<b>Framing Humanity by Framing Nature: John Maxwell Coetzee's <i>Disgrace</i> in the Context of Kant's Theory of Morality</b> // Encuadrar a la humanidad encuadrando a la naturaleza: <i>Desgracia</i> de Coetzee en el contexto de la teoría moral de Kant

  • Kamil Michta Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw
Keywords: Coetzee, Kant, animals, humanity, ethics, difficulty of reality, animales, humanidad, ética, dificultad de la realidad.

Abstract

The essay discusses the correlation between Immanuel Kant’s ethics, especially his views on human duties toward animals, and John Maxwell Coetzee's literary depiction of man’s struggle to rediscover the meaning of humanity by tending unwanted animal corpses. Hence, it firstly concentrates on the key issues concerning Kant's moral philosophy, placing particular emphasis on the third formula of his categorical imperative, the so-called formula of humanity as an end in itself, and on elucidating the thinker's contention that good treatment of animals, that is, as if they were moral agents, improves in humans the propensity to treat other people well. The essay argues that the manner in which people treat animals, approached from the Kantian perspective, partakes in the duty to improve their own morality and, thus, their humanity. After examining Kant's outlook on animals, the essay discusses Coetzee's 1999 novel Disgrace. In particular it scrutinizes the figure of an aging literature professor, David Lurie, who, having been expelled from his university for sexual abuse, moves to the country. Here he engages in putting down unwanted animals and also in taking personal care for incinerating their bodies with decency and respect. Adopting the perspective of Kantian philosophy, the essay argues that Lurie's concern for animal corpses, despite its apparent pointlessness, can be seen as indicating the renewal of his humanity. In a sense, then, it is nature (unwanted animals and their corpses) that makes Lurie rediscover his humanity. The essay concludes by maintaining that Disgrace, when coupled with Kant's moral theory, is a novel conveying the (Kantian) idea that the manner in which people frame nature, that is, how they relate to it, is formative of the manner in which they frame their own humanity.


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Author Biography

Kamil Michta, Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw

University of Warsaw, Poland

kamilmichta@gmail.com

A lecturer and a PhD candidte in the Institute of English Studies, Univeristy of Warsaw, doing research in John Maxwell Coetzee, Immanuel Kant, ethics, ecocriticism and ecoethics. Main interests: English literature, philosophy, ethics, environmental studies.

Published
2015-03-02
Section
Articles: General Section