“Ein Spiel der Sinnlichkeit, durch den Verstand geordnet:” Kant’s Concept of Poetry and the Anthropological Revolution of Human Imagination

  • Fernando M. F. Silva


The present essay proposes a new reading of Kant’s concept of poetry in his Lecture on Anthropology and within his anthropological thought in general. Rather than seeing poetry as merely an anthropological category or even as a disposition of the human spirit falling within the scope of anthropology, in this reading poetry is a key link between most of Kant’s anthropological topics and is therefore of paramount relevance for an understanding of Kant’s anthropological thought as a new science of human beings. In short, this reading aims to fill an important void in Kantian analysis. Until now, Kantian scholars have mostly failed to grasp the importance of Kant’s concept of poetry and, especially so, of Kant’s concept of poetry from a pragmatic point of view. The latter is neglected, or seen as the mere outcome of a special imaginative process—one which, however, is unrelatable to rationality, for poetry cannot be seen as a self-driven force, capable of enlivening the faculties of the spirit, nor as a driving force endowed with a purpose other than to delight or create new images. However, it is our view that Kant’s anthropological concept of poetry is indeed presented as relevant, especially in the sections devoted to the problem of human imagination [Einbildung]. Here, Kant proposes a revolution in the position, function, and whole joint disposition of the human faculties, one which displays the singularity of Kant’s proposition of a pragmatic anthropology as a science. In short, we aim to discover those potentialities that, to Kant, were unique in the human being’s poetic disposition; to show how Kant’s concept of poetry not only presupposes, but is also presupposed by an indeed revolutionary rearrangement of the inferior imaginative faculties; and to clarify how such a unique poetic disposition of the inferior faculties benefits the superior faculties, as well as rational knowledge, and hence fulfills a greater objective in Kant’s anthropology: to achieve that rare harmonious plane in human being’s state of mind which brings about a unique kind of anthropological pleasure—the pleasure of finding out something common to all mankind, which is clearly at the basis of the philosopher’s critical enterprise.


Inferior Faculties Poetic Disposition Superior Faculties Pragmatic Anthropology Harmony Game 
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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando M. F. Silva
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre of PhilosophyUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

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