You are on page 1of 14

Nuria Sanchez Madrid (Madrid, Spain)

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life.

The Development of Pragmatic
Normativity in Kants Lectures on
Anthropology *
As is well known, Kant held Anthropology lectures every winter semester from
1772 until 1796, namely for twenty-four years in all, covering the entire critical
phase of his career. This fidelity confirms Kants interest in laying down a new
basis for an ancient subject that deals with knowledge of the human being [Menschenkenntni], i. e. anthropology or as Kant asserts in one of the lectures
Antropognosie1. One key feature of this knowledge is that human beings, in contrast with the stability of animal life, undergo an evolution that brings the species
closer to its moral destination by the efforts of generations of individuals:
Every bee is born, learns to make cells and prepares honey, and dies, and has come to the
highest degree of its vocation. But the bee has done that just as well from the beginning of
the world up to now; thus it does not alter itself at all.
With the human being it is entirely different. The ancient and first times were farther distant from their vocation than the following ones, and in recent times having achieved his
vocation seems to have been reserved for the human being.2

The text displays that the experience of time available for the human species cannot be compared with the activity of animals on the earth. But actually the sense
of existence itself is completely heterogeneous for each of them. As the Menschenkunde lecture ironically states, if a horse could grasp the thought I, I
should dismount and consider it as my company3. In contrast to animals, human
beings bring forth a pragmatic behavior. Therefore, they require prudence in
order to have success in society and not to ruin the most basic rules of human
coexistence. I share with others the view that we should approach these materials

* This paper is part of a research programme undertaken with the support of the research project Poetics of Selfhood: memory, imagination and narrativity (PTDC/MHC-FIL/4203/2012), granted by the FCT of the Government of Portugal, and also supported by the research projects Naturaleza humana y comunidad (III). Actualidad del humanismo e inactualidad del hombre?
(FFI201346815-P) and Reto
ricas del Clasicismo. Los puntos de vista (contextos, premisas, mentalidades) (FFI201341410-P), granted by the MINECO of the Government of Spain.
1 V-Anth/Busolt, AA 25.2: 1435.
2 V-Anth/Pillau, AA 25.2: 839.
3 V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 859.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

164 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

of Kants philosophical legacy with caution, so that I chiefly aim at considering
them as documents always subordinated to the main, the published works.4 Taking this into account, I shall first pose the following question: how far could the
reader of these Kantian lectures assign an autonomous scope and a place outside
the boundaries of Kants morals to anthropology? In this context, I deal with the
relation of anthropological knowledge to Kants moral doctrine. Second, I attempt
to reconstruct the unity of scattered materials of a worldly prudence, which yields
valuable help for guiding the actions of a man of the world [Weltmann]. Finally, I
focus on the empirical traits of knowledge of the human being, that nevertheless
contribute to an enquiry on the character of the human species, which goes far beyond the boundaries of phenomenal anthropological observation. I claim that
Kants Anthropology lectures display a certain evolution, one which leads to an
increasing consciousness of the meaning and limits of pragmatic normativity.

1 The Anthropology Lectures and the Empirical

Side of Morals
Kant holds that the proper study of human nature could never proceed physiologically or according to an experimental method, since human existence should
be thought as a permanent dialogue with others. As Allen Wood notes, the actions of others and the influence of society must be regarded as part of the pragmatic self-making of the human being.5 This approach to the human being as a
social product legitimates the assignment of the title of Weltkenntnis to the study
of its worldly education. Anthropology Friedlnder especially highlights this sociable feature of knowledge of the human being:
Nothing interests us as much as another human being, not nature but the human being is
the object of our affects. We attend to nothing more than we attend to what can accrue to us
in other peoples regard. Nature can offer us nothing but comfortableness and maintenance,

