Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View

Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View

Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View

Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View


In the fall semester of 1772/73 at the Albertus University of Königsberg, Immanuel Kant, metaphysician and professor of logic and metaphysics, began lectures on anthropology, which he continued until 1776, shortly before his retirement from public life. His lecture notes and papers were first published in 1798, eight years after the publication of the Critique of Judgment, the third of his famous Critiques. The present edition of the Anthropology is a translation of the text found in volume 7 of Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by Oswald Külpe.

Kant describes the Anthropology as a systematic doctrine of the knowledge of humankind. (He does not yet distinguish between the academic discipline of anthropology as we understand it today and the philosophical.) Kant's lectures stressed the "pragmatic" approach to the subject because he intended to establish pragmatic anthropology as a regular academic discipline. He differentiates the physiological knowledge of the human race- the investigation of "what Nature makes of man"- from the pragmatic- "what man as a free being makes of himself, what he can make of himself, and what he ought to make of himself." Kant believed that anthropology teaches the knowledge of humankind and makes us familiar with what is pragmatic, not speculative, in relation to humanity. He shows us as world citizens within the context of the cosmos.

Summarizing the cloth edition of the Anthropology, Library Journal concludes: "Kant's allusions to such issues as sensation, imagination, judgment, (aesthetic) taste, emotion, passion, moral character, and the character of the human species in regard to the ideal of a cosmopolitan society make this work an important resource for English readers who seek to grasp the connections among Kant's metaphysics of nature, metaphysics of morals, and political theory. The notes of the editor and translator, which incorporate material from Ernst Cassirer's edition and from Kant's marginalia in the original manuscript, shed considerable light on the text."


Frederick P. Van De Pitte

When Kant began lecturing on Anthropology in the winter of 1772-73, he correlated a good deal of material that he had already been using in his lectures on Ethics, Metaphysics, and Physical Geography. An examination of these earlier lectures indicates that he had been reading the travel reports of famous voyagers, and whatever scientific material was available on anthropology for a number of years -- at least since 1755 or 1756. Perhaps at first this interest was merely a pastime, a vicarious participation in great adventures by one who had very little experience with travel, but a great deal of curiosity about the various peoples and places of the world. The purely scientific aspects of anthropology would, of course, be interesting in their own right to one trained in science as he had been. For while Kant's course work at the University of Kouml;nigsberg (1740-46) had given him a sound background in metaphysics and morals, as well as physics and mathematics, there is good reason to believe that his primary orientation was, and for a long time remained, in the area of the exact sciences. Soon, however, his interest spread to all aspects of anthropology, and he ultimately decided that it should be ranked among other studies as a regular academic discipline. Yet, in this early period there is no reason to believe that Kant recognized the essential role that anthropology was to play in his own development.

It would be impossible in a brief outline to give an accurate account of the progress in Kant's thought prior to the writing of the great Critiques. But one can understand a great deal by keeping in mind the one dominant interest which became more and . . .

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