Was Kant Anti-Semitic? With an Addendum on Duty (38 pages) – Revised 10 March 2020

Was Kant Anti-Semitic? With an “Addendum on Duty” by is licensed by Douglas R McGaughey under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Pdf version with footnotes (rather than endnotes) and page numbers:

Was Kant Anti-Semitic?
with an “Addendum on Duty”[1]

 “It is a peculiar habit of our capacity of attentiveness to focus precisely on that which is flawed about someone else; and to do so unintentionally: to focus on the missing button on the coat of the other, or the gap in the teeth, or on an acquired speech defect and, consequently, to cause consternation in the other but also to debase ourselves in the process. – When in general it is a good thing, it is also not only proper but also wise to overlook the fault of the other and yes, to overlook even our own joy [in the matter]. However, the abstracting of this capacity involves a mental strength that can only be acquired by practice.” (Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View AA VII: 132)[2] (Trans. McG)


On this side of the Shoah, the discovery that Kant appeared to connect euthanasia with Judaism is horrific and deeply disturbing. However, with Kant nothing is as it simply appears to be. A careful reading of Kant discloses anything but a call for the physical annihilation of a social group, Jews. Kant speaks of Judaism’s voluntary (by no means from self-hatred) but gentle, spiritual death – as an historical religion, not as the violent murder of persons. He envisions that Judaism along with all other historical forms of religion will one day be renewed by a “pure” (or core) religion grounded in the dignity of all persons and a community committed to the internal commonweal of God to encourage moral effort. This God is no highest Being (ens summum) among beings but the Being of all beings (ens entium), as the unconditional condition of possibility for any and all reality and the origin of both the physical order that governs nature and the moral order that governs creative freedom. This core religion behind or above historical religion by no means removes humanity from history but is precisely what encourages humanity to exercise its incredible creative capacity in the world, responsibly.

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