4 See Louden 2001, 67: Kants lecture notes are important documents, but they should be used
conservatively as added support for claims made in his published works not as stand-alone
indications of his position. Cf. Stark 2003, 19 f.: Historically noteworthy, however, is the fact
that [Kant] never composed and published his own textbook for use in any of his courses. Presumably, one explanation for this noteworthy fact is Kants deep pedagogical conviction that his
students should not learn philosophy, but rather ought to learn how to philosophize. Thus, in
terms of form, the oral doctrine of Kants lectures stands in a special tension with his published
works. It is only in the case of the Anthropology that Kant would later resolve this tension, that
is, with the publication of his textbook in 1798. See also Stark 1992.
5 Wood 2003, 41.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life | 165

which can only be used among human beings, and only insofar as we cannot have these in
common with other people, are we unable to bear all miserable circumstances in regard to
comfortableness and maintenance. We do not complain about nature itself in regard to our
meager circumstances, but because other people are better off than we are. [...] The human
being thus interests us more than nature, for nature exists for the sake of the human, the
human being is the purpose of the nature.6

Beyond its social genealogy, the Anthropology lectures shed light on essential
issues regarding the human capacity to fulfill what the moral law commands,
helping to grant access [Eingang] to moral laws and efficacy for fulfillment of them
[Nachdruck zur Ausbung]7 as they are applied to human nature. Admittedly,
Kants practical philosophy often emphasizes that morals do not require any anthropological feedback in order to see its imperative fulfilled, but this thesis is
compatible with the fact that moral anthropology displays the subjective conditions in human nature that hinder people or help them in carrying out the laws
of a metaphysics of morals8. To put it in a nutshell, anthropology supplies
awareness of the empirical features of human behavior relevant to moral law, a
behavior which inevitably occurs in a social context and is influenced by psychological reasons. Some Kant scholars have drawn attention to the strong declaration regarding these two subjects contained in the following introductory passage of Collins Moral Philosophy lecture:
The science of the rules concerning how a human being ought to behave is practical philosophy, and the science of the rules concerning his actual behavior is anthropology; these
two sciences [morality and practical anthropology] are closely connected, and moral philosophy cannot endure without anthropology, for one must first know of the agent, whether
he is also in a position to accomplish what is required of him that he should do. It is naturally possible to consider anthropology without the knowledge of the subject, but this is
only a speculative [anthropology] or an idea. [. . .] People are always preaching about what
ought to be done, and nobody thinks about whether it can be done, so that even the admonitions, which are tautological repetitions of rules that everyone knows already, strike us as
very tedious, in that nothing is said beyond what is already known, and the pulpit orations
on the subject are very empty, if the preacher does not simultaneously attend to humanity.9

Of course, pragmatic observations and rules what we call pragmatic normativity

could go through many different applications, but the most purposive use of
them will refer to morals.10 Moreover, the same schedule of Kants lectures proves

6 V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.1: 470.

7 GMS, AA 04: 389, emphasis added.
8 MS, AA 06: 217.
9 V-Mo/Collins, AA 27.1: 244.
10 See Louden 2011, 70: Pragmatic anthropology becomes moral anthropology when we
choose to make use of our knowledge of human nature for moral purposes. Thus, in principle, all
aspects of pragmatic anthropology are potentially moral anthropology: all that is needed to turn

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

166 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

that from winter 1772/73 he regularly held a course on Ethics with a parallel
course on Anthropology.11 Despite interpretations such as Foucaults commentary on Kants pragmatic anthropology, there is something inconsistent in the
idea that these sometimes fragmentary materials can shape an independent matter, apart from the basic tenets of morals. Kant never hints at a similar assumption regarding the science of the human being. One finds in the Menschenkunde
lecture a broad definition of what practical knowledge is, i. e. a knowledge of
the art of how one human being has influence on another and can lead him according to his purpose12. Moreover, pragmatic knowledge will be called so insofar as it serves to fulfill our overall aims13, but the public matters which require pragmatic skills could not prevail over the moral ends that only the
doctrine of wisdom conveys. Actually, the discretionary ends of culture and
those corresponding to the worldly cognition characteristic of every civilized society are subordinated to the ends that reason deems appropriate for the moralization process.14 Since anthropology delivers essential information about the
subjects hindrances and helps to fulfill the commands of the moral law, as well
as displaying a moral education program for the destination of human species,
stamped by an evident cosmopolitan commitment, Weltkenntnis has to be considered as an indirectly moral Weltkenntnis. That all pragmatic doctrines give us
the means to make a proper use of everything15 unfailingly refers to the moral
feature of the Klugheitslehre. Against a narrower understanding of Kants practical secondary writings, defended by scholars as Paton and Gregor16, Robert
Louden argues that without
moral anthropology, we are travelers without a map who know neither our destination nor
our means of reaching it. We do not know how to make moral principles and commitments
efficacious, and we lack judgment concerning when, where, how and why to apply them in
daily life.17

