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Nathaniel Wooding

Research project: Kant and Clausewitz: A Philosophy of Actuality

Abstract

This research has a two-fold purpose. The first, historical in nature, is to clarify the manner in which Immanuel Kant's thought was transmitted to the military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz. This will involve examining the writings and lectures of J. G. Kiesewetter, who, as one of Kant's favourite students as well as one of Clausewitz's teachers, acts as a direct link between the two. The second purpose, facilitated by the research conducted as part of the first, is more philosophical in orientation.  It is to pursue the implications of the assertion (implicit in Kant's texts and insisted upon by Clausewitz) that the concept of actuality is prior to the concept of possibility. The dominant strain of post-Kantian thought, ‘German Idealism', conceives of actuality as the mere realisation of something possible. The German Idealists accorded a certain privilege to possibility and the corollary idea of freedom. Further, they often presuppose possibility using it as a starting point for their philosophical investigations. Clausewitz criticised German Idealism for calmly stepping out of actuality into the pure realm of abstraction and possibility. For him there is nothing outside of actuality, even possibility itself is produced, manipulated, and destroyed within actuality. By pursuing this suggestion, this research intends to draw out and develop the strange and as yet unexplored metaphysics which lingers behind Clausewitz's writings on war, a metaphysics characterised by decomposition and reorganization, one which is constantly attempting to produce stability by means of strategy, in the face of uncertainty and chance. The tracing of a different trajectory of Kantian philosophy will produce a new field of problems while also allowing a critical reexamination of many of the ones that have dominated the history post-Kantian thought right up to the present.

Biography

After having completed a BA in English Literature at Middlesex University, specialising in the writings and thought of Samuel Beckett, I took the MPhilStud program in philosophy at the CRMEP. The two-year MA gave me the opportunity to follow courses both at Kingston and at l'université de Paris VIII.

In 2017, I started a PhD with Howard Caygill on the Clausewitzian development of Kant's thought.

Areas of research interest

  • Kant and the post-Kantian tradition
  • The critiques of metaphysics
  • 20th century philosophy

Qualifications

  • BA
  • MPhil

Funding or awards received

  • Fully funded TECHNE scholarship
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