Tutelage or assimilation?

Der Mensch kann nur Mensch werden durch Erziehung.
— Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Pedagogy, 1803. 1

Few topics have in recent years caused more controversy in studies in the history of philosophy than the issue of Immanuel Kant’s conception of race and its significance for the universalism of his moral and political philosophy. In this article, I turn to these debates to make the case that it matters not simply that we recognise the centrality of Kant’s conceptual work in natural history to his critical philosophy, but also how we subsequently conceive of the importance of such a realisation to the universalisms of later works in the Kantian tradition of philosophy and critical theory. I do so in three steps. First, I introduce Kant’s natural historical conception of race and present an abridged history of the reception of Kant’s works on race that has taken place since Emmanuel C. Eze’s seminal ‘The Color of Reason: The Idea of “Race” in Kant’s Anthropology’ was first published in 1995. I do this in order to discuss some of the different interpretative strategies that have been leveraged to deal with the perceived divide between Kant’s racism and his moral universalism. Second, I will make the case that what I call the ‘Schillerian’ reading of how to bridge this divide presents the standpoint from which we can refuse a false choice between what Pauline Kleingeld famously termed Kant the ‘inconsistent moral universalist’ and Kant the ‘consistent inegalitarian’. 2 Third, I will show that this Schillerian reading can be grounded in Kant’s own reflections on pedagogy, which thus far have been absent from discussions of how to understand the function and significance of Kant’s concept of race. By recovering Kant’s reflections on pedagogy and demonstrating their links to the theory of race, I wish to emphasise how the nexus between Kant’s racism and his concept of race might be expressed not only in relation to the brute domination of slavery and colonial exploitation but also in the ideological conception of an educative function attributed to the white race: a function which can be fulfilled by softer powers but which fundamentally assumes a relation of inequality up until the point where those who are to be educated can be said to assume their own maturity (Mündigkeit). From this perspective, Kant’s writing on race leaves us with a somewhat starker choice when it comes to his universalism: we can view it either as a false universalism for the white race only, or as a universalism that also implies an assimilationist regime. To conclude, I will make the case that though the former scenario – that of a false universalism – may be more obviously offensive, the latter – that of an implied assimilationist regime – is the more insidious of the two, because it presents itself as no racism at all.

(Re)placing race in the history of philosophy

Every so often, an interventionist reading in the history of philosophy is produced, such that the field in which it intervenes is forced to reassess, discard or defend its basic tenets. For Kant studies broadly conceived, Eze’s 1995 essay ‘The Color of Reason: The Idea of “Race” in Kant’s Anthropology’ can be said to have constituted such a reading, as it forced a reckoning with Kant’s conception of race, and in particular with its place and function within his critical system. 3 What Eze brought back to public memory was the fact that Kant had been an eager participant in eighteenth-century debates on the possibility of a systematic knowledge of organised living beings, as the second part of The Critique of the Power of Judgement, ‘The Critique of Teleological Judgement’ (1790), so amply testifies. However, Eze focused not on the Critique, but rather on Kant’s writings on physical geography and anthropology, alongside three then lesser-known essays: ‘On the Different Races of Human Beings’ (1775), ‘Determination of the Concept of a Human Race’ (1785) and ‘On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy’ (1788). If, as Robert Bernasconi has since argued, the invention of a concept coincides with that articulation and demarcation of said concept which made it possible for others to subsequently debate and question its scientific status, then Kant might, in these three texts, hold the very dubious honour of having ‘invented’ the modern and ‘scientific’ concept of race. 4

What Kant proposed was that the already prevalent classificatory division of the human species into four different races – ‘the whites, the yellow Indians, the Blacks and the copper-red Americans’ 5 – could be grounded in a natural historical concept of race. This concept was articulated by Kant within a natural history of humankind, encompassed within a physical and generative system of nature as opposed to a merely synchronic classificatory system. 6 In all three of the essays, Kant followed what he called ‘Buffon’s rule’, arguing that all humans, despite synchronically notable and classifiable differences in their appearances, belong to one and the same line of descent [phylum] since even members belonging to different classes of physical appearance can produce fertile offspring. 7 Races, in turn, name those classes defined by unfailingly hereditary characteristics that have developed over the course of generations, under the prolonged influence of different climatic conditions upon the original predispositions [Anlage] and germs [Keime] in the human phylum. 8 Kant’s theory is that four basic climatic environments (cold and humid, cold and dry, hot and humid, hot and dry) would, as humans migrated to populate all of the Earth, have activated a determinate ‘unfolding’ of germs and predispositions that, once developed, settled each race into a form suited for the conditions of life corresponding to the region of the world dominated by this climate. 9 In the course of Kant’s works on physical geography, what at first seems to have been a merely mechanist account of this activation, gradually develops into the conceptualisation of purposive nature, which can be seen to have unfolded as if it was ‘willed’ ‘that human beings should populate the entire Earth. All animals have their special climates, but human beings are to be found everywhere. Human beings are not to stay in a small region, but to spread out across the entire Earth.’ 10

Where the first humans would have held the potential for all later developed racial characteristics, once a certain set of germs settled into their form this form would subsequently have rendered dormant all other potentials. Unlike mere varieties in the species (say, the synchronically notable and also classifiable differences in eye colour or hair colour), Kant therefore considered racial characteristics to persistently preserve themselves and to invariably ‘beget half-breed young in the mixing’. 11 What is important to note here is that as much as the concept of race refers to a process of differentiation from a common origin, what it truly names is the final result, that is, the arrestation of this process and the fixing of the species into four different races. 12 On Kant’s understanding, racial characteristics, in these essays primarily skin colour, entailed a permanent fixture within each race. We might therefore ask if it is only physiological and anatomical differences that are fixed in this manner? Since Kant’s proposal for a division of the human species into four races was paired with a number of assertions about an innate lack of industriousness in some non-white races and a general inferiority in the areas of art and science in all non-white races, his conception of race, as Eze pointed out, seemed to stand in unbearable tension with his moral and political universalism. 13

Consequently, one of the central questions following the reassessment of Kant’s texts on race has been whether we are better off regarding him today as, in Pauline Kleingeld’s words, an ‘inconsistent moral universalist’ or as a ‘consistent inegalitarian’? 14 Perhaps predictably, this formulation both diagnosed and enforced a structural divide between accusers and defenders of Kant within the field of interpretation, a divide which was then largely carried over into ensuing stages of these debates, in which the possibility of a connection between changes within Kant’s views on the legitimacy of colonisation and imperialism and a change within his conception of racial difference were placed at the forefront. 15 In short, debates concerning whether or not Kant changed his mind about the importance and indeed existence of a racial hierarchy have, at least within the disciplinary bounds of philosophy, come to dominate the work done on questions concerning Kant’s theory of race. 16

