Chapter 1. Unholy Human Beings and Holy Humanity in Kant’s Critical and Practical Philosophy
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29 Chapter 1 Unholy Human Beings and Holy Humanity in Kant’s Critical and Practical Philosophy A human being is indeed unholy enough but the humanity in his person must be holy to him.1 To begin to understand the positions undertaken by Kant in his IR-­ relevant works such as Toward Perpetual Peace, one must first recognize that these essays are products of a much wider project, i.e., Kant’s advocacy of a reorientation of mankind’s perception of itself. This chapter concerns itself with what might be called the anthropological implications of the critical philosophy, which in turn lay the ground for Kant’s political and international theory. In the reading offered here, I employ “mankind” when referring to the human race as a whole without any attribution of a moral or political character. Following Kant’s distinction, the term “human beings” is used in instances where Kant details how members of the human race view each other within the “sensible world” of the mechanism of nature, i.e., primarily as politically prudent, self-­ seeking actors. “Humanity” is mankind viewed in terms of its moral character, i.e., without reference to the impulses and incentives that pertain to the mechanism of nature. The anthropological implications of the critical philosophy eventually find themselves at the heart of Kant’s project. In The Critique of Pure Reason Kant claims that “[a]ll the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical” combine in three questions: “1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope?”2 Kant claims that the Critique itself answers the first ques- 30    kant’s international relations tion as far as possible. The second question relates to the “purely practical,” which Kant deals with primarily in The Groundwork and The Critique of Practical Reason. The answer to the third question is tied to the second, i.e., what can I hope for, if I do that which I ought to do? Kant maintains that the answer is both practical and theoretical, reflecting both morality and interest, in that hope is directed toward achieving happiness, which is best attained by allowing hope to arrive at the conclusion “that something is (which determines the ultimate possible end) because something ought to happen,” which is arguably the ultimate basis and justification of the practical philosophy.3 The importance of the anthropological implications of the critical philosophy becomes clear by the addition in the Lectures on Logic (1800) of another pivotal question—­ “what is man?” This fourth question, Kant stressed, was the master question: “[f]undamentally  . . . we could reckon all of this anthropology, because the first three questions relate to the last one.”4 It is in the context of the centrality of the anthropological implications of his philosophy that Kant develops perhaps his single most important political-­ theological theme: the conjunction of humanity and holiness, and, conversely, that of human beings and unholiness. If political theology can be understood as “the collection of stories we tell ourselves about our nature as humans, our aspirations for order and justice in light of the sacred, and what, thereby, constitutes and limits legitimate rule over our collective lives,” then Kant’s twofold investigation of mankind, viewed from the standpoints of the profane “human being” and sanctified “humanity,” marks him out as perhaps the most significant political theologian of the modern era.5 The human being/humanity distinction has important implications for Kant’s answers to the defining questions relating to what mankind can know, how it ought to act, and for what it may hope. The answers of the human being are distinct in each case from those of humanity. As a participant in the “world of sense,” the human being “knows” his or her environment through the use of understanding and technical practical reason. The human being perceives herself and others as acting according to the insights of prudence, a worldview in which the second question, “what ought I to do?,” is answerable solely in terms of achieving security and material well-­ being, while hope is restricted to survival and, at best, the extension of rational self-­ interest on a universal basis in the political and economic spheres. By contrast, when viewing himself as a citizen of the world of understanding, a member of the rational species humanity can know nothing of this world, but is entitled to think about its possible foundations and to hope for an ultimate and unholy human beings...