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Kant, Scheler and Bediuzzaman on Man
Oct 1, 1998

In the 18th century Western rationalism and enlightenment movement, one of the leading names, perhaps the foremost, was Immanuel Kant. In the conflict between religion and science which began in the West during the Renaissance, the French mathematician and philosopher, Descartes, was the leading exponent of science-religion dualism. Kant performed a similar role as the ‘father’ of dualism in existence, man and mind. It is possible to see this same dualism indirectly in Kant’s perspective on man and the philosophical anthropology of Scheler, a 20th century philosopher.

According to Kant, man has a natural side and a mental side. His feelings, inclinations, desires, field of consciousness, and emotions make up his natural side. Man, at this point, unites with the natural realm and animals and, like them, he is under the influence of natural laws. But this aspect of man is not what makes him man. What makes man human and a creature possessing will is his mental side, and this elevates him to a position superior to all other creatures.

“A creature gathering all deprivations in his ego”

Man, who consists of the union of natural and mental existences, does not come to this world in possession of the opportunities and positions that he will gain, in contrast to animals. Animals are born with whatever means are necessary for them to live as if “another intelligence had thought of everything they need” like horns, or claws, or teeth and necessary knowledge and instincts. But man is born as “a creature gathering all deprivations in his ego.”

“Nature that doesn’t do anything unnecessary and doesn’t waste any material used for the attainment of goals,” has equipped man with intelligence and a will that is connected to intelligence. It requires man to accomplish by himself everything above the mechanical order of his animal existence without following his instincts. He is expected not to share any happiness except that which he can obtain by means of his intelligence. Because he is equipped with intelligence, and will dependent on intelligence, man cannot be left to the rule of his instincts or be equipped with merely natural knowledge. He must provide everything for himself from food to clothing and from the vehicle he is going to use to his own safety.

According to Kant, having come to this world with his skills and talents undeveloped, man needs training and education from the outset. A long childhood period necessitates that man be trained and taken care of by others. The human race is forced to discover all human capabilities slowly by its own efforts. For this reason, one generation tries to educate another. Education changes an animal into a man; it prevents the animal inclinations distancing man from humanity and the purpose of human existence. It draws the boundaries of his action and activities and protects him from danger and from running around empty-headed. Also education, by disciplining the animal side of man, prevents him from becoming wild.

Nature gave the animal the necessary capabilities and equipment it needs for living from the beginning, but it did not provide him with centres of aptitude for good and evil. For this reason, an animal is without the consciousness of good and bad. Only man possesses centres of aptitude for good and evil; for destiny wanted man to bring forth good himself. It seems as if destiny said to man, “Go forth in the world. I equipped you with all the talents necessary for making good. Your duty is to discover those skills; so your happiness and unhappiness are in your hands.”

At this point again education intervenes. Everything good in the world is a product of good education. For this reason, the centres of good in man should be discovered and allowed to function freely and not made into sources of evil. The aspect of man that makes him human is his intelligence and the discovery of this depends on education.

Man’s humanity

Kant, who separated man as a ‘natural creature’ and an ‘independent intelligent creature,’ also divided existence into the ‘visible world’ and the ‘independent realm of intelligence’ that forms the foundation of the visible world. While we comprehend the visible world with what Kant calls ‘intellect,’ a faculty using the senses, we comprehend the ‘independent realm’ with ‘intelligence.’ When we say ‘intelligence,’ two types appear before us-the ‘pure intelligence’ and the ‘practical intelligence.’ In the field of natural existence pure intelligence which is obedient to determinist laws makes deductions about special situations according to general principles and gets a priori information. The independent world which is not obedient to determinist laws is examined by ‘practical intelligence.’

The success of pure intelligence in the experiential world is greater than that of animals. But at this point there is only one degree of difference between man and animals. What makes the difference between man and animal is man’s practical intelligence. Whatever humans are, they are so due to practical intelligence. Practical intelligence has a center in man and he must discover it. The findings of practical intelligence are not knowledge as we know it. Knowledge is formal and can take man to fanaticism. Whereas the findings of practical intelligence manifest in the form of culture of the heart. We can say that this intelligence determines our ‘conscience’ or ‘action and direction.’

According to Kant, man becomes human through the activities of his practical intelligence. It admonishes and gives purposes to man and, while realizing these purposes, man’s animal side begins to be humanized. These purposes are mostly universal and unchangeable moral principles. It is not necessary for intelligence to get these principles from outside. They are in the mind a priori. For Kant morality is very important. Practical intelligence is at the same time will, itself, and it appoints us duties. These are duties directed toward realizing the purposes mentioned.

In Kant’s view, the existence of God is wholly an intellectual existence. Man can associate with the Divine Existence by means of his intellect. Man becomes humanized and attains freedom by however much he can rise above his natural side which is comprised of desires, ambitions and feelings like love and hatred.

