Providence as progress: Kant’s variations on a tale of origins

Genevieve Lloyd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Kant's Idea For a Universal History articulates a vision of a future for the human race centered on the idea of a “cosmopolitan goal” – a world order in which institutions and practices of international justice will achieve, for the relations between nations, something analogous to the relations and restraints which transform a collection of individuals into an ordered state. Kant is here deeply concerned with the idea of progress – with the question whether human life is getting better or worse, and with how his own times should be judged with regard to maturity in reason and morals. But this rich and elegantly constructed essay is also centrally concerned with the idea of Providence, and Kant's ingenious conceptual play with that idea marks a crucial point of transition in its history: its transformation into the secular idea of progress. In this essay I want to focus on the relations between Kant's treatment of Providence, his version of cosmopolitanism, and his ingenious use of a narrative device – a philosophical story of human origins and development. The conceptual connections between Providence and cosmopolitanism can be difficult to grasp, now that cosmopolitanism has come to mean little more than cultural sophistication, while the idea of Providence is relegated to religious piety. Novel though Kant's version of Providence is, the connections he draws between Providence and cosmopolitanism are not new. Both ideas, and the connections between them, go back to ancient Greek thought.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKant's Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim: A Critical Guide
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511581434
ISBN (Print)9780521874632
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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