1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beck, Jakob Sigismund

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BECK, JAKOB SIGISMUND (1761–1840), German philosopher, was born at Danzig in 1761. Educated at Königsberg, he became professor of philosophy first at Halle (1791–1799) and then at Rostock. He devoted himself to criticism and explanation of the doctrine of Kant, and in 1793 published the Erläuternder Auszug aus Kants kritischen Schriften, which has been widely used as a compendium of Kantian doctrine. He endeavoured to explain away certain of the contradictions which are found in Kant’s system by saying that much of the language is used in a popular sense for the sake of intelligibility, e.g. where Kant attributes to things-in-themselves an existence under the conditions of time, space and causality, and yet holds that they furnish the material of our apprehensions. Beck maintains that the real meaning of Kant’s theory is idealism; that of objects outside the domain of consciousness, knowledge is impossible, and hence that nothing positive remains when we have removed the subjective element. Matter is deduced by the “original synthesis.” Similarly, the idea of God is a symbolical representation of the voice of conscience guiding from within. The value of Beck’s exegesis has been to a great extent overlooked owing to the greater attention given to the work of Fichte. Beside the three volumes of the Erläuternder Auszug, he published the Grundriss der krit. Philosophie (1796), containing an interpretation of the Kantian Kritik in the manner of Salomon Maimon.

See Ueberweg, Grundriss der Gesch. der Philos. der Neuzeit; Dilthey in the Archiv für Geschichte der Philos., vol. ii. (1889), pp. 592-650. For Beck’s letters to Kant, see R. Reicke, Aus Kants Briefwechsel (Königsberg, 1885).