From German Idealism to American Pragmatism—and Back

Developments over the past four decades have secured Immanuel Kant’s status as being for contemporary philosophers what the sea was for Swinburne: the great, gray mother of us all. And Kant mattered as much for the classical American pragmatists as he does for us today. But we look back at that sepia-toned age across an extended period during which Anglophone philosophy largely wrote Kant out of its canon. The founding ideology of Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, articulating the rationale and fighting faith for the rising tide of analytic philosophy, was forged in a recoil from the perceived defects of a British idealism inspired by Hegel. Mindful of the massive debt evidently and self-avowedly owed by Hegel to Kant, and putting aside neo-Kantian <span class='Hi'>readings</span> of Kant as an empiricist philosopher of science that cast him in a light they would have found more favorable, Russell and Moore diagnosed the idealist rot as having set in already with Kant. For them, and for many of their followers down through the years, the progressive current in philosophy should be seen to have run directly from Locke, Leibniz, and Hume, to Mill and Frege, without any dangerous diversion into the oxbow of German idealism.
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