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Deepening divisions separate today's philosophers, first, from the culture at large; then, from each other; and finally, from philosophy itself. Though these divisions tend to coalesce publicly as debates over the Enlightenment, their roots lie much deeper. Overcoming them thus requires a confrontation with the whole of Western philosophy. Only when we uncover the strange heritage of Aristotle's metaphysics, as reworked, for example, by Descartes and Kant, can we understand contemporary philosophy's inability to dialogue with women, people of color, LGBTs, and other minority groups. Only when we have understood that inability can we see how the thought of Hegel and Heidegger contains the seeds of a remedy. And only when armed with such a remedy can philosophy rise to the challenges posed by thinkers such as David Foster Wallace and Abraham Lincoln. The book's interpretations of these figures and others past and present are as scrupulous as its conclusions will be controversial. The result contributes to the most important question confronting us today: does reason itself have a future?
Hegels critique of Kant was a turning point in the history of philosophy: for the first time, the concrete, situated, and in certain senses "naturalistic" style pioneered by Hegel confronted the thin, universalistic, and argumentatively purified style of philosophy that had found its most rigorous expression in Kant. The controversy has hardly died away: it virtually haunts contemporary philosophy from epistemology to ethical theory. Yet if this book is right, the full import of Hegels critique of Kant has not been understood. Working from Hegels mature texts (after 1807) and reading them in light of an overall interpretation of Hegels project as a linguistic, "definitional" system, the book offers major reinterpretations of Hegels views: The Kantian thing-in-itself is not denied but relocated as a temporal aspect of our experience. Hegels linguistic idealism is understood in terms of his realistic view of sensation. Instead of claiming that Kants categorical imperative is too empty to provide concrete moral guidance, Hegel praises its emptiness as the foundation for a diverse society.
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