I was most happy to hear that the ethecon Foundation will be presenting you an award in honour of your tireless endeavours in the cause of civil liberties at all levels. No one deserves this prize more than you.
Fortunately I‚ve come across my letter of recommendation supporting the proposal to grant you an honorary doctorate from the University of Frankfurt/Main; I‘d like to forward it to you; it sums up why I hold you in such high esteem.
Best Wishes, Oskar Negt
Review of the Kant paper by Angela Davis for the honorary doctorate screening process at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-University in Frankfurt/Main,1972
My knowledge of Angela Davis‚ work and intellectual ability is of course incomplete. However, during the two semesters in which she studied philosophy with Adorno, Habermas and me, she made an outstanding impression on me which was confirmed by later publications. Angela Davis belongs – and this I can say without exaggeration – to the very small group of students who are extremely gifted and show a pronounced sensitivity for philosophical problems. This became clear to me after just a few months of intensive discussions; despite her language difficulties she was able not only to discuss, but also to objectify in written form, the most complex problems of Kant‘s transcendental philosophy and Hegel‚s dialectics.
A paper on the notion of interest in transcendental philosophy written for a seminar on Kant‘s “Critique of the Power of Judgment” documents this unusual capability. With great keenness and clarity she identifies and elaborates on those problematic elements of Kant‚s philosophy which, as widely known, are not only confined to the Schematism Chapter in the “Critique of Pure Reason.” She criticizes the idea that it is only the patently obscure and difficult to understand passages in Kant‘s work in which the dialectic problem of the interdependence of form and content is concealed by aporetic constructions. She convincingly shows that notions such as interest, dignity, intelligible subject, etc. are determined by the same structure.
It deserves special attention that she does not attempt to reconstruct Kant‚s philosophy ex post -- from the viewpoint of Hegel‘s dialectic --, but that she rather builds her account on those theorems whose solutions by themselves engender dialectic.
It seems inappropriate to cite the highly positive comments made by Theodor W. Adorno about Angela Davis; I had however occasion to read a paper written by Angela Davis on the “Negative Dialectics” for one of his seminars, which betrayed the same high intellectual level. Other students in the seminar in which this paper was presented told me that the ensuing discussion between Adorno and Angela Davis had been very enlightening for him.
I would like to summarize my overall opinion: world famous through the incidents in San Rafael, Angela Davis had already fulfilled the requirements for a promising career in philosophy during her time in Frankfurt. Her personal integrity and her academic qualifications are essential parts of a life history for which an academic committee can only hold the highest respect.
Personally I would highly welcome, if an academic panel of a German university would demonstrate its support for Angela Davis' fight for the rights and freedoms of the oppressed Afro-American minority through the courageous act of offering her an honorary doctorate.