Translated by Barbara Laber


Racism, sexism, and antisemitism (rsa) continue to have an effect as structures of dominance and discrimination in present-day society. Also in “classic“ philosophical works in many places one comes across text passages that – at least from today’s perspective – are seen to be racist, sexist, and/or antisemitic (rsa). In view of the current topicality of rsa we consider a reflective and critical approach in dealing with such rsapassages and positions to be of great social importance. If philosophy sees its core task in the critical scrutiny of unexamined preconditions of statements, arguments, judgments, and theories, we regard this, too, as a genuinely philosophical task. This critical approach should involve the detailed analysis of the corresponding text sections, however, neither content itself with general condemnation nor lead to apologetic historization. Rather, it should also stimulate critical self-questioning of one’s own thinking and conception. This is because rsa knowledge, thought patterns, and prejudices do not spare philosophers and their theorizing, either. With this website we seek to provide a foundation for examination of rsa in philosophy but also would like to make available the philosophical means for dealing with rsa. Rather than moralizing and lecturing, we would like to make an informative offer and extend an invitation for further thought and continued dialogue. This website is intended to support its users in handling situations in which they find themselves faced with an (may be even vague) unease when reading or discussing philosophical theories and practices. This „offer of a hand“ is conceived as a prompt for dialogue and compiles questions, suggestions, and examples that may be useful in a philosophical engagement with rsa. Further reading relating to rsa, to rsa in philosophical works, as well as to educational and didactic aspects are listed in the bibliography.

PROMPT FOR DIALOGUE – How to deal with racism, sexism, and antisemitism in classic works of philosophy?

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On the presence of racist, sexist, and antisemitic knowledge in philosophy

Many classic texts of philosophy contain statements that – at least from today’s perspective – are to be rated as racist, sexist, and/or antisemitic (rsa[1]) or are discussed as such. The rsa knowledge imparted by such texts in this connection is neither of the past nor “history“. Rather, “historical“ racism, sexism, and/or antisemitism (rsa) can be recalled and adapted to the current situation at any time. “We“ are all capable of recognizing racist stereotypes without having actively learned them or having to be convinced racists ourselves. In this sense, rsa knowledge continues to have an effect to date and is present or available in the social interaction. Possibly, in a society that sees itself as being anti-rsa and democratic, rsa knowledge does not even represent an exception or anomaly. This is because rsa knowledge has developed over centuries and in this process has established stable traditions that associate groups of persons with certain stereotypes and present or construct them as “other“, as “strange“, as per se less qualified, less valuable, not belonging and so on. As philosophers working within a tradition and within a society, in which rsa knowledge continues to be effective, we should be aware that the handed down “isms“, may reach as far as “into“ the respective person, even if this is not intended by anyone in the actual situation. Persons may thereby for instance be pushed into the role of representatives of a group encumbered with rsa or regarded as such by others. A philosophical examination should contribute to making (“our“) rsa knowledge visible and to critically reflect on how its passing on also has a bearing on our philosophizing – and, if so, how we can deal with it.

[1] We use the abbreviation “rsa“ to refer to the systems of discrimination of rsa (“racism, sexism, antisemitism“) in the sense of section (I.), on the one hand, and to positions, knowledge, or statements that are based on these systems of discrimination and are to be referred to as rsa (“racist, sexist, antisemitic“), on the other hand.

About this “offer of a hand“

In this “offer of a hand“ you will find above all questions that may be helpful for a philosophical engagement with rsa. It is a draft that is intended to stimulate a collective dealing with rsa also and particularly within philosophy. In this respect we would like this to be an invitation, a “prompt for dialogue“. The following text tries for a methodologically open setup so that considerations from various philosophical perspectives can follow. This “offer of a hand“ may be used in lectures, seminars, and workshops for prompting a discussion about how rsa in scientific texts may be handled or how the issue of the practical effects of rsa text passages in such a context may be addressed. In this connection we understand the question “How to deal with…?“ and talking about it as an expression of a critical stance and as a call for continued critical reflection at the same time. Formulating certain codes of conduct and prescribed terminology precisely cannot conclusively meet such an ambition.


I. Working definitions of rsa and intersectionality

II. Philosophical instruments for the engagement with rsa and their/its possible practical effects

III. Suggestions for (seminar) practices and (creative) interventions to show solidarity

I. Working definitions of rsa and intersectionality 

As rsa are regarded social, structural, practical, and discursive forms of discrimination, dominance, and oppression – both historical and contemporary. At their center are usually essentialist, homogenizing constructions of certain social groups and categories of persons serving for alleged justification of debasements of those persons associated with these constructions. Rsa also occurs in scientific theorizing. The following working definitions suggest criteria that are meant to facilitate identifying rsa in philosophical texts. 

