Kant on Lazy Savagery, Racialized

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Kant develops a concept of savagery, partly characterized by laziness, to envision a program for human progress. He also racializes savagery, treating native Americans, in particular, as literal savages. He ascribes to this “race” a peculiar physiological laziness, a supposedly hereditary trait of blunted life power. Accordingly, while he grants them the same “germs” for perfections as he does the civilized Europeans, he allows them no prospect of actually fulfilling any such perfection. For the road to perfection must be paved through industry, a condition that Kant denies to the “savages” by racializing their alleged laziness. This case will shed new light on the debated relation between Kant’s moral universalism and his racism.
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Archival date: 2022-04-27
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