Indeterminate Apes

Fall 2013 – Eugene Lang College, New York

Course description

Indeterminate Apes: Primatology from a Pragmatic Point of View

Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View looked at humans as an essentially indeterminate species, open to historical advancement. Since Darwin, however, many markers of anthropological distinction have given way to a continuity between humans and other animals. This course explores the moral and political implications of the resulting animalization of the human through a historical and ethnographic lens. But we will also reflect on the concomitant humanization of animals by reading recent scientific literature in primatology and the cognitive ethology of all apes from a "pragmatic point of view." Philosophically, this will enable us to reorient Kant's questions – "What can I know?," What ought I to do?," and "What may I hope?" – toward a new fourth question: "What is an ape?"