I.a. Racism

Racism is an ideology of inequality, which in particular aims at emphasizing the inferiority of the “other“. Racism differentiates human beings into groups on the basis of certain (visible or non-visible) features. Ascribed properties such as character traits or abilities are explained by naturalizing, mostly biologistic classifications, such as skin color, ethnicity (or “culture“) or geographical origin. Racisms exerted and exert their violence in various forms overtly, covertly, or subtly. 

I.b. Sexism 

Sexism is a generic term for discriminations due to gender having recourse to a usually implicitly premised and naturalized heteronormative gender order. Sexism refers to historical and current power structures in which the (usually only two) genders are attributed with an unequal (intellectual, moral ontological) status and are subordinated to women/men. Sexism finds its expression in explicit and implicit degradations of women and non-binary persons, in stereotypes such as in excluding, degrading, and oppressive cultural practices and traditions.

I.c. Antisemitism

Antisemitism, just like racism, is an ideology of inequality. Antisemitism frequently draws on conspiracy theories ascribing a supremacy and a striving for global power to the constructed group of “the“ Jews. Unlike racism, antisemitism serves also for a political explanation of the world and may include racist prejudices. Over the course of history Jews have suffered many forms of discrimination and oppression – such as forced displacement, disenfranchisement, dispossession, personal violence, and genocidal mass extermination on an industrial scale. 

I.d. Intersectionality

Rsa and other forms of discrimination and oppression (for instance due to class affiliation or physical or psychological impairment) do not exist isolated from each other – rather, they overlap and interact. These interlockings or intersections generate and maintain complex, multidimensional exclusions and structures of domination. Theories of intersectionality reflect the associated forms of power, practices, experiences of interlocking forms of discrimination as well as their different visibilities. They point out that making certain structures of oppression (for instance rsa) a subject of discussion may also obscure other exclusions or present them as reducible to each other.

II. Philosophical instruments for an engagement with rsa and their/its practical effects 

How can we promote a critical-constructive reflection, also a self-critical reflection (as to possibly unintended, unquestioned rsa imprints on and stereotypes in our own episteme) by means of philosophy? 

We differentiate between II.a. instruments of philosophy for an analysis of text passages and II.b. the reflection on practical effects of rsa (also during a debate on rsa). 

II.a. Instruments of Philosophy 

Which instruments of philosophy are at our disposal for engaging in contemplation and critical examination of rsa text passages? To illustrate the concrete possibilities and problems at issue, the “offer of a hand“ makes reference to examplary text passages from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. This is not because Kant’s texts are in any particularly outstanding way characterized by rsa statements; rather these are texts of a classic theory the philosophical quality and merits of which are beyond dispute. However, even so, this theory, too, includes passages that confront a scientific examination with the claim to critically examine whether they transport rsa knowledge – and to possibly even reject these passages as rsa.

In this connection we ask “How to deal with …?“ not in order to decide whether a certain author (such as for instance Kant) is to be rated as racist, sexist, or antisemite. Rather, we are concerned with stimulating a reflective attitude that is enlightened about its own preconditions in dealing with this author. 


The following exemplary text passages contain the unamended and in some places heavily derogatory and offensive ing taken from Kant’s works (here in their English translation). We consider a literal quotation in this context to be reasonable to be able to demonstrate the problems and possibilities of processing with reference to practical examples. The quoted text passages are scrutinized and provided with comments for this purpose. 


1. Immanent scrutiny on methodological basis: 

On the basis of which philosophical methods may text passages that appear rsa be analyzed and subjected to criticism? Most methods of philosophy are equipped with critical instruments for revealing intentional and unintentional pseudo-assertions, deceptions, as well as terminological and conceptual confusions. Debunking these is a task  that philosophical investigations have set themselves since antiquity. In this sense various methods and philosophical approaches can also be used for a critical examination of rsa text passages (conceivable would be for example: criticism of ideology, discourse analysis and validity analysis, critical theory, dialectics, deconstruction, pragmatism, phenomenology, language and terminology analysis, various methods of formal logics, hermeneutics etc.).

This is possible in that a concrete passage within a text for instance 

  • is benchmarked against the standard explicitly set or implicitly pursued by the theory itself, or 
  • is examined as to whether it or its ambition can be justified on the basis of the respective method, whether it is compatible with substantiated insights of the theory or, even contradicts them, or  
  • is subjected to re-reading from a different methodological perspective than the respective theory if the method of the theory in question itself does not seem to provide sufficient critical potential. 

