Essays on Kant's Anthropology

Essays on Kant's Anthropology

Essays on Kant's Anthropology

Essays on Kant's Anthropology


Kant's lectures on anthropology capture him at the height of his intellectual power. They are immensely important for advancing our understanding of Kant's conception of anthropology, its development, and the notoriously difficult relationship between it and the critical philosophy. This 2003 collection of essays by some of the leading commentators on Kant offers a systematic account of the philosophical importance of this material that should nevertheless prove of interest to historians of ideas and political theorists. There are two broad approaches adopted: a number of the essays consider the systematic relations of the anthropology to critical philosophy, especially speculative knowledge and ethics. Other essays focus on the anthropology as a major source for the clarification of both the content and development of Kant's work. The volume also serves as an interpretative complement to the translation of the lectures in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant.


Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain

No other issue in Kant's thought is as pervasive and persistent as that of human nature. Posed as the peculiarly Kantian question, “what is the human being?” (Was ist der Mensch?) , this may be the sole concern that appears consistently from Kant's earliest writings through the last. in Kant's lectures – on logic, metaphysics, ethics, and education – it is difficult to find a text completely free of anthropological observation. Reaching far beyond considerations of ethics and history, moreover, the question of human nature is also present in Kant's most “scientific” reflections. in the conclusion of Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens from 1755, a text principally dedicated to applying Newton's theory of attraction and repulsion toward understanding the emergence of the heavens, Kant closes with this comment:

It is not even properly known to us what the human being truly is now, although consciousness and the senses ought to instruct us of this; how much less will we be able to guess what he one day ought to become. Nevertheless, the human soul's desire for knowledge (Wiβbegierde) snaps very desirously (begierig) at this object that lies so far from it and strives, in such obscure knowledge, to shed some light.

The “critical” project that would take shape some twenty years later is partly an extension of this very concern. It is “the peculiar fate” of human reason, the way its aspirations and interests outstrip its powers, which motivates the famous critique of traditional metaphysics found in the Critique of Pure Reason. Moreover, one of Kant's more . . .

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