Kant's Human Being: Essays on His Theory of Human Nature

Kant's Human Being: Essays on His Theory of Human Nature

Kant's Human Being: Essays on His Theory of Human Nature

Kant's Human Being: Essays on His Theory of Human Nature


In Kant's Human Being, Robert B. Louden continues and deepens avenues of research first initiated in his highly acclaimed book, Kant's Impure Ethics. Drawing on a wide variety of both published and unpublished works spanning all periods of Kant's extensive writing career, Louden here focuses on Kant's under-appreciated empirical work on human nature, with particular attention to the connections between this body of work and his much-discussed ethical theory. Kant repeatedly claimed that the question, "What is the human being" is philosophy's most fundamental question, one that encompasses all others. Louden analyzes and evaluates Kant's own answer to his question, showing how it differs from other accounts of human nature.

This collection of twelve essays is divided into three parts. In Part One (Human Virtues), Louden explores the nature and role of virtue in Kant's ethical theory, showing how the conception of human nature behind Kant's virtue theory results in a virtue ethics that is decidedly different from more familiar Aristotelian virtue ethics programs. In Part Two (Ethics and Anthropology), he uncovers the dominant moral message in Kant's anthropological investigations, drawing new connections between Kant's work on human nature and his ethics. Finally, in Part Three (Extensions of Anthropology), Louden explores specific aspects of Kant's theory of human nature developed outside of his anthropology lectures, in his works on religion, geography, education ,and aesthetics, and shows how these writings substantially amplify his account of human beings.

Kant's Human Being offers a detailed and multifaceted investigation of the question that Kant held to be the most important of all, and will be of interest not only to philosophers but also to all who are concerned with the study of human nature.


This book is a collection of some of my essays on interrelated aspects of Kant’s theory of human nature. With one exception, each of the essays was written after the publication my book Kant’s Impure Ethics: From Rational Beings to Human Beings (Oxford University Press, 2000). In that book, I examined the underexplored second or impure part of his ethics, an empirical part which does not always fit easily with the better-known first or pure part, but one which Kant himself viewed as a necessary and important constituent of his project in practical philosophy. The essays included in the present volume continue and deepen avenues of exploration initiated in Kant’s Impure Ethics—i.e., they explore different branches of his empirical work on human nature, with special reference to the connections between this body of work and his ethical theory.

This volume also includes one of my earliest Kant essays—“Kant’s Virtue Ethics,” first published in 1986, long before I started work on the Kant’s Impure Ethics project. In hindsight, it is clear to me that my early attempts to make sense out of Kant’s unorthodox theory of virtue were largely responsible for my later efforts to track his empirical work on human nature, and this is why I have chosen to include the early essay in the present volume. Behind, around, and in Kant’s theory of virtue are many assumptions and commitments about the nature of human beings, but it took me longer to locate the latter.

In preparing the essays for republication in the present volume, I have (with two exceptions) made only minor stylistic revisions, partly in order to establish a uniform citation system and ensure consistency in style. (The two exceptions are chapters 3 and 11. In both cases, I have restored some deletions that were made in the first published . . .

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