any aspect of pragmatic anthropology into moral anthropology is the decision to apply it to
moral rather than nonmoral ends. Louden, 2011, 82: If peoples chosen ends are moral ones,
then they can apply anthropology as a means towards this goal. But if their ends are nonmoral,
anthropological knowledge of human beings can also be of service.
11 See Stark 2003, 23 f.
12 V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 855.
13 V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 856.
14 See V-Anth/Busolt, AA 25.2: 1436.
15 V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.1: 471.
16 Paton 1971, 32 and Gregor 1963, 8. Both argue that anthropological concepts could not belong
to practical philosophy insofar as they are empirical, so that they would not be entirely
[grounded] on the concept of freedom (KU, AA 05: 173).
17 Louden 2011, 77. Alix A. Cohen shares basically this point of view, see 2008, 513: The moral
guidance of anthropology thus consists in recommending what helps the realization of duty (for
Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services
Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life |


One of the two editors of volume 25 of the Academy Edition, W. Stark, has also
argued that Kants anthropology is
an integral part of his philosophy (including his critical philosophy), and [. ..] it is not to be
reckoned as a mere appendage to the system.18

Another Kant scholar who has written about the Anthropology lectures, Alix A.
Cohen, compares anthropology with a GPS device that shows the subject which
path leads to her moral destination.19 For this purpose, she uses the analogy with
the metaphor of the compass that Kant shaped in order to clarify how common
human reason knows a priori what is good and what is evil without drawing this
evidence from experience20.
The fact that anthropology shall always remain an unfinished and imperfect
matter has misled some readings of this part of Kants philosophical legacy that
tend to reduce it to a mere prudential appendix. Yet Kant holds that this subject is
of great utility for its influence on morality and religion21, since it facilitates
performance of the duties which stem from moral laws. Independently of its supplementary outcomes, empirical knowledge of the human being ought to help in
the application of practical philosophy, which at least allows us to regard anthropology as an important part of philosophia moralis applicata, which Kant
distinguishes from metaphysica pura, for instance in the Moral Mrongovius II22.
The following passage from the Menschenkunde, one of the most articulated lectures of Kants Anthropology, focuses decidedly on this link:
All morals require knowledge of the human being, so that we do not chatter empty exhortations to people but know how to lead them, in order that they begin to hold moral laws in
high regard and turn to their principles. I must know which avenues of human dispositions
I can have in order to bring forth resolutions; knowledge of the human being can give us the
opportunity for this, so that the educator and preacher do not produce mere sobs and tears
but are in a condition to produce true resolutions. Knowledge of the human being is just as
indispensable for politics, for in order to be able to rule human beings one must know
human beings. Without knowledge of the human being the sovereign cannot lead such a

instance, politeness and sympathy) and warning against what hinders it (for instance, passions). Of course, these helps and hindrances are by no means a guarantee of virtue. For being
sympathetic and polite is not sufficient to be genuinely moral: but it certainly helps.
18 Stark 2003, 21.
19 Cohen 2008, 513.
20 GMS, AA 04: 404.
21 V-Anth/Busolt, AA 25.2: 1437.
22 V-Mo/Mron II, AA 29: 599.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

168 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

multitude of social classes; they will all oppose him and he cannot lead them according to
his will.23

