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Philosophical Anthropology Essays

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Philosophical Anthropology


ABSTRACT: Philosophers cannot avoid addressing the question of whether philosophical anthropology (that is, specifically philosophical inquiry about human nature and human phenomenon) is possible. Any answer must be articulated in the context of the nature and function of philosophy. In other words, philosophical anthropology must be defined as an account of the nature of the subject of philosophical thinking. I argue that if philosophical thinkers admit that they are beings in nature, culture, and history, then the possibility of a uniquely philosophical theory of human nature and human phenomenon should be discarded. Rather, philosophy's catalytic and integrative role in human cognition should be stressed.

Anthropological interests on the part of philosophers can be explained on different levels. Since thinking in general is reflective, philosophical thinkers must naturally be interested in understanding the nature of humans, which they themselves are, including the nature of their own thinking. But non-philosophical theorists can also be reflective enough to seek an understanding of human nature and the nature of their characteristic thinking. On a deeper level, with their realization that cognitive functions including philosophical thinking are characteristically human, philosophers may come to reflect upon how such functions are conditioned by human conditions. But such conditions can be addressed by empirical sciences as well, sometimes with greater methodological care or seriousness than can be found among some philosophers, as in cognitive psychology or cultural anthropology. If, in the course of the development of philosophy as a discipline, human experience becomes the primary thematic ...


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...y is partly explainable by different influences from outside philosophy. The juxtaposition and comparison of, for instance, the views of Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Marx and Nietzsche on human nature should make us despair of finding a philosophical essence of anthropological views. The distinct contribution that philosophy as a discipline can make to the understanding of humans is not so much special content or even a method as its ethos of valuing critical thinking and integration of human knowledge. Philosophical anthropology, as a special area of a unique discipline, should be held suspect. There only is a dimension to each inquiry where many, if not all, of the questions philosophers raise are significant. The mission of philosophy is to make all human inquiries, including the anthropological, maximally reflective in the given cultural situation.


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