Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 15, No. 1, Spring 2020


The Analytic Method, the Synthetic Method, and the Idea of Philosophy: Kant on How to Read Kant
Courtney Morris | West Point

In several passages, Kant addresses how a reader might approach his texts for maximal understanding of his philosophical system. In each, Kant connects the text with the "analytic" or "synthetic" method. Thus, it seems that understanding such methods promises to illuminate how to understand Kant. Unfortunately, Kant makes confusing claims about the methods, including his claim that the Critique of Pure Reason is synthetic, which seems to contradict his claim that philosophy cannot proceed synthetically. It does not help that Kant, along with his predecessors, distinguishes the methods in a wide variety of ways. Furthermore, it is not clear what the synthetic or analytic method has to do with those more often associated with Kant, like the critical or transcendental methods. Here, I examine Kant's various senses of the distinction between the analytic and synthetic methods to explain Kant's various comments about his texts. More importantly, I show that the second half of the Critique of Pure Reason called the Methodenlehre (the "Doctrine of Method") is considerably more important than traditionally understood. Indeed, it points to the crucial upshot of Kant's critical project: that it calls for a significant rethinking of the way we philosophize.

Keywords: Kant's experimental method; Doctrine of Method; synthetic method; analytic method; critical method; transcendental arguments; scholastic idea of philosophy; cosmopolitan idea of philosophy.

Dynamic Structuralism and the Parallax View
Pierre Keller | University of California, Riverside


Keywords: tba.

Two Standpoints on Willpower
Eugene Chislenko | Temple University


Keywords: tba.

Aesthetic Normativity in Jonas Cohn and Kant
Robert R. Clewis | Gwynedd Mercy University

I compare and contrast the accounts of aesthetic normativity found in Kant and Jonas Cohn (1869–1947), a member of the Southwestern school of neo-Kantianism. I discuss Kant's views of aesthetic normativity, arguing that Kant offers several views and that they developed in three main stages. In the second section, I show that in Allgemeine Ästhetik (1901) Cohn appropriates key ideas from Kant but also diverges from Kant’s account in significant ways. Finally, I note some of the strengths and weaknesses of Cohn's grounding of aesthetic normativity.

Keywords: tba.

Responsibility and the Unity of Self
Adam J. Graves | Metropolitan State University of Denver


Keywords: tba.

Moral Stewardship: The Grounds of Moral Community and their Upkeep
Meica Danielle Magnani | Harvard University

The failure to see other human beings as equal members of one’s own moral community sits at the root of some of history’s most heinous moral atrocities. It also operates in the background of oppressive, discriminatory, and otherwise unjust practices. If we, as individuals, play a role in upholding the ways in which our shared practices reflect or fail to reflect the moral equality of persons, then it seems we have a serious moral stake in and responsibility for their upkeep. In this talk, I employ a Kantian framework to look at how rational agency interfaces with the normative structure of our shared practices. From Kantian grounds, I argue that this relationship generates a distinctive set of duties that we have to maintain the normative grounds of moral community as exhibited in our world of practice. I call these duties of moral stewardship. Making this case requires a slight reframing of Kantian ethics, one that emphasizes and develops underappreciated resources in Kantian theory. While the main aim, then, is to introduce the notion of moral stewardship, an additional feature of the paper is to illustrate the social potential of Kantian moral theory.

Keywords: tba.

Kantian Responsibility and the Self
Fritz J. McDonald | Oakland University

Philosophers have discussed the notion of the self or person in a variety of contexts, considering when an individual is capable of responsibility, that is, is a moral agent, or whether an individual is the sort of being who, morally, cannot be treated in certain kinds of ways, that is, is a moral patient. Reviewing conceptions of personhood and selfhood, I contend that there is no one sense of these notions that captures the relevant uses of these terms. Moral philosophers, including Kantians, should consider personhood, and, by extension, moral agency and moral patiency, not as a precisely delineated concept capable of definition in terms of obvious necessary and sufficient conditions, but rather as a Wittgensteinian family resemblance concept. To treat personhood in this way suggests that the conditions of responsibility must be understood in a nuanced fashion. Judgments of responsibility require insight into circumstances, not precise definitions.

Keywords: Frankfurt, Harry; Kant, Immanuel; person; self; responsibility; agency; ethics; freedom of the will.

Werner Herzog
Richard Eldridge | Swarthmore College


Keywords: tba.

The Screening and Screenable Animal
Francey Russell | Barnard College

In this response I discuss two broad sets of issues in response to Richard Eldridge’s Werner Herzog: Filmmaker and Philosopher. The first concerns the ontological continuity linking screened world and real world, and the depth of human beings’ relationships with screens and screened images. We see the screened world as continuous with our own world, and can also come to experience the real cinematically. The second critically assesses Eldridge’s claim that Herzog’s films are primarily interested in the human quest for an authentic life. I use Eldridge’s own idea of Herzog’s formal stylization to suggest that such stylization guides our reflection to dimensions of human life that do not have to do with humanist questions of authenticity and deep selfhood, but rather have to do with the aesthetic and formal dimensions of life, in such a way that puts human beings and the human body on equally formal footing with all other natural and material objects.

Keywords: Cavell, Stanley; film-philosophy; ontology; self-knowledge; authenticity; form.

