The Rational Human Condition 1, Preface and General Introduction, Section 1.0–What It Is.




Section 1.0  What It Is

Section 1.1  Bounded in a Nutshell

Section 1.2  Rational Anthropology vs. Analytic Metaphysics, the Standard Picture, and Scientific Naturalism

Section 1.3  Philosophy and Its History: No Deep Difference

Section 1.4  Works of Philosophy vs. Philosophical Theories: Presentational Hylomorphism and Polymorphism

Section 1.5  Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology

Section 1.6  What is a Rational Human Animal?

Section 1.7  An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply

Section 1.8  The Biggest Windmills

In the fullness of time, The Rational Human Condition will also appear as a series of five e-books published by Rounded Globe, each of which, in turn, will be available in hard copy, on demand, from Out of House Publishing.

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The field of philosophy … can be brought down to the following questions: 

  1. What can I know?
  2. What ought I to do?
  3. What may I hope?
  4. What is the human being?

Metaphysics answers the first question, morals  the second, religion the third, and anthropology the fourth. Fundamentally, however, we could reckon all of this as anthropology, because the first three questions relate to the last one. The philosopher must be able to determine

  1. the sources of human knowledge
  2. the extent of the possible and profitable use of all knowledge, and finally
  3. the limits of reason.

The last [question, What is the human being?] is the most necessary but also the hardest.

–I. Kant (JL 9: 25)[i]

Quarrels between professors are never entirely disconnected from larger quarrels. There was a hidden agenda behind the split between old-fashioned “humanistic” philosophy (of the Dewey-Whitehead sort) and the positivists, and a similar agenda lies behind the current split between devotees of “analytic” and of “Continental” philosophy. The heavy breathing on both sides about the immorality or stupidity of the opposition signals passions which academic power struggles cannot fully explain.

–R. Rorty[ii]

For … non-Kantian philosophers, there are no persistent problems—save perhaps the existence of Kantians.

–R. Rorty[iii]

Here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.

–R.M. Rilke[iv]

Section 1.0  What It Is

The Rational Human Condition is a five-part, four-book series, including —

1. Preface and General Introduction

2. Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge

3. Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics

4. Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy

5. Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise

Each book in the tetralogy is a self-standing study in systematic philosophy, and they can be read in any sequence whatsoever.

At the same time, they all share a common aim, which is my attempt to work out a true general theory of human rationality in a fully natural and thoroughly nonideal world.

I call this philosophical project rational anthropology.

With this aim before me, I have been writing up various parts of The Rational Human Condition since 2005 or 2006.

But there is also a very real sense in which I have been working, working, working on the very same project ever since I started thinking seriously about philosophical issues in the mid-to-late 1970s, like the proverbial hedgehog who — unlike the equally proverbial fox, who knows many things — knows only one big thing.

The Rational Human Condition in its most recent incarnation was originally intended as a sequel to Rationality and Logic (published in 2006).

Then later, as the project steadily grew in breadth, depth, and scope, I began to think of it as a comprehensive sequel to Rationality and Logic and also to Embodied Minds in Action (co-authored with Michelle Maiese, and published in 2009).

In short, it got bigger and bigger.

For a few years, it was a single BIG book manuscript, weighing in at 1200+ pages, threatening to grow even BIGGER, like huge unfortunate Alice crammed up against the walls of her tiny room.

But this one-book version, paradoxically, was at one and the same time both too long for anyone but a sleepless zealot ever to have the time and energy to read, and also too short to discuss everything that absolutely, positively, undeniably, and self-evidently needed to be discussed — not to mention its also being, as Henry James notoriously said of Dostoevsky’s novels, a “loose, baggy monster.”

So the long and the short of it is, that I ultimately split up the one loose, baggy big monster into four separate books, each of them a leaner, meaner, littler monster, and have been hedgehogging away at them all ever since.


[i] For convenience, I cite Kant’s works infratextually in parentheses. The citations include both an abbreviation of the English title and the corresponding volume and page numbers in the standard “Akademie” edition of Kant’s works: Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Königlich Preussischen (now Deutschen) Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: G. Reimer [now de Gruyter], 1902-). For references to the first Critique, I follow the common practice of giving page numbers from the A (1781) and B (1787) German editions only. Because the Akademie edition contains only the B edition of the first Critique, I have also consulted the following German composite edition: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, ed. W. Weischedel, Immanuel Kant Werkausgabe III (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1968). I generally follow the standard English translations of Kant’s works, but have occasionally modified them where appropriate. Here is a list of the abbreviations and English translations I’ve used:

CPJ     Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.

CPR    Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

JL        “The Jäsche Logic.” In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Trans. J.M. Young, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992, Pp. 519-640.

[ii] R. Rorty, “Philosophy in America Today,” in R. Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1982), pp. 211-230, at p. 228.

[iii] R. Rorty, “Philosophy as a Kind of Writing: An Essay on Derrida,” in Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, pp. 90-109, at p. 93.

[iv] R.M. Rilke, “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” trans. S. Mitchell, in R.M. Rilke, Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), pp. 60-61, lines 13-14.

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Against Professional Philosophy is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.