Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73


Kari Väyrynen, Kant’s Early Critique of Anthropocentric Metaphysics and its Influence on Herder    

My article investigates Kant’s early critique of anthropocentric metaphysics (1754–1756) and its influence on Herder’s view of nature in his main work Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784–1791). In recent environmental philosophy, Kant has usually been regarded as an anthropocentric dualist who considers man a special creation, above other species. Many conceptual distinctions made by the later Kant seem to support this interpretation. I do not investigate in this context, if this interpretation of the later Kant is correct. Instead I emphasise that the young Kant held a different view. He regarded man as a species among others, disappearing through natural processes like any other species. He clearly opposed the traditional physico-theology, which was based on the Christian view of man as the top of Creation. Like the radical Spinoza, Kant considered the ends of different species principally equal. All contribute to the completeness of pantheistic God/Nature and man has no special position. Kant’s early philosophy of nature made a lasting impression on Herder, who attended Kant’s lectures in Königsberg in 1762–1764. Like Kant, Herder reflected in his philosophy seriously the natural limits and the possible end of the human race. According to him, humans hold no special position in nature. Like other animals, they are dependent on the material elements of nature. We are bound to Earth and its natural processes. Like all natural beings, even the Earth and all its inhabitants will disappear, first through the destructive forces of the elements (fire, water, wind) and finally when our “Mother” sun swallows the Earth in her burning lap.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73