From Publishers Weekly
For opposite reasons, Kant's life (1724-1804) and ideas are equally difficult to expound engagingly: the ideas, because of their philosophical complexity; the life, because of its uneventful simplicity. Acknowledging as much in his prologue to this earnest biographical effort, Kuehn (of Philipps University in Germany) largely succeeds at this daunting, two-fold task. Nonspecialist readers in philosophy will be intrigued by the lesser-known works of Kant summarized here, such as Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, on the mystical theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, or, more relevant to our own copyright-obsessed times, "On the Injustice of Counterfeiting Books." Seasoned students of Kant will appreciate Kuehn's attention to the genesis of Kant's enormously influential critical philosophy in specific events and epiphanies of his life. Most notably, he explains how a foundational tenet of Kantian thought--that sensation and intellect are discontinuous (propounded in defiance of the then commonly received philosophy of Christian Wolff)--originates in a little-known Latin dissertation that Kant publicly defended in 1770, 11 years before the Critique of Pure Reason appeared. Or again, the categorical imperative, which defines Kantian ethics, owes in part, Kuehn suggests, to the influence on Kant of his long-time English friend, Joseph Green, who first lived the kind of principled life for which Kant then laid the theory. Kuehn's descriptions of Kant's richly inclusive social life, witty conversation and elegant dress will delight all who have wrongly identified the sage of Knigsberg with dour dispassion. The biography, however, suffers from repetition, digression and excessive attention to characters of only passing general interest. Still, as the first biography of the great philosopher in more than 50 years, this is a welcome addition to the literature.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
This book bills itself as "the first full-length biography of Kant in over fifty years," but it is more than that. Other biographies are available, after all, including neo-Kantian Ernst Cassirer's classic Kant's Life and Thought. But these dated biographies were written without access to the most recent scholarship, and even the Cassirer book is more of an "intellectual biography," devoting more time to an analysis of the major works than to the minutiae of Kant's life. The present work excels in both regards: the explication of Kant's thought (for example, in the seminal Critique of Pure Reason) is exemplary, and the details of Kant's life, time, and influences is rendered so thoroughly that the reader will finish the book knowing Kant and his thinking intimately. (This is not to say that Kant's thought is not difficult: it is.) Keuhn (philosophy, Philipps Univ., Marburg, Germany) has produced a work of the highest quality. For all academic collections and larger public libraries.DLeon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, DC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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