Volume 28, Issue 4, 2018
Philosophical Anthropology at the Crossroads
Self-Cultivation according to Immanuel Kant
The author reflects on the anthropological role of the “self-cultivation” category in the philosophical system of Immanuel Kant, for whom self-cultivation stood as the central idea of the Enlightenment. Kant believed that it was man alone who created himself to a rational being, that his rationality was not a granted good but something he had to mature to by way of multiple disciplinary (the reduction of animality in the humanum sphere), civilizing and moralizing (the latter patroned by the Kantian categorical imperative) measures. An interesting avenue in Gernot Böhme’s approach is his assumption that this conceptual perspective applied to all three Kantian Critiques, e.g., that Critique of Pure Reason propounds the disciplining of human cognition under the banner of subordinating the sphere of intuition (Anschauung) to the categories of intellect (Verstand). These categories are not inborn in the human mind, but are built by the willful disciplining of the perceptual elements of cognition anchored in the animal fundaments of the humanum. Towards the close of his essay Böhme attempts a critique of Kant’s philosophy, accusing it of reductionism and depreciating many anthropological powers.