NDPR Review: Brandom’s Reason in Philosophy

We wanted to let you know that NDPR has just published a review — written by Mark Okrent (Bates College) — of Robert Brandom’s Reason in Philosophy: Animating Ideas (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009). To access the NDPR review, please click here. To visit HUP’s webpage for the book, please click here.

Here, first, is the press’ description of the book, followed by the first paragraph of Okrent’s review:

Transcendentalism never came to an end in America. It just went underground for a stretch, but is back in full force in Robert Brandom’s new book. Brandom takes up Kant and Hegel and explores their contemporary significance as if little time had expired since intellectuals gathered around Emerson in Concord to discuss reason and idealism, selves, freedom, and community. Brandom’s discussion belongs to a venerable tradition that distinguishes us as rational animals, and philosophy by its concern to understand, articulate, and explain the notion of reason that is thereby cast in that crucial demarcating role.

An emphasis on our capacity to reason, rather than merely to represent, has been growing in philosophy over the last thirty years, and Robert Brandom has been at the center of this development. Reason in Philosophy is the first book that gives a succinct overview of his understanding of the role of reason as the structure at once of our minds and our meanings—what constitutes us as free, responsible agents. The job of philosophy is to introduce concepts and develop expressive tools for expanding our self-consciousness as sapients: explicit awareness of our discursive activity of thinking and acting, in the sciences, politics, and the arts. This is a paradigmatic work of contemporary philosophy.

Here is the opening of Okrent’s review:

Right at the beginning of his exciting new collection of essays, Reason in Philosophy, Robert Brandom announces his allegiance to his own distinctive brand of rationalism: “This book belongs to a venerable tradition that distinguishes us as rational animals, and philosophy by its concern to understand, articulate, and explain the notion of reason that is thereby cast in that crucial demarcating role.”(p 1) That is, according to Brandom we are distinguished from other animals by being rational, and the differentia of philosophy as a discipline is that it attempts to comprehend what it is to be rational and to act for reasons in this differentiating way. In the remainder of this remarkably clear and concise collection Prof. Brandom practices philosophy in just this sense. In the various essays Brandom approaches the key notions of rationality, reasons, having a reason, and acting for a reason from a number of different historical and systematic perspectives and tries to articulate and to apply these notions, so articulated, in a variety of different ways. In the process of carrying out these investigations, Brandom also provides us with the most accessible extant introduction to his complex systematic philosophy.

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