for the people who advise them. Freedman explores the purpose and importance of a liberal education in shaping values, character, and imagination and convincingly argues for the need for the wisdom and perspective it provides, whatever one's chosen field."--Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
"In this wide-ranging series of essays, Freedman reveals himself again as one of America's most erudite, articulate, and reflective university presidents. Students, parents, fellow presidents, and all who love learning will find something in these pages to ponder with profit."--Derek Bok, Former President, Harvard University
Idealism and Liberal Education is an inspiring intellectual diary of James O. Freedman. . . . It is a forceful affirmation of liberal education as a social and cultural force in shaping the minds and characters of our youth as future citizens and leaders of our democracy. It is a tribute to the joy of learning."--Vartan Gregorian, President, Brown University
"Beautifully written and a pleasure to read. At a time when the idea of the liberal university is under attack from all sides, Freedman has given a wondrous personal reaffirmation of its place in our lives."--David Halberstam
James O. Freedman is President of Dartmouth College.

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Idealization and the Aims of Science
Angela Potochnik
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Science is the study of our world, as it is in its messy reality. Nonetheless, science requires idealization to function—if we are to attempt to understand the world, we have to find ways to reduce its complexity.
Idealization and the Aims of Science shows just how crucial idealization is to science and why it matters. Beginning with the acknowledgment of our status as limited human agents trying to make sense of an exceedingly complex world, Angela Potochnik moves on to explain how science aims to depict and make use of causal patterns—a project that makes essential use of idealization. She offers case studies from a number of branches of science to demonstrate the ubiquity of idealization, shows how causal patterns are used to develop scientific explanations, and describes how the necessarily imperfect connection between science and truth leads to researchers’ values influencing their findings. The resulting book is a tour de force, a synthesis of the study of idealization that also offers countless new insights and avenues for future exploration.

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An Introduction To Hegel
The Stages of Modern Philosophy
Howard P. Kainz
Ohio University Press, 1996

In a sense it would be inappropriate to speak of “Hegel’s system of philosophy,” because Hegel thought that in the strict sense there is only one system of philosophy evolving in the Western world. In Hegel’s view, although at times philosophy’s history seems to be a chaotic series of crisscrossing interpretations of meanings and values, with no consensus, there has been a teleological development and consistent progress in philosophy and philosophizing from the beginning; Hegel held that his own version of “German idealism” was simply bringing to final expression the latest refinements of an ongoing, perennial system.

If we take Hegel at his word, then one of the best entries into his system would be through the history of philosophy, showing how systems and schools of thought prior to Hegel led up to his system. The most important currents to focus on, however, would be in modern philosophy, in which especially intensive changes led ultimately to German idealism and Hegel’s immediate predecessors.

Fortunately, Hegel lectured extensively on the history of modern philosophy and structured his lectures in such a way as to throw light on the status of the “one system” of Western philosophy at the time — the status to which Hegel felt he had been contributing and was continuing to contribute. These lectures are of interest, first of all, as a systematic chronicle of philosophical positions in the heyday of modern philosophy, from Bacon to Hegel. Second, they are interesting because Hegel’s critical comments on his predecessors clarify his own positions: for example, the dialectic method and the importance of triplicity, the relationship of philosophy to the scientific method, the necessity for avoidance of the extremes of empiricism and of idealism, the subject/object problematic, the “identity” of rationality and reality, and the technical meaning in Hegel’s philosophy of “absolute,” “infinity,” and the “idea.”


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Kant, Kantianism, and Idealism
The Origins of Continental Philosophy
Edited by Thomas J. Nenon
University of Chicago Press, 2010

From Kant to Kierkegaard, from Hegel to Heidegger, continental philosophers have indelibly shaped the trajectory of Western thought since the eighteenth century. Although much has been written about these monumental thinkers, students and scholars lack a definitive guide to the entire scope of the continental tradition. The most comprehensive reference work to date, this eight-volume History of Continental Philosophy will both encapsulate the subject and reorient our understanding of it. Beginning with an overview of Kant’s philosophy and its initial reception, the History traces the evolution of continental philosophy through major figures as well as movements such as existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and poststructuralism. The final volume outlines the current state of the field, bringing the work of both historical and modern thinkers to bear on such contemporary topics as feminism, globalization, and the environment. Throughout, the volumes examine important philosophical figures and developments in their historical, political, and cultural contexts.