The text points out that to know how to reach purposes in general facilitates the
identification of the most convenient means for accomplishing our own moral
destination. The famous claim of Kant, according to which the highest interest of
reason is always practical24, also confirms this subordination of anthropology to
morals.25 Since, in Kants eyes, [t]he sciences are principia for the improvement
of morality26, a sketch of science as anthropology should not be excluded from
this commitment. Kants distinction between skillfulness [Geschicklichkeit] and
prudence [Klugheit] is also connected with this point, as the Menschenkunde lecture reports:
Skillfulness is directed toward things; prudence, toward human beings. The watchmaker is
skilled if he makes a perfect watch; but if he knows how to bring it to the customer quickly
because he repairs it according to fashion, then he is prudent. Only when we are able to
acquire influence on human beings do we also have an influence on things, because
human hands produce everything out of raw nature. Prudence is therefore based merely on
the knowledge of the human being, by virtue of which we are in a position to direct others
according to our purpose.27

Skillfulness concerns only things, so that it does not entail a real feedback before
other human beings. A skilled person in the manufacture of clocks Kants example does not need to bear in mind the foresights and strategies aimed at increasing his influence on others. Yet prudence cannot be understood as an allembracing skillfulness, but as a knowledge of the stage upon which we can
apply all skill which is constantly in progress28. Put differently, pragmatic knowledge will be very useful for civilizing the human being and for educating him as
a Weltmann.
The remark that anthropology should stop being considered as a part of
metaphysics in order to emerge as a coherent science [zusammenhngende
Wissenschaft29]30 does not first and foremost affirm its identity with the empirical
psychology, to which the Critique of Pure Reason assigned the status of a refugee
until it [could] establish its own domicile in a complete anthropology (the pen-


V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 858.

KpV, AA 05: 121.
For a different approach to this question see Kain 2003, 251.
V-Mo/Collins, AA 27.1: 462.
V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 855.
V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.2: 469.
V-Anth/Collins, AA 25.1: 007.
Cfr. Pirillo 2008, 305 f.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life


dant to the empirical doctrine of nature)31. On the contrary, this approach opens
a new enquiry that the ancients praised only nominally:
It is to be wondered why the ancients did not occupy themselves more with human cognition, even though they declared this endeavor to be the most useful one. But there is nothing more usual than the fact that one believes himself to know what he is accustomed to
deal with and holds it not to be worthy of this investigation. This opinion, which is implanted in us, has done uncommon harm to the sciences, and deprived us of the cognition of
many things. At the same time, it is to be remarked that because the sciences are expounded in academies in a certain order and separated from other sciences, they have grown
and expanded greatly. It is precisely so with empirical psychology, for as long as it was dependent on metaphysics, and was not expounded especially, it had only a very small range.
It even deserves a special set of lectures, in part because it does not at all belong to metaphysics, in part because it can be learned by everyone without requiring any prerequisite

The passage states clearly that those who believe that anthropology does not require any discipline, because its contents are so naturally learned and easy to
grasp that the mere civil intercourse would yield all the expected materials,
repeat a terrible mistake which morals traditionally committed, i. e. the idea that
to put the knowledge of the human being under a systematical articulation
would be superficial. Certainly the matters which anthropology considers should
not be confused with the conceptus puri (sic) that stem from reason33, since the
first are practical qualities [praktische Eigenschaften34]35 that concern the phenomena of human intercourse, without regard to problems such as the mindbody union in human beings, studied by scientists such as Charles Bonnet. Within the boundaries of this phenomenal enquiry, anthropology attempts to
discover what is natural in the human being and what proceeds from culture and
civilization, providing to morals the empirical space of its application, as the
Mrongovius lecture illustrates by a puzzling analogy:
Anthropology is pragmatic, but it is of service for the moral knowledge of the human being,
since one must create the motives for morals from it, and without Anthropology morals
would be scholastic, not at all applicable to the world, and not agreeable to the world. Anthropology stands to morals as spatial geometry stands to geodesy.36

The knowledge about how world rules prevent an excessive abstraction in the
moral realm and facilitate the implementation of the moral law in a space shaped
by human beliefs and expectations brings forth a pragmatic normativity.


KrV, AA: B 876 f. / A 848.