Another interpretative strategy, one that to my mind is more critically fruitful than that of attempting to exonerate the later Kant from the faults of the younger, follows Eze’s initial insight and seeks to eschew the premise of a straightforward divide between an inconsistent moral universalism and a consistent non-egalitarianism. Instead, this strategy takes the form of an enquiry into the construction of Kant’s universalism itself, in order to pose the question of whether the perceived depth of a contradiction between universalism and racism might in fact cover over a racist universalism, which thus calls for us to rethink the very concept of universality. 17 I’m thinking here of the different ways in which the works of Gayatri C. Spivak, Denise Ferreira da Silva, David Lloyd and Etienne Balibar each engage the Kantian corpus and its afterlife in critical and aesthetic theory and thereby take part in a both more subtle and more difficult attempt to rethink modern political epistemologies and the conceptual conditions for emancipatory thought on a global scale.

An aesthetic education: the Schillerian reading

From the standpoint of these critical engagements with Kant, the problem is not that he was inconsistent in his universalism nor really that he was personally racist. It is that racial hierarchies and processes of racialisation can be reinforced even by a consistent Kantian universalism. In the case of Lloyd’s Under Representation: The Racial Regime of Aesthetics and Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, this diagnosis is made through essentially Schillerian readings of Kant’s third Critique. What broadly prompts the qualification of these readings as ‘Schillerian’ is that their objects are processes of subjectivation and subject formation rather than the transcendental conditions of possibility for theoretical, practical or, in this case, aesthetic and teleological judgments. 18 It was this displacement which famously caused Paul de Man to characterise Schiller’s translation of critical philosophy into a Bildungsphilosophie as ‘a regression, an attempt to account for, to domesticate the critical incisiveness of the original’ in that it took the aesthetic itself ‘as an exemplary category, as a unifying category, as a model for education, as a model even for the state.’ 19 In short, Schiller re-anthropomorphised transcendental aesthetic philosophy within an educative programme in the service of good citizenship within a model state. In this sense, Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man appeared as ‘the ideology of Kant’s critical philosophy’. 20 But rather than take Schiller’s anthropomorphic moment as a regrettable regression, Spivak and Lloyd each critically appropriate it as a lever through which a truth about Kant’s universalism can be revealed, namely that the constitution of the subject of this universalism rests on a fundamental but unavowed geopolitical differentiation. As Balibar has commented in regard to Spivak’s reading, the central problem of the empirical/transcendental split within the Kantian subject when considered at a global level is that as different humans seek to become adequate to subjecthood, ‘empirical differences are converted into unequal capacities to realise the proper human, and [this] even leaves the possibility that some racially inferior humans will never be educated, i.e., will never prove able to recognise the idea of the community [of human beings] to which they should belong’. 21

When both Spivak and Lloyd establish this insight through readings of The Critique of the Power of Judgement, it is in close reference to a passage from the analytic of the dynamic sublime, in which Kant hints at an empirical difference in the capacity for an experience of the sublime (that is, in the capacity to enact the displacement of an intuition of the boundlessness of reason into natural awe). ‘Without the development of moral ideas’, writes Kant, ‘that which we, prepared by culture, call sublime presents itself to man in the raw [dem rohen Menchen] merely as terrible’. 22 And although the notion of ‘man in the raw’ within this argument structurally translates as ‘uneducated man’ (or so I will argue), the signification can be stretched, as it is by both Spivak and Lloyd, to include the ‘savage’ or the ‘primitive’. From this standpoint, Spivak and Lloyd respectively emphasise two different orchestrations of racial inequality within the Third Critique. In her ‘affirmative sabotage’ of Kant’s critique, Spivak uses the impossible inscription of an anthropological and ethnological figure of the ‘native informant’ in the Critique, to foreground a scenario in which the racialised not-quite-subject that is the ‘other’ of the subject of aesthetic judgement is constitutively excluded in an indefinite foreclosure. 23 Lloyd instead emphasises how the idea of a freely judging aesthetic subject implies a developmental trajectory and an intimated project for the assimilation of the racialised ‘other’ of this subject. 24 That is to say, it is the mark of an assimilationist universalism, since those standards held by a dominant group to be universal are translated into a demand for all others to assimilate to these standards and to leave their particularities behind while the dominant group can retain its now universalised particularity.

It is Spivak who explicitly admits to having purposefully committed the Schillerian ‘mistake’ of mixing the empirical and the transcendental in the ‘interest of producing a counter narrative that will make visible the foreclosure of the subject whose lack of access to the position of narrator is the condition of possibility of the consolidation of Kant’s position’. 25 Yet it is Lloyd’s critique which most closely follows Schiller’s focus on progress through pedagogical formation, to disclose its proximity to the developmental narrative that subtends the idea of a European colonial civilising mission. 26 In Lloyd’s words, Schiller’s Aesthetic Education reveals the ‘necessarily pedagogical infrastructure of the Critique of Judgement. By the same token, Schiller draws most clearly out of Kant’s aesthetic theory the intertwining of its pedagogically developmental ends with its corresponding racial formation.’ 27

What neither Lloyd nor Spivak do, however, is explicitly to connect Kant’s writing on race to their respective assessments of racialisation in the Third Critique. This leaves the systematic links between the writings on race and the moral, political and aesthetic philosophy hinted at, but seldom explicated. It is in this regard that Robert Bernasconi has been a particularly significant critical reader of Kant. The questions that have propelled Bernasconi’s readings are by now well known: how does Kant’s concept of race affect his universalism? And more speculatively, how might his very cosmopolitanism quell or intensify the systemically racist implications of his theory of race? In Bernasconi’s answers to these questions, he has tended to focus on the issue of race-mixing, arguing that Kant had conjectured that a continuous intermixing of the races would result in an undesirable homogenisation of the human species (and a ‘degradation’ of the white race). In view of a one posthumously published note, in which Kant wrote that ‘All races will go extinct … except the white one’, 28 Bernasconi has raised the sinister question of whether a segregationist cosmopolitanism could, ultimately, have genocidal implications? 29

Since Kant did not himself explicitly draw these conclusions anywhere, a certain amount of interpretative speculation is inevitably involved in their formulation. What I would like to do here is to propose a different trajectory and a different set of possible conclusions concerning race-relations in Kant’s political and moral philosophy, ones that correspond, respectively, to the idea of indefinite guardianship remarked on by Spivak and to the assimilationist universalism implied by Lloyd.

