XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

Why does a child cry at birth without tears? Kant on Freedom and Radical Evil in Infancy

Joseph E Cannon

Edificio: Palazzo dei Congressi
Sala: sala Diderot
Data: 26 maggio 2010 - 14:30
Ultima modifica: 13 aprile 2010


In Anthropologie Kant makes some surprising claims about the crying of infants. A newborn’s cries, he argues, announce a pure, undifferentiated, claim to rational freedom. At three months, however, they start to display ‘Bösartigkeit,’ an impulse to dominate others. Similarly, he claims in Religion that the ‘propensity to evil’ manifests in the earliest exercises of freedom. He calls its worst form, in which incentives of inclination are made a condition for following the moral law, ‘Bösartigkeit,’ making the parallel with infant crying complete. I will show why for Kant infant crying expresses a claim to freedom, and how the Bösartigkeit of tearful tantrums can be ‘evil’ without attributing implausible capacities or accountability to an infant. We find in it an expression of the same two incentives that in a mature thinker become inverted in a blameworthy way.