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A Kantian responds to Santayana

A Kantian responds to Santayana

Dr. Samuel J.M. Kahn


In this paper, I have argued that whatever might be said about his attack on other German philosophers, Santayana’s attack on Kant, despite its subtlety, its force and its intelligence, is fundamentally misguided. Teasing out where Santayana’s attack rests on misunderstandings of Kant’s philosophy is a useful exercise: it is useful for Kantians, for it gives us a chance to show Kant at his best; it is useful for Santayana scholars, for it reminds us that Santayana, for all his brilliance, was not infallible; and it is useful more generally, for the mistakes Santayana makes about Kant are, perhaps in part because of Santayana’s well-deservedly wide influence, still prevalent today. 


Kant; Santayana; The German Mind: a philosophical diagnosis; German philosophy

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All Santayana quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the 1968 Apollo edition of The German Mind: a philosophical diagnosis, originally published in 1916 under the title Egotism in German Philosophy. All citations give page number followed by the number of the paragraph on the page from which the quotation is taken.

Ibidem, xivp3.

Ibidem, 169p1.

Ibidem, 169p1-170p1.

Ibidem, 42p2.

Ibidem, 40p1.

Citations to Kant will be to the Akademie Ausgabe by volume and page, except for the Critique of Pure Reason where citations will use the standard A/B edition pagination. English quotations will be, unless otherwise indicated, from the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, general editors Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (Cambridge, 1992-).

Ibidem, 57p1.

GMS, AA 04:398.

More can and needs to be said here, but I cannot do so now.

Cf. 62p2: “He was personally as kind as the Vicar of Wakefield (whose goodness he denied because it was natural)...”

GMS, AA 04:399.

GMS, AA 04:400-402.

MdS, AA 06:399.

MdS, AA 06:401-403.

RGV AA, 06:58n.

MdS, AA 06:451. Cf. MdS, AA 06:393. For the derivation of a similar duty in the Critique of Practical Reason, see KpV, AA 05:34-35.

Ibidem, 58p1.

Here I am relying on 318p1-2 of Kuehn’s excellent 2001 biography of Kant.

Ibidem, 62p1.

See esp. ibidem, 176p2-177p2.


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