Georg Cavallar, Kant’s Embedded Cosmopolitanism: History, Philosophy, and Education for World Citizens, Berlin/Boston 2015, 215 p., ISBN 9783110438499. This book aims to show that “Kant’s theory of cosmopolitanism is the outcome of his systematically developed practical philosophy, not a mere repetition or copy of widely held Enlightenment beliefs” (p. 1). Cavallar intends to overthrow both John Dewey’s attempt, in his German Philosophy and Politics (Holt, 1915), “to situate Kant as a child of his time” (p. 1) and the comprehensive interpretation delivered by Pauline Kleingeld in Kant and Cosmopolitanism (Cambridge, 2012), which, while “very strong in contrasting Kant’s views with those of his contemporaries” but “has little to say about the moral and educational dimension of Kant’s cosmopolitan theory” (p. 3). Whereas Cavallar’s view bears greater similarities to Felicitas Munzel’s thesis in Kant’s Conception of Pedagogy (Northwestern, 2012), where she argues that critical philosophy is in fact a “pedagogical project, essentially a paideia” (p. 3), Cavallar considers the paideia from a different angle, arguing that “external freedom helps humans to cultivate their dispositions and thus also their moral potentials as free moral agents” (p. 4). Although seldom used in philosophical discourse, the term embedded that appears in the title is meant to point out that “Kant’s cosmopolitanism should be understood as rooted in one’s particular community and thus embedded” (p. 2). Cavallar talks of Kant’s trying “to develop a synthesis of republican patriotism and republican as well as thin moral cosmopolitanism… in the dynamic tensions between embedded local attachments and cosmopolitan obligations” (p. 2), where thin refers to the notion of thick and thin identities discussed by cultural anthropologists. Kees Terlouw’s paper on “Rescaling Regional Identities: Communicating Thick and Thin Regional identities” (Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 9 [2009], p. 452–64) provides a contemporary example of this notion of embeddeding and delves into the contrast between thick traditional, historically rooted, well-established regional identities and thin regional identities, which are more transitory and focus more on economic competitiveness. Cavallar agrees with Robert Louden’s claim in Kant’s Impure Ethics (Oxford, 2000) that Kant endorsed a form of “western Eurocentric gradualism” and re-launches it by remarking that according to Kant “we are not equal in terms of our cultivated prudence, of cultural development, skin color, talents, perhaps not even in terms of moral capacities. However, we are equal in terms of our humanity or dignity and our moral vocation” (p. 12). The methodology used is that of intellectual history, which aims to reconstruct an individual’s belief as a reasonably consistent web, while looking for all shades of weak intentionalism and procedural individualism. Cavallar subscribes to Mark Bevir’s “Post-Analytic Historicism” (Journal of the History of Ideas 7 [1999], p. 657-65), which is all in favor of critical genealogies “to check whether moral claims just reflect particular traditions, interests or metaphysics rather than universal truths” (p. 19). One could take this as an opportunity, of course, to accentuate the sociological aspect as against the purely theoretical aspects of many of Kant’s writings, and a skeptical reader might question whether such an approach helps to explain exegetical and philosophical issues. Keeping the skeptics in mind, however, and considering current discussions on the methodology of the history of philosophy, one might say that the main contribution of this book comes from the point of view of cultural development. Just as the Kant-Forschung benefits from correlating certain Kantian passages, say from the Logikvorlesungen, with antecedents passage by other philosophers, so scholarship benefits from linking Kant’s theory of cosmopolitan education with the academic and administrative documents produced by his alma mater. When it comes to university teachers, Kant clearly did not detect any incompatibility between their exercising the public use of reason and conforming to the state that supported them in their private use of reason. By the public use of reason, he understood the theoretical use that a person makes of reason ‘as a scholar before the reading public’, which, he added, ‘must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men’. By the private use of reason, in contrast, he understood the use of reason in the specific context of ‘a particular civil post or office which is entrusted to him’. This latter use, he specified, ‘may often be very narrowly delimited’ (Kant, Was ist Aufklärung?, 37 [trans. Kant, On History, 5]). Historians find it auspicious when institutional traditions force philosophers to search for a clear approach to an issue. An example is provided by Kant’s justification, in the preface to the Streit, of his position on academic freedom within the philosophy faculty. His apologia pro libertate philosophandi demonstrates that the traditional view of philosophy as a propaedeutic discipline was changing. The time was still to come when statesmen like Humboldt and philosophers like Hegel were to be vested by the government with the power to legislate on matters pertaining to education for the nation’s benefit. Kant, by contrast, was never called upon by the government to educate the nation. He was instead a petitioner, who asked that the government stipulate the conditions for the implementation of an effective and truthful national education. He suggested that the mechanism of this project be designed ‘in agreement with a well-weighted plan of the sovereign power, put into play according to the purpose of this plan, and steadily maintained therein’ (SdF 93 [308]). To that end, Kant added that ‘it might well behoove the state likewise to reform itself from time to time and, attempting evolution instead of revolution, progress perpetually toward the better’ (ibid.). This suggestion, however, was not to be carried out during his lifetime, as Kant died two years before the beginning of the Prussian state reforms (1806) and six years before Humboldt founded the university of Berlin (1810). (Riccardo Pozzo, Rom)

Georg Cavallar: Kant’s Embedded Cosmopolitanism: History, Philosophy, and Education for World Citizens. Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, 2015, 215 pp., ISBN 9783110438499

