Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (2):pp. 245-268 (2008)
This paper explores the connections between Kant’s theory of hierarchical racial difference, on the one hand, and his cosmopolitanism and conceptions of moral and political progress, on the other. I argue that Kant’s racial biology plays an essential role in maintaining national-cultural differences, which he views as essential for the establishment of the cosmopolitan union. Unfortunately, not only are these views racist, they also complicate Kant’s ability to consistently think through the prospect of the human species’ moral progress. Thus, while in the abstract, Kant’s attempts to understand the prospects for moral and political progress as rooted in historical reality, and his insistence that such progress is necessarily connected to the persistence of cultural difference, is appealing, his own way of carrying this out is decidedly not, being so intimately connected to racial hierarchy as a basic source of difference.
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