V-Anth/Parow, AA 25.1: 243 f.
V-Anth/Parow, AA 25.1: 243.
V-Anth/Collins, AA 25.1: 009.
Cfr. Pirillo 2008, 308.
V-Anth/Mron, AA 25.2: 1211.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

170 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

2 The Reflective Gathering of Scattered Material

Kant rejects a scholastic approach to anthropology such as the one executed by
Platner, from which one could not obtain any enlightenment of common life37.
In one of Kants famous letters to M. Herz anthropology appears as a Beobachtungslehre, which provides the sources of all the sciences38 and procure[s] the
pragmatic element for all other acquired sciences and skills39. Kant declares his
intention to renovate substantially the approach and goals of this empirical discipline:
This winter for the second time I am offering a collegium privatum on anthropology, a subject that I now intend to turn into a proper academic discipline. But my plan is quite different. The intention that I have is to disclose through it the sources of all the sciences that are
concerned with ethics, with the skill of social intercourse, of the method of educating and
governing human beings, hence the skill of everything that pertains to the practical. I seek
then more phenomena and their laws rather than the first grounds of the possibility of
modifying human nature in general. Hence the subtle and in my eyes eternally futile investigation concerning how bodily organs stand in connection with thoughts is left out entirely. I include so many observations of ordinary life that my listeners have constant occasion
to compare their ordinary experience with my remarks and thus, from beginning to end,
find the lectures always entertaining and never dry.40

Weltkenntnis should be worked out as a Kenntnis des Menschen41, which shares

with the physiology of external senses the feature of gathering, according to subjective principles, disparate elements previously provided by the observation
and the experience. Several Anthropology lectures also focus on this question42.
Kant highlights that the display of the multiplicity and variety of human characters and uses the map of an Anthropographie43 requires a previous grounding
of anthropology, which orders the collected material and puts it under a certain
unity. Moreover, the fragmentary structure of anthropological remarks should
not discourage the reader from reconstructing the unity of the entire corpus of
this heterogeneous array of remarks. On the contrary, this is acknowledged as an
unavoidable task. Kant is completely aware that the chosen handbook for his Anthropology lectures, i. e. Baumgartens Metaphysica, is a scholastic book, so that


V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 853.

Br, AA 10: 145.
VvRM, AA 02: 443.
Br, AA 10: 145 f.
V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.1: 470.
V-Anth/Collins, AA 25.1: 007; V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.1: 854 f.
V-Anth/Busolt, AA 25.2: 1435.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life |


many other considerations will enter in44. This might emphasize the impression of a patchwork, as the following passage of Friedlnder lecture suggests:
To observe human beings and their conduct, to bring their phenomena under rules, is the
purpose of anthropology. All anthropologies that we still have at this time, have not yet had
the idea which we have here before us. Everything that bears no relation to the prudent
conduct of human beings does not belong to anthropology.45

One paradoxical feature which goes across Kants Anthropology lectures is the
contrast between the empirical contents and the cosmopolitan vocation of their
observations and commentaries. Everything seems disposed to fulfill Kants idea
of setting up knowledge of the human being as a citizen of the world46. But this
cosmopolitan purpose derives from a moral emphasis that internally concerns
this anthropological project. Several passages of the lectures uphold the subordination of anthropological observation to a general guiding conception of human
nature, as the distinction between a general and a local anthropology proves:
anthropology is not however a local but rather a general anthropology. In it one comes to
know not the state of human beings but rather the nature of humanity, for the local properties of human beings always change, but the nature of humanity does not. Anthropology
is thus a pragmatic knowledge of what results from our nature, but it is not a physical or
geographical knowledge, for that is tied to time and place, and is not constant [. . .] Anthropology is not a description of human beings, but of human nature.47

The ability to use every learned science conveniently is a specific expression of

permanent human endeavor to obtain happiness, but this should not shield the
fact that the utility of every science must be subordinated to the instruments and
means which contribute to the fulfillment of the moral destination of the human
being. To accomplish the last demand is a duty to all human beings. Nevertheless, the ability of prudence [Klugheit] is not less necessary than the magnificent
horizon of wisdom, since human existence cannot ever leave aside the skill in
the choice of ones own greatest well-being [Wohlsein]48.49 Kant argues that only
a general knowledge of the world could provide the pragmatic rules for guiding
the subject in common life, as the Pillau lecture states with glaring words:
1) A local knowledge of the world, which merchants [Kaufleute] have, which is also called
empirical. 2) A general knowledge of the world, which the man of the world has, and which
is not empirical but cosmological. Local knowledge of the world is tied to place and time,


V-Anth/Mron, AA 25.2: 1214.

