Idealizing History. A Critical Assessment of Kant’s Historiography in Idea for a Universal History


  • Nik van Brink Leiden University


This essay analyzes Kant’s conception of historiography in Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht (henceforth; IAG). In IAG, Kant presents history as the necessary progression of the human race towards the full development of its rational- and moral capacities, in accordance with a hidden plan of nature, which can only be realized after the establishment of a universal cosmopolitan condition. However, because Kant is unclear how moral and historical progress is possible, it remains unclear how to interpret his arguments and, consequently, how to write a history in line with IAG. In this essay, I attempt to answer this question by interpreting IAG in line with another Kantian text, Was ist Aufklärung? This analysis will not only show Kant’s arguments in IAG to be inconsistent, but moreover that his proposal for a universal history is of unconvincing utility.


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Economics & Social Sciences