The Natural, the Pragmatic and the Moral in Kant’s Anthropology: The Case of Temperaments


In: Early Science and Medicine

This paper explores the interconnections between the normative and the descriptive dimensions of Kant’s anthropology. It suggests that, far from being independent of each other or even excluding each other, as is often presupposed, the normative standpoint necessitates the explanatory one. To support this claim, I discuss the case of human temperaments and show in what sense a necessary component of pragmatic anthropology consists in the naturalistic study of human nature – what Kant calls “what nature makes of the human being.”1

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     Claudia M. Schmidt“The Anthropological Dimension of Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals,” Kant-Studien96.1 (2005) 66-84; Schmidt “Anthropological Dimension” 72-3. On this basis I believe that talking about moral anthropology in terms of the ‘application’ of Kant’s ethics is very unhelpful. For instance the title of Louden’s paper “Applying Kant’s Ethics: The Role of Anthropology” is misleading for it blurs the boundary between the pure principles of practical reason and their application on the one hand (which includes pure ethics and the metaphysics of morals) and the moral use of anthropology on the other hand. As Louden himself notes moral anthropology has to do with making morality efficacious in human life: Robert Louden “Applying Kant’s Ethics: The Role of Anthropology” in Companion to Kant ed. Graham Bird 350-63 at 355-7. Thus the idea of ‘applying ethics’ is in this context more appropriate to the project of the Metaphysics of Morals.

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     Reinhard Brandt“The Guiding Idea of Kant’s Anthropology and the Vocation of Human Being,” in Essays on Kant’s Anthropologyeds. Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain (Cambridge 2003) 85-104 92.

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     Werner Stark“Historical Notes and Interpretative Questions about Kant’s Lectures on Anthropology,” in Essays on Kant’s Anthropologyeds. Jacobs and Kain 15-37 21.

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     John Zammito“What a Young Man Needs for his Venture into the World: The Function and Evolution of the ‘Characteristics’,” in Kant’s Lectures on Anthropologyed. Cohen 239-40

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     See for instance Emmanuel Eze“The Color of Reason: The Idea of ‘Race’ in Kant’s Anthropology,” in Anthropology and the German Enlightenment: Perspectives on Humanityed. Katherine M. Faull (Lewisburg 1995) 200-24 and Mari Mikkola “Kant On Moral Agency and Women’s Nature” Kantian Review 16 (2011) 89-111.

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