To demonstrate how infinite guardianship and assimilationist universalism might operate in Kant’s case, I will introduce Kant’s own writings on pedagogy as the mediating factor between, on the one hand, his works on psychical geography and physical anthropology (among which the texts on the concept of race belong) and, on the other hand, his works on pragmatic anthropology, cosmopolitanism and universal history. Whereas Kant studies seem to have accepted that there is an unbridgeable divide between the different perspectives offered on the human being by physical geography, pragmatic anthropology and moral philosophy, it is my contention that questions of moral development in the philosophy of history bind these bodies of work together. If there is, in Kant’s words, a marked difference between ‘what nature makes of man’ and what humans as freely acting beings ‘make, can make, and ought to make of themselves’, 30 I will argue that Kant’s many reflections on pedagogy construct a bridge between these two, in their focus on how to best make use of what nature makes of humans, so that humans in turn can learn to follow reason and assume their rational nature. In regard to the concept of race, what I will emphasise is that, to Kant, the very capacity for such a learning is premised on a preliminary disciplining of one’s natural inclinations. And since the racialised others in Kant’s physical anthropology are characterised precisely by degrees of deficiency in an inner capacity to enact such restraints – as pathological or affectable subjects in the words of da Silvia and Lloyd – ‘race’ comes to matter socially and politically as a schematism for a hierarchical order in the capacity to assume reason and moral agency. To demonstrate this, I will first emphasise the centrality of the ‘educability’ of humankind to the idea of moral development in Kant’s philosophy of history and then show how this educability appears, in Kant’s own framework, to be racially differentiated.

Kant on education and progress in history

Like the writings on race, Kant’s Lectures on Pedagogy form a highly contested part of the Kantian corpus, if for different reasons. Kant never actually published a book on pedagogy but was, in the 1770s, charged with delivering a course on this topic which, by Prussian decree, had been made mandatory at all universities. It was Friedrich Theodor Rink, the one-time student of Kant also responsible for the publication of his materials on geography, who in 1803 collected, edited and published the manuscripts for these lectures as the immensely popular book Immanuel Kant on Pedagogy. 31 Though Kant does not mention the contents of the lectures on which this book was based in any of his outlines of the two parts that make up ‘pragmatic knowledge of the world’ – physical geography and anthropology – some of the questions raised by them overlap significantly with both of these fields. Where the physical geography of human beings, as mentioned, had as its object field ‘what nature makes of man’, anthropology instead illuminated how and to what extent humans shape their own characters. Observations regarding the specifically human need for a proper moral upbringing (Erziehung) are scattered across the transcripts and notes for the anthropology lectures, and the 1775–76 transcripts of the Anthropology Friedländer even includes the concluding section ‘On Education’ or ‘On Upbringing’, which most explicitly connects the problematic of how to provide a determinate concept of the character of the human species with a number of observations as to the importance of pedagogy for ‘the improvement of humanity toward its perfection’. 32 Nowhere among Kant’s many lectures on anthropology is the Enlightenment goal of human perfectibility through education more apparent than here. This is hardly surprising, given that Kant’s first set of mandated lectures on pedagogy stem from this same period, as does his written and published support of the Philanthropinum Dessau, an experimental school whose founder, Johann Bernhard Basedow, authored the Methodenbuch (1773) on which Kant’s lectures on pedagogy were based. 33 Much like the end of the Anthropology and the essay ‘Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim’, these lectures contain several extended discussions of Rousseau’s critique of the distorting effects of culture upon human nature and circle around the questions of how natural predispositions might best be either restrained or put to use for civil and civic purposes. In other words, they consider how humans, as beings with a natural potential for reason, can be given the best possible education to allow them to assume the task of becoming actual rational acting and thinking beings and contribute to the formation of the species as a whole. These reflections, much like the Lectures on Pedagogy as a whole, therefore touch on one of the central aspects of Kant’s philosophy of history, namely the idea that those natural predispositions whose end is the use of reason, and which among terrestrial animals are particular to humans, do not develop instinctively within a closed circuit (as Kant considers mere animal predispositions to do) but are both ungrounded and open-ended. 34 Two primary consequences can be drawn from this assumption, one which Kant very openly pursues in ‘Idea for a Universal History’ and one which is more implicitly at stake but which is nonetheless crucial for grasping the schematising function of the concept of race in Kant’s philosophy of history. First, when measured against the immense space of possibility which this open-ended development entails, each individual human existence is dwarfed in its own finitude. An absolutely central aspect of Kant’s philosophy of history is therefore the idea that whereas each individual animal may realise its species determination and fully develop its natural predispositions, no individual human being can do so. It is only at the level of the species as a whole that the full development of the natural predispositions of terrestrial reasoned beings can be accomplished. 35 Second, the non-instinctive character of the development of these predispositions renders crucial the different modalities of inter-generational (and, as argued below, potentially inter-racial as well as inter-national) transmissions in the relay of the perfection of the human species. Each generation (and potentially each race, each nation) must learn, develop and teach, form and be formed, such that in a long sequence of generations, humans may overall become continuously better able to fulfil the vocation [Bestimmung] of their species: to live in accordance with their rational nature.

Nowhere does Kant assume that this process is unwavering, fully continuous or grounded in the ultimate goodness of human nature. The fabric of history, he writes, seems ‘woven together out of folly, childish vanity, and often also out of childish malice and the rage to destruction’. 36 What is more, since one generation might lose what had been gained by previous ones and leave only a ‘seed of enlightenment’ to be recovered at a later point, the progress toward the perfection of the species is ‘only fragmentary (according to time) and offers no guarantee against regression’. 37 But this does not render education and formation as such any less crucial to Kant’s conception of universal history. What it does is rather to heighten the importance of what is best understood as a notion of ‘educability’: the very capacity to learn, to take form and to shape a so-called ‘second nature’ for oneself. To Kant, as Manfred Kuehn has noted, educability is not just an important human characteristic, but ‘the most important one of all’. 38

Educability is not a term used by Kant himself, but it is implied by those numerous formation processes that are central to both Kant’s anthropology and his philosophy of history. Caught in a difficult-to-translate German terminological matrix, Erziehung, Ausbildung and Bildung refer back to educability as their joint condition of possibility. The possible conceptual distinctions implied by these terms within Kant’s writings are difficult to track, both in the original, since the meaning of each is not entirely consistent, and even more so in English translations, wherein a tendency to treat them as relatively interchangeable makes it almost impossible to identify subtle differences which partake in conceptual distinctions. Where Erziehung and Ausbildung respectively imply different forms of child rearing and concrete education 39 – being taught either customs, manners, skills or knowledge – Bildung is most often used in a broader sense, to imply either different individual processes of formation or numerous processes of formation taken together as a whole. In their focus on the different levels of formation and educative instruction, the lectures on pedagogy can therefore be seen as a set of practical experimental meditations on the principles for making the best use of what ‘nature makes of humans’. They are what allow us to see that educability forms the unnamed condition of possibility for moral formation within Kantian practical philosophy and, in this sense, they form a bridge between the two parts of pragmatic knowledge of the world: between physical geography and pragmatic anthropology. As I have already indicated, it is this bridge we can follow to see how the concept of race elaborated in the context of physical geography comes to matter to pragmatic anthropology and the philosophy of history it implies.

