Thursday, October 08, 2009

Robert Brandom on "Reason in Philosophy"

Reason in Philosophy

Robert B. Brandom

(Harvard University Press, 2009)

248 pages


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.


1. Norms, Selves, and Concepts
2. Autonomy, Community, and Freedom
3. History, Reason, and Reality
4. Reason, Expression, and the Philosophic Enterprise
5. Philosophy and the Expressive Freedom of Thought
6. Why Truth Is Not Important in Philosophy
7. Three Problems with the Empiricist Conception of Concepts
8. How Analytic Philosophy Has Failed Cognitive Science

The first three chapters are identical to Brandom's Woodridge Lectures 2007: "Animating Ideas of Idealism: A Semantic Sonata in Kant and Hegel". They are available here as texts and video.

Review by Arto Laitinen in

Review by Nicholas Smith in "The Philosopher's Magazine".

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