NDPR Review: Essays on Kant’s Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim


NDPR has published a review, written by Michael Allen (Philosophy, East Tennessee State University), of the new Cambridge Critical Guide to Kant’s Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim. Kant’s essay is newly translated by Allen Wood and the volume was edited by Amelie Rorty and James Schmidt. To access the NDPR review, click here. To access the publisher’s webpage for the book, click here.

Here is the table of contents for the volume:

  • Introduction: history as philosophy – Amélie Oksenberg Rorty and James Schmidt
  • Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim – Immanuel Kant (translated by Allen Wood)
  • 1 Teleology and history in Kant: the critical foundations of Kant’s philosophy of history – Henry E. Allison
  • 2 The purposive development of human capacities – Karl Ameriks
  • 3 Reason as a species characteristic – Manfred Kuehn
  • 4 Good out of evil: Kant and the idea of unsocial sociability – J. B. Schneewind
  • 5 Kant’s Fourth Proposition: the unsociable sociability of human nature – Allen Wood
  • 6 The crooked timber of mankind – Paul Guyer
  • 7 A habitat for humanity – Barbara Herman
  • 8 Kant’s changing cosmopolitanism – Pauline Kleingeld
  • 9 The hidden plan of nature – Eckart Förster
  • 10 Providence as progress: Kant’s variations on a tale of origins – Genevieve Lloyd
  • 11 Norms, facts, and the philosophy of history – Terry Pinkard
  • 12 Philosophy helps history – Rüdiger Bittner

And here is how the NDPR review begins:

This latest contribution to the Cambridge Critical Guides series consists of a new translation of Kant’s Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim by Allen Wood, along with a total of twelve critical essays by leading Kant scholars. The editors, Amelie Oksenberg Rorty and James Schmidt, have arranged the critical essays to address sequentially each of the propositions offered by Kant in the Idea. The result is an extraordinarily thorough examination of these rather sketchy propositions. Indeed, the essays examine in considerable depth the interrelationships of the propositions with one another, as well as their bearing upon related ideas in the history of philosophy, ranging from natural purposiveness and sociability to providence and the emergence of the cosmopolitan political order. All of the essays are of a high quality, and serve the intended purpose of guiding the reader through an often neglected text of Kant. The careful reader gains a strong appreciation for the importance of the Idea, especially in comparison with Kant’s subsequent essay on Perpetual Peace, which has been much more widely anthologized and commented upon.

In what follows, I first address some of the resources from the history of philosophy upon which Kant draws in developing his telos of history in an enlightened cosmopolitan condition. I then focus on Kant’s appeal to social antagonism as the motive force of moral and institutional progress. Finally, I consider what is unique about the cosmopolitanism developed in the Idea as opposed to Perpetual Peace. While I cannot possibly do justice to the range and diversity of the contributions made in this collection of critical essays, I hope to motivate interest in the efforts of the contributors to reexamine the Idea, as a text of enduring philosophical importance.

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