V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.1: 472.
Anth, AA 07: 120.
V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.1: 471.
GMS, AA 04: 416.
Concerning prudence and its relation to practical rationality, see KrV, AA: B 834 / A 806.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

172 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

and also gives no rules to a person to act in common life. He who becomes acquainted with
the world through travel has only this knowledge of it, which, however, also lasts only for
awhile, for when the behavior in the place where he has been changes, then his knowledge
of it also ceases.50

The text casts light on the limitations of local knowledge of the world, too tied to
a concrete space and time, so that it could train merchants, but not the man of the
world [Weltmann]. This kind of knowledge of the human being grasps only contingent and changing features of human behavior and situations, whereas general knowledge teaches the student to reflect about human nature through social
intercourse51. Kant mentions three main benefits that a general knowledge of the
human being yields52. First, to consider with an attentive eye the human beings
around us can take the place of frequent travels around the world, inasmuch as
this strong reflection guides the observer to the anthropological sources of actions. Secondly, civil intercourse gets the subject acquainted with basic human
motivations, no matter how plural their expressions may be. Third, plays, novels,
history and biography provide a rich collection of remarks from which every
reader can benefit.
To pay attention to the historical sources of Kants Anthropology could be to
a large extent useful in order to go further in the understanding of the incompleteness of these courses, compared to other scientific disciplines. I shall argue
that his Anthropology lectures display an approach to knowledge of the human
being that reveals at least an indirect influence from the experiential Enlightenment53 cultivated by Christian Thomasiuss Court philosophy on the development of this pragmatic enquiry. The main content that Kant draws from this tradition, completely opposed to the scholastic point of view of the Wolffians, was
prudence as a guide for orientating human beings in ordinary public life. I follow
other Kant scholars especially Stark and Louden as I attempt to reassess anew
what Baumgartens empirical psychology supplies to the basic framework for
Kants Anthropology. Scholars interested in Kants Anthropology should not
undervalue the fact that the tradition of Court Philosophy contributes significantly to this new academic discipline. The reception of Thomasiuss distinction between Gelahrtheit, i. e. knowledge yielded by experience, and Gelehrtheit, i. e.

50 V-Anth/Pillau, AA 25.2: 734. See Louden 2011, 73: It can be put to pragmatic, nonmoral uses
as well as to moral ones. A businessman who uses his Weltkenntnis to expand his companys
market share is using it for pragmatic purposes, but people who use Weltkenntnis in order more
effectively and intelligently to apply pure moral principles to the human situation are using it for
moral purposes.
51 V-Anth/Fried, AA 25.1: 471.
52 V-Anth/Pillau, AA 25.2: 734.
53 I borrow this expression from Wilson 2001, 180.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life | 173

knowledge gained from scholarly concepts,54 by Kants opposition between the

scholastic and the cosmopolitan concept of philosophy will be an eloquent example of this influence. Naturally, one should not deny the fact that the third part
of Baumgartens Ethics tackled the so-called officia erga alia, which contains a
catalogue of social virtues (the decorum), but it is clear that Kants point of view
about the use of these social abilities is nearer to Thomasiuss idea of man. The
German scholar argues that with the support of this capacity all humans could
learn how to feel satisfaction [complacentia] in common with others (socially)55, as Kant will state later. Far from this cultural tradition, which leads Kant to
view the sciences as aids for the moralization process, such a scholar who does
not know how to contribute to the progress of the moral destination of human
species comes up in the Anthropology lectures as a comical figure with an extreme worldly disability. The Mrongovius Anthropology Lecture offers up an
interesting anecdote, akin to the rhythm and content of these courses:
The word pedant originally comes from Latin, for in Italy one called the domestic tutor
magistri pedanei. The Italian word pedanto came from this, as one left off the magistro and
changed pedanei into pedanto; hence today the German word Pedant. These people were
supposedly not to be received outside their study rooms; they thus applied only their school
knowledge when they were in social intercourse and therefore gave people the occasion to
call a person who did know how to conduct himself with human beings a pedant. A pedant can only make a scholastic use of his knowledge because he does not know how to
apply it any better and does not know any other use for it.56

