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Chapter 11 - Kant on civilisation, culture and moralisation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2014

Alix Cohen
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
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Summary

This chapter explores the relationship in the Lectures on Anthropology between the title themes and three important aspects of the wider context of the emergence of anthropology as a discipline in the eighteenth century, namely secularisation, animalism and historical pessimism. In the Menschenkunde, Immanuel Kant decides that it is improbable that human beings once went on four feet, as Rousseau and the Italian physician Moscati maintained, and this for anatomical reasons. Historians of culture synthesised the available travel literature and ancient and modern accounts of European history to explore the transition from the state of nature to that of civilisation and to compare one with the other. Civil society enforces moral constraint through the judgment of others. This is more effective in producing 'lived morality' than is religion. It is social judgment that leads people to kill themselves rather than suffer to disgrace in the eyes of others.
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Kant's Lectures on Anthropology
A Critical Guide
, pp. 191 - 210
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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