Fines Hominis Lecture Fines Hominis Lectures

Andrea Kern: All and Nothing

The Life of an “I”

July 14-15, 2022 University of Potsdam
House 11, Room 0.09 (July 14, 2021); House 09, Room 2.05 (July 15, 2021)

Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam

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DESCRIPTION:The Life of an “I” // University of Potsdam // House 11, Room 0.09 (July 14, 2021); House 09, Room 2.05 (July 15, 2021) // Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam
SUMMARY:Andrea Kern: All and Nothing

Some, though not all, people sometimes, perhaps always, use ethical terms like “justice” or “duty” when thinking about themselves and their peers. That we humans have such terms, the (neo-)Aristotelian argues, is not because we have practical reason. It is quite possible to imagine a form of life of I-thinkers who do not apply ethical concepts to themselves, but confine themselves to purely instrumental forms of practical thinking and reasoning. In the availability of ethical concepts lies rather, so the idea, the characteristic of a genuinely human life, which in it proves to be a fact of nature, which also could not have been. I will argue – with reference to Hegelian considerations – that this identification of the human form of life with an ethical form of life rests on a misunderstanding of what a self-conscious form of life is. The idea of a self-conscious form of life, whose subjects are I-thinkers, is not the idea of a genus, which can be realized in both ethical and non-ethical forms. The reason for this, however, is not that, according to Hegel, the idea of a non-ethical self-conscious life-form is incoherent, as Kant, for instance, thought he could show. Rather, the reason is that Hegel denies that the notion of a self-conscious life-form describes a potentiality that can be thought without thereby thinking itself through that notion. And that is, without thereby either bringing to bear a thinking in which one recognizes oneself through and in another human being, or bringing to bear a thinking that denies precisely this self-knowledge through and in another human being. According to such a disjunctive conception of a self-conscious form of life, the reality of a self-conscious form of life is at stake in every moment of thinking. This is the flip side of the Hegelian insight that the concept of the human being is not the concept of something finite, but of something “absolute”.


July 14, 2022

Am Neuen Palais, House 11, Room 0.09

  • 4.00-6.00 pm – Lecture
  • Followed by a Reception in Am Neuen Palais, House 11, Room 2.22

July 15, 2022

Am Neuen Palais 10, House 09, Room 2:05

10.00 am-1.00 pm – Workshop

Fines Hominis Lecture Series

“But who, we?”
Derrida, Fines Hominis

The lecture series The Ends of Man explores the role of philosophical anthropology in contemporary thought. The situation is ambiguous: on the one hand, there is an increasing criticism of anthropocentrism in philosophy, underlying various posthumanist approaches. There is the suspicion that the way in which our thinking has revolved around the anthropos was connected to a reduction and degradation of what is non-human while at the same time hegemonically constricting our sense of the human. The emergence of the self-destructive age of the “Anthropocene” is taken to suggest that our anthropocentric thinking was connected to a disastrously misguided definition of the relation between human and human, human and animal, spirit and nature, mind and world. According to this diagnosis, the human being either unwillingly advances towards its own extinction or finally finds ways to overcome itself. On the other hand, there is an equally strong, newly awakened interest in philosophical anthropology in the philosophy of mind, which aims to reveal the embodied, finite, social and historical character of the mind in new ways. Philosophical anthropology itself, then, should allow us to overcome a reductive mentalistic, intellectualist, solipsistic and ahistorical conception of spirit and understand the relation between human and human, human and animal, spirit and nature, mind and world in a different way.

The ambiguity affects both sides – posthumanism on the one hand, and the new philosophical anthropology on the other – internally. Is posthumanism, which claims to transcend the human being, not still a form of anthropology – bound to the specificity of that very animal, that is able to transcend itself, and addressed at the We of a human community that is reaching beyond itself? Conversely, does not the new philosophical anthropology aim at overcoming a certain dominant image of the human being and going beyond an abstract and hegemonic way of questioning and addressing it?

The lecture series will gather important voices from the international debate, discussing the demise and the renaissance of philosophical anthropology. They ask, each in their own way, how we can understand ourselves by means of the posthumanist critique and the anthropological renaissance, and who this is: we.


White Matsutake