As formerly the magister pedaneus, the pedant lives in his study room, deprived of any social intercourse and apart from any interest in the world and its
practical features, so that the knowledge that he conveys will be completely useless for the interests of human beings. In conclusion, a general knowledge of
human nature and culture must be presupposed when conveying the scientific
potential of anthropology. Without this background every teacher loses her pedagogical capacity.

3 Conclusion
Kants Anthropology lectures could be read as a decided tribute to the phenomenal existence of human beings, which yields up a surprising cooperative dimension in regard to their moral destination. The Announcement of the academic

54 See Thomasius 1691. Cfr. Barnard 1971.

55 Anth, AA 07: 244.
56 V-Anth/Mron, AA 25.2: 1209.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

174 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

courses of 1765 declares that Kants lectures on anthropology begin with a historical and philosophical consideration of what happens, before specifying
what ought to happen57. Moreover, the study of the human being deals with the
unchanging nature of human beings, and his distinctive position within the creation58, leaving aside the mutable shapes that they can contingently adopt over
the centuries. As Stark points out:
The relationship between anthropology and moral philosophy is determined by the difference between is and ought: the same behavior can and will be considered from two perspectives. Anthropology considers the actual behavior, the observable actions. Moral philosophy seeks to assess this behavior, these same actions, insofar as it establishes and
grounds criteria for judgment.59

Kants portrayal of social behavior assumes the framework of three faculties according to Baumgartens empirical psychology, so that the study of the empirical
character becomes the core topic of the anthropology, while the intelligible character remains the subject of morals.60 Yet to tackle empirical issues does not exclude the reconstruction of a certain purpose, decidedly useful for the moral development of the human species. As the Anthropology Parow lecture notes,
every trait of humanity should be connected with its source, and the character
of human beings that one presently finds scattered in sciences, literature and
moral essays, should be systematically unified61. Despite the multiplicity of customs, temperaments, and practices in different nations and cultures, Kant argues
that there is more regularity in this complex map of human nature than there
seems to be. The Menschenkunde lecture claims that anthropology discovers
rules that will entertain even women at the dressing-table, because [e]very
human being is delighted over a rule62, and all cultures contribute to the pragmatic normativity, which allows to better comprehend the world, suggesting a
guiding thread where there is apparent disorder63. A similar remark appears in
the Mrongovius lecture
[A] solid knowledge of the human being interests everyone and provides material for conversation, even for a woman; as Chremes in Terence says: I am a human being, what relates
to human beings concerns me, too, for here every human being can examine it; all that is


NEV, AA 02: 311.

Stark 2003, 24.
See Munzel 1999.
V-Anth/Parow, AA 25.1: 244.
V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 856.
V-Anth/Mensch, AA 25.2: 857.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

Prudence and the Rules for Guiding Life |


abstract, namely, what one must for the most part examine [only] with great effort, thus
does not belong here, yet it must not be completely commonplace either.64

The order that anthropology brings to light in human discourses and uses has a
high interest for human beings, inasmuch as this matter increases our self-knowledge and teaches us how to arrange our actions in order to enhance the sociability with others and to prevail over their intentions65. Kant states that the subjective principles of all sciences66 belong also to this anthropological scope,
insofar as they are means through which teachers and preachers gain influence
over the public. Moreover, although the point of view of anthropological analysis
is empirical, the evolution of the lectures leads to character, a perspective which
suggests taking a wider perspective regarding the materials gathered by the three
preceding faculties, and which supports once more the dependence of these lectures from morals:
Characters are nothing other than that which is peculiar to the higher capacities. Indeed, in
each human being there lie the greatest incentives and preparations for every kind of activity, but there also lies a higher principle in him to make use of all the capacities and incentives, to sacrifice and to restrain sensations, etc. The constitution of these higher powers
makes up the character. Thus one also says nothing, if one says the word character to refer
to a human beings capacities. [What matters is] how he makes use of them, and what he
wills to do.67

