Kyoto in Davos

The international conference, “Kyoto in Davos,” to be held in Hildesheim, Germany, returns to the well-known 1929 Davos disputation between Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) that focused on the central question of Kantian philosophy “Was ist der Mensch?” and considers what directions the debate might have taken had Nishida Kitarō (1870- 1945) – or any of the other members of the Kyoto School or thinker from Japan – been present.

With this question, Kant outlined the field of philosophy in its “cosmopolitan importance.” And while Kant’s cosmopolitanism was progressive and an expression of the best of the Enlightenment, such a cosmopolitanism cannot but appear to us today as Eurocentric. It has become essential to critically reflect on the cultural bias of our understanding of the human. Max Scheler, in his 1928 book, The Human Place in the Cosmos, explicitly begins from the point of view of a “well-educated European” and thus from a clearly stated cultural bias. Returning to the Davos disputation, we ask to what degree the debate between Cassirer and Heidegger was dominated by a Eurocentric bias and how the philosophical account of the human would have unfolded had a culturally other voice been part of the debate.

Thus, the conference seeks to imagine a counter-factual confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) between Cassirer, Heidegger, Nishida, and other Japanese philosophers and to rethink, both historically and systematically, the nature of the human: What role does culture and religion play in Philosophical Anthropology? And to what extent does the plurality of cultures and religions contradict the perspective of universalism largely assumed by Philosophical Anthropology today? And how can other philosophical traditions broaden our understanding of the human and challenge the dominant models of essentialism, naturalism, culturalism, and existentialism?

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