This article discusses the common ground between William James and the tradition of philosophical anthropology. Recent commentators on this overlap have characterised philosophical anthropology as combining science and Kantian teleology, for instance in Kant’s seminal definition of anthropology as being concerned with what the human being makes of itself, as distinct from what attributes it is given by nature. This article registers the tension between Kantian thinking, which reckons to ground experience in a priori categories, and William James’s psychology, which (...) begins and ends with experience. It explores overlap between James’s approach and the characteristic holism of 18th-century philosophical anthropology, which centres on the idea of understanding and analysing the human as a whole, and presents the main anthropological elements of James’s position, namely his antipathy to separation, his concerns about the binomial terms of traditional philosophy, his preference for experience over substances, his sense that this holist doctrine of experience shows a way out of sterile impasses, a preference for description over causation, and scepticism. It then goes on to register the common ground with key ideas in the work of anthropologists from around 1800, along with some references to anthropologists who come in James’s wake, in particular Max Scheler and Arnold Gehlen, in order to reconceptualise the connection between James’s ideas and the tradition of anthropological thinking in German letters since the late 18th-century, beyond its characterisation as a combination of scientific positivism and teleology. (shrink)
In this book, Jerome Carroll draws on the epistemological, ontological, and methodological aspects and implications of anthropological holism to read the philosophical significance of classical twentieth century anthropology through the lens of eighteenth century writings on anthropology.
Summary This article presents and compares aspects of Charles Taylor's and Hans Blumenberg's seemingly opposing views about agency and epistemology, setting them in the context of the tradition in German ideas called ?philosophical anthropology?, with which both align their thinking. It presents key strands of this tradition, from their inception in the late eighteenth century in the writings of Herder, Schiller and others associated with anthropology to their articulation by thinkers such as Max Scheler, Arnold Gehlen and Karl Löwith in (...) the early twentieth century. The main issues here are: man's status as part of nature or as ?radically divorced? from nature; the possibility of objective knowledge of man versus the epistemological status of human ?meaning?; the view of knowledge as abstraction versus ?concrete? or ?lived? experience. Within these parameters the article contrasts Taylor's emphasis on ?engaged? agency, embedded in discourses, bodies and predispositions, with Blumenberg's sense of our ?indirect? relation to reality: ?delayed, selective, and above all ?metaphorical??. It concludes that each position may be traced back to a key strand in philosophical anthropology: the one emphasising man's unique freedom, the other that sees man's grasp of reality as uniquely interwoven with a background of meanings. (shrink)