Text examples and exemplary questions: 

“The woman will accordingly not learn geometry; she will know only so much about the principle of sufficient reason or the monads as is necessary in order to detect the salt in satirical poems which the insipid grubs of our sex have fabricated.”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 41.

“The virtue of the woman is a beautiful virtue.* That of the male sex ought to be a noble virtue. Women will avoid evil not because it is unjust but because it is ugly, and for them virtuous actions mean those that are ethically beautiful. Nothing of ought, nothing of must, nothing of obligation. To a woman anything by way of orders and sullen compulsion is insufferable.”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 43.

Is the passage in question a case of a. the explication of the conditions of the possibility of experience, b. formal conditions for judging maxims, c. an illustration of transcendental moments of the aesthetic judgment etc.? Or does the passage contain empirical statements that reproduce social and cultural views of the time? Can its content and aspiration persist if they are made the subject matter of a critical scrutiny with recourse to the transcendental method? Can the passage be substantiated at all on the basis of the transcendental method? Does it turn out to be unfounded? Or does it contradict the other insights that are substantiated by the theory (for instance the moral status of the human being as rational being, as an end in itself) and must therefore be rejected? 

2. Determination of text type and ambition of the passage:

Which standard is the respective present text meant to meet or does it seek to meet? Are there any explicit or implicit hints given by the respective author, for instance at the literary form or the textual context, that might help to classify the statements adequately and to determine their meaning and their status more precisely? 

Text examples and exemplary questions: 

“The Lapps are brown with black hair, wide faces, sunken cheeks, pointed chins ans are just as sluggish as [they are] cowardly.”
Kant, I. (2012). Natural Science (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, E. Watkins, Ed.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 669. 

“Among the peoples of our part of the world the Italians and the French are, in my opinion, those who most distinguish themselves in the feel- ing of the beautiful, but the Germans, the English, and the Spaniards those who are most distinguished from all others in the feeling of the sublime. (…) *) My intention is not at all to portray the characters of the peoples in detail; rather I will only outline some features that express the feeling of the sublime and the beautiful in them. One can readily guess that only a tolerable level of accuracy can be demanded in such a depiction, that its prototypes stand out in the large crowds of those who make claim to a finer feeling, and that no nation is lacking in casts of mind which unite the foremost predominant qualities of this kind. For this reason the criticism that might occasionally be cast on a people can offend no one, as it is like a ball that one can always hit to his neighbor. I will not investigate here whether these national differences are contingent and depend upon the times and the type of government, or whether they are connected with a certain necessity with the climate.”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 52.

“Now here is an admirable confluence of so many relations of nature for one end: and this is the Greenlander, the Lapp, the Samoyed, the Yakut, etc. But one does not see why human beings have to live there at all.”
Kant, I. (2000). Critique of the Power of Judgment (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, P. Guyer, Ed.; E. Matthews, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 241.

Does the passage appear in a published text of Kant or in so-called lecture notes – such as for instance the first of the quoted text examples: Kant, Lectures on Physical Geography AA 26.1? Which status is ascribed to the text by Kant himself (for instance Observations on the Sentiment of the Beautiful and the Sublime, AA2, designated as empirical “observations“, as personal opinion)? Are empirical findings and opinions of the contemporary debate or of travelogues referred to and presented as examples? Are these reports incorporated into the author‘s own theoretical convictions (for instance into the Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals, AA 4, in the so-called Three Critiques)? Is it possibly an ironic omission, the status of which discloses itself through the knowledge of the contemporary debate as such (for instance by the reference to Voltaire (cf. AA 2: 440, 06-12) the quoted passage AA 5: 369, 13-16)? 

3. Determination of the argumentative context: 

Do rsa passages occur as normative (prescriptive, value-forming) or descriptive (describing, reporting, exemplifying) to support a thought that is relevant to the theory? Or are rsa passages formulated in a referencing way (present an observation made by others, report second hand, are not incorporated in the argumentation)? Are linguistic expressions used that have undergone a fundamental shift in meaning in the course of history? 

Text examples and exemplary questions: 

“Mr. Hume challenges anyone to adduce a single example where a Negro has demonstrated talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who have been transported else- where from their countries, although very many of them have been set free, nevertheless not a single one has ever been found who has accom- plished something great in art or science or shown any other praise- worthy quality (…)”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 59.

“[…] if eudaimonism (the principle of happiness) is set up as the basic principle instead of eleutheronomy (the principle of the freedom of internal lawgiving), the result is the euthanasia (easy death) of all morals.”
Kant, I., & Gregor, M. J. (1999). Practical philosophy (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant) Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, p. 511.

