Anthropologia transscendentalis. Kant’s theory of human nature

Fiorella Battaglia


In recent years mankind has greatly extended its knowledge of living things, in general, and itself, in particular. Such a wide-ranging body of knowledge has consequently led to the need for a theory to encompass it, that is, a coherent framework in which to systematically arrange mankind’s understanding of itself, not only with regard to its physical nature, but to its individuality and sociality as well. Such a theory would moreover provide the means to mediate between the various domains of scientific and technological enquiry, on the one hand, and the cultural dimensions of human society, on the other. Already in the 18th century, Immanuel Kant strove to establish a discipline that was systematic, yet at the same time accessible. It was due to his efforts that philosophical anthropology was introduced into university curricula, to the benefit not only of philosophers, but of physicians and jurists as well. Kant’s position is by no means prejudicial towards science. To the contrary, he was quite careful to appraise the impact of the sciences on the overall cognitive horizons of mankind and therefore on their potential to influence humankind’s idea of itself. Clearly such a perspective is relevant to today’s strongly felt need to reconcile modern neuroscience’s revolutionary findings on the biological bases of the mind – of man’s experience and behaviour – with the idea man needs of himself in order to orient his actions not only as individual but also as “citizen of the world” as well – something on which Kant worked with unremitting commitment throughout his entire research career. This article traces Kant's anthropological conception with regard to four specific issues: (1) its relation to science; (2) the relationship between empirical and transcendental in the speculative use and in practical use of reason; (3) the dialectic between what nature does and what human beings does, in the construction of humanity itself; (4) and finally about the character of the person and the character of the human species.


Philosophy of science, Self-image, human life, Kant

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