Environmental Ethics

Volume 41, Issue 1, Spring 2019

David Baumeister
Pages 53-67

Kant, Chakrabarty, and the Crises of the Anthropocene

Dipesh Chakrabarty has identified Immanuel Kant’s distinction between the human’s moral and animal dimensions as an underlying source of the failure of the humanities to respond to the ecological crises of the Anthropocene. Although relevant for the environmental humanities generally, Chakrabarty’s critique is especially germane to contemporary environmental philosophy. It shows how the reality of anthropogenic climate change renders central aspects of Kant’s influential conception of human nature untenable. While closer examination of Kant’s writings corroborates the core of Chakrabarty’s reading, there nonetheless remain positive resources in Kant’s philosophy for contemporary environmental thinking, for, although Kant does regard the human’s moral and animal dimensions as conceptually separable, he also understands them to be inextricably bound within the nature of human beings. Attending to the interplay between these Kantian commitments, a new critical insight into one of the basic tensions of the Anthropocene era can be attained.