“The euthanasia of Judaism is pure moral religion, freed from all the ancient statutory teachings, some of which were bound to be retained in Christianity (as a messianic faith). But this division of sects, too, must disappear in time (…)”
Kant, I. (1996). Religion and Rational Theology (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, A. Wood & G. Di Giovanni, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 276.

Could Kant in this argumentative context also have quoted a different, non-rsa statement? Does he in the course of the text distance himself from the content of the quoted text? Can contemporary debates and positions be named that adopt a critical or more critical stance with regard to rsa than does Kant? By considering these, could Kant have let himself be enlightened about the rsa content of his quotes, examples, and positionings? And: In which way are the expressions that strike us as rsa used by Kant and in contemporary usage? 

Cf. in this connection for instance the contemporary dictionary entry for “euthanasia: “[…], ein ganz leichter und geringer Tod, welcher ohne schmerzhafte Convulsiones (Anfälle, Krämpfe – addition by the author) geschiehet.” (“[…], a very easy and minor death occuring without painful convulsions.”) Zedlers Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste. Halle/ Leipzig: 1732-1754, col. 2237. 

4. Checking logical consistency and coherence of the statement: 

Can naturalistic or essentialistic reductions be identified? Have any fallacies in terms of argumentation theory and logic been made (critique of is-ought fallacies (Hume) or naturalistic fallacies (Moore))? Which argumentative quality do these problematic passages adopt within the context of the text? 

Text examples and exemplary questions: 

“(…) this scoundrel was completely black from head to foot, a distinct proof that what he said was stupid.”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 61.

Does the passage appear in the context of the text as a coherent continuation of the hitherto thoughts and considerations? 

“In the lands of the blacks can one expect anything better than what is generally found there, namely the female sex in the deepest slavery? A pusillanimous person is always a strict master over the weaker, just as with us that man is always a tyrant in the kitchen who outside of his house hardly dares to walk up to anyone. Indeed, Father Labat reports that a Negro carpenter, whom he reproached for haughty treatment of his wives, replied: You whites are real fools, for first you concede so much to your wives, and then you complain when they drive you crazy. There might be something here worth considering, except for the fact that this scoundrel was completely black from head to foot, a distinct proof that what he said was stupid. Among all the savages there are none among whom the female sex stands in greater real regard than those of Canada. In this perhaps they even surpass our civilized part of the world. Not as if they pay the women their humble respects; that would be mere compliments. No, they actually get to command. They meet and take council about the most important affairs of the nation, about war and peace. They send their delegates to the male council, and commonly it is their vote that decides. But they pay dearly enough for this preference. They have all the domestic concerns on their shoulders and share all of the hardships with the men.”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 61.

Which considerations are still part of the presented anecdote, which are not? Can a logical coherent stance of the author be reconstructed from the overall context of the passage? How would an immanent critique need to be formulated on the basis of the normative convictions implicitly affirmed in the text?

5. Explication of the raised claim to validity and coherence in the work:  

Are rsa views formulated in a generalizing (universally valid) way? Which status does the author himself ascribe to them? Are rsa views for instance repeated in other sections of the work, are they linked to a different validity claim therein or is the validity claim toned down? Does the author also make statements to the contrary? Does the position of the author change in the course of his work? 

Text examples and exemplary questions: 

“The Palestinians living among us since their exile, or at least the great majority of them, have earned the not unfounded reputation of being cheaters, due to their spirit of usury.”
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 312.

“I would certainly not want, indeed who knows how much, to have said what Rousseau so impudently asserted: that a woman never becomes anything more than a big child.
Kant, I. (2007). Anthropology, History, and Education (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, R. Louden & G. Zöller, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 54ff.

Are there both rsa and rsa-critical statements to be found in Kant’s work? 

“Moses Mendelssohn rejects this demand in a way that does credit to his cleverness (…)”
Kant, I. (1996). Religion and Rational Theology (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, A. Wood & G. Di Giovanni, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 275.

“Just as it is here, so it is also with all the proofs of the worthy Mendelssohn in his Morning Hours.
Kant, I. (1996). Religion and Rational Theology (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, A. Wood & G. Di Giovanni, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 11.

“(like the otherwise acute Mendelssohn)”
Kant, I., & Reath, A. (1997). Critique of Practical Reason (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy, M. Gregor, Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 85.

