Post-Identitarian Subjectivities? Philosophical Anthropology after the ‘End of Man’

    • Presentation speakers
      • Jens De Vleminck, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium


    More than 200 years after the establishment of philosophical anthropology as a philosophical discipline, its status remains vague and ambiguous. This paper aspires to a recalibration of philosophical anthropology’s research program by reflecting upon its origin in Kant’s philosophical core question: ‘What is Man?’. Moreover, it scrutinizes the post-Kantian tradition as implying a ‘humanism’ with universal, a-historical and essentialist presuppositions about what Man ought to become. This paper has its starting point in Foucault’s and Hacking’s continuation and explicit critique of the Kantian project. It argues that Hacking’s alternative reconceptualization of Man as a ‘moving target’, implying ‘human kinds’, ‘identities’, or ‘possibilities of personhood’, still falls prey to essentialist presuppositions. Specifically, the Foucauldian-Hackingian enterprise retains a (1) heteronormative, (2) Eurocentric and (3) anthropocentric frame of reference that thus far was left unnoticed by the post-Kantian tradition it is part of. In order to further challenge the Foucauldian-Hackingian research program and to explore the possibility of thinking subjectivity beyond identities, this paper draws on the critical potential of three quite recent research domains. These are: (1) queer studies, (2) postcolonial studies, and (3) post-humanist studies. In three parts, the corresponding hetero-normative, Eurocentric and anthropocentric matrices are scrutinized and transcended in order to subvert philosophical anthropology’s identitarian discourse. By bringing together these three critical lineages, an alternative view on Man in terms of post-identitarian subjectivities is developed. By doing so, this paper wants to give a new answer to Kant’s foundational question and develop a philosophical anthropology for the 21st century.