Cover of The Equivocation of Reason by James Phillips
The Equivocation of Reason
Kleist Reading Kant
James Phillips


160 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804755870
Ebook ISBN: 9780804768269


Excerpts and More

The Equivocation of Reason: Kleist Reading Kant asks how the literary works of the German writer Heinrich von Kleist might be considered a critique and elaboration of Kantian philosophy. In 1801, the twenty-three-year-old Kleist, attributing his loss of confidence in our knowledge of the world to his reading of Kant, turned from science to literature. Kleist ignored Kant's apology of the sciences to focus on the philosopher's doctrine of the unknowability of things in themselves. From that point on, Kleist's writings relate confrontations with points of hermeneutic resistance. Truth is no longer that which the sciences establish; only the disappointment of every interpretation attests to the continued sway of truth. Though he adheres to Kant's definition of Reason as the faculty that addresses things in themselves, Kleist sees no need for its critique and discipline in the name of the reasonableness (prudence and common sense) of the experience of the natural sciences. Setting transcendental Reason at odds with empirical reasonableness, Kleist releases Kant's ethics and doctrine of the sublime from the moderating pull of their examples.

About the author

James Phillips holds an Australian Research Council fellowship in the School of History and Philosophy at the University of New South Wales and is the author of Heidegger's Volk: Between National Socialism and Poetry (Stanford, 2005).