I came across this in an article I was reading:

Anthropocentrism "is not limited to Jewish and Christian theology and can be found in Aristotle’s Politics and in Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy."

Could anyone refer me to the standpoint of these philosophers?

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    I'm not sure about Aristotle's politics, but Kant can be read as having written about "rational beings" and if an animal would turn out to be rational in the sense granting it to be a moral actor in kantian terms, there would be no problem. His "anthorpocentrism" is rather based on the fact that he, as often stated, knows only humans to fall under this concept. – Philip Klöcking Nov 11 '15 at 8:39
  • Kant taught a course on Anthropology, which might have a bearing on this. – Mozibur Ullah Feb 3 '16 at 1:09

The more I look at it, the more interesting and murky this question becomes.

Both Aristotle and Kant place human reason at the center of their world views. Kant might be called the ultimate anthropocentric apologist. For him the "comprehensible" universe is wholly bounded by the conceptual apparatus unique to human beings. In a sense, all knowledge is and always will be inescapably "human" knowledge.

The case of Jewish and Christian theology is less clear. We can say that God is somewhat anthropomorphic and humans are His main concern, so it appears anthropocentric. Yet humanity is no longer center stage. Man is divided from God and God does not invariably act in the human interest, certainly not in the interests of all humans. One could argue that this is less "anthropocentric" than Kant's Copernican turn.

But it is also unclear what our place is in the vast scientific universe, presumably indifferent to human needs and values. Does that make us more or less central? At first glance we seem to be progressively displaced from center stage by Copernicus, Newton, Lyle, Darwin, Freud, Hubble, etc., in an ever-shrinking stature. At the same time, all of this is the result of "human discovery" with no higher being to either oppose or aid us.

This attempt to assume the inhuman, God's-Eye-View, to remove the human "scientist" from the science, is ultimately unachievable, and we end, ironically, with the intervening, presumably human "observer" in quantum theory, the "anthropic principle" in cosmology, and AI as the highest aim of computing logic.

I'm not sure what would constitute the counterpart or antidote to anthropocentrism implied in your article. Not science, I think, but perhaps an encounter with extraterrestrials or the return of the "enchanted" world of deities before the "Death of the Great God Pan." Until there are "disanthropes" we can converse with, we are locked in anthropocentric soliloquy, no matter how "objective" it struggles to be.


Anthropocentrism of a statement or a theory means that the author takes the view point of human beings. A typical example are the first chapters of Book Genesis: God creates the world and in particular the sun, the moon and the earth in order to serve a particular need of mankind.

A non-anthropocentric view is taken by today's cosmology which explains the world by general astrophysical laws, without any reference to human beings.

When judging the anthropocentric view of a certain theory one can ask, whether this view point is induced by the object of study or by the author's prejudice and limitation. Accordingly I consider Aristotle's or Kant's anthropocentric view point, expressed in their political or moral writings, largely induced by the object of their investigations.

The same holds true for many studies from the humanities. But even in the humanities it can open up a new horizon, to deliberately abandon the anthropocentric stance: Which similarities between human societies and animal societies exist? Which principles hold for both?

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    "Accordingly I consider Aristotle's or Kant's anthropocentric view point, expressed in their political or moral writings, largely induced by the object of their investigations." - Can you explain why? "The same holds true for many studies from the humanities" - it seems like from definition the humanities concern themselves with the things that are peculiar to humans, no? – James Kingsbery Nov 11 '15 at 15:32
  • Yes, as you suppose in your last sentence that's what I mean. – Jo Wehler Nov 11 '15 at 17:36
  • Your point about comparative studies of human and animal societies is apt. But it might also apply to theology, comparative studies of human wills and divine wills. Since the God of Genesis so often acts independent of and against manifest human interests, one might argue that such a worldview is less "anthropocentric" than scientific humansim. It is an effort to grasp what is "not" human and to grant the centrality of an "inhuman" will. – Nelson Alexander Nov 11 '15 at 21:08
  • @Nelson Alexander I consider your mentioning of humanism an excellent example how an anthropocentric stance looks like. Changing the view point and opening up a new horizon would mean at this point to abandon speciesism and to take into account the issue of animal rights. - Possibly your thoughts about God and his sometimes "inhuman will" prompt an interesting discussion. An issue for a separate post? – Jo Wehler Nov 11 '15 at 22:21

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