Kant's Use of Travel Reports in Theorizing about Race -A Case Study of How Testimony Features in Natural Philosophy

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A testimony is somebody else’s reported experience of what has happened. It is an indispensable source of knowledge. It only gives us historical cognition, however, which stands in a complex relation to rational or philosophical cognition: while the latter presupposes historical cognition as its matter, one needs the architectonic “eye of a philosopher” to select, interpret, and organize historical cognition. Kant develops this rationalist theory of testimony. He also practices it in his own work, especially while theorizing about race as a subject of natural philosophy. In three dedicated essays on this subject, he treats race from the standpoint of a philosophical investigator of nature (Naturforscher), who (as Kant puts it in the first Critique) learns from nature “like an appointed judge who compels witnesses to answer the questions he puts to them.” This view underwrites Kant’s use of travel reports (a type of testimony) in developing and defending his theory of race.
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First archival date: 2021-10-31
Latest version: 2 (2022-02-27)
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