Metacritique from Kant to Koselleck: On the relation between the transcendental and the empirical in modern philosophy and history
Bogaard, F.G.L. van den
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The main ambition of this study is to show that, on a meta-level, history and philosophy in the modern era actually deal with the same fundamental problematic, namely that of the status of the transcendental and the empirical and their interrelation. What it calls metacritique, or ‘critique of critique,’ is this tradition in modern philosophical and historical thought which problematizes the relation between the transcendental and the empirical and consequently seeks to determine a certain distribution of these domains. The thoughts and events whose emergence and development are traced in this study are divided into two main parts. The first of these parts relates the rise of Kantian critique and its creation of the concept pair transcendental-empirical, followed by the response to this problematic in Kant’s contemporaries. The effects of this initial period—1780-1800—are then pursued throughout nineteenth and twentieth century discourses limited to the disciplines of history and philosophy, dominated by key figures such as Ranke, Droysen, Nietzsche and Dilthey. In the second part of the study, the work of Deleuze, Foucault, and Koselleck, three relatively recent examples in which this modern tradition continues, will be explored, in order to bring to light the same tension between the transcendental and the empirical as motivating their respective projects and operating within their writings; a tension, moreover, to which each responded in his own manner. For all these influential scholars, too, Kant is to be considered as both an important historical figure as well as a significant influence upon their own thought and methodologies. Moreover, ‘post-structuralists’ Foucault and Deleuze are typically viewed (by proponents and opponents alike) as eager to move away from all that can be remotely considered ‘transcendental.’ It will be the somewhat polemical task of this study to show that their approaches are in fact far more engaging, nuanced and instructive than has been assumed—by historians in particular. Accordingly, the study will conclude by proposing a new ground for the human sciences through a revitalization of the concept of the transcendental (vis-à-vis the empirical) on the basis of these twentieth century scholars.