The educability of the human races

The question of pedagogy is linked to the writings on race through the necessity of discipline to all other forms of learning. In the Lectures on Pedagogy and in Anthropology, Kant distinguishes between three predispositions whose end is the use of reason, each of which corresponds to three different forms of educative requirements and, correspondingly, three endpoints for their development: a technical predisposition whose telos is skill [Geschicklichkeit]; a pragmatic predisposition whose telos is prudence [Klugheit]; and a moral predisposition whose telos is morality. The process of the development of each of these predispositions is in turn called ‘cultivation’ [Kultivierung], ‘civilisation’ [Civilisirung] and ‘moral formation’ [moralische Bildung] or simply ‘moralisation’ [Moralisierung]. 40 This threefold division is also the refrain according to which, in ‘Idea for a Universal History’, it is emphasised that while the age of Enlightenment may be both cultivated and civilised, it is far from moralised. 41 To this threefold division of predispositions, however, a crucial fourth is added when we look to the Lectures on Pedagogy. What we might call a theory of the educability of human beings as such is here revealed: that one must learn first of all to become disciplined enough to restrict one’s animal nature and learn to learn. This is clear from the fourfold differentiation of the levels of education found in the Lectures, which spell out how one must first learn:

1) How to become self-disciplined, so as to ‘prevent animality from doing damage to humanity, both in the individual and in society.’ Discipline is here considered ‘merely the taming of savagery [Wildheit]’. 42

2) To become cultivated. This is the process of learning different skills and thereby becoming skilful, the shaping of a faculty for carrying out a purpose one has set oneself. It does not dictate what concrete ends are worth pursuing but fundamentally concerns the procurement of the means for carrying out ends. Because there are a multitude of ends, there is likewise a multitude of skills and the determination of which skills are to be learned largely depends on ones future rank in society and on what one has a natural predisposition for.

3) To become civilised or acquire the capacity to act prudently. This is the acquisition of the prerequisite knowledge for navigating human societies in accordance with established manners. It is this form of knowledge which the anthropology in part is meant to convey in its focus on ‘national character’, such that students might be better placed when faced with manners different from their own. This is the realm of what we might call ‘cultural differences’ in Kant.

4) To nurture the predisposition to become moralised. This last step differs in character from the others, in that one cannot on Kant’s view, properly speaking, be taught to be moralised. It is something a moral agent does freely. The function of education here is rather to foster a good disposition toward moralisation, such that the human being will ‘choose nothing but good ends’, which is to say ends that ‘are necessarily approved by everyone and which can be the simultaneous ends of everyone’. 43

The starkest of the racial hierarchies mapped out on the basis of Kant’s anthropology lectures, found in the so-called Menschenkunde, is articulated precisely in this vocabulary of Bildung as a formative process that breaks with mere natural inclination. What is at stake in this is the differentiated capacities of the different races to enter into such formative processes on their own incentive, and the different levels overtly repeat the different levels of education outlined above. The ‘Americans’ are said to ‘acquire no culture [Bildung]’, the Black race ‘acquire culture, but only a culture of slaves; that is, they allow themselves to be trained’ and while the yellow Indians ‘acquire culture in the highest degree’, it is only in the ‘arts and not in the sciences. They never raise it up to abstract concepts’. By contrast, ‘the white race’ ‘contains all incentives and talents in itself’ and ‘[w]henever any revolutions have occurred, they have always been brought about by the whites’. 44

My argument, then, is that the hierarchy which divides those who do not acquire Bildung, those who can be formed but only into slaves, those who shape themselves according to highly refined forms but who stagnate there, and those who shape themselves according to all the natural predispositions for reason, reflects a conceptual differentiation, on Kant’s part, in the educability of the different human races. The centrality of capacities, limitations and stagnations within different strata of Bildung is therefore crucial for any attempt to situate Kant’s natural historical characterisations of races in relation to his universal world history of peoples. That some for Kant are incapable of Bildung – as a result of the development of their germs and predispositions – essentially entails that they have not been able to develop the means for restraining and reshaping their natural inclinations.

It is not, then, that Kant considered there to be different forms of transcendental frameworks for different races, nor that he considered other races to be devoid of reason as such. But what he did maintain was that there was something in the natural historical determination of each of these groups of humans that either aggravated or tamed those ‘deficiencies’ which cause all humans, as animals with rationality, to fall short of the demands of reason. In the published Anthropology, Kant explicitly ties such a deficiency – not in reason or the understanding as such but in the way in which it is exercised or executed – to questions that concern civil and therefore political maturity:

An understanding that is in itself sound (without mental deficiencies) can still be accompanied by deficiencies with regard to its exercise, deficiencies that necessitate either a postponement until the growth to proper maturity, or even the representation [Stellvertretung] of one’s person through that of another in regard to matters of civil nature. The (natural or legal) incapacity of otherwise sound human beings to use his own understanding in civil affairs is called immaturity [Unmündigkeit]. 45

This is the reason educability forms the prism through which we should be reading the essays on race, and why we have to carry that consideration through to the philosophy of history – because this is where race comes to matter and has consequences in a conception of a restricted capacity, within some humans, to impose the constraints necessary to educate oneself.

