The aim of this paper is to argue that Kant's philosophy of biology has crucial implications for our understanding of his philosophy of history, and that overlooking these implications leads to a fundamental misconstruction of his views. More precisely, I will show that Kant's philosophy of history is modelled on his philosophy of biology due to the fact that the development of the human species shares a number of peculiar features with the functioning of organisms, these features entailing important methodological (...) characteristics. From this main claim will follow three further claims: (1) Kant's teleological view of history is not simply based on ethical considerations that have to do with the moral progress of the human species; rather, it stems from his conception of teleology as developed in his philosophy of biology. (2) Kant's philosophy of history allows for the practice of scientific history. In this sense, Kant's view of history is not merely teleological but involves a mechanical (and thus empirical) element. (3) Just as teleology is useful for furthering mechanical accounts of biological phenomena, teleological history is useful for scientific history. (shrink)
It is dealt with the methodological parallels between Kant's concept of a history of nature (i.e., his distinction between "Naturgeschichte" and "Naturbeschreibung") and the distinction between "Geognosie" and "Oryktognosie" by the German mineralogist A G Werner (1749-1817). By relating those parallels to the introduction of Kant's "Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science", the paper shows some scarcely considered scientific roots of his epistemology.
Since the fall of the former Soviet Union, and following geographical and technological changes in the global economy, theorists in Europe as well as the United States have lamented the confusion and emotional disengagement of many groups formerly identified with the left. This paper addresses the Kantian origins of the idea that 'revolution', however defined (or deferred), is the only plausible image for effective historical engagement capable of motivating spectators to action. Drawing on Foucault's inquiries into conditions for the possibility (...) of 'heroizing' the present, I examine two frameworks for understanding the ontological impact of historical models for 'eventfulness', those offered by Heidegger and Bergson. I then explore their implication for debates between Foucauldian theorists over the technological and bodily bases required to recognize the optimistic moral significance Kant attributed to revolution in practices characterizing the 'new capitalism'. Key Words: Bergson Foucault Heidegger historiography Kant revolution. (shrink)
In the last thirty years of his life Kant was preoccupied with the question of whether or not the "signs of progress" could be elicited from the vale of tears of the historical process. In what follows I am interested in the question of what kind of meaning Kant's historico-philosophical hypothesis of progress can have for us today. In order to provide an answer to this question, I make a distinction between system-conforming and system-bursting, or unorthodox, versions of historical progress. (...) This distinction is made in order to show that only system-bursting versions of progress can prompt us to confer contemporary meaning on Kant's philosophy of history as a learning process that is conflict ridden and without illusions. (shrink)
Kant’s use of the terms ‘Nature’ and ‘Providence’ in his essays on history has long puzzled commentators. Kant personifies Nature and Providence in a curious way, by speaking of them as “deciding” to give humankind certain predispositions, “wanting” these to be developed, and “knowing” what is best for humans Moreover, he leaves the relationship between the two terms unclear. In this essay, I argue that Kant’s use of ‘Nature’ and ‘Providence’ can be clarified and explained. Moreover, I show that Kant’s (...) use of the terms is symptomatic of a much more important and not sufficiently appreciated fact about Kant’s philosophy of history, viz., that it fulfils a function in both his theoretical and his practical philosophy. (shrink)
I examine the consistency of Kant's notion of moral progress as found in his philosophy of history. To many commentators, Kant's very idea of moral development has seemed inconsistent with basic tenets of his critical philosophy. This idea has seemed incompatible with his claims that the moral law is unconditionally and universally valid, that moral agency is noumenal and atemporal, and that all humans are equally free. Against these charges, I argue not only that Kant's notion of moral development is (...) consistent, but also that the assumption of the possibility of moral progress is indispensible for Kant's moral theory. (shrink)
The essay explores the meaning and implications of Milbank's claim that the post-Kantian presuppositions of modern theology must be eradicated. After defining and locating the post-Kantian element in the context of Milbank's broader concerns, the essay employs a comparison between Milbank and Barth to draw out the differences between radical orthodoxy and neo-orthodoxy with respect to the Kantian ideal of "mediation" between theology and culture. The essay concludes with comparisons of Milbank's metanarrative concerning "modern" thought with those offered by Hans (...) Blumenberg and James Edwards. The effect is not only to suggest the apparent arbitrariness of Milbank's account, but also to indicate the evident futility of arguing with Milbank's theological position on the basis of alternative accounts of the post-Kantian tradition. (shrink)
There is a picture by Klee called Angelus Novus . It shows an angel who seems about to move away from something he stares at. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned toward the past. Where a chain of events appears before us, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would (...) like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in his wings; it is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows toward the sky. What we call progress is this storm. 1. (shrink)
This book explores Kant's philosophy of the human sciences, their status, their relations and prospects. Contrary to widespread belief, he is not dogmatic about the question of whether these disciplines are proper sciences. Instead, this depends on whether we can rationally adjust assumptions about the methods, goals, and subject matter of these disciplines - and this has to be done alongside of ongoing research. Kant applies these ideas especially in lectures on "pragmatic antropology" given from 1772-1796. In doing so, he (...) refines his conception of anthropology and clarifies its relation to physiology, psychology, history, and ethics. He also discusses then leading approaches in the human sciences, such as Wollfian psychology over Bonnet's attempt to explain the mind in terms of the brain up to Hume's naturalism and Herder's historicism. Only against the background of these arguments can we understand and assess Kant's view of the human being as a social and rational being, capable of creating its own laws of conduct. Kant moreover argues that and why we can view ourselves as free agents even from an empirical point of view. This is a fresh perspective on the human sciences, their pretensions, potentials and limits - and fresh not only in the 18th century. (shrink)
Although Kant’s moral philosophy is often presented as a kind of secularized Christianity, Kant seems to have very little to say about forgiveness, a topic of some traditional Christian interest. This reticence is particularly striking when we consider the central role in Kant’s thought played by ideas of obligation, responsibility and guilt.
Against several recent interpretations, I argue in this paper that Immanuel Kant's support for enlightened absolutism was a permanent feature of his political thought that fit comfortably within his larger philosophy, though he saw such rule as part of a transition to democratic self-government initiated by the absolute monarch himself. I support these contentions with (1) a detailed exegesis of Kant’s essay "What is Enlightenment?" (2) an argument that Kantian republicanism requires not merely a separation of powers but also a (...) representative democratic legislature, and (3) a demonstration that each stage of a democratic transition can potentially be in an absolute monarch’s short-run self-interest. I conclude the paper by defending Kant's theory of democratization against charges of consequentialism and paternalism and by pointing out its similarity to other accounts of democratic transitions (for example, those of Samuel Huntington and Guillermo O'Donnell), suggesting a previously unnoticed opportunity for cross-fertilization between political philosophy and comparative politics. (shrink)