Philosophical Anthropology
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleFTR-FIPPSB114
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies; Opleiding Filosofie;
dr. K.B. Smiet
Other course modules lecturer
dr. K.B. Smiet
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. K.B. Smiet
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2023
SEM2  (29/01/2024 to 01/09/2024)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-

After completing this course, you:

  • have knowledge of specific ways ‘the human’ has been defined within different Continental philosophical traditions. 
  • are able to relate these philosophical understandings of the human to contemporary contexts and discussions.
  • are able to discern what has been and still is at stake in defining the human.
  • are able to evaluate whether ‘the human’ is a necessary or a problematic notion, and argue for your own standpoint. 
  • are able to read and reflect on philosophical texts.

What do human beings have in common despite all their differences, and what sets humanity apart as a species? The question of the human has occupied philosophers throughout the centuries, generating many different and often conflicting ideas about who and what the human is. In this course, we ask: how has ‘the human’ been defined and delineated within the Continental philosophical tradition? And: what is actually at stake in defining and delineating the human, historically and today? 

We will approach the question of the human through an exploration of the different ‘parts’ that make up a human being. We take this literally, practicing philosophical anthropology as philosophical anatomy. That means honing in on and ‘dissecting’ different parts of the human - such as the brain, the heart, the hands, and the skin. Each of these parts has, at some point, been considered crucial to understanding the human by specific philosophers, and has also, not surprisingly, been questioned and contested by other philosophers. 

Is it his brains - his capacity for reason - which sets the human apart? Should we thus understand, starting with Aristotle, the human to be a ‘rational animal’? Or is it rather in his hands that the unique qualities of the human reside: hands which are able to make tools, labour and be creative? Is the human, as Marx posited, thus best understood as ‘homo faber’? But why are we speaking of ‘his’ body parts anyway? To which extent has the idea of the human historically been modeled upon a masculine norm - and how does honing in on the genitals as a site of (ideas about) sexual difference alter our normative idea of the human? When we look at the normative dimensions of the notion of the human, we can ask: which humans have historically been considered fully human, and which have been relegated to the status of subhuman or inhuman? Here, we can investigate for instance the skin as a site of ideas about racial difference with Fanon.

Presumed foreknowledge

Test information
The examination for this course consists of two aspects:
1. A written assignment in the form of a reading note, which will determine 25% of your final grade
2. A digital exam, which will determine 75% of your final grade

Instructional modes

Written Exam
Test weight75
Test typeExam
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2

Written assignment
Test weight25
Test typeAssignment
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2