This perspective also sheds light on a striking feature of the Anthropology, namely that while it only briefly addresses the pragmatic significance of race, it extensively treats the subdivision of the national character of European nations that sit under the category of white racial lineage. One possible explanation of this exclusionary focus is found in the extended citation from the Menschenkunde discussed above, wherein the transition from a discussion of race to a discussion of nationality is effected through the already quoted conclusion that since ‘the white race possesses all incentives and talents in itself … we must examine it somewhat more closely.’ 46 Another possible explanation is that while national characteristics specifically are said to be derived primarily from cultural distinctness, this is the case only for those nations in which a certain level of cultural development has been reached – in this sense Kant writes that it is only to the French and the English that national character proper can be attributed. For all others, a mixture of natural and cultural determinations, of national and racial limitations and potentials, will guide what such a people can make of themselves. In other words, their non-inclusion in the Anthropology reflects a highly normative set of assumptions inscribed within the idea of what a true national character is composed of, with only a fraction of the world’s population truly qualifying as such. 47 And yet, Kant does specify, again and again, that what is special about humankind as opposed to other living species is that the entire species progresses in perfection. Despite serious consideration of the racism and race theory enveloped within this teleological conception of history, this is what causes scholars like Louden to conclude that the

ideal of a truly universal moral community where all people count remains the most important single legacy of Kant’s ethics … Kant’s writings in anthropology and empirical ethics do not tarnish this legacy. On the contrary they show us what we need to do to make it real. At the same time the underlying vision of gradual moral universality in these texts also reveals that the true intent of Kantian anthropology lies somewhere between transcendental and merely empirical concerns. In his lectures on anthropology Kant is not trying to make good on the ambitious claim that all philosophical questions are at bottom anthropological questions concerning the human subject but neither is he simply engaged in a descriptive account of human cultures. Rather his aim is to offer the species a moral map that they can use to move toward their collective destiny. 48

Insofar as this describes a conception of what Kant considered the function of his Anthropology to be, this is a both perceptive and apt description. But, by downplaying how a racial dimension co-determines the questions of moral development, with which both Kant and Louden are wrestling, questions concerning the politics of race are ignored rather than addressed. The view that ‘only some’ will progress to perfection and others remain behind or forever stuck (women, other races than whites) is said to contradict Kant’s continuous insistence upon the progress of the entire human species. But assertions to that effect do not so much contradict as they introduce the pedagogical question of education into the relation between races and genders (whites become the educators of non-whites, men the educators of women). Indeed, since the whole of the species is at issue while a part is particularised, the idea that an educative relation might, across the species, be what binds whole and part together, forcefully imposes itself. Summarising the characterisation of humankind in the Anthropology, we find the following statement:

The sum total of pragmatic anthropology, in respect to the vocation of the human being and the characteristic of his formation [Charakteristik seiner Ausbildung] is as follows. The human being is destined by his reason to live in a society with human beings and in it to cultivate himself, to civilize himself, and to moralize himself by means of the arts and the sciences. No matter how great his animal tendency may be to give himself over passively to the impulses of ease and good living, which he calls happiness, he is still destined to make himself worthy of humanity by actively struggling with the obstacles that cling to him because of the crudity of his nature. The human being must therefore be educated to the good; but he who is to educate him is on the other hand a human being who still lies in the crudity of nature and who is now supposed to bring about what he himself needs. Hence the continuous deviation from his destiny with the always repeated returns to it. 49

From this passage, we see that education, as already noted, has a crucial, but not straightforward, role to play in the philosophy of history, since at least two operative ideas of an educative journey are to be found therein: that of the immanent education of humankind and that of an ‘education [Erziehung] from above’. Kant had, in The Critique of the Power of Judgement, also described the latter as an ‘education by nature’, and he here goes on to specify that this education is ‘salutary but harsh and stern in the cultivation [Bearbeitung] of nature’ and ‘extends through great hardship and almost to the extinction of the entire species [Geschlechts]’. 50 It is the first, most straightforwardly recognisable educational relation between different generations and different peoples that I have primarily focused on here, since it concerns the transmission of models for thinking and for learning to orient oneself within the world. It is in this context that Kant encounters, restates and recognises the problem of the education of educators as one of the greatest challenges faced by humankind. As he noted in the Lectures on Pedagogy, ‘two human inventions can probably be regarded as the most difficult, namely the arts of government and education’. 51 That humans are fallible means that no educator could ever teach perfectly according to the ends of reason:

the problem of moral education for our species remains unsolved even in the quality of the principle, not merely in degree, because an evil tendency in our species may be censured by common human reason and perhaps also restrained, but it will thereby still not have been eradicated. 52

In effect, what amounts to any form of progress here is the process of the improvement of the conditions for an education, aiming at generational moral improvement. As such, moral improvement is in no way secured and progress by no means certain, but it is more likely that if good education is in place, better citizens and more moral human beings will develop.

This is also clear in The Conflict of the Faculties, where the problems of a philosophy of history capable of predicting the progression of the human species are refracted through the problem of education. 53 The immanent idea of education is here divided into two models: one in which education comes from below (from individuals that improve themselves and then go on to improve the social and political whole), and one in which the form and principles of education are imposed by the state in a top-down model. Kant is unequivocal in his support of this latter model, writing that the general education of a people – a condition for their becoming not only good citizens but also good human beings who can improve and take care of themselves – depends on a training which is not the prerogative of families alone but should be carried out at state-level policy:

The whole mechanism of this education has no coherence if it is not designed in agreement with a well-weighed plan of the sovereign power, put into play according to the purpose of this plan, and steadily maintained therein; to this end it might well behove the state likewise to reform itself from time to time and, attempting evolution instead of revolution, progress perpetually toward the better. 54

When compared to the early texts on Basedow’s Philanthropinum and on Enlightenment experiments in educational methods, it seems clear from these passages that Kant actually became increasingly agnostic as to the extent to which national improvements of education could be the key to the uninterrupted progression of the human species toward the better. But this does not dispel the problem of the possible means of spreading progress across the globe, to all the populations of the Earth, such that, eventually, a move from ‘international barbarism’ to a ‘lawful cosmopolitan whole’ can be effectuated. Among the mechanisms of distribution discussed by Kant, war and commerce, the ‘unsocial sociability’ of humankind, are central as the dynamic and conflictual forces in a universal world history toward cosmopolitanism. Though Kant seems to have wavered about the degree to which commercial sociability might either quell or incite conflict, 55 he remained unwavering on the view that war – though it may in the short term impede progress by the way in which it funnels funds away from the task of educating each population, and is in this and other regards to be considered, unquestionably, one of the greatest evils – served a purpose from the projected standpoint of the whole of universal world history, insofar as it drives nations toward the formation of a cosmopolitan whole. 56 It is, in other words, a part of that ‘harsh and salutary’ education through which purposive nature pushes humankind to continuously shape itself and develop its predisposition to reason. Though Kant may not sanction colonisation from the standpoint of his moral or political philosophy, in the philosophy of history it appears as a part of this very same history of the ‘harsh education’ of humankind. In this history, one part of humanity seems retrospectively to have been entrusted with the immanent education of those who have not of themselves been able to progress. The explanation for why this is the case is grounded in the concept of race that implies a conception of the restricted capacity within some humans to impose the constraints necessary to educate themselves. Since Kant considered the teleological end of history to be the transformation of a ‘crude natural capacity for moral discrimination’ into an actual moral regard for duties and rights and, with it, the transformation of a ‘pathologically compelled agreement to form a society finally into a moral whole’, 57 the question then seems to be whether such transformations are predicated on postponing the self-legislation of peoples considered dependent on an educational process of assimilation, or whether they are predicated on a perpetual state of representation in which guardianship of the cosmopolitan whole is entrusted to a select population, or indeed a select race? In short, what is entailed by that differentiation of educability seems inevitably to be either indefinite guardianship (Spivak’s assessment) or a postponement of self-representation upon the point of maturity, premised upon a process of assimilation (Lloyd’s assessment). Both appear to be possible: they represent the two primary interpretational options for understanding civic consequences of the fourfold difference in the educability of the human races – between those who acquire no culture; those who can be trained; those who acquire culture to the highest degree; and those who acquire both culture to the highest degree and the capacity to abstractly conceptualise it.


