Anthropology in a pragmatic way

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The Anthropology in pragmatic terms is written to 1796/97 philosophical work of Immanuel Kant . It was published in 1798 as the last work published by Kant himself.

Kant distinguishes pragmatic anthropology from physiological. It is not about the human being as a natural being, but rather about "what he, as a freely acting being, makes of himself, or can and should do." (Preface)

The first part, the anthropological didactics, deals with the general knowledge of human nature . This part is subdivided according to the basic human faculties (knowledge, desire and feeling of pleasure and displeasure). The second part deals with the anthropological characteristic, in Kant's understanding an analysis of the distinguishing characteristics of individuals (or persons), genders, nations, races and humanity as a whole. The focus of the latter unit is on the question of what makes humans as rational animals.

Kant's lectures on anthropology, which he held every winter semester from 1772/73 to 1795/96 over the more than twenty years of his academic teaching activity at the Albertina , formed the basis of the popularly held script . The lecture was the most successful of his courses in terms of student numbers.


Kant's book was received with cautious criticism by his contemporaries, but in some cases also received severe rejection. On December 19, 1798, Goethe said to Schiller : “ Kant's anthropology is a very valuable book to me and will be even more so in the future if I repeatedly enjoy it in small doses, because on the whole, as it stands, it is not pleasant. From this point of view man always sees himself in a pathological state, and since, as the old gentleman himself assures, one cannot become sensible before the sixtieth year, it is bad fun to spend the rest of one's life being a fool to explain. "

In 1799 Schleiermacher, in his review in the journal Athenaeum, described Kant's work as a negation of all anthropology : as an assertion and proof at the same time that something like this is not possible according to the idea put forward by Kant and with his way of thinking.

In more recent years, however, Kant's anthropology has been increasingly taken up by Kant research and has also been judged more positively in some cases. Many interpreters reconstruct a close relationship between Kant's anthropology and his ethics. Others see Kant's anthropology as his original contribution to the widespread debate in the 18th century about the possibility and the foundations of a comprehensive "science of man". In addition, there are broader comments on the writing as well as analyzes of numerous detailed aspects of the book such as the lectures that preceded it and their relationship to the rest of Kant's work.


  • Immanuel Kant: Anthropology in a pragmatic way. Edited and introduced by Wolfgang Becker, afterword by Hans Ebeling . Reclams Universal Library No. 7541 [4], Stuttgart 1983. ISBN 3-15-007541-6

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Reinhard Brandt & Werner Stark: “Introduction.” In: Immanuel Kant's Collected Writings , Academy edition, vol. XXV (Göttingen 2007), p. Vii-cli. See also ( online ).
  2. Immanuel Kant: Anthropology in a pragmatic way. Reclam's Universal Library No. 7541 [4], pp. 369-370.
  3. ^ Robert B. Louden: Kant's Impure Ethics (New York, 2000); Allen Wood, Unsocial Sociability: The Anthropological Basis of Kant's Ethics, in Philosophical Topics 19, pp. 325-351.
  4. ^ Thomas Sturm: Kant and the human sciences (Paderborn, 2009); Special issue "Kant and the human sciences", Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 39 (2008).
  5. Reinhard Brandt: Critical commentary on Kant's anthropology in pragmatic terms (Hamburg 1999); Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain (eds.): Essays on Kant's Anthropology (Cambridge / England, 2003); Special issue "Anthropologie", Kant Yearbook 3 (2011).