Is Kant’s Theory of Human Nature “The Human Being Is Good in Nature and Evil in Radical”?—A Discussion on Professor Xie Wenyu’s “The Human Being Is Good in Nature and Evil in Radical—Kant on Original Sin”
Social Sciences in China Review
Is Kant’s Theory of Human Nature “The Human Being Is Good in Nature and Evil in Radical”?—A Discussion on Professor Xie Wenyu’s “The Human Being Is Good in Nature and Evil in Radical—Kant on Original Sin” (Abstract)
Professor Xie Wenyu unfolds his analysis of Kant’s conception of original sin from the traditional idea of original sin and grace of St. Augustine and Luther. Based on Kant’s “original endowment to goodness,” he argues that Kant believes human nature is good. At the same time, according to Kant’s new definition of human nature, he thinks that what Kant’s idea of “propensity to evil” is not “the evil of nature” but “the evil of radical.” On this basis, he boils down Kantian theory of human nature in Kant’s religious works as “the human being is good in nature but evil in radical.” This is undoubtedly a very shockingly brand new argument. However, since this argumentation is grounded on a distorted and misplaced framework of comparison between Augustine, Luther and Kant, it fails to take Kant’s “propensity to evil” as a critical modification of Luther’s idea of original sin, rather, it overemphasizes the correspondence between the two. More importantly, this argument is not based on Kant’s new definition of human nature, so it deviates from Kant’s original idea. Although Kant affirmed that human original endowment is good, this natural endowment is only a possibility rather than a reality. On the contrary, human propensity to evil is real. Therefore, regarding human real and self-made nature, Kant is a believer that the human being is evil in nature, although he thinks that human’s natural propensity to the good should and could be reconstructed. In this sense, although Professor Xie’s above mentioned interpretation is greatly thought-provoking, it needs reflection from methodological perspective.