DISCOVERING THE MIND: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel by Walter Kaufmann

DISCOVERING THE MIND: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Princeton philosophy professor Kaufmann, noting the disparity between the accomplishments of the natural sciences and those of the humanities, has launched a three-volume effort to see where the practitioners of the ""human sciences"" went wrong. In this first volume Kaufmann, author of books on Hegel and Nietzsche and translator of Goethe's Faust, is on familiar ground; and readers of his previous works will not be surprised to see Goethe emerge as the hero of the saga. In Kaufmann's view, the human sciences went astray very early. In Goethe, he finds the first sustained effort at uncovering the specificity of the human mind--an effort closely tied to aesthetics in which the emphasis fell on a concept of ""autonomy"" stressing the uniqueness of the individual personality, and on a developmental framework in which the individual mind matures via action and experience. With Kant, however, Goethe's first groping achievement was sidetracked. Kant, in Kaufmann's not unreasonable view, started all the trouble by trying to approach the mind as Newton had approached nature; that is, by looking for laws with mathematical precision. Kant's treatment of the mind emphasized a priori characteristics, assumed all minds to be the same--taking his own remarkable mind as a mistaken archetype--and developed a notion of autonomy very different from Goethe's in which autonomy is achieved only in accord with universal laws. In trying to be the Newton of the mind, Kant made a fateful mistake which, to Kaufmann, is the root of the impasse into which the human sciences have led. In his discussion of Hegel, Kaufmann maintains over-schematically that Hegel tried to reconcile the views of Goethe and Kant--but without success, as they are irreconcilable. Still, Kaufmann's argument that Goethe's approach is the only one which could lead to an authentic human science remains lightly drawn; it amounts to not much more than simple assertion coupled with the demonstration that Kant's system is confused and inadequate. Future volumes will deal with Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Buber, Freud, Jung, and Adler, which demonstrates Kaufmann's German orientation. Though pontifical at points, Kaufmann's first entry is accessible to general readers--however likely it is to cause consternation to specialists.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: McGraw-Hill