Kant’s answer to the question ‘what is man?’ and its implications for anthropology

Authors
Alix Cohen
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
This paper examines Kant’s anthropological project and its relationship to his conception of ‘man’ in order to show that Kant’s answer to the question ‘what is man?’ entails a decisive re-evaluation of traditional conceptions of human nature. I argue that Kant redirects the question ‘what is man?’ away from defining man in terms of what he is, and towards defining him in terms of what he does, in particular through the distinction between three levels of what I will call ‘man’s praxis’: the levels of technicality, prudence, and morality. As soon as man is understood in terms of what he makes of himself rather than in terms of what he is, two crucial issues arise: what is the purpose of his making? And how can he reach this destination? My claim is that whilst the first question is answered by ethics and a doctrine of prudence, the second question is answered by anthropology. In this sense, anthropology plays the crucial role of identifying the worldly helps and hindrances to the realisation of man’s purposes—and this is the reason why it should be understood as a ‘pragmatic’ discipline.Keywords: Immanuel; Kant; Pragmatic; Anthropology; Praxis; Aliens; Human nature.
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2008.09.008
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References found in this work BETA

Critique of Pure Reason.I. Kant - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
Anthropology From a Pragmatic Point of View (1798).Immanuel Kant - 2007 - In Problemos. Cambridge University Press. pp. 177-198.
Lectures on Ethics.Immanuel Kant - 1932 - International Journal of Ethics 43 (1):104-106.

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