SHS Web Conf.
Volume 161, 202312th Kant-Readings International Conference “Kant and the Ethics of Enlightenment: Historical Roots and Contemporary Relevance”
|Number of page(s)||8|
|Section||Kant’s Ethics and Its Application|
|Published online||08 March 2023|
Kant’s anti-humanism: An outline
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, 69 Nowy Świat, 00-330 Warsaw, Poland
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kantian ethics is widely associated with a dictum stating that the human being possesses an absolute value. This position is famously articulated by Kant in the formula of the categorical imperative which states that each person should always be treated as an ultimate end – not as a mere means. Arguably, we face here a good prima facie case for reckoning Kant among the humanists. In spite of this, I argue – contrary to the popular view – that Kant’s ethical theory should be understood as “nomocentric”, and to that extent as anti-humanistic. Obviously, human beings are special for Kant in a morally important way, but their unique significance is not due to their nature as such, but consists solely in their capacity to fulfil the demands imposed on them by the moral law. While establishing this thesis, I discuss various examples of anti-humanistic pronouncements from Kant’s texts, ranging from the pre-critical period up to the late writings, and thereby show that e.g. Kant’s (in)famous insistence on the claim that saving an innocent human life does not justify a white lie (On the Right to Lie From Philanthropy, 1797) is anything but a slip of the pen on Kant’s part. In thecourse of the argument I also emphasise the subjective component to all teleology in Kant including the teleological account of the categorical imperative, and suggest that Kant’s apparent ambivalence towards humanism is rendered intelligible by paying close attention to his dualistic anthropology.
Key words: Kant / humanism / anti-humanism / dignity / ethics / morality / Yeshayahu Leibowitz
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2023
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