Pozzo, Riccardo
2017

Abstract

Georg Cavallar, Kant’s Embedded Cosmopolitanism: History, Philosophy, and Education for World Citizens, Berlin/Boston 2015, 215 p., ISBN 9783110438499. This book aims to show that “Kant’s theory of cosmopolitanism is the outcome of his systematically developed practical philosophy, not a mere repetition or copy of widely held Enlightenment beliefs” (p. 1). Cavallar intends to overthrow both John Dewey’s attempt, in his German Philosophy and Politics (Holt, 1915), “to situate Kant as a child of his time” (p. 1) and the comprehensive interpretation delivered by Pauline Kleingeld in Kant and Cosmopolitanism (Cambridge, 2012), which, while “very strong in contrasting Kant’s views with those of his contemporaries” but “has little to say about the moral and educational dimension of Kant’s cosmopolitan theory” (p. 3). Whereas Cavallar’s view bears greater similarities to Felicitas Munzel’s thesis in Kant’s Conception of Pedagogy (Northwestern, 2012), where she argues that critical philosophy is in fact a “pedagogical project, essentially a paideia” (p. 3), Cavallar considers the paideia from a different angle, arguing that “external freedom helps humans to cultivate their dispositions and thus also their moral potentials as free moral agents” (p. 4). Although seldom used in philosophical discourse, the term embedded that appears in the title is meant to point out that “Kant’s cosmopolitanism should be understood as rooted in one’s particular community and thus embedded” (p. 2). Cavallar talks of Kant’s trying “to develop a synthesis of republican patriotism and republican as well as thin moral cosmopolitanism… in the dynamic tensions between embedded local attachments and cosmopolitan obligations” (p. 2), where thin refers to the notion of thick and thin identities discussed by cultural anthropologists. Kees Terlouw’s paper on “Rescaling Regional Identities: Communicating Thick and Thin Regional identities” (Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 9 [2009], p. 452–64) provides a contemporary example of this notion of embeddeding and delves into the contrast between thick traditional, historically rooted, well-established regional identities and thin regional identities, which are more transitory and focus more on economic competitiveness. Cavallar agrees with Robert Louden’s claim in Kant’s Impure Ethics (Oxford, 2000) that Kant endorsed a form of “western Eurocentric gradualism” and re-launches it by remarking that according to Kant “we are not equal in terms of our cultivated prudence, of cultural development, skin color, talents, perhaps not even in terms of moral capacities. However, we are equal in terms of our humanity or dignity and our moral vocation” (p. 12). The methodology used is that of intellectual history, which aims to reconstruct an individual’s belief as a reasonably consistent web, while looking for all shades of weak intentionalism and procedural individualism. Cavallar subscribes to Mark Bevir’s “Post-Analytic Historicism” (Journal of the History of Ideas 7 [1999], p. 657-65), which is all in favor of critical genealogies “to check whether moral claims just reflect particular traditions, interests or metaphysics rather than universal truths” (p. 19). One could take this as an opportunity, of course, to accentuate the sociological aspect as against the purely theoretical aspects of many of Kant’s writings, and a skeptical reader might question whether such an approach helps to explain exegetical and philosophical issues. Keeping the skeptics in mind, however, and considering current discussions on the methodology of the history of philosophy, one might say that the main contribution of this book comes from the point of view of cultural development. Just as the Kant-Forschung benefits from correlating certain Kantian passages, say from the Logikvorlesungen, with antecedents passage by other philosophers, so scholarship benefits from linking Kant’s theory of cosmopolitan education with the academic and administrative documents produced by his alma mater. When it comes to university teachers, Kant clearly did not detect any incompatibility between their exercising the public use of reason and conforming to the state that supported them in their private use of reason. By the public use of reason, he understood the theoretical use that a person makes of reason ‘as a scholar before the reading public’, which, he added, ‘must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men’. By the private use of reason, in contrast, he understood the use of reason in the specific context of ‘a particular civil post or office which is entrusted to him’. This latter use, he specified, ‘may often be very narrowly delimited’ (Kant, Was ist Aufklärung?, 37 [trans. Kant, On History, 5]). Historians find it auspicious when institutional traditions force philosophers to search for a clear approach to an issue. An example is provided by Kant’s justification, in the preface to the Streit, of his position on academic freedom within the philosophy faculty. His apologia pro libertate philosophandi demonstrates that the traditional view of philosophy as a propaedeutic discipline was changing. The time was still to come when statesmen like Humboldt and philosophers like Hegel were to be vested by the government with the power to legislate on matters pertaining to education for the nation’s benefit. Kant, by contrast, was never called upon by the government to educate the nation. He was instead a petitioner, who asked that the government stipulate the conditions for the implementation of an effective and truthful national education. He suggested that the mechanism of this project be designed ‘in agreement with a well-weighted plan of the sovereign power, put into play according to the purpose of this plan, and steadily maintained therein’ (SdF 93 [308]). To that end, Kant added that ‘it might well behoove the state likewise to reform itself from time to time and, attempting evolution instead of revolution, progress perpetually toward the better’ (ibid.). This suggestion, however, was not to be carried out during his lifetime, as Kant died two years before the beginning of the Prussian state reforms (1806) and six years before Humboldt founded the university of Berlin (1810). (Riccardo Pozzo, Rom)
9783110438499
Immanuel Kant
Cosmopolitanism
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