Between luxury and need: The idea of distance in philosophical anthropology

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This paper offers a critical analysis of the use of the idea of distance in philosophical anthropology. Distance is generally presented in works of philosophical anthropology as the ideal coping strategy, which rests in turn on the thesis of the instinct deficiency of the human species. Some of the features of species life, such as its sophisticated use of symbolic forms, come to be seen as necessary parts of this general coping strategy, rather than a merely expressive outlet, incidental to the ultimate goal of life preservation. The paper analyses the arguments used in support of the thesis of instinct deficiency in Hans Blumenberg and considers their implications for the status of symbolic expression in species life. It contrasts the approach this thesis involves with one that proceeds by presenting and arguing from biological evolutionary evidence. The contrast is used to examine the questions: in what sense instinct deficiency is specifically anthropological, and in what precise sense philosophical anthropology is ‘philosophical’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-392
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2017


  • André Leroi-Gourhan
  • distance
  • Hans Blumenberg
  • instinct deficiency
  • luxury
  • need
  • philosophical anthropology
  • the image

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