Activities besides the phenomenon of man or natural existence are activities tied to conditions. For this reason, laws in this field are called conditional imperatives. For example, when a doctor gives a patient some medicine, he lays down conditions suitable to the situation. Whereas there can be no conditions in the noumenal field of existence, the field which exists by itself, and operative laws in this field are called categorical imperatives. Although theoretical knowledge or experimentation, observation and experience regarding knowledge of the natural plane of existence are necessary, in the absolute and unchanging noumenal field the intelligence in the form of conscience is in control and there is no experience on this plane.

According to Kant, what makes man human is his being freed from the conditions of the phenomenal plane and his practical intelligence that determines its own actions, and thereby his autonomy and freedom.


The founder of philosophical anthropology, Scheler, was greatly influenced by Kant and, while repeating many of his ideas, he based his philosophy, paradoxically, in opposition to Kant. He describes the discipline he founded as follows: “The duty of philosophical anthropology is to show in the basic make-up of man’s existence the source of man’s success and works like language, conscience, tools, guns, justice, injustice, government, administration, art forms, myths, religion, knowledge, history, and society.”

Scheler views man as a creature who gathers the essence of the whole universe in himself, and similarly to Kant, as a dual creature. One side of this creature is comprised of physical life or an animated aspect, while the other is comprised of Geist. Kant included all the feelings, including love, in the natural aspect of man and didn’t give them much value. Scheler, unlike Kant, accepts love as a very important factor of Geist which is the faculty equivalent to Kant’s intelligence. Man’s physical nature consists of (1) emotion as a compulsory power causing action, (2) instinct, (3) memory tied to associations, (4) intelligence and the ability to choose. Emotion as a compulsory power is formed of or stands for the union of man’s inclinations and feelings. These emotions or compulsions in the form of getting enough food to continue life, breathing and reproductive urges are found in plants as well, and man shares this common characteristic with plants. The instincts forming the second level of man’s physical life should be meaningful for himself, be in harmony, fulfill the function of serving the continuation of the species, carry a character that can develop naturally in time, and not consist of the sum of man’s experiences. Instincts carrying these characteristics can be considered as perfected, and man has these instincts in common with animals.

Memory is the third level of man’s physical life. Memory which consists of repetition of things imitated is called tradition, and the memory of animals is this kind of memory. In addition to this man has an associative memory. Its basis is comprised of conditioned reflex and customs develop with it. Customs are peculiar to humans.

Intelligence is the ability to suddenly influence every new situation, and, together with intelligence, the ability to choose comes forth.

What Scheler called Geist is first of all an attribute of Divine Being Who exists by Himself and the basic aspect of man’s existence that brings out the difference between the composition of the true human and the animals. Geist separates a thing’s essence from its existence. We can say the ‘matter’ of Geist is the subject of real human qualities. There are faculties of idealization and reduction in Geist. Reduction is the ability to penetrate the essential in the shell of existence and distinguish the real existence from appearance. Idealization is the capability to put the essence in the form of an idea and comprehend it.

From one perspective, Geist is comprised of intentions, and is without any strength or power of its own. Geist being His most important attribute, God, according to Scheler, essentially, has no power or force. Geist gets power from relationship with the plane of physical life. Thus, He is dependent on this in order to realize himself. In His relationship with this plane, Geist manifests in activities of determining the direction for man’s inclinations and restraining them. Geist drives power from these activities.

As long as man is tied to his inclinations, he is not free. Such a human will live like an animal tied to his inclinations for sex, food and power. But when he is freed from these influences and takes on a character personifying Geist’s intentions or becomes a focus for the realization of them, then he gains true humanity. Attaining such a personality has certain conditions like understanding all manifestations of life without any difficulty and finding the norm in them, and reaching a definite level of development whereby one can distinguish one’s own and others’ special features like wishes, feelings and thoughts. Also such a personality must have conscious possession of the body and control it.

According to Scheler, everyone has his own world. Each world corresponds to an individual. All the worlds together correspond to God. Just as man’s real existence comprises Geist, in the foundation of existence there is a Geist that comprehends everything, loves everything, and thinks of everything. Man is such a being that in him the Essential Being (i.e. God) begins to know, comprehend and understand Himself and find salvation. In this way man participates in the existence and essence of the Divine Being and realizes His Geist together with his own and his own ideal.

As is the case for Kant, existence means duality for Scheler. One side of this duality is ‘the side showing qualities’, which has been a subject of sciences, that is, the side endowed with definite and known specific attributes, and the other side composed of ‘pure existence’, which is a subject of metaphysics. One cannot possess knowledge of this second plane without participating in it. This is only possible by developing the personality. God is solely an ‘existence’ and, thus, a pure object of metaphysics. Religion is a matter of man’s basic make-up and doesn’t necessarily need to include laws. Monotheistic religions put such matters as fear, slavery, servanthood and father-son relationships between man and God. But actually there is no need for such relationships. Man feels God in his heart. Man becomes humanized and deified at the same moment as God. He is a creature that continually deifies himself and serves the genesis and development of God.


