Kant on Moral Education, or "Enlightenment" and the Liberal Arts

Review of Metaphysics 57 (1):43 - 73 (2003)
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“THE ONLY THING NECESSARY IS NOT THEORETICAL LEARNING, but the Bildung of human beings, both in regard to their talents and their character.” Kant’s epigrammatic observation in his 1778 letter to Christian Wolke, director of the Philanthropin, adumbrates not only his mature sense of “enlightenment” but also the pedagogical role of his critical philosophy and his own life’s work. Over a decade earlier, his reading of Rousseau’s Emile: or, On Education had “set him straight” about what constitutes the true dignity of humanity, namely, that it did not consist in the advance of knowledge by scholarly inquiry as he had believed. The primary thing was, instead, the “restoration of the rights of humanity,” an objective articulated in Kant’s mature moral thought as that pedagogical method which facilitates the self-consciousness and efficacy of the moral law in the individual. In another 1778 letter, this time to his former student, Marcus Herz, Kant states that the “main purpose of his academic life,” which he “at all times keeps before him,” is to “cultivate good characters.” In both his lectures on anthropology and on pedagogy, Kant repeatedly emphasizes the need for education and, by extension, for attending to the education of the educator. Human beings are nothing save what education makes of them, but they can only be educated by other human beings who must themselves first be educated. As early as his 1775/ 76 anthropology lectures, Kant observes that “if teachers and priests were educated, if the concepts of pure morality would prevail among them, then... the whole could afterwards be educated.” The resulting task is clear: it is incumbent on every generation to work on the plan of a more purposive education,” a task Kant describes as the “greatest and most difficult problem that can be assigned to humankind.”



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Citations of this work

A Kantian approach to education for moral sensitivity.Paul Formosa - 2022 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 55 (6):1017-1028.
Kant and the Discipline of Reason.Brian A. Chance - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (1):87-110.
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