Kant and the Concept of Race

Late Eighteenth-Century Writings

Edited and translated by Jon M. Mikkelsen

Subjects: Philosophy, History Of Philosophy, Ethnicity, European History
Series: SUNY series, Philosophy and Race
Paperback : 9781438443621, 387 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781438443614, 387 pages, August 2013

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Table of contents

Translator’s Introduction: Recent Work on Kant’s Race Theory / The Texts / The Translations
1. Of the Different Human Races: An Announcement for Lectures in Physical Geography in the Summer Semester (1775)
Immanuel Kant
2. Of the Different Human Races (1777)
Immanuel Kant
3. From Geographical History of Human Beings and the Universally Dispersed Quadrupeds (1778)
E. A. W. Zimmermann
4. Determination of the Concept of a Human Race (1785)
Immanuel Kant
5. Something More About the Human Races (1786)
Georg Forster
6. On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy (1788)
Immanuel Kant
7. Of the Varieties and Deviate Forms of Negroes (1790)
Christoph Meiners
8. From Concerning the Kantian Priciple in Natural History: An Attempt to Treat this Science Philosophy (1796)
Christoph Girtanner
Appendix: Chronology
Selected Bibliography

Late eighteenth-century writings on race by Kant and four of his contemporaries.


Kant and the Concept of Race features translations of four texts by Immanuel Kant frequently designated his Racenschriften (race essays), in which he develops and defends an early theory of race. Also included are translations of essays by four of Kant's contemporaries—E. A. W. Zimmermann, Georg Forster, Christoph Meiners, and Christoph Girtanner—which illustrate that Kant's interest in the subject of race was part of a larger discussion about human "differences," one that impacted the development of scientific fields ranging from natural history to physical anthropology to biology.

Jon M. Mikkelsen is Professor of Philosophy at Missouri Western State University.


"…Jon Mikkelsen does an excellent job with this material … He teases out the idea that race, while a modern concept, was being worked out even in the 1770s, and that it was an ever-fluid ideal. " — Portland Book Review

"This is a very important contribution for those who cannot read German and who wish to gain a purchase on the role of Kant in the highly contested domain of race theory and the less politicized but also contested domain of philosophy of biology … For Kant specialists and even more for a general philosophical readership interested in questions of race and cosmopolitanism, Mikkelsen's volume is a very welcome contribution. " — Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews