Reason and Experience in Mendelssohn and Kant

ISBN : 9780198850335

Paul Guyer
368 ページ
153 x 234 mm

Reason and Experience in Mendelssohn and Kant provides the first in-depth examination of the lifelong intellectual relationship between two of the greatest figures of the European Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786). Both were engaged in a common project of striking the right balance between rationalism and empiricism. They sometimes borrowed from one another, often disagreed with one another, and can usefully be compared even when they did not directly interact. Guyer examines a series of comparisons and contrasts: their arguments and conclusions on a range of metaphysical issues, including proofs of the existence of God, immortality, and idealism; their shared interests in aesthetics; and their path-breaking work on the "religion of reason" and the separation of church and state. Setting the work of both philosophers in historical context, Guyer shows that, where Kant sometimes provides deeper insight into the underlying structure of human thought, Mendelssohn is often the deeper student of the variety of human experience. This is evident above all in their treatments of aesthetics and religion: Mendelssohn recognizes more deeply than Kant the emotional impact of art, and while Kant imagines that organized religion will one day be superseded by pure morality, Mendelssohn argued that organized religion in all its varieties seems here to stay, and so toleration for religious variety is an inescapable requirement of human morality. Based on an exhaustive study of a wide range of texts, this study demonstrates the on-going relevance of Kant and Mendelssohn to modern thought.


1 Prologue: The Two Prize Essays
Part I: Metaphysics and Epistemology
2 Mendelssohn, Kant, and Proofs of the Existence of God in Kant's Pre-critical Period
3 Proofs of the Existence of God in the Critique of Pure Reason and Morning Hours
4 Mendelssohn and Kant on the Immortality of the Soul
5 Mendelssohn, Kant, and the Refutation of Idealism
Part II: Aesthetics
6 Mendelssohn's Aesthetics
7 Kant's Aesthetics
8 Mendelssohn's and Kant's Aesthetics Compared
Part III: Religion, Politics, and History
9 Mendelssohn, Kant, and Enlightenment
10 Mendelssohn and Kant on Religious Liberty
11 Judaism, Christianity, and the Religion of Pure Reason
12 Mendelssohn, Kant, and the Possibility of Progress


Paul Guyer is Jonathan Nelson Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at Brown University. He received his AB and PhD from Harvard University.
Prior to moving to Brown in 2012, he taught for thirty years at the University of Pennsylvania.
He is the author, editor, and/or translator of twenty-seven books, many on the philosophy of Kant. He was the General Co-Editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Guyer has been president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association and the American Society of Aesthetics. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.