Joe's Reviews > The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Importance. Three Volumes Bound as One

The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Impor... by Frederick Albert Lange
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's review
Jul 12, 2011

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bookshelves: reviewed, history-of-philosophy, modern-philosophy, out-of-print, neo-kantianism

Reviewed 2/18/2007

A Note on Lange, Nietzsche, Neo-Kantianism, and this edition

First, let me start out by admitting that I bought this book in order to further my studies of the development of Nietzsche's thought. Lange (like Kuno Fischer and, of course, Schopenhauer) was one of the main sources of Nietzsche's (ahem) Kantianism. This book is the third edition (1950) of the translation by Ernest Chester Thomas. This translation, of the second edition of Lange's magnum opus, was originally published in three books; 1877, 1890, 1892. These three books translated by Thomas, here bound in 1 volume, also includes an Introduction by Bertrand Russell. None of this was particularly important to me. What is important to me is that the original German edition by Lange was in 1865. It is this 1865 edition that the young Nietzsche was most familiar with, not this one. Thomas calls Lange's second edition (i.e., the book which is here translated) a 'substantially new work'. Lange himself, in his preface to the second edition, amazingly refers to the form of the original edition as "extemporized'' and adds; "Many defects incident to this mode of origin have been removed; but on the other hand, some of the merits of the first edition may have at the same time disappeared." But lest one think that it was only form, not content, that was changed, I should point out that in a note at the beginning of the 'Kant and Materialism' chapter Lange writes that the "changes made since the first edition are due to a renewed examination of the whole Kantian system, occasioned chiefly by Doctor [Hermann] Cohen." I mention this last only to show that it is not merely form that has changed with the second edition. Thomas ends his short preface thusly: "no doubt it is a polemic; but it is, at the same time, raised far above the level of ordinary controversial writing by its thoroughness, its comprehensiveness, and its impartiality." But we must still keep in mind that this is not the book that the young Nietzsche read in his formative years...

However, if you are interested in the early development of Neo-Kantianism this is a splendid book to have. Also, I want to mention for the beginning student of neo-Kantianism the following little read books:

Kuno Fischer: A Commentary on Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"
Afrikan Spir: Right and Wrong
Jules de Gaultier: From Kant to Nietzsche
Hans Vaihinger: The Philosophy of As If

Obviously, one must read Schopenhauer too! Unfortunately, I do not believe any of the books I just listed are currently in print. But the Gaultier book seems to be readily available used. I should also mention that the Gaultier and Vaihinger books represent post-Nietzschean developments but I include them because they nicely expose a trajectory of neo-Kantian thought that ends in postmodernism. Also, I should mention that much of Spir has yet to be translated at all. I've seen Michael Steven Green, in "Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition", discusses Spir at length.

This book by Lange was very important in its time, especially in Germany, as part of the sophisticated attempt to have both modern science and a culture devoid of the 'soul-ravaging' dangers of materialism. The somewhat confusing contents of this translation (of the second edition of Lange's book) are as follows:

Introduction: Materialism, Past and Present; pp. v-xix;
Translator's Preface; pp. xxi-xxii;
Frederick Albert Lange: Biographical Notes; pp. xxiii-xxviii;
Author's Preface to the Second [and later] Editions; pp. xxix-xxx;


FIRST SECTION: Materialism in Antiquity
Chapter I: The Early Atomists: Especially Demokritos; pp. 1-36;
Chapter II: The Sensationalism of the Sophists, and Aristippo's Ethical Materialism; pp. 37-51;
Chapter III: The Reaction against Materialism and Sensationalism: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle; pp. 52-92;
Chapter IV: Materialism in Greece and Rome after Aristotle: Epikuros; pp. 93-125;
Chapter V: The Didactic Poem of Lucretius upon Nature; pp. 126-158;

SECOND SECTION: The Period of Transition
Chapter I: The Monotheistic Religions in their Relation to Materialism; pp. 161-186;
Chapter II: Scholasticism, and the Predominance of the Aristotelian Notions of Matter and Form; pp. 187-214;
Chapter III: The Return of Materialistic Theories with the Regeneration of the Sciences; pp. 215-249;

THIRD SECTION: Seventeenth Century Materialism
Chapter I: Gassendi; pp. 253-269;
Chapter II: Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; pp. 270-290;
Chapter III: The Later Workings of Materialism in England; pp. 291-330;

FIRST BOOK (Continued)

FOURTH SECTION: The Eighteenth Century
Chapter I: The Influence of English Materialism in France and Germany; pp. 3-48;
Chapter II: De La Mettrie; pp. 49-91;
Chapter III: The System of Nature; pp. 92-123;
Chapter IV: The Reaction against Materialism in Germany; pp. 124-150;


FIRST SECTION: Modern Philosophy
Chapter I: Kant and Materialism; pp. 153-234;
Chapter II: Philosophical Materialism since Kant; pp. 235-294;

SECOND SECTION: The Natural Sciences
Chapter I: Materialism and Exact Research; pp. 297-350;
Chapter II: Force and Matter; pp. 351-397;

SECOND BOOK (Continued)

Chapter III: The Scientific Cosmogony; pp. 3-25;
Chapter IV: Darwinism and Teleology; pp. 26-80;

THIRD SECTION: THe Natural Sciences Continued; Man and the Soul
Chapter I: The Relation of Man to the Animal World; pp. 83-110;
Chapter II: Brain and Soul; pp. 111-161;
Chapter III: Scientific Psychology; pp. 162-201;
Chapter IV: Physiology of the Sense-Organs and the World as Representation; pp. 202-230;

FOURTH SECTION: Ethical Materialism and Religion
Chapter I: Political Economy and Dogmatic Egoism; pp. 233-268;
Chapter II: Christianity and Enlightenment; pp. 269- 291;
Chapter III: Theoretical Materialism in its Relation to Ethical Materialism and to Religion; pp. 292-334;
Chapter IV: The Standpoint of the Ideal; pp. 335-362;

Preface to the Second Book [as Postscript]; pp. 363-365;
Index; pp. 367-376;

As you can see, the English translation originally broke the two books of the second German edition into three volumes; this fact is reflected in the pagination of this single volume third edition of the translation. This single volume edition thus has something over 1100 pages. The Preface to the Second Book ends on a note of hope, ten months after writing it Lange was dead...

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