The first reference of its kind, A History of Continental Philosophy has been written and edited by internationally recognized experts with a commitment to explaining complex thinkers, texts, and movements in rigorous yet jargon-free essays suitable for both undergraduates and seasoned specialists. These volumes also elucidate ongoing debates about the nature of continental and analytic philosophy, surveying the distinctive, sometimes overlapping characteristics and approaches of each tradition. Featuring helpful overviews of major topics and plotting road maps to their underlying contexts, A History of Continental Philosophy is destined to be the resource of first and last resort for students and scholars alike.


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Kant's Worldview
How Judgment Shapes Human Comprehension
Rudolf A. Makkreel
Northwestern University Press, 2022
In Kant’s Worldview: How Judgment Shapes Human Comprehension, Rudolf A. Makkreel offers a new interpretation of Immanuel Kant’s theory of judgment that clarifies Kant’s well-known suggestion that a genuine philosophy is guided by a world‑concept (Weltbegriff). Makkreel shows that Kant increasingly expands the role of judgment from its logical and epistemic tasks to its reflective capacity to evaluate objects and contextualize them in worldly terms. And Makkreel shows that this final orientational power of judgment supplements the cognition of the understanding with the comprehension originally assigned to reason.

To comprehend, according to Kant, is to possess sufficient insight into situations so as to also achieve some purpose. This requires that reason be applied with the discernment that reflective judgment makes possible. Comprehension, practical as well as theoretical, can fill in Kant’s world concept and his sublime evocation of a Weltanschauung with a more down-to-earth worldview.

Scholars have recently stressed Kant’s impure ethics, his nonideal politics, and his pragmatism. Makkreel complements these efforts by using Kant’s ethical, sociopolitical, religious, and anthropological writings to provide a more encompassing account of the role of human beings in the world. The result is a major contribution to our understanding of Kant and the history of European philosophy.

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Modern Social Imaginaries
Charles Taylor
Duke University Press, 2004
One of the most influential philosophers in the English-speaking world, Charles Taylor is internationally renowned for his contributions to political and moral theory, particularly to debates about identity formation, multiculturalism, secularism, and modernity. In Modern Social Imaginaries, Taylor continues his recent reflections on the theme of multiple modernities. To account for the differences among modernities, Taylor sets out his idea of the social imaginary, a broad understanding of the way a given people imagine their collective social life.

Retelling the history of Western modernity, Taylor traces the development of a distinct social imaginary. Animated by the idea of a moral order based on the mutual benefit of equal participants, the Western social imaginary is characterized by three key cultural forms—the economy, the public sphere, and self-governance. Taylor’s account of these cultural formations provides a fresh perspective on how to read the specifics of Western modernity: how we came to imagine society primarily as an economy for exchanging goods and services to promote mutual prosperity, how we began to imagine the public sphere as a metaphorical place for deliberation and discussion among strangers on issues of mutual concern, and how we invented the idea of a self-governing people capable of secular “founding” acts without recourse to transcendent principles. Accessible in length and style, Modern Social Imaginaries offers a clear and concise framework for understanding the structure of modern life in the West and the different forms modernity has taken around the world.


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Perspectives on Pragmatism
Classical, Recent, and Contemporary
Robert B. Brandom
Harvard University Press, 2011

Pragmatism has been reinvented in every generation since its beginnings in the late nineteenth century. This book, by one of today’s most distinguished contemporary heirs of pragmatist philosophy, rereads cardinal figures in that tradition, distilling from their insights a way forward from where we are now.

Perspectives on Pragmatism opens with a new accounting of what is living and what is dead in the first three generations of classical American pragmatists, represented by Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Post-Deweyan pragmatism at midcentury is discussed in the work of Wilfrid Sellars, one of its most brilliant and original practitioners. Sellars’ legacy in turn is traced through the thought of his admirer, Richard Rorty, who further developed James’s and Dewey’s ideas within the professional discipline of philosophy and once more succeeded, as they had, in showing the more general importance of those ideas not only for intellectuals outside philosophy but for the wider public sphere.

The book closes with a clear description of the author’s own analytic pragmatism, which combines all these ideas with those of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and synthesizes that broad pragmatism with its dominant philosophical rival, analytic philosophy, which focuses on language and logic. The result is a treatise that allows us to see American philosophy in its full scope, both its origins and its promise for tomorrow.


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Plato as Critical Theorist
Jonny Thakkar
Harvard University Press, 2018

What is the best possible society? How would its rulers govern and its citizens behave? Such questions are sometimes dismissed as distractions from genuine political problems, but in an era when political idealism seems a relic of the past, says Jonny Thakkar, they are more urgent than ever. A daring experiment in using ancient philosophy to breathe life into our political present, Plato as Critical Theorist takes seriously one of Plato’s central claims: that philosophers should rule. What many accounts miss is the intimate connection between Plato’s politics and his metaphysics, Thakkar argues. Philosophy is the activity of articulating how parts and wholes best fit together, while ruling is the activity that shapes the parts of society into a coherent whole conducive to the good life. Plato’s ideal society is thus one in which ideal theory itself plays a leading role.

Today’s liberal democracies require not philosopher-kings legislating from above but philosopher-citizens willing to work toward a vision of the best society in their daily lives. Against the claim that such idealism is inherently illiberal, Thakkar shows that it is fully compatible with the liberal theories of both Popper and Rawls while nevertheless pushing beyond them in providing a new vantage point for the Marxian critique of capitalism.


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Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism
A Weak Nature Alone
Adrian Johnston
Northwestern University Press, 2019
Adrian Johnston’s trilogy Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism aims to forge a thoroughly materialist yet antireductive theory of subjectivity. In this second volume, A Weak Nature Alone, Johnston focuses on the philosophy of nature required for such a theory. This volume is guided by a fundamental question: How must nature be rethought so that human minds and freedom do not appear to be either impossible or inexplicable within it? Asked differently: How must the natural world itself be structured such that sapient subjects in all their distinctive peculiarities emerged from and continue to exist within this world?

In A Weak Nature Alone, Johnston develops his transcendental materialist account of nature through engaging with and weaving together five main sources of inspiration: Hegelian philosophy, Marxist materialism, Freudian-Lacanian metapsychology, Anglo-American analytic neo-Hegelianism, and evolutionary theory and neurobiology. Johnston argues that these seemingly (but not really) strange bedfellows should be brought together so as to construct a contemporary ontology of nature. Through this ontology, nonnatural human subjects can be seen to arise in an immanent, bottom-up fashion from nature itself. 

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Self-Consciousness and Objectivity
Sebastian Rödl
Harvard University Press, 2018

Self-Consciousness and Objectivity undermines a foundational dogma of contemporary philosophy: that knowledge, in order to be objective, must be knowledge of something that is as it is, independent of being known to be so. Sebastian Rödl revives the thought—as ancient as philosophy but largely forgotten today—that knowledge, precisely on account of being objective, is self-knowledge: knowledge knowing itself. Thus he intervenes in a discussion that runs through the work of Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel, Adrian Moore, and others, who seek to comprehend the claim to objectivity we raise in making judgments. While these authors think that the quest for objectivity demands that we transcend the first person, Rödl argues that it is through the first-person thought contained in every judgment that our judgments possess the objectivity that defines knowledge.

Self-Consciousness and Objectivity can be read as an introduction to absolute idealism, for it dismantles a stubborn obstacle to absolute idealism’s reception: the notion that it is a species of idealism, which is understood to be the assertion that the world depends upon the mind. As Rödl brings out, absolute idealism is the resolute rejection of that idea.

The implications of this work are profound. It undercuts a number of contemporary presumptions, such as that judgment is a propositional attitude, that inference is a mental process, and that there is an empirical science of the capacity for objective knowledge. All of these presumptions flow from the erroneous notion that the objectivity of knowledge stands opposed to its first-person character.


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Politics, Ideology, Event
Glyn Daly
Northwestern University Press, 2019
Speculation: Politics, Ideology, Event develops Hegel’s radical perspective of speculative thought as a way of reclaiming and revitalizing the sense of the future and its possibilities. Engaging with such figures as Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux, Ernesto Laclau, Slavoj Žižek, and Fredric Jameson, Glyn Daly articulates the distinctness of speculative philosophy and draws its implications for new debates in areas of science, politics, capitalism, ideology, ethics, and the event. 

In a confrontation with today’s fatalistic milieu, principal emphasis is given to Hegel’s idea of infinity as the intrinsic dimension of negativity within all finitude. Against the modern era’s paradigmatic tendency to externalize social problems in the form of antagonism and Otherness, Daly argues for a renewal of utopian thought based on Hegelian reconciliation and the affirmation of excess as the essence of all being. On these grounds, he advances a new kind of political imagination that in speculative terms centers on uncompromising notions of truth and reason. 

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A Spirit of Trust
A Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology
Robert B. Brandom
Harvard University Press, 2019

Forty years in the making, this long-awaited reinterpretation of Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit is a landmark contribution to philosophy by one of the world’s best-known and most influential philosophers.

In this much-anticipated work, Robert Brandom presents a completely new retelling of the romantic rationalist adventure of ideas that is Hegel’s classic The Phenomenology of Spirit. Connecting analytic, continental, and historical traditions, Brandom shows how dominant modes of thought in contemporary philosophy are challenged by Hegel.

A Spirit of Trust is about the massive historical shift in the life of humankind that constitutes the advent of modernity. In his Critiques, Kant talks about the distinction between what things are in themselves and how they appear to us; Hegel sees Kant’s distinction as making explicit what separates the ancient and modern worlds. In the ancient world, normative statuses—judgments of what ought to be—were taken to state objective facts. In the modern world, these judgments are taken to be determined by attitudes—subjective stances. Hegel supports a view combining both of those approaches, which Brandom calls “objective idealism”: there is an objective reality, but we cannot make sense of it without first making sense of how we think about it.

According to Hegel’s approach, we become agents only when taken as such by other agents. This means that normative statuses such as commitment, responsibility, and authority are instituted by social practices of reciprocal recognition. Brandom argues that when our self-conscious recognitive attitudes take the radical form of magnanimity and trust that Hegel describes, we can overcome a troubled modernity and enter a new age of spirit.


front cover of Subject Lessons
Subject Lessons
Hegel, Lacan, and the Future of Materialism
Edited by Russell Sbriglia and Slavoj Zizek
Northwestern University Press, 2020

Responding to the ongoing “objectal turn” in contemporary humanities and social sciences, the essays in Subject Lessons present a sustained case for the continued importance— indeed, the indispensability—of the category of the subject for the future of materialist thought.

Approaching matters through the frame of Hegel and Lacan, the contributors to this volume, including the editors, as well as Andrew Cole, Mladen Dolar, Nathan Gorelick, Adrian Johnston, Todd McGowan, Borna Radnik, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Kathryn Van Wert, and Alenka Zupančič—many of whom stand at the forefront of contemporary Hegel and Lacan scholarship—agree with neovitalist thinkers that material reality is ontologically incomplete, in a state of perpetual becoming, yet they maintain that this is the case not in spite of but, rather, because of the subject.

Incorporating elements of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary and cultural studies, Subject Lessons contests the movement to dismiss the subject, arguing that there can be no truly robust materialism without accounting for the little piece of the Real that is the subject.


front cover of Thinking and the I
Thinking and the I
Hegel and the Critique of Kant
Alfredo Ferrarin
Northwestern University Press, 2019

What is the relation between thinking and the I that thinks? And what is the relation between thought and reality? The ordinary view shared by modern philosophers from Descartes to Kant, as well as by common sense, is that there is only thought when someone thinks something, and thoughts and concepts are mental acts that refer to objects outside us.

In Thinking and the I: Hegel and the Critique of Kant, Alfredo Ferrarin shows that Hegel’s philosophy entails a radical criticism of this ordinary conception of thinking. Breaking with the habitual presuppositions of both modern philosophy and common sense, Ferrarin explains that thought, negation, truth, reflection, and dialectic for Hegel are not properties of an I and cannot be reduced to the subjective activity of a self-conscious subject. Rather, he elucidates, thought is objective for Hegel in different senses. Reality as a whole is animated by a movement of thought and an unconscious logic as a spontaneity that reifies itself in determinate forms. Ferrarin concludes the book with a comprehensive comparison of Hegel’s and Kant’s concepts of reason.

While it mainly focuses on Hegel’s Phenomenology, Science of Logic, and Encyclopaedia, this ambitious book covers all aspects of Hegel’s philosophy. Its originality and strength lie in its recovery of the original core of Hegel’s dialectic over and above its currently predominant transcendental, neopragmatist, or realist appropriations. It will be essential reading for all students of Hegel, Kant, and German idealism in general for years to come.


front cover of The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy
The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy
Eckart Förster
Harvard University Press, 2012

Kant declared that philosophy began in 1781 with his Critique of Pure Reason. In 1806 Hegel announced that philosophy had now been completed. Eckart Förster examines the reasons behind these claims and assesses the steps that led in such a short time from Kant’s “beginning” to Hegel’s “end.” He concludes that, in an unexpected yet significant sense, both Kant and Hegel were indeed right.

“Presents a novel interpretation of the development of German idealism that is rich in both historical depth and philosophical insight…Förster sets forth a historically nuanced and philosophically discerning interpretation of the central debates of the era.”
—Peter Yong, Philosophy in Review

“[Förster’s] book does not disappoint…The amount of material covered by Förster is impressive…Förster’s book is rich in specificity…Wherever the discussion goes, it is going to have to go on by taking Förster’s big picture and all his detailed accounts into account.”
—Terry Pinkard, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“Förster’s command of the historical sources is most impressive. Moreover, this book is clearly written, and Bowman’s translation is commendable. Scholars and graduate students will welcome this masterpiece.”
—J. M. Fritzman, Choice


front cover of Uncivil Unions
Uncivil Unions
The Metaphysics of Marriage in German Idealism and Romanticism
Adrian Daub
University of Chicago Press, 2012

“What a strange invention marriage is!” wrote Kierkegaard. “Is it the expression of that inexplicable erotic sentiment, that concordant elective affinity of souls, or is it a duty or a partnership . . . or is it a little of all that?”

Like Kierkegaard a few decades later, many of Germany’s most influential thinkers at the turn of the eighteenth century wondered about the nature of marriage but rejected the easy answers provided by biology and theology. In Uncivil Unions, Adrian Daub presents a truly interdisciplinary look at the story of a generation of philosophers, poets, and intellectuals who turned away from theology, reason, common sense, and empirical observation to provide a purely metaphysical justification of marriage.

Through close readings of philosophers like Fichte and Schlegel, and novelists like Sophie Mereau and Jean Paul, Daub charts the development of this new concept of marriage with an insightful blend of philosophy, cultural studies, and theory. The author delves deeply into the lives and work of the romantic and idealist poets and thinkers whose beliefs about marriage continue to shape ideas about gender, marriage, and sex to the present day.


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