The French Revolution and the New School of Europe: Towards a Political Interpretation of German Idealism



Abstract: In this paper I consider the significant but generally overlooked role that the French Revolution played in the development of German Idealism. Specifically, I argue that Reinhold and Fichte's engagement in revolutionary political debates directly shaped their interpretation of Kant's philosophy, leading them (a) to overlook his reliance upon common sense, (b) to misconstrue his conception of the relationship between philosophical theory and received cognitive practice, (c) to fail to appreciate the fundamentally regressive nature of his transcendental argumentative strategy, and, ultimately, (d) to seek to deduce his philosophy from a single first-principle, one grounded in the immediate awareness of the subject's mental life.