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There are very few countries that can boast of an intellectual tradition that is as impressive as that of Germany. This is particularly true of the "hard" sciences and philosophy. In fact, when it comes to philosophy, it could be argued that for a couple of centuries Germany was a philosophical "superpower." The time period that is roughly spanned by Kant on one side and Heidegger on the other saw the emergence of several giants of philosophical thought. This time period and its greatest philosophers is the subject matter of this very short book, and it does a tremendous job of elucidating some of the most difficult works in all of philosophy.
German philosophy fell out of favor in most of the Western world shortly after World War II. This was in part due to politics, but a shift towards analytical philosophy played a major role as well. In recent decades, however, interest in German philosophy has been rekindled; many of the most significant thinkers are being "rediscovered" and their works discussed in academic circles. In light of this trend, a short primer like this book is a useful introduction to German philosophy for a new generation of readers. The book is aimed at the general readership, and no formal knowledge of German philosophy is assumed. The author does a tremendous job of succinctly and lucidly presenting the most important ideas in German philosophical tradition. This is no small feat as some of the works discussed include the most notoriously difficult works of philosophy ever written: Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason," Hegel's "The Phenomenology of Spirit," and Heidegger's "Being and Time." To fully appreciate this book, however, it would be useful for the reader to be at least familiar with some philosophical questions and themes.Read more ›
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I felt compelled to write about this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes a very pleasant reading, but most importantly, it makes you want to read more about the subject, which, let's face it, is essential. That's not to say that if you have in fact a good background reading on the topic you're not in for a good surprise. I, for one, loved to see several pieces finally fall into place, for which I'll feel eternally indebted to Doctor Bowie. Many thanks and please keep on writing!
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After spending a few years on Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Marx, Hegel, and the confusion that can be caused by trying to figure out Kant as a German influenced by Swedenborg when the Germans and Swedes considered Swedenborg heretical, I thought I understood how Fichte got into the kind of trouble that is mentioned in:
German Philosophy, A Very Short Introduction (2010) by Andrew Bowie.
With such a large cast, it is not surprising that a book presents the topic like a play. Aristotle thought a tragedy was great drama if it had unity. To think of philosophy as a topic that keeps running into circular thinking whenever some idea is more appealing than reality allows the author to have his fun. The book mentions an absolute, but it does not have a section called:
The return of tragedy
until Chapter 6, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and the death of God.
The `excess' of the world over our knowledge leads to tragic situations, in which the kinship order is overridden, leading to incest, matricide, fratricide, and so on. It is a small step from this `excess' to Freud's theory of the unconscious, which was influenced by Schopenhauer. (p. 71).
Trying to explain Marx at this late date in history is like stumbling upon an attempt to explain money as an ideology:
Money abstracts from the concrete things which it enables people to exchange, in a manner analogous to the way a word designating something abstracts from the particularity of a thing to make it an instance of a concept.Read more ›