Chapter 4. The Instruction of Suffering: Kant’s Theological Anthropology
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103 Chapter 4 The Instruction of Suffering Kant’s Theological Anthropology The resolution of human political history in the form identified in Toward Perpetual Peace requires the thorough reorientation of mankind to a position where pure practical reason, morality, and law direct the behavior of mankind. As seen in chapter 3, Kant refers to the theorization of this alternative orientation as the product of a “higher anthropological vantage point.” This chapter investigates Kant’s anthropology in the light of this fundamental distinction between lower and higher anthropological vantage points, seeking to discover the extent to which Kant thought it was possible for the vision embodied in the higher vantage point to become the primary means by which mankind comprehends itself. Kant’s political and IR theory reduces to the fundamental question: Can human beings shift perceptions of themselves and their environment to such an extent that they are closer to the ideal represented by humanity? Human moral and political progress is for Kant a deeply unnatural process. In the Conjectural Beginning of Human History Kant makes it clear that the defining characteristic of human beings, their quest for freedom, is in defiance of nature and has exacted a terrible cost on human beings, resulting in “on the moral side a fall; on the physical side a multitude of ills. . . . The history of nature thus begins from good, for that is the work of God; the history of freedom from evil, for it is the work of the human being.”1 This theme of the unnaturalness of human development is already present in Kant’s review of Pietro Moscati’s Of the Corporeal Essential Differences Between the Structure of Animals and Humans.2 In this review the most distinctive aspect of human physiology, bipedal uprightness, is 104    kant’s international relations described as “contrived and against nature.”3 Kant is clear that the human being must suffer for his unnaturalness, condemned to endure pain, discomfort, and unease as the price for sacrificing natural animal contentedness in favor of developing his or her cognitive faculties as a rational entity. Kant’s anthropological works are in large part concerned with theorizing the consequence of human beings’ embrace of the evil of the pursuit of freedom but also the means by which human reason may be rehabilitated with the will of God—­ anthropology as the process of the redemption of human reason and freedom. Kant’s task is to argue that although freedom begins as a consequence of human evil, it does not have to remain tied to this origin; rather, human freedom can be transformed into the means by which mankind can best understand its role within and beyond nature. The irony of Kant’s anthropology is that it is the bitter fruits of the human being’s repudiation of nature—­ pain and discomfort—­ together with the operation of human beings’ various cognitive faculties, that prompt mankind to act in accordance with the designs of providence. Kant’s anthropological works are significant, then, because they examine the capacity of human beings to evolve as moral and political entities. If human beings are not capable of moving beyond their current status, then Kant’s vision of redemption through a reformed reason cannot occur. A related question presents itself: Exactly how are human beings to be redeemed? I propose that, at root, the answer to this problem is not found in human beings or nature, but rather in the supernatural—­in the idea of God. The chapter begins with a consideration of Kant’s theory of human beings as they exist within nature, typified by their “deep abasement” as moral and political entities. The second part of the chapter examines Kant’s attempts to draw an escape route from this condition through the operation of the faculties of cognition and the emergence of permissible and useful illusions of morality, which according to Kant will serve as the foundation for the gradual grafting of genuine morality onto the body politic. The third part investigates the role that education ought to play in human progress. The final section considers Kant’s idea of the “education from above” of human beings—­ the role that belief in God plays in the disciplining of human beings as they move toward the redeemed status of “humanity” and beyond nature. The “Deep Abasement” of Human Nature The primary impediment to the development of human beings is their material nature. The precritical Kant explored this condition in his Universal Natural the instruction of...


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