“Greet Herr Mendelssohn and Herr Lambert, likewise Herr Sultzer, and convey my apologies to these gentlemen with similar reasons. Do remain forever my friend, just as I am yours, I. Kant Konigsberg February 21, 1772″
Kant, I. (1999). Correspondence (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, A. Zweig, Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.137.

6. Verification of the underlying sources: 

How are the sources of the rsa statement to be judged? From which sources do authors derive the empirical knowledge/experience-based knowledge? Which other sources (for instance considered to be reliable also by the standards at the time) could they consult?

Sources for the racist statements in Kant:

Buffon, George Louis Le Clerc Comte de; Daubenton, Louis Jean Marie; Haller, Albrecht von (preface). Allgemeine Historie der Natur nach allen ihren besondern Theilen abgehandelt; nebst einer Beschreibung der Naturalienkammer Sr. Majestät des Königes von Frankreich. 11 Bde., Hamburg/ Leipzig: 1750-1782. Schwabe, Johann Joachim (Hrsg.). Allgemeine Historie der Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande; or Sammlung aller Reisebeschreibungen, welche bis itzo in verschiedenen Sprachen von allen Völkern herausgegeben worden und einen vollständigen Begriff von der neuen Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte machen; […] Durch eine Gesellschaft gelehrter Männer im Englischen zusammengetragen und aus demselben und dem Französischen ins Deutsche übersetzet. 21 Bde., Leipzig: 1747-1774. 

A clearly different perspective is taken for instance in:

Forster, (Johann) Georg (Adam). Johann Reinhold Forster’s […] Reise um die Welt während den Jahren 1772 bis 1775: In dem von Seiner itztregierenden Großbrittanischen Majestät auf Entdeckungen ausgeschickten und durch den Capitain Cook geführten Schiffe the Resolution unternommen. 2 volumes, Berlin: 1778-1780. 

7. Explication of possible consequences: 

Could (might) the rational knowledge or the experience-based knowledge referred to contribute to confirm/legitimize existing social practices (that are rsa from today’s perspective)? Was it used to this effect? 

Text example and exemplary question: 

“If one compares with this the inhospitable behavior of civilized, especially commercial, states in our part of the world, the injustice they show in visiting foreign lands an peoples (which with them is tantamount to conquering them) goes to horrifying lengths. When America, the negro countries, the Spice Islands, the Cape, and so forth were dicovered, they were, to them, countries belonging to no one, since they counted the inhabitants as nothing.”
Kant, I., & Gregor, M. J. (1999). Practical philosophy (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant) Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, p. 329.

How is the bias of this passage to be related to others that are to be rated as rsa? 

II.b. Reflection on possible practical effects  

Which (discriminatory, offensive, repressive) effects may occur already upon reading rsa passages? How can we talk about an rsa passage without thereby reproducing the rsa contained therein and without relegating individuals to the position of the affected or causing further offence?

1. Procedure: 

What kind of texts are the sections in question? How are text sections de facto dealt with in which rsa remarks are openly made? How can these be discussed? Which different forms of access are facilitated by different philosophical approaches and methods? Which philosophical (for instance linguistic-philosophical, socio-philosophical, historico-philosophical etc.) insights can we gain from a discussion of such sections? 

2. Language and terminology: 

Which terms reproduce discrimination (for instance: the N-word) and which can be employed instead (for instance self-designations such as Black People and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), Sinti and Roma)? Which expressions, even if used with anti-rsa intent, in the discussion rate existing differences between persons as positive but thereby inadvertently reproduce rsa patterns or attributions? 

3. Intersectionality: 

How can we manage to enunciate interconnections between various forms of discrimination in texts? May the complex interconnections of social inequality and injustice be concealed or simplified by focusing on one (or several) form(s) of discrimination? („Das vornehme Wort Kultur tritt anstelle des verpönten Ausdrucks Rasse, bleibt aber ein bloßes Deckbild für den brutalen Herrschaftsanspruch“, Th. W. Adorno, Schuld und Abwehr, in ders.: GS 9.2: Soziologische Schriften II, Frankfurt a. M.: 2003, 277). 

4. Contextualization: 

How could we contextualize rsa statements (without apologetically historicizing them thereby)? By which standards do we judge rsa statements and how could we judge them? Are there analogous rsa statements in our today’s discourses, even though they are worded differently or more subtly? 

5. Self-criticism: 

Which idealizing notions and standards do we possibly project onto the classic authors (for instance: genius, fully enlightened person)? Do we take a position of moral superiority over the author? Do we critically reflect upon the criteria of our own judgment for possible essentializations?