Two slightly different sets of questions can at this point be asked. First, in terms of a systematic assessment of Kant’s writings, are there grounds for thinking that either of these two scenarios – that of indefinite guardianship or that of assimilation – was envisaged by Kant? And second, in terms of the afterlife of Kantian philosophy, what do they respectively mean for universalism today? In conclusion, I will briefly consider each of these sets of questions.

Through the first of these interpretational prisms, the fixation at a certain moment of the development of some germs and predispositions over and above others entails that for some races, no process of cultivation or education is at all possible in Kant’s view. This would seem to entail the idea of a permanent social and political organisation of the world under white supremacy. 58 This racist idea of tutelage most obviously thrives in some formations of far-right ideology, and is in many ways easily recognisable as such. It makes no claim to true universality and inscribes permanent inequality within its very constitution. Through the second interpretational prism, the limitation in educability is not to be understood as permanent tout court but as a limitation of what, within each race, those who belong to such a race can make of themselves; that is, as something which, through the proper training and education from those who have already acquired a certain base level of cultivation, might be imparted to them. Where some of Kant’s statements seem to hint at the first option, a note concerning the global prospect of a historical progression of the human species toward perfection, found among the loose sheets of teaching notes for Kant’s anthropology lectures, hints at the latter:

We must seek the continuous progress of humankind toward perfection in the occident, and from there its dissemination around the Earth [Verbreitung auf der Erde suchen]. 59

The passage is ambiguous with respect to the concluding reference to the dissemination of progress toward perfection – most notably with respect to the means of dissemination. When we inquire into the function of geography within Kant’s philosophy of history, we should take our cues from such ambiguities. Though Kant may have changed his position on the permissibility of conquest and of the slave-trade, the question of the dissemination of the continuous progress of humankind toward perfection ‘around the Earth’ persists in the stability of a racialised differentiation between educators and educated. What can be said to have changed might then merely be Kant’s view on the legitimate means for the promulgation of such an education. As I mentioned above, this means that the nexus between Kant’s racism and his concept of race is expressed not only in relation to the brute domination of slavery and colonial exploitation but also in the ideological conception of an educative role – a civilising mission – that fundamentally assumes a relation of inequality up until the point where those who are to be educated can be said to assume their own maturity (Mündigkeit). This goes to the core of Kant’s philosophy of history in which the institution of cosmopolitanism is premised on a passage through the state-form, and in which white Western European nations, as the generators of the socio-political models appropriate to the full realisation of the predispositions of the human species, form the privileged locus for historical dynamism. The education of the ‘rest’ of humanity that follows might employ a variety of means but the aim remains that of learning to adopt the ‘appropriate’ model. In other words, learning to assimilate. This position can still be upheld as a universalism, yet it is one where self-determination on the part of those always-already excluded never comes into the picture. Can we think and enact an emancipatory universalism that is not assimilationist? That is the question Kant’s view of the differential educability of the human races seems to leave us with. 60


  1. Immanuel Kant, Pädagogik in Kants gesammelte Schriften, Akademie Ausgabe Vol. IX (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1923), 443. Henceforth all references to the Akademie Ausgabe of Kant’s works are abbreviated as AA followed by the volume number. ^

  2. Pauline Kleingeld, ‘Kant’s Second Thoughts on Race’, The Philosophical Quarterly 57:229 (October 2007), 576. ^

  3. As Robert Bernasconi notes, that Kant was a recognised theorist of race seems to have been common knowledge in the nineteenth and even early twentieth century. See Robert Bernasconi, ‘Kant as an Unfamiliar Source of Racism’, in Philosophers on Race, eds. Julie K. Ward and Tommy L. Lott (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), 162n6. ^

  4. Robert Bernasconi, ‘Who Invented the Concept of Race? Kant’s Role in the Enlightenment Construction of Race’, in Race, ed. Robert Bernasconi (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 11–36. ^

  5. Immanuel Kant, ‘Determination of the Concept of a Human Race’, trans. Holly Wilson and Günter Zöller, in Anthropology, History and Education, eds. Günter Zöller and Robert B. Louden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 147. ^

  6. Immanuel Kant, ‘On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy’, trans. Günter Zöller, in Anthropology, History and Education, 200. ^

  7. Kant, ‘Of The Different Races of Human Beings’, trans. Holly Wilson and Günter Zöller, in Anthropology, History and Education, 84. ^

  8. Kant, ‘Determination of the Concept of a Human Race’, 155. In the first iterations of this theory, there is an operative distinction between germs [Keime] as the ground of a determinate ‘unfolding’ that effects the particular parts of an organism and natural predispositions [natürliche Anlage] as the ground of a determinate ‘unfolding’ of the relations between parts and their size. However, as Phillip R. Sloan has shown, when the question concerning the purposive development of organisms is taken up in the Critique of the Power of Judgement, Kant, likely influenced by Blumenbach, no longer uses the term Keime and instead appears to have reconfigured his theory of race to centre on natürliche Anlage, which, in turn, takes on a more dynamic role within this theory. See Phillip R. Sloan, ‘Performing the Categories: Eighteenth-Century Generation Theory and the Biological Roots of Kant’s A Priori’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:2 (April 2002), 229–53. ^