There are some nuances and conceptual differences between the philosophies of Kant and Scheler. Although they also differ from each other in that Kant concentrates on morality based on restraining the physical-emotional side of man while Scheler’s conception of religion is based on love and sensing God in the heart, and carries overtones of pantheism and monism, it is not possible to find deep-rooted conflict between Kant’s and Scheler’s views on man. Both philosophers were concerned with giving a place to God and religion deriving from Christian concepts as opposed to positivism which had developed with the Renaissance. For this reason they put both man and existence in two separate spheres in a way resembling Descartes’ dualism. As demanded by enlightenment philosophy and secular morality, they thought that the values man must conform to should be found in man’s own being and conscience. Under the influence of the Christian belief in the Trinity and unity of father and son which was based on the ideas of reincarnation and spiritual unity with God, they put God on the side as a passive deity in relation to existence. Also they placed man in the center of everything. Kant looks for man’s humanity and happiness, not in the visible-biological-phenomenal side of his nature or in his desires, wishes or other emotions, but in the evolution of his intelligence toward the universal and unchangeable moral laws found in the conscience. In place of Kant’s moral apriority, Scheler sees happiness in giving priority to love and realizing the intentions through love and participation in Divine Existence. How this love can be attained, how man can rise above the desire and passion of love and the ‘physical-vital’ side of his nature, and whether he can overcome them or not, are unknown.

After all this and after a summary of Bediuzzaman’s view, the profound differences between the views will become obvious. On the one hand, in the name of philosophy, there is ‘consciously walking along dead end streets or through the labyrinths where finding the way becomes increasingly difficult,’ and philosophical obscurity, intricacy and subjectivity. On the other hand, there is an objective, realistic, and practicable view and criteria.


Bediuzzaman’s view of man, without doubt, is based on Islam. According to Islam and naturally Bediuzzaman, the essential basis of existence, its creator and its maintainer through His own Eternal Existence is God. He exists without needing any other’s existence and is above all limits of time and space like existence in time or occupying space. The universe gained existence through manifesting God’s attributes and Names. As One Who does whatever He wills, God keeps the universe under His power by means of the manifestations of His attributes and Names. Thus, everything in the universe, without exception, owes its existence, life, vitality, continuation of its existence, sustenance and growth, reproduction and all the qualities it possesses to God and all these things are from God.

While being a Hidden Treasure, due to His pure, sacred love for His High Essence suitable for His Divine Essence, He created the universe in order to contemplate Himself. Love is the bond between God and the universe, which shows God in two ways. Firstly, everything in the universe exists as a manifestation of His Names. For example, we can see in all animate things from plants to man, His Names of Ever-Living One (al-Hayy) and Giver of Life (al-Muhyi) and in the continuation of the universe, His Names, the Self-Existing One (al-Qayyum) and the Everlasting One (al-Baqi). In the universe’s orderliness and regularity and the mind-boggling degree of majestic balance, we can read His Name the Just (al- ‘Adl) and in the absolute cleanliness in nature despite the death of hundreds of thousands of animals everyday, His Name the Pure One (al-Quddus). We can see in the functions determined for each creature, His Name the Judge (al-Hakam), etc. Secondly, everything in the universe has a beginning and will reach an end. In other words, everything will die. In Bediuzzaman’s analogy, on the bank of a spring we can see the sun in all the bubbles of water passing before us. If the spring passes through a tunnel, the ‘tiny suns’ will disappear, but from our position the sun can still be seen in the bubbles. This shows that the sun does not belong to the bubbles and is permanent without being dependent at all on the existence of the bubbles. In the same way, creatures, by their living, show the existence of God and His Life, and by their death His Permanence. Also the power of everything in the universe is limited. Everything is poor in its essence. As nothing is in control of itself, it (an apple, for example) must have for its sustenance the co-operation of the sun, air, earth, and water. The apple tree, in order to produce apples, must work together with other elements of the universe in a way that is ‘conscious and based on knowledge.’ It is obvious that these created things do not have consciousness and knowledge. For this reason, creatures’ needs, deficiencies, helplessness and poverty signify such attributes as God’s eternal and infinite Power, Knowledge, Hearing, and Seeing. In short, the main purpose of the creation and life of existence is to be a shining mirror to God.

