Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Kant on Animals, not so different from Buddha?

For both Buddhism and Kant, there is something special about humanity even though we clearly are (biologically) mere animals. One of Kant's key statements on the difference comes here
“Thus what remains to us for indicating the human being’s class in the system of living nature and thus characterizing him is nothing but this: he has a character that he himself makes, in that he has the faculty of perfecting himself in accordance with ends he takes for himself; whereby he can make himself, from an animal endowed with a capacity for reason (animal rationabilis), into a rational animal (animal rationale); and as such he first, preserves himself and his species; second; exercises, instructs and brings up his species for domestic society; and third, governs it as a whole that is systematic (ordered in accordance with rational principles) and fitted for society” (Ak 7:321-322).
(borrowed from Allen W. Wood's paper here) Wood goes on to say that, "Following Rousseau, Kant identifies as the distinctive feature of humanity the faculty of self-perfection. Kant rejects the traditional definition of the human being as animal rationale, allowing only that the human being is an animal rationabilis (Ak 7:321). "

This, it seems, is similar to Buddhist statements of animals: that they lack the potential for awakening. Or is this not so? Is this a later development perhaps? What do the early (Pali) texts say about animals and the difference between us (human-animals) and them (non-human animals).