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German Idealism as Constructivism

German Idealism as Constructivism is the culmination of many years of research by distinguished philosopher Tom Rockmore—it is his definitive statement on the debate about German idealism between proponents of representationalism and those of constructivism that still plagues our grasp of the history of German idealism and the whole epistemological project today. Rockmore argues that German idealism—which includes iconic thinkers such as Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel—can best be understood as a constructivist project, one that asserts that we cannot know the mind-independent world as it is but only our own mental construction of it.

Since ancient Greece philosophers have tried to know the world in itself, an effort that Kant believed had failed. His alternative strategy—which came to be known as the Copernican revolution—was that the world as we experience and know it depends on the mind. Rockmore shows that this project was central to Kant’s critical philosophy and the later German idealists who would follow him. He traces the different ways philosophers like Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel formulated their own versions of constructivism. Offering a sweeping but deeply attuned analysis of a crucial part of the legacy of German idealism, Rockmore reinvigorates this school of philosophy and opens up promising new avenues for its study.

Author Information

Tom Rockmore is the Distinguished Humanities Chair Professor and professor of philosophy in the Institute of Foreign Philosophy at the Peking University and was formerly a McAnulty College Distinguished Professor at Duquesne University. He is the author of numerous books, including Kant and Phenomenology and Art and Truth after Plato, both published by the University of Chicago Press.


“An extremely well-documented, highly valuable, and very intelligent account and analysis of the problem of knowledge in German idealism from Kant to Hegel. While the epistemological effort of German idealists has increasingly attracted attention in recent years, this is the first thorough effort to understand the German idealist approach to the problem of knowledge as cognitive constructivism. This is a highly original and well-argued interpretation.”—
— Marina F. Bykova, North Carolina State University

“I recommend this book very strongly. Rockmore simultaneously fills multiple needs in current philosophical debates about German idealism, advancing new readings of the authors he discusses—from Kant to Fichte to Hegel—as well as a new way of reading constructivism as a whole. The effect is a new vision of German idealism, one of the most important moments in the history of philosophy.”
— Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel, University of Ottawa

Audience: Professional and scholarly;