Philosophy as System:
An Introduction to German Idealism

Instructor: Pete Wolfendale Module: 1 Date & Time: November 19th & December 3rd, 10th & 17th 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM EST

German Idealism has been slandered as that school of thought which ‘ran through the door that Kant only wished to peak through’ thereby appearing as a crude return to dogmatic or pre-critical metaphysics. However, the speculative ambition of the German Idealists was far from opposed to Kant’s critical restraint, but rather, their characteristic systematic impulse was derived as much from Kant’s methodological concerns as his transcendental idealism. The aim of the present course is thus to thoroughly demolish this stubborn caricature of German Idealism. Beginning with the architectonic of Kant’s system, we will show how he and his successors created new forms of systematic philosophy which risked accusations of subjective idealism in order to grasp not only the fundamental structures of thought, but how thinking itself alters, and is embedded in, the world. In addition to providing a historical overview of four major thinkers (Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling) and contextualizing their philosophical contributions, we will aim to connect concepts drawn from their work to contemporary philosophical and extra-philosophical concerns.

The seminar will be composed of four two and a half hour sessions, each of which will be split between a lecture between half an hour and an hour in length and a group discussion covering the remaining time. Readings will be set for each week, and students will be expected to write 400 words on some aspect of the week’s topic in advance. This will be posted to the google classroom page for everyone to read and comment upon as they wish, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussion. The final assessment will consist of a 2500 word essay on a topic agreed upon with the instructor in advance.

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