III. Suggestions for (seminar) practices and (creative) interventions to show solidarity

How can we create a discussion framework that allows for critically addressing and constructively analyzing rsa text passages? Which practices of (creative) interventions are possible to show solidarity? Which scientific standards do we need to consider also when talking about rsa? Which (possibly provocative) questions may and must be asked to become enlightened about the issue? How can experience-based knowledge be embraced and translated into the scientific discussion?  

III.a. Arrangements

Which deliberations and precautionary arrangements could and should be made to ensure that a critical handling of rsa in seminars and other contexts is possible that does not (subliminally) reproduce rsa? 

1. Basic attitude: 

May we assume for the shared discussion that all participants adopt an anti-rsa attitude? 

2. Awareness of context and history: 

How can we become aware of and critically reflect on the fact that rsa knowledge leaves a fundamental imprint on us all (also us as philosophers!) and that this has an effect both historically and presently (structurally)? Which consequences have rsa structures for the perspectives of those who are potentially affected? 

3. Language awareness: 

What language can we use to make sure that those who are potentially affected by rsa are not offended or fixed as such in an essentialistic way and that rsa is not further perpetuated? Which self-reflections on language, reproduction of structures of dominance etc. do we need? Is there an awareness of the problems involved with the composition of the group and the homogeneity or diversity of the participants? How can hypermoral rhetorics of indignation and suspicion be avoided? 

4. Precautionary measures: 

Have arrangements been made in case someone feels offended by a certain mode of speaking or someone considers a certain mode of speaking inappropriate? Have signals for an intervention/interruption been agreed upon and are they available? Do participants have the chance to opt out of the discussion or leave unhindered? Is there a contact person for the participants to approach if required? Is there some time scheduled for reflection and afterthoughts and/or to talk things over?

III.b. Interventions

How can overtly rsa statements or one’s own notions of rsa be responded to in such a way that they do not repeat? How is it generally possible within university structures, which (frequently) also reproduce rsa, to create irritations and ruptures to draw attention to the reproduction of forms of discrimination and domination?

1. Sensing boundaries: 

Is a statement disrespectful and requires immediate intervention? Or else, is it rather useful to provide enlightening information that helps in the medium or long run? May other examples be cited that indirectly convey to the participants an idea of the difficulties involved in drawing a line? 

2. Leaving the discussion or the room: 

When may it make sense (for a person’s own protection or to mark a clear rupture) to leave the room or to briefly dissolve the assembly (for instance to proceed to a group discussion)? When are short breaks useful to dispel an oppressive atmosphere in order to allow for withdrawal or direct communication? 

3. Solidarity: 

How can those leading a discussion and those participating in the discussion show solidarity in their mutual behaviour – whilst knowing that they are (under)privileged to different degrees and that privilege and underprivilege are often not visible? Is it left up to the persons concerned to voice criticism or do also other participants take over responsibility for the progression of the discussion? Which (verbal and non-verbal) forms of a discreet solidarity are conceivable? (Resuming the topic or an unprocessed issue; recalling already made input, objections, concerns in other form etc.) 

4. Gestures, facial expressions:  

How can non-verbal forms of expression be employed to communicate sympathy, support, concern, dismay, or approval, to dispel feelings of isolation, and possibly prepare verbal interventions? Which non-verbal forms of expression by contrast signal (even unintentionally) lack of interest in the topic or tedium and irritation in view of the discussion? Which options are provided by philosophical theories to explicate the effect of non-verbal communication and to “objectify“ addressing the issue? 

5. Creating a dynamic discussion culture: 

May a breach with the common culture of discussion and established patterns of events (few persons speak, relating merely to the teaching person, exclusion of many participants) be helpful? May it help to change positions within the room for instance to address the issue of discriminatory behaviour within an interested subgroup of solidarity and to possibly loosen gridlock group situations? May it prove beneficial to swap perspectives and roles within a group (for example moderating, chairing, introducing, listening role)? 

6. Contributions to the discussion: 

Besides the “classic“ putting up one’s hand, are there other indications for direct response, queries of comprehension, procedural inquiries etc. that can be introduced? 

7. (Performative) quoting/utterance: 

In which cases may (performative) quoting/utterance make sense to address the issue of discrimination and making oneself heard in the form of a quote? How can parts of the seminar debate or sections of its subject matter be made the issue of the discussion by way of repeating, quoting, or explicitly not quoting? 

About the authors

Translation by: Barbara Laber

Text by: Hannah Chodura, Danilo Gajić, Lisa Gleis, Hannah Peaceman 

Assisted by: Prof. Dr. Andrea Marlen Esser 

Graphics by: Jolanda Uhlig 

Parts of this “offer of a hand“ contain considerations of a working group of an advanced graduate seminar„How to deal with racism, sexism, antisemitism in classic texts of philosophy?“. Chaired by: Prof. Dr. Andrea Marlen Esser; Participants of the working group: Dr. Peggy H. Breitenstein, Danilo Gajić, Hannah Peaceman, Karolin Stüber. 

