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Coleridge and German Philosophy: The Poet in the Land of Logic by Paul Hamilton. London: Continuum, 2007. Pp. 192. $138.00 cloth.
Coleridge and the Crisis of Reason by Richard Berkeley. New York: Palgrave, 2007. Pp. 240. $69.95 cloth.
Paul Hamilton's book would do better as the subject of a seminar than of a review. It assumes a fresh reading, plus total recall, of European philosophy at least from Kant to Kierkegaard, as well as of all the relevant literary texts. It does not stoop to summary or explanation. In a word, it is not a book for the intellectually timid. One had better care deeply about the issues that it raises, because it places great demands on a reader.
The abstract printed on the back cover of the book states a large part of Hamilton's argument more clearly than the text itself does: "Coleridge's infectious attachment to German (post-Kantian) philosophy was due to its symmetries with the structure of his Christian belief ... Its comprehensiveness, however, rendered redundant further theological description, undermining the faith it had seemed to support." It may be because of Coleridge's devotion to German thought that his attachment to Christianity, although obviously central to his life and work in one sense, seems at times in another sense only ancillary: an outrigger running in tandem with his philosophy. Despite his commitment to German philosophy, though, when Coleridge rebels against its all-inclusive style, he does seem to be craving an alternative that offers something more than either quasi-religion or mere talk about religion. This alternative emerges (perhaps somewhat arbitrarily) as …