Thus, continuing until the creation of man, God created the whole universe from the Throne of God to the lower heavens, from the skies to the earth, from the angels to the jinn, and from inanimate creatures to plants and animals. But although these creatures are manifestations of His other Names and attributes, they do not possess the complex and variety of language, speaking, the same level of knowledge or, most importantly, the level of will that man has. Thus, man was created as the fruit of the ‘tree of existence,’ the limit of existence and the final purpose. In Bediuzzaman’s words, God drew an imaginary line in front of His Names and attributes and created man. In other words, all His Names and attributes are reflected on him. Thus, man took his place among creation as the most perfect, shining and encompassing mirror reflecting God. The reflection of all of God’s Names and attributes in man means he has the feelings of magnificence and greatness and also the desire for absolute sovereignty. All of these developed an ego in man before God and produced the egoism that ‘the skies and the mountains drew back from.’ Whereas, magnificence, greatness and absolute sovereignty demand absolute power and absolute wealth and man is destitute of these. His power is only an arm’s length and he is more helpless than many animals. His knowledge is limited, he never possesses absolute wealth and his needs are infinite. Man’s sustenance comes to him without any effort on his part when he is an embryo or when he cries as a baby. When he becomes aware of or has the illusion of his own strength, then man has to struggle for his own sustenance. This shows that man’s duty is to admit his helplessness, poverty, and deficiencies and turn to the Possessor of absolute wealth, absolute power and absolute sovereignty. Man should take power only from God’s Power and wealth from His Wealth, bind himself only to God, worship only Him and be saved from being the slave or servant to any other thing, power or interest.

According to Bediuzzaman, as the fruit of the tree of existence, man contains the essence and a summary of everything in existence. He is a sample, a model of the universe. Just as he carries the physical dimension of existence with his physical aspect, he also carries all plant and animal characteristics. He has been sent as God’s vicegerent to behave on this earth in the way God wants, to cultivate the world and to unite in peace with the rest of the universe. Almost every animal has earned what it needs to know in another realm or is given what it needs at birth. It jumps into the struggle of life almost as soon as it is born, but man is born without knowing anything. He has to learn everything; it takes him years to discover the laws of life and to be able to separate good from evil and differentiate between what is in his best interests and what is not. Also he is not only a physical being or composed only of a number of emotions. He constantly carries within himself a longing for eternity. His spiritual pains and needs compared to his physical ones are many more in number, deeper, more intricate and in greater need of satisfaction. Thus, his duty is to learn and evolve with training and faith. In addition, man carries the potential of a great variety of abilities. In order for these to become active, man needs to pass through the press of time and events. Just as God makes the hawk attack the sparrow in order to develop the sparrow’s strength to defend itself and develop new opportunities, in the same way events and tests we have to face open the way for development of man’s potential capabilities. If they are used in the right way, every desire, obsession and feeling becomes a source of goodness.

The sources of all abilities and faculties sown in man’s nature can be categorized in three groups: powers of appetite, powers of anger, and powers of reasoning or mind. Appetite is the source of satisfaction of the need for eating, drinking, reproduction and all of man’s physical-biological desires and needs. Anger is the source and a means of the need to defend oneself, and reason is the spring or center for every kind of mental activity. Because man is a creature possessing will, God left these forces unrestrained and free in man’s nature for the purposes of testing him. Because of this, they can lead to great oppression and unhappiness for man individually and in social life. For example, the force of anger can cause murder and oppression that will shake the Heavens; the force of appetite can lead to every kind of illegality and immorality; and the power of the mind can lead to every type of demagogy, misleading persuasion and dialectic. For this reason, these forces must be kept in balance. In other words, the force of anger must revolve around courage, appetite around chastity, and the mind around wisdom, and justice must be maintained in social life. These are conditions necessary for man’s happiness. Because not every person or all of mankind can conceive of this point of balance and the special characteristics and factors of broad justice, there is need for a universal intelligence, and this has been given to us as a gift by God in the form of Divine Religion.

Just as man is affected by sorrows of the past, he is also influenced by doubts for the future. As we tried to show above, man’s power and knowledge is limited. But his needs are endless. Life on earth is short, but another eternal world awaits him. The mind, with consciousness of the past and future, can make man the most miserable ‘animal’ with anxiety regarding how to meet his needs. So it is man’s duty to use his mind under the guidance of ‘the universal intelligence’, and to use God’s Power as intercessor for his helplessness, His infinite Knowledge for man’s ignorance and God’s boundless Wealth for his poverty. Man must find power in His Power, knowledge in His Knowledge, and wealth in God’s Wealth. When man can do this, all his given abilities, faculties, forces, desires and needs and even feelings that at first appear absolutely bad like jealousy and passion can open a door to virtue and become a stepping stone. For example, jealousy can turn into an emulation or competing for good, free of malice; ambition can become persistence in what is good and beautiful. Otherwise, just as man can become his own and others’ worst enemy, it should not be forgotten that the Pharaohs, the Nimrods, and other infamous ‘gods’ and imposters in history have come from among mankind.