Kants Anthropology lectures prove that pragmatic normativity is always subject

to moral principles. Yet it is equally true that the progress of anthropological
knowledge prevents the mistakes resulting from abstraction and shows channels
that make the application of moral commands easier. It is a matter of fact that
anthropological remarks will never see their incompleteness entirely removed,
but perhaps this is precisely the indisputable proof that the boundaries of life are
always broader than those of morals, which precludes an exact correspondence
between these two realms. Such a correspondence should be rather regarded as
impossible according to Kants conception of the human being.

64 V-Anth/Mron, AA 25.2: 1213.

65 V-Anth/Pillau, AA 25.2: 734 f.
66 Ibid.
67 V-Anth/Collins, AA 25.1: 227; cfr. V-Anth/Collins, AA 25.1: 008 and V-Anth/Parow, AA 25.1:
244. See also Stark 2003, 28: In a somewhat pointed manner one could say that the capacity for
character is the fourth faculty considered in the anthropology, a fourth element emerging from a
consideration of the foregoing triad.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM

176 | Nuria Sanchez Madrid

Kant, Immanuel: Lectures on Anthropology. Ed. by A. Wood and R. Louden. New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2012.
Thomasius, Christian: Einleitung zur Vernunftlehre. Halle: gedruckt bei Christoph Salfelden,

Secondary Literature
Barnard, F. M.: The Practical Philosophy of Christian Thomasius. In: Journal of the History of
Ideas 32, 1971, 221246.
Brandt, R.: Reflexiones acerca de la prudencia en Kant. In: Isegora 30, 2004, 740.
Cohen, A. A.: Kants Answer to the Question What is Man? and its Implications for Anthropology. In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 39, 2008, 506514.
Gregor, M. J.: Laws of Freedom. Oxford: Blackwell, 1963.
Jacobs, B. / Kain, P. (eds.): Essays on Kants Anthropology. New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2003.
Louden, R.: Kants Human Being. Essays on His Theory of Human Nature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Louden, R.: Kants Impure Ethics. From Rational Beings to Human Beings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Martinelli, R.: Antropologia. In: Luniverso kantiano. Filosofia, scienze, sapere. Ed. by S.
Besoli, C. La Rocca and R. Martinelli. Macerata: Quodlibet, 2010, 1352.
Munzel, G. F.: Kants Conception of Moral Character. The Critical Link of Morality, Anthropology
and Reflective Judgment. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1999.
Paton, H. J.: The Categorical Imperative. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press,
Pirillo, N.: La conoscenza del mondo e la prudenza nelle trascrizioni delle lezioni kantiane di
antropologia. In: Filosofia e storiografia. Vol. 2. Galatina: Congedo, 2008, 299310.
Stark, W.: Die Formen von Kants akademischer Lehre. In: Deutsche Zeitschrift fr Philosophie
40, 1992, 543562.
Stark, W.: Historical Notes and Interpretive Questions about Kants Lectures on Anthropology.
In: Essays on Kants Anthropology. Ed. by B. Jacobs and P. P. Kain. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2003, 1537.
Wilson, H.: Kantian Experiential Enlightenment and Court Philosophy in 18th Century. In: History of Philosophy Quarterly 18, 2001, 179205.
Wilson, H.: Kants Pragmatic Anthropology. Its Origin, Meaning, and Critical Significance. New
York: SUNY Press, 2006.
Wood, A.: Unsocial Sociability. The Anthropological Basis of Kantian Ethics. In: Philosophical
Topics 19, 1, 1991, 325351.

Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical Services

Download Date | 7/23/15 11:47 AM