Eco-Ethica 9:209-233 (2020)

Authors
Robert Bernasconi
Pennsylvania State University
Abstract
Some scholars have responded to the increasingly widespread concerns about Immanuel Kant’s racism by promoting his cosmopolitanism as if the two were self-evidently incompatible, but his particular form of cosmopolitanism has its own history of difficulties when it comes to both racism and anti-Judaism. These concerns can be grounded historically if one links his 1784 essay on history with his account of cosmopolitanism in his 1793 lectures on the metaphysics of morals, where he criticized Jews for failing to embrace cosmopolitanism. Kant’s attack on the Jews was in line with Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s attack on them that had provoked Saul Ascher, a young Jewish Kantian, to accuse Fichte of inventing a new form of anti-Judaism. In this essay I reaffirm my rejection of the widespread claim that Kant toward the end of his life abandoned his belief in a racial hierarchy. I also demonstrate that he used the idea of cosmopolitanism as a tool not only against non-whites, but also against Jews. Kant’s cosmopolitanism should not be presented as the corrective to his racism, but as a new and dangerous addition to his earlier focus on inferiority.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy
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DOI 10.5840/ecoethica20217940
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