XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

Progress and Prophecy: The Case for a Cosmopolitan History

Sharon Rae Anderson-Gold

Edificio: Palazzo dei Congressi
Sala: sala Newton
Data: 23 maggio 2010 - 14:30
Ultima modifica: 13 aprile 2010


Much has been made of Kant’s reliance on natural teleology in his writings on history. While recent interpretations recognize the important role of historical agency, too much emphasis continues to be placed on the role of nature in Kant’s interpretation of history while the function and role of “adopting a point of view” remains underappreciated. This paper will consider two of Immanuel Kant’s essays on history, “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” and “Is the Human Race Continually Improving” in light of the requirement to found reflections on history in an explicit “point of view”, in this case the point of view of a cosmopolitan citizen. Points of view from which history should be investigated according to Kant flow from a combination of presently existing human interests and the desire to influence the course of history in the furtherance of those interests. In particular I investigate the relationship between descriptive coherence and predictive power and argue that these are not two separable functions of historical narrative but are inherent attributes of adopting an interpretative standpoint on history. Kant’s concept of a regulative ideal for a universal history then is unlike the construction of specific categories or “types” into which empirical history is supposed to “fit” as a matter of ontological inventory. Rather Kant’s proposal, I argue, is closer in spirit to the post modern call for an explicit recognition of the dynamic interplay between values flowing from human interests and the perception of patterns in both the construction and interpretation of history.