  9. Extensive work has been done on the extent to which Kant relied on preformationist or epigenetic theories of organismic development and on the possible changes in his view – that is, if the full potential for development was inherent in the original predisposition or if the very potentiality for development may have changed over the course of several generations. See Immanuel Kant, Kant and The Concept Race: Late Eighteenth-Century Writings, ed. Jon M. Mikkelsen (New York: SUNY Press, 2013). On the shifts in Kant’s own position on preformation and epigenesis, see John H. Zammito, ‘Kant’s Persistent Ambivalence Towards Epigenesis, 1764–1790’, in Understanding Purpose: Kant and the Philosophy of Biology, ed. Philippe Huneman (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007), 51–74. ^

  10. Immanuel Kant, ‘Antropologie Friedländer’, trans. G. Felicitas Munzel, in Lectures on Anthropology, eds. Allan W. Wood and Robert B. Louden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 215. ^

  11. Kant, ‘Of the Different Races of Human Beings’, 85, and ‘Determination of the Concept of a Human Race’, 149. ^

  12. While Kant does not exclude the possibility that there are other races, these are the four for which he considers there to have been indisputable proof that their characteristics are ‘unfailingly hereditary’. Kant, ‘Determination of the Concept of a Human Race’, 153. ^

  13. A good account of this tension can also be found in Thomas A. McCarthy, Race, Empire, and the Idea of Human Development (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 42–68. ^

  14. Pauline Kleingeld, ‘Kant’s Second Thoughts on Race’, 576. When the field is split in this manner, Charles W. Mills (along with Eze and Bernasconi) has typically been considered representative of the view of Kant as a ‘consistent inegalitarian’, arguing to the effect that Kant did not count all humans as fully human and that therefore not all humans would have been either subject to or included within the moral demands of the categorial imperative. For his most recent defence of this position, see Charles W. Mills, ‘Kant and Race, Redux’, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 35:1-2 (2014), 125–57. In a more recent piece, Mills however also made it clear that his critique of Kant was never against Kantianism in any straightforward manner. See Mills, ‘Radical Black Kantianism’, Res Philosophica 95:1 (January 2018), 1–33. For the view that Kant is best understood to have been an inconsistent moral universalist, Kleingeld, Louden, Thomas E. Hill and Bernard Boxill have all argued that while Kant in his pre-critical works expressed racist beliefs and while his theory of race might be regrettable, his moral philosophy also contains the universalist tenets necessary to counter these. See Thomas E. Hill and Bernard Boxill, ‘Kant and Race’, in Race and Racism, ed. Bernard Boxill (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 448–71; Robert B. Louden, Kant’s Impure Ethics (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 93–106. ^

  15. See Kleingeld, ‘Kant’s Second Thoughts on Colonialism’ and Lea Ypi, ‘Commerce and Colonialism in Kant’s Philosophy of History’, both in Kant and Colonialism: Historical and Critical Perspectives, eds. Katrin Flikschuh and Lea Ypi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 43–67, 99–126; and Ian Storey, ‘Empire and Natural Order in Kant’s “Second Thoughts” on Race’, History of Political Thought 36:4 (Winter 2015), 670–700. ^

  16. I’ve focused almost exclusively on the English language literature on this topic. A book-length study of Kant’s conception of the human races, and its connection to the anthropology, can also be found in Raphaël Lagier, Les races humaines selon Kant (Paris: PUF, 2004). ^

  17. While this approach has had, unsurprisingly, hardly any traction within Kant studies, its history predates many of the debates that have unfolded in the latter. For a broad outline of this argument see Étienne Balibar, ‘Racism as Universalism’ in Masses, Classes, Ideas, trans. James Swenson (New York and London: Routledge, 1994) 191–204; and, later, ‘Ontological Difference, Anthropological Difference, and Equal Liberty’, European Journal of Philosophy 28:1 (March 2020), 1–12. For two discussions which situate Balibar’s argument in relation to Kant’s conception of cosmopolitanism, see James Ingram, Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 68–76, and Todd Hedrick, ‘Race, Difference, and Anthropology in Kant’s Cosmopolitanism’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 46:2 (April 2008), 245–68. ^

  18. For the emphasis on the ‘Schillerian lens’ through which Lloyd reads Kant, see Lucie Kim-Chi Mercier, ‘The racial regime of aesthetics: On David Lloyd’s Under Representation’, Radical Philosophy 2:06 (Winter 2019), 58. ^

  19. Paul de Man, ‘Kant and Schiller’ in Aesthetic Ideology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 130. ^

  20. De Man, ‘Kant and Schiller’, 147. ^

  21. Etienne Balibar, ‘Human species as biopolitical concept’, Radical Philosophy 2.11 (2021), 10. ^

  22. I quote here from Gayatri C. Spivak’s translation in A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 13. Werner S. Pluhar’s translation reads: ‘What is called sublime by us, having been prepared through culture, comes across as merely repellent to a person who is uncultured and lacking in the development of moral ideas’. See Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgement (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), 124 [AA:V, 265]. ^

  23. I discuss Spivak’s critical strategy of affirmative sabotage in Marie Louise Krogh, ‘General Predicament, Specific Negotiations: Spivak’s Persistent Critique’, in Afterlives, ed. Peter Osborne (London: CRMEP Books, 2022), 58–71. ^

  24. See, in particular, Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, 26, and David Lloyd, Under Representation: The Racial Regime of Aesthetics (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019), 51. ^

  25. Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, 9. ^

  26. When, at a later point, Spivak did undertake an ‘affirmative sabotage’ of Schiller’s notion of an aesthetic education, it was to salvage the field of imaginative figuration for transnational cultural studies within a generalised critique of (post)colonial ideology. See Gayatri C. Spivak, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). ^

  27. Lloyd, Under Representation, 73. ^

  28. Immanuel Kant, note 1520, AA:XV/2, 878. Translation mine. ^

  29. Bernasconi, ‘Kant as an Unfamiliar Source of Racism’, 156–59. See also Mark Larrimore, ‘Sublime Waste: Kant on the Destiny of the Races’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 25 (1999), 113–15. ^

  30. Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans. Robert B. Louden, in Anthropology, History and Education, 231. ^

  31. There exist no extant copies of the original manuscripts out of which Rink gathered the Lectures on Pedagogy (as his edition is titled in the translation by Robert B. Louden in Anthropology, History and Education). For an account of the content and context of the lectures, see Robert B. Loudon, ‘Becoming Human: Kant and the Philosophy of Education’ in Kant’s Human Being: Essays on His Theory of Human Nature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 136–148. See also Werner Stark, ‘Immanuel Kant’s On Pedagogy: A Lecture Like Any Other?’, trans. Robert R. Lewis, in Reading Kant’s Lectures, ed. Robert R. Lewis (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015), 259–276. ^