Eldridge on Herzog: A Late Romantic?
John M. Baker Jr | The University of the Arts, Philadelphia

Setting forth the sources and critical presuppositions underpinning Richard Eldridge's Werner Herzog: Filmmaker and Philosopher, this essay seeks to show how Eldridge's approach establishes the philosophical pertinence of Herzog's style and themes while also raising instructive questions about their scope and meaning. The essay singles out Eldridge's use of Wordsworth and Benjamin as aesthetic and philosophic precedents for Herzog's style while also laying out Eldridge's broader understanding of the relevance of a post-Romantic aesthetic, both to the films and the larger themes the films engage. The essay raises critical questions about the mediation of a post-Romantic aesthetic to the interpretation of Herzog's films and about the implied enlistment of the films as models for a critique of late modern culture.

Keywords: Wordsworth, William; Benjamin, Walter; Taylor, Charles; Lyotard, Jean-François; the sublime; temporality; ecstatic truth; history; Romanticism; epiphany.

Richard Eldridge's Werner Herzog
Alexander W. Stern | University of Notre Dame


Keywords: tba.

Some Risks May Be Necessary
Bradley Prager | University of Missouri

In this essay Brad Prager offers an assessment of Richard Eldridge's study Werner Herzog: Filmmaker and Philosopher. Because Werner Herzog's body of work includes a substantial amount of self-citation, Prager reflects on the extent to which Eldridge and others should permit the entirety of the oeuvre and/ or Herzog's extensive catalogue of self-referential remarks to determine their interpretations of particular works. Prager contends that approaches that foreground the whole body of work tend to hinder the analysis of individual films. Prager also examines the connections Eldridge draws between Herzog and Martin Heidegger, asking whether such interpretations are not required to reflect critically on Heidegger’s neo-Romantic regressions. Prager proposes adopting a wider view, one that looks beyond Heideggerianism, drawing real material and cultural conditions into consideration..

Keywords: Eldridge, Richard; Herzog, Werner; Heidegger, Martin; German film; film authorship; intentional fallacy; self-reference; neo-Romantic regression.

Commentary and Review
Verena Kick | Georgetown University


Keywords: tba.

Hegel’s Phenomenology
Robert B. Brandom | University of Pittsburgh


Keywords: tba.

Hegel, Brandom, and Semantic Descent
Mark Alznauer | Northwestern University

In A Spirit of Trust, Robert Brandom claims that the central problem of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit is specifying the conditions under which ordinary concepts have conceptual content.  This reading depends on an interpretative strategy that he calls semantic descent, a strategy that involves treating specifically philosophical concepts as expressing key features of the way we use ordinary concepts.  In this essay, I look at three alternative accounts of the relationship between ordinary and philosophical concepts in Hegel.

Keywords: German Idealism; conceptual content; concepts; inferentialism; holism.

Robert Brandom's Conceptual Realism and Hegel's Bacchanalian Revel
Pierre Keller | University of California, Riverside


Keywords: tba.

Desire, Recognition, and Freedom in Brandom, A Spirit of Trust
John Russon | University of Guelph, Canada

The core of Robert Brandom’s interpretation of Hegel in A Spirit of Trust is his detailed analysis of Hegel’s dialectic of “recognition,” (Anerkennung).  I argue that Brandom has done an effective job of demonstrating the compelling character of Hegel’s argument here.  I criticize Brandom’s larger interpretation of Hegel, however, for its failure to recognize the distinctive nature of what Hegel calls “the Freedom of Self-Consciousness.”  This, I argue, is closely aligned with the distinctive nature of reason (Vernunft), which is central to the experience of agency, but the weight of which is under-appreciated in Brandom’s account..

Keywords: Hegel, G. W. F.; Kant, Immanuel; Phenomenology of Spirit; self-consciousness; reason.

Comment on A Spirit of Trust
Sebastian Stein | University of Heidelberg, Germany

Robert Brandom's interpretation of Hegel’s project in the Phenomenology is grounded in the notion of self-consciousness. This contradicts Hegel’s claims about the self-undermining and relativistic character of his idealist predecessors' self-consciousness-based philosophies and his claims about the supremacy of Geist. According to Hegel, only Geist's free causality appropriately frames the relationship between universal and particular and is thus able to explain successful cognition, recognition and the necessity of philosophical statements.

Keywords: Brandom, Robert; Hegel, G. W. F.; cognition; recognition; freedom; Geist.

"Was It For This?": Brandom, Wordsworth, and the French Revolution
Andrew Cutrofello | Loyola University of Chicago

In this paper I compare Robert Brandom and Slavoj Žižek’s interpretations of Hegel. I do so directly, in terms of what they say about Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, and indirectly, in terms of what they say about Wordsworth’s Prelude. I begin by examining the different ways in which Hegel and Wordsworth responded to the French Revolution. Next, I assess Žižek’s claim that Brandom fails to account for Hegel’s conception of absolute freedom as revolutionary terror. I conclude that Brandom and Žižek’s disagreement about what it would mean, for Hegel, to successfully confess and forgive the Terror amounts to a restaging of the Phenomenology’s dialectic of confession and forgiveness.

Keywords: Absolute Idealism; Absolute Freedom; Hegel, G. W. F.; Wordsworth, William; French Revolution.


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