We also thank Dr. Daniel Kersting for his assistance and critical remarks as well as the following sponsors for their financial support. 


(This bibliography contains selected works (in German and English) on rsa in Kant’s writings, on the topic of rsa in general, and on didactic questions related to rsa. For a listing of Good Practices Guides, see below.)

Concerning rsa in Kant’s work:

Bernasconi, Robert. „Who invented the Concept of Race? Kant’s Role in the Enlightenment Construction of Race.“ In: Ders. (Hg.). Race. Oxford: 2001, S. 11-26.

Bernasconi, Robert. „Kant as an Unfamiliar Source of Racism.“ In: Ward, Julie K./Lott, Tommy L. (Hg.). Philosophers on Race. Critical Essays. Oxford: 2002, S. 145-166.

Eze, Emmanuel. „The Color of Reason. The Idea of ‘Race’ in Kant’s Anthropology.“ In: Ders. (Hg.). Postcolonial African Philosophy: A Critical Reader. Oxford: 1997, S. 103-140.

Godel, Rainer/Stiening, Gideon (Hg.). Klopffechtereien – Mißverständnisse – Widersprüche? Methodische und Methodologische Perspektiven auf die Kant-Forster-Kontroverse. Laboratorium Aufklärung. München: 2012.

Gronke, Horst/Meyer, Thomas/Neißer, Barbara (Hg.). Antisemitismus bei Kant und anderen Denkern der Aufklärung. Würzburg: 2001.

Kleingeld, Pauline. „The Problematic Status of Gender-Neutral Language in the History of Philosophy: The Case of Kant.“ In: The Philosophical Forum, 1993 (25), S. 134-150.

Kleingeld, Pauline. „Kant’s second Thought on Race.“ In: The Philosophical Quarterly, 2007 (57/229), S. 573-592.

Langton, Ray. „Maria von Herbert’s Challenge to Kant.“ In: Sher, George (Hg.). Ethics: Essential Readings in Moral Theory. New York/London: 2012, S. 377-386.

Löwenbrück, Anna-Ruth. Judenfeindschaft im Zeitalter der Aufklärung. Frankfurt: 1995.

Mikkelson, Jon M. „Translator’s Introduction: Recent Work on Kant’s Race Theory/ The Texts/ The Translations.“ In Ders. (Hg.). Kant and the Concept of Race: Late Eighteenth-Century Writings. Albany: 2014, S. 1-20.

Mills, Charles M. „Kant’s Untermenschen.“ In: Valls, Andrew (Hg.): Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy. Cornell 2005, S. 169-193.

Schott, Robin May (Hg.). Feminist Interpretations of Immanuel Kant. Pennsylvania: 1997.

Sutter, Alex. „Kant und die ‚Wilden‘. Zum Impliziten Rassismus in der Kantischen Geschichtsphilosophie.“ In: Prima Philosophia, 1989 (2), S. 241-265.

Regarding rsa (in general):

Arendt, Hannah. Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft: Antisemitismus, Imperialismus, Totalitarismus. 14. Aufl. München: 2011.

Balibar, Étienne/Wallerstein, Immanuel M. Rasse, Klasse, Nation: Ambivalente Identitäten. Übers. Haupt, Michael/Utz, Ilse. 2. Aufl. Hamburg: 1998.

Bernasconi, Robert/Cook, Sybol (Hg.). Race and Racism in Continental Philosophy. Bloomington 2003. 

Biskamp, Floris. „Rassismus, Kultur und Rationalität: Drei Rassismustheorien in der kritischen Praxis.“ In: Peripherie, 2017 (146-147/37), S. 271-296. Online:

Claussen, Detlev. Was heisst Rassismus? Darmstadt: 1994.

Di Cesare, Donatella. „Heidegger, das Sein und die Juden.“ In: Information Philosophie, 2014 (2), S. 8-21. Online:

Di Cesare, Donatella. Heidegger, die Juden, die Shoah. Frankfurt am Main: 2016.

Fanon, Frantz. Schwarze Haut, Weiße Masken.Wien: 2017.

Guthoff, Heike. Kritik des Habitus: zur Intersektion von Kollektivität und Geschlecht in der akademischen Philosophie. Bielefeld: 2014.

