‘The Anthropology of Cognition and its Pragmatic Implications

In Kant’s Lectures on Anthropology: A Critical Guide. Cambridge, UK: pp. 76-93. (2014)
Authors
Alix Cohen
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to bring to light the anthropological dimension of Kant’s account of cognition as it is developed in the Lectures on Anthropology. I will argue that Kant’s anthropology of cognition develops along two complementary lines. On the one hand, it studies Nature’s intentions for the human species – the “natural” dimension of human cognition. On the other hand, it uses this knowledge to help us realise of our cognitive purposes – the “pragmatic” dimension of human cognition. Insofar as it is intended for us as embodied human agents whose cognition takes place in the empirical world, it is concerned with the knowledge of the natural subjective conditions that help or hinder our cognition. Yet the idea that Kant’s anthropology of cognition has a pragmatic dimension turns out to be problematic. For whilst pragmatic anthropology is defined as ‘the investigation of what he as a free-acting being makes of himself, or can and should make of himself’ (A 7:119), by contrast with acting, cognising seems to be beyond the realm of voluntary action. However, I will show that Kant’s account of cognition makes room for a form of epistemic control that is sufficient to account for the possibility of its pragmatic dimension. Therefore, far from portraying human beings as disembodied pure minds, Kant’s account not only acknowledges the empirical, contingent and messy features of our cognition, it helps us become better, more efficient knowers by recommending how we can improve upon the subjective features that further or hinder our cognitive perfection. I will conclude by drawing the implications on my interpretation for our overall understanding of Kant’s account of cognition.
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Kant on the Ethics of Belief.Alix Cohen - 2014 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (3pt3):317-334.

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