Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Some books I am reading for research over break (with NDPR links)

Abstracts and links to the NDPR reviews below. I have to say that all of these books are quite good and proving useful so far.

Nicholas F. Stang, Kant's Modal Metaphysics, Oxford University Press, 2016, 352pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198712626.

Reviewed by Andrew Chignell, University of Pennsylvania

The dust jacket of this book features anatomical drawings of a narwhal and a unicorn. They are Kant's own examples: he says that we can't tell just by looking at the drawings (or considering our concepts) which of these animals actually exists. We have to go and investigate. But are we able to tell, just by considering our concepts, whether narwahls or unicorns are at least possible?

A "logicist," in Nicholas Stang's terminology, says yes: whether or not something is possible is entirely a function of the logical relations between the predicates contained in its concept. So if the concept contains a (hidden or explicit) contradiction, then unicorns are impossible. Conversely, if there is no contradiction...  

More HERE.

Allen W. Wood, Fichte's Ethical Thought, Oxford University Press, 2016, 321 pp., $60.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198766889.

Reviewed by Michael Baur, Fordham University

This is the third of three books Allen Wood has written on ethical thought in the tradition of German Idealism. The other two -- Hegel's Ethical Thought (1990) and Kant's Ethical Thought (1999) -- focus on two thinkers often understood to represent the starting-point and the ending-point of German Idealism. Wood's aim in this third book is to show that Fichte is not just one more philosopher among others in a neatly-defined tradition known as German Idealism, and, more emphatically, that Fichte's thought cannot be adequately understood if it is characterized merely as a way station on a philosophical path that leads more-or-less directly from Kant to Hegel. By the end, Wood has told us enough to make genuinely serious...

More HERE.

David James and Günter Zöller (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Fichte, Cambridge University Press, 2016, 419 pp., $110.00 (hbk.), ISBN 9780521472265.

Reviewed by Angelica Nuzzo, Graduate Center, City University of New York

As in all "companion" volumes -- a genre that has become increasingly popular in recent years -- this book offers an overarching account of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's philosophy that addresses the historical context, the main systematic issues, and the different disciplinary fields of his thought, and also gives an overview of its successive reception (from the contemporary debate in Fichte's own time to today's reception in the philosophy of mind). Such an overarching account is particularly important and useful in the case of a philosopher who never published an organized "system," as his contemporary Hegel did, or whose philosophy does not seem to have followed a clearly outlined progressive development, such as Kant's critical thought. In addition, given the historical position that Fichte occupies...

More HERE.

Frederick C. Beiser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2008, 518pp., $32.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780521539388.

Reviewed by Robert M. Wallace,

Fred Beiser has edited a successor volume to the original Cambridge Companion to Hegel (1993). The contributions are all brand new, and many of them explore areas in Hegel that were treated poorly or not at all in the original Companion, including Hegel's philosophy of religion, his philosophy of nature (the subject of three first-rate essays here), his aesthetics (two essays), and his relation to hermeneutics and to mysticism. The title is quite misleading; the book deals only with Hegel and his immediate predecessors and contemporaries. As with many Cambridge Companions, the book isn't really designed for beginners. For students who have some relevant background, and for scholars, the book is a very high quality collection covering quite a lot of what a comprehensive volume on Hegel should cover. It omits only a couple of what I take to be key topics, which I'll touch on below.

More HERE.