Hall, Stuart. „Rassismus als Ideologischer Diskurs.“ In: Das Argument,1989 (178), S. 913-921.

Haug, Wolfgang Fritz. Elemente einer Theorie des Ideologischen. Hamburg: 1994.
[insbes. Kap. 11 Geschlechterverhältnisse in der Philosophie. Kap. 12 Antisemitismus und Rassismus als Bewährungsprobe für Ideologie-Theorie.]

Hentges, Gudrun. Schattenseiten der Aufklärung: Die Darstellung von Juden und “Wilden” in Philosophischen Schriften des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Schwalbach 1999.

Kerner, Ina. Differenzen und Macht: zur Anatomie von Rassismus und Sexismus. Frankfurt am Main: 2009.

Klinger, Cornelia. „Zwei Schritte vorwärts, einer zurück – und ein vierter darüber hinaus. Die Etappen feministischer Auseinandersetzung mit der Philosophie.“ In: Die Philosophin,1995 (6/12), S. 81-97. doi.: 10.5840/philosophin199561212

Mack, Michael (Hg). German idealism and the Jew: The Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses. Chicago [u.a.]: 2003.

Mbembe, Achille. Kritik der Schwarzen Vernunft. Übers. Bischoff, Michael. Frankfurt am Main: 2014.

McCarthy, Thomas. Rassismus, Imperialismus und die Idee menschlicher Entwicklung. Übers. Müller, Michael. Berlin: 2015.

Mittmann, Thomas. Vom „Günstling“ zum „Urfeind“ der Juden. Die antisemitische Nietzsche-Rezeption in Deutschland bis zum Ende des Nationalsozialismus. Würzburg: 2007.

Ngo, Helen. The Habits of Racism: A Phenomenology of Racism and Racialized Embodiment. Lanham: 2017.

Park, Peter K.J. Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy. Racism in the Formation of the Philosophical Canon, 1780–1830. New York: 2013.

Rensmann, Lars. The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism. New York: 2017.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Betrachtungen zur Judenfrage: Psychoanalyse des Antisemitismus. Zürich: 1948.

Songe-Møller, Vigdis. Philosophy Without Women: The Birth of Sexism in Western Thought. London/New York: 2002.

Spivak, Gayatri C. 1999. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge: 1999.

Taguieff, Pierre-André. Wie lässt sich das Problem des Rassismus heute stellen? Übers. Halfbrodt, Michael. 2016. Online: [Interestingly, there is little to no reference to non-european, non-male authors.]

Valls, Andrew (Hg.). Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy. Cornell: 2005.

On teaching philosophy / didactics vis-á-vis rsa:

Albus, Vanessa/Haase, Volker (Hg.). Ethik der Geschlechter. Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Philosophie und Ethik, 2014 (3).

Bartsch, Markus. Gesellschaftlicher Dialog im Klassenzimmer. Didaktische Implikationen interkultureller Hermeneutik im Fach Praktische Philosophie. Berlin: 2009.

Breun, Richard. Anthropologie, Ethik, Didaktik. Wege des Selbst- und Weltverstehens – Elemente einer anthropologischen und didaktischen Hermeneutik. Berlin: 2014. [insbes. Kap. IV. Grenzerfahrungen und Entgrenzungen.]

Broden, Anne/Mecheril, Paul (Hg.). Rassismus bildet. Bildungswissenschaftliche Beiträge zu Normalisierung und Subjektivierung in der Migrationsgesellschaft. Bielefeld: 2010.

Cohen, Philip. Verbotene Spiele. Theorie und Praxis antirassistischer Erziehung. Übers. Nora Räthzel. Hamburg: 1994.

Elsässer, Jutta et al. „Nie wieder Judenhass: Antisemitismus in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft als Herausforderung in der Lehrer(innen)bildung.“ In: Butterwegge, Christop/Hentges, Gudrun/Lösch, Bettina (Hg.). Auf dem Weg in eine andere Republik? Neoliberalismus, Standortnationalismus und Rechtspopulismus. Weinheim: 2018.

Golus, Kinga. Abschied von der Androzentrik. Anthropologie, Kulturreflexion und Bildungsprozesse in der Philosophie unter Genderaspekten. Berlin: 2015.

Hagengruber, Ruth/Rohbeck, Johannes. Philosophinnen im Philosophieunterricht – ein Handbuch. Jahrbuch für Didaktik der Philosophie und Ethik, 2015 (16).

Nida-Rümelin, Julian/Spiegel, Irina/Tiedemann, Markus (Hg.). Handbuch Philosophie und Ethik. Band I: Didaktik und Methodik. Paderborn: 2015. