Advertisement

Kant on the Vocation and Formation of the Human Being

  • Ansgar Lyssy
Chapter

Abstract

One central debate in the German Enlightenment concerned the “Bestimmung” or vocation of humankind, involving authors such as Spalding, Abbt, Mendelssohn, and Schiller, continued by authors such as Fichte and Reinhold. While originally developed as a theological concept, the idea of a vocation was easily adapted in other contexts, such as philosophy of nature (Blumenbach, Mendelssohn) or philosophy of art (Schiller). It also had a remarkably strong impact on Kant’s philosophy that is not yet entirely understood. Kant is one of the very few modern thinkers who explicitly writes about the origins of humankind, as well as the way we can conceive the passage of humanity through time, and finally about our conception of the distant future of humankind. It seems clear that the concept of vocation connects the (conjectural) beginning of humankind to its (ideal) future. In this paper, I will elaborate this aspect, focusing primarily on both the origins and future of humankind and the way they are connected by this specific conception of a vocation. I argue that Kant picks up on the Enlightenment debate on the vocation of the human being and combines it not only with core ideas of the philosophy of pedagogy of his time, but it is also inspired by the philosophy of history, as he develops his perspective on the formation and cultivation also in his critical engagement with Herder’s philosophy (see, e.g., Review of Herder’s Ideas, AA 8:56). The germs for humankind’s future have already been implanted in the very beginning of its existence, yet only freedom and self-determination can work on removing their internal and external limitations to achieve the fulfillment of this vocation. So the vocation is not an external ‘calling’, but rather an internal striving towards self-fulfillment. This striving, however, should not only be conceived on the individual level, but needs to be related to an ideal of society, in which the relevant human actions are both facilitated and enticed. The vocation of humankind as a collective thus relates to the achievement of individual freedom in a just society. In this sense, it can be made clear that Kant’s concept of humankind’s vocation is not only a yet underrated core concept in Kant’s moral philosophy and his pedagogical ideas, but serves as a nexus to connect them both to his philosophy of history.

Bibliography

  1. Binoche, Bertrand. 1994. Les Trois Sources des Philosophies de l’Histoire (1764–1798). Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  2. Brandt, Reinhard. 2003. The Guiding Idea of Kant’s Anthropology and the Vocation of the Human Being. In Essays on Kant’s Anthropology, ed. Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain, 85–104. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 2007. Die Bestimmung des Menschen bei Kant. Hamburg: Meiner.Google Scholar
  4. Di Giovanni, George. (2005). Freedom and Religion in Kant and His Immediate Successors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Edgar, Andrew. 1992. Kant’s Two Interpretations of Genesis. Journal of Literature and Theology 6 (3): 280–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Frei, Andreas. 1999. Religion und Vernunft. Kants Interpretation der Genesis in ‘Mutmaßlicher Anfang der Menschengeschichte’. In Kant als politischer Schriftsteller, ed. Theo Stammen, 87–108. Würzburg: Ergon.Google Scholar
  7. Gerhardt, Volker. 2011. Mutmaßlicher Anfang der Menschengeschichte. In Immanuel Kant: Schriften zur Geschichtsphilosophie, ed. Otfried Höffe, 175–196. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gniffke, Franz. 1984. Die Gegenwärtigkeit des Mythos in Kants ‘Mutmaßungen über den Anfang der Menschheitsgeschichte’. Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 38: 593–608.Google Scholar
  9. Grenberg, Jeanine. 2005. Kant and the Ethics of Humility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hinske, Nobert. 1990. Die tragenden Grundideen der deutschen Aufklärung. Versuch einer Typologie. In Die Philosophie der deutschen Aufklärung, ed. Raffaele Ciafardone, 407–458. Stuttgart: Reclam.Google Scholar
  11. Kleingeld, Pauline. 1995. Fortschritt und Vernunft: Zur Geschichtsphilosophie Kants. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 2001. Nature or Providence? On the Theoretical and Moral Importance of Kant’s Philosophy of History. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 75: 201–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Louden, Robert B. 2012. Kant and the World History of Humanity. Internationales Jahrbuch des Deutschen Idealismus 10: 3–17.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2014. Cosmopolitical Unity: The Final Destiny of the Human Species. In Kant’s Lectures on Anthropology—A Critical Guide, ed. Alix Cohen, 211–229. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lyssy, Ansgar. Forthcoming. Über den Begriff der Menschheit bei Kant. In Natur und Freiheit. Proceedings of the XIIth. International Kant Kongress, ed. Violetta Waibel. tba.Google Scholar
  16. Raatz, Georg. 2014. Aufklärung als Selbstdeutung. Eine genetisch-systematische Rekonstruktion von Johann Joachim Spaldings ‘Bestimmung des Menschen’ (1748). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sommer, Andreas Urs. 1997. Felix peccator? Kants geschichtsphilosophische Genesis-Exegese im Muthmasslichen Anfang der Menschengeschichte und die Theologie der Aufklärungszeit. Kant-Studien 88 (2): 190–217.Google Scholar
  18. Spalding, Johann Joachim. 1999. Die Bestimmung des Menschen. In Die Bestimmung des Menschen, ed. Norbert Hinske, 69–96. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag.Google Scholar
  19. Wood, Allen. 1991. ‘Unsocial Sociability’: The Anthropological Basis of Kantian Ethics. Philosophical Topics 19: 325–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Yovel, Yirmiyahu. 1980. Kant and the Philosophy of History. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Zöller, Günter. 2001. Die Bestimmung der Bestimmung des Menschen bei Mendelssohn und Kant. In Kant und die Berliner Aufklärung, vol. 4, ed. Volker Gerhardt and Rolf-Peter Horstmann, 476–489. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ansgar Lyssy
    • 1
  1. 1.Ludwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMünchenGermany

Personalised recommendations