  32. Kant, ‘Antropologie Friedländer’, 250–55. ^

  33. In the summer of 1780 Kant would be forced to instead use his colleague Friedrich Samuel Bock’s Lehrbuch der Erziehungskunst für christliche Eltern und künftige Jugendlehrer, published that same year, as the textbook for this course. See Manfred Kuehn, ‘Kant on Education, Anthropology, Ethics’, in Kant and Education: Interpretation and Commentary, eds. Klas Roth and Chris W. Surprenant (New York: Routledge, 2012), 56. ^

  34. Immanuel Kant, ‘Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim’ in Anthropology, History, Education, 109–10; and Anthropology, 424. ^

  35. This is a point of dispute in Kant’s famous critique of Herder and in Herder’s reply to Kant’s critique. Where Herder finds ridiculous the idea that perfection happens in the species and not out of the individual’s relation to the species-concept, Kant, contrary to this, emphasises that in that case, ‘species’ would be a merely logical category whereas ‘if “the human species” signifies the whole of a series [Reihe] of generations going (indeterminably) into the infinite (as this meaning is entirely customary), and it is assumed that this series ceaselessly approximates the line of its destiny [Bestimmung] running alongside it, then it is not to utter a contradiction to say that in all its parts it is asymptotic to this line and yet on the whole that it will coincide with it, in other words, that no member of all the generations of humankind, but only the species will fully reach its destiny. The mathematician can give elucidation here; the philosopher would say: “The destiny of humankind is on the whole a ceaseless progress, and its completion is a mere idea, but very useful in all respects – the idea of a goal to which we have to direct our endeavours in accordance with the aim of providence”.’ Immanuel Kant, ‘Review of J.G. Herder’s Ideas for the philosophy of history of humanity. Parts 1 and 2’, in Anthropology, History, and Education, 142. ^

  36. Kant, ‘Idea for a Universal History’, 108. ^

  37. Kant, Anthropology, 421 [AA:VII, 326] (translation modified). ^

  38. Kuehn, ‘Kant on Education, Anthropology, and Ethics’, 66. Kuehn alludes to the transcendental function of ‘educability’ but does not develop the conceptual distinction between the formation and the education of the species. ^

  39. In the ‘Essays regarding the Philanthropinum’, Kant uses the term Ausbildung practically analogously with his use of Erziehung in Lectures on Pedagogy: as the unifying term which implies a number of different modalities of an educative process, including ‘’discipline’, training’, ‘instruction’, ‘schooling’. See Immanuel Kant, ‘Essays regarding the Philanthropinum’ in Anthropology, History, and Education, 102, and Lectures on Pedagogy, 437. ^

  40. Kant, Anthropology, 418-419 [AA:VII, 322-333] and Lectures on Pedagogy, 444 [AA:IX, 449-450]. ^

  41. ‘We are cultivated in a high degree by art and science. We are civilized, perhaps to the point of being overburdened, by all sorts of social decorum and propriety. But very much is still lacking before we can be held to be already moralized.’ Kant, ‘Idea for a Universal History’, 116. ^

  42. Kant, Lectures on Pedagogy, 444 [AA:IX, 449]. ^

  43. Kant, Lectures on Pedagogy, 444 [AA:IX, 450]. ^

  44. Immanuel Kant, Menschenkunde, in Lectures on Anthropology, 320–21. ^

  45. Kant, Anthropology, 315 [AA:VII, 208]. ^

  46. Kant, Menschenkunde, 32, translation modified, [AA:XXV/2, 1187]. ^

  47. Louden, Kant’s Impure Ethics, 90. ^

  48. Louden, Kant’s Impure Ethics, 106 ^

  49. Kant, Anthropology, 420 (my emphasis). ^

  50. Kant, Anthropology, 423 [AA:VII, 328]. This sentence is a reworking of one found in The Critique of the Power of Judgement, where Kant writes that in regard to the discipline of our inclinations, ‘we find nature acting purposively, for it strives to give us an education [Ausbildung] that makes us receptive to purposes higher than those that nature itself can provide.’ Kant, Critique of Judgement, 321 [AA:V, 433]. ^

  51. Kant, Lectures on Pedagogy, 441. ^

  52. Kant, Anthropology, 422. ^

  53. Immanuel Kant, ‘The Conflict of the Faculties’, trans. Mary J. Gregor and Robert Anchor, in Religion and Rational Theology, eds. Allen W. Wood and George di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 308. ^

  54. Kant, ‘The Conflict of the Faculties’, 308 ^

  55. Ypi, ‘Commerce and Colonialism’, 99–126. ^

  56. Immanuel Kant, ‘Toward Perpetual Peace’, in Practical Philosophy, trans. and ed. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 319, and Anthropology, 427. ^

  57. Kant, ‘Idea for a Universal History’, 111. ^

  58. This is largely the interpretation which ensues from the argument presented in Tsenay Serequeberhan, ‘Eurocentrism in Philosophy: The Case of Immanuel Kant’, The Philosophical Forum 27:4 (1996), 333–56. ^

  59. Immanuel Kant, Refl.1501, [AA:XV, 788-89]. Erich Adickes, the editor of this part of Kant’s Nachlass, dates this reflection to a period between 1775-83. A similar diagnosis of the stasis of ‘Oriental peoples’ is found in the lecture transcripts from the anthropology Friedländer (1775/76), the anthropology Pillau (1777/78) and in Menschenkunde (c.1781/82). The first sentence is ambiguous and it is unclear if it is poorly formulated, unfinished, or both. In his comments on this passage, Bernasconi translates ‘Die orientalischen Nationen würden sich aus sich selbst niemals’ as: ‘The oriental nations would never improve themselves on their own’. Bernasconi, ‘Will the Real Kant Please Stand Up: The Challenge of Enlightenment Racism to the Study of the History of Philosophy’, Radical Philosophy 117 (January/February 2003), 18. ^

  60. Parts of this article originated as a chapter in my PhD thesis Temporalities and Territories: The Geopolitical Imaginary of German Philosophies of History (Kingston University London, 2020). An early draft of the article itself was presented at the Art as Forum Research Symposium: ‘The Subject of Art Criticism’s Universalism’ at Copenhagen University 2021. I am grateful to the organisers for the invitation and the many insightful points the discussion generated. Thank you also to Miri Davidson and the editors at Radical Philosophy, whose comments and questions made all the difference. ^