Paul Rusnock
University of Ottawa
The impressive volume before us started out as an attempt to write “the history of epistemology since Kant, the way Carnap would have written it had he been Hegel.” Coffa began his project in 1981 while a fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science in Pittsburgh and had finished a “good penultimate draft” when he suddenly died, after a brief illness, on 30 Dec., 1984. The title alludes to Edmund Wilson’s classic study of revolutionary ideology, To the Finland Station. This is no accident and would be presumptuous in a lesser work. The two studies cover roughly the same period, from the late eighteenth century to the first part of the present one, and they are both sparkling narratives that boldly project a large picture and then fill it in with canny detail. Coffa begins with Kant, the villain of the piece, and ends with a group of thinkers “in the neighborhood of Vienna” who came to terms with the restrictive framework they had inherited from Kant, finally overcoming it in favor of a new philosophy in which meaning, rather than mind, played the central role.
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DOI 10.2307/2108536
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