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Kant: Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View


  • Page extent: 288 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.589 kg

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  • LC Classification: B2799.A572 E5 2006
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Philosophical anthropology
    • Human beings
    • Psychology--Early works to 18

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521855563 | ISBN-10: 052185556X)

Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View

Cambridge University Press
052185556X - Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View - Translated and Edited by Robert B. Louden



Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View


Series editors


Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame


Professor of Philosophy at University College Cork

The main objective of Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy is to expand the range, variety and quality of texts in the history of philosophy which are available in English. The series includes texts by familiar names (such as Descartes and Kant) and also by less well-known authors. Wherever possible, texts are published in complete and unabridged form, and translations are specially commissioned for the series. Each volume contains a critical introduction together with a guide to further reading and any necessary glossaries and textual apparatus. The volumes are designed for student use at undergraduate and postgraduate level and will be of interest not only to students of philosophy, but also to a wider audience of readers in the history of science, the history of theology and the history of ideas.

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Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View



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First published 2006

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ISBN-10 0-521-85556-X hardback

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ISBN-10 0-521-67165-5 paperback

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Introductionpage vii
Further readingxxxiii
Note on the text and translationxxxvi
Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View1
Part IAnthropological Didactic. On the way of cognizing the interior as well as the exterior of the human being13
Book IOn the cognitive faculty15
Book IIThe feeling of pleasure and displeasure125
Book IIIOn the faculty of desire149
Part IIAnthropological Characteristic. On the way of cognizing the interior of the human being from the exterior183


The origins of Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View

Anthropology as understood today is a discipline concerned with the study of the physical, cultural, social, and linguistic development of human beings from prehistoric times to the present. It is a relatively new phenomenon, which came into its own only during the early nineteenth century. Its roots, however, can be traced back to the last third of the eighteenth century. Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Condorcet in France, Lord Kames, Lord Monboddo, and William Robertson in Scotland, and Immanuel Kant, Georg Forster, Christoph Meiners, and Ernst Platner in Germany were among the most important early contributors to this new field of study. It grew ultimately from a fundamental concern of the European Enlightenment, being conceived as an alternative to the theological understanding of the nature of man and born of the belief that the proper study of mankind is man, not God.

Kant fully subscribed to this Enlightenment conception, even though, as we shall also see, he did not want to deny that theological concerns were very important for the proper understanding of human nature. He was, in any case, one of the first thinkers ever to lecture on anthropology as an independent academic discipline at university level. Though the Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View was published at the end of the eighteenth century in 1798, he had by then already lectured on it for twenty-five years. Indeed, his first lectures predate Kames’s Sketches of the History of Man of 1774 by more than a year. And his concern with anthropological topics is already evident in his first course on physical geography, which he offered in the summer of 1756. Kant’s Anthropology is thus an important document in the history of this discipline. When he first offered a course explicitly dedicated to anthropology in the winter semester of 1772–3, he had already thought about its contents for some time. On the other hand, there was not much precedent for it, and he had every right to feel like a pioneer.

Kant’s conception of anthropology was in many ways rather different from the way it is conceived of today. From the very beginning he viewed it not just as an empirical or descriptive discipline, but also as a useful tool for the moral and cultural improvement of his students. Thus he wrote toward the end of 1773 to his former student Marcus Herz – someone who he knew had a great interest in the subject – that he was offering for the second time a colloquium privatum on anthropology, and that he was planning to transform this subject into a proper academic discipline. This plan was, he said, “unique,” for the main purpose of the new course of studies was to

introduce the sources of all the sciences that are concerned with morals, with the ability of commerce, and the method of educating and ruling human beings, or all that is practical. In this discipline I will, then, be more concerned to seek out the phenomena and their laws than the first principles of the possibility of modifying human nature itself.    (10, p. 145)1

His goal was twofold: (1) a theoretical investigation of the source of all practical philosophy, its phenomena, and its laws, and (2) a doctrine that was itself practical in teaching the rudiments of prudence, wisdom, or knowledge of the world.

Kant went on to assure Herz that the contents of the course would be enjoyable rather than dry and academic. Drawing an explicit parallel to his lectures on physical geography, he characterized it as an “observational doctrine” (Beobachtungslehre) that he intended to develop in such a way that it would serve his students in later life. He also felt it necessary to point out explicitly that he would not address such “subtle” but “eternally futile” questions or philosophical problems as the mind–body relation. The lectures should be “popular” both in the sense that the subject matter was treated “popularly” and in the sense that the lectures should attract many students as (paying) customers.

It should also be obvious that the plan for this new academic discipline, concerned with the sources of all that is practical, moral, or has to do with human interaction, is connected with the attempts of other contemporaries in this direction. Indeed, Herz’s review of Ernst Platner’s newly published Anthropology for Physicians and Philosophers provided the immediate occasion for his remarks in the letter. And there is other evidence which shows how closely he was attuned to the developments having to do with the newly emerging study of anthropological issues, and how he consciously chose a different direction from that taken by his contemporaries.2

It appears by all accounts that he was successful in his attempt to be popular. While his lectures on metaphysics were considered very difficult by most of his students, the lectures on anthropology (like the lecture on physical geography) were among the best attended he ever offered, even though they were not free like the lectures on metaphysics.3 It is therefore not surprising that Kant felt at the end of his teaching career that the notes for these lectures that he had prepared over the years deserved to be published in their own right as a textbook on which other professors could base their lectures, just as he had relied for so many years on Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten’s Metaphysica in his lectures on metaphysics and anthropology. He must have taken this decision during the early summer of 1798.4 Johann Friedrich Abegg, who visited Königsberg in 1798, wrote on June 1 in his travel journal that earlier that morning Kant had corrected his Anthropology, as this work would now be published as well. We do not know whether these “corrections” were revisions of Kant’s own manuscript, a version of which is extant in the Library of the University of Rostock, or whether he was working on the proof sheets sent by the printer. It seems likely that it was the former, as Kant was not in the habit of going carefully through the proofs himself.5

Two thousand copies of the Anthropology were printed – more than any of his other works.6 The book seems to have sold well, for just two years later a second edition appeared. But it was not a critical success. Apart from Friedrich Schleiermacher’s entirely negative review in the Athenäum, a journal devoted to the cause of Romanticism and highly critical of many of the ideals of the Enlightenment, there was no discussion.7 Not surprisingly, Schleiermacher’s review was not designed to create a need for such a discussion. It begins as follows: “A summary of this book could not be much more than a collection of trivial matters. If, on the other hand, it were intended to give a sketch of the plan and its execution … it would necessarily give a distinct picture of the most peculiar confusion.”

These claims are not entirely unfair. Kant’s Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View is a difficult book, and it is difficult precisely because it reveals a certain tension between particular factual observations and assertions that seem homely and trivial, if not downright false, and somewhat muted suggestions that the whole enterprise is highly significant without a clear indication of what precisely makes it so significant. On the one hand, it is described by Kant as a “manual” or Handbuch concerned with the down-to-earth task of providing the rudiments of “knowledge of the world” to students in their early teens, the implication being that it is not just based on his own lectures but it could and should be used by other university teachers as the basis for their own lectures on this subject. On the other hand, the book ends with the assertion that

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