3 2 2 D O C . 3 2 1 R E V I E W E L S B A C H
321. Review of Alfred C. Elsbach, Kant und Einstein
Published 20 September 1924
In Deutsche Literaturzeitung 1 (1924): cols. 1685–1692.
distinguishes itself by its clarity and precision in how it
forms concepts, by its honesty and thoroughness, the latter a bit too much, even. It
first delivers an account of the epistemology of the Neo-Kantians (Cohen, Natorp,
Cassirer) and compares this doctrine, on one hand, to positivism, and on the other
hand, to realism. This epistemological system has never been so clear to me as it
became through this book. According to this system, reality and truth are nothing
other than being subject to one unitary temporal-spatial-causal framework (chaps.
1 and 2). Thus the problem of experienced reality (as opposed to merely dreamed
experience) and thing reality (e.g., sun, hydrogen atom) is easily dealt with. Re-
garding these fundamental questions, the later thinkers mentioned have essentially
adhered to Kant’s opinion. The reviewer must confess that although he found the
argument on this as presented in the book logical and clear, it did not convince him.
Doesn’t an experienced reality exist that one senses directly and that is indirectly
also the source of what science denotes as “real”? Aren’t, furthermore, the realists
right, after all, along with all scientists (who don’t happen to be philosophizing),
when by the highly astounding possibility to arrange experiences within a (tempo-
ral/spatial/causal) conceptual framework they allow themselves to assume that real,
existing things are independent of their own thinking and being? Isn’t the incom-
prehensibility of being able to build a conceptual framework that connects experi-
ences just as painful to the idealistic philosopher (from the logician’s point of view)
as accepting the reality hypothesis of the realistic philosopher and of the nonphilos-
ophizing person (and animal)? Is there indeed a difference at all between assuming
that the totality of observations, or experiences, permits a logical conceptual frame-
work, which connects them with each other, and accepting the reality hypothesis?
Alfred C. Elsbach [private lecturer at the University of Utrecht], Kant and Einstein.
Analyses on the Relation between Modern Epistemology and Relativity Theory. Berlin and
Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1924. VIII & 374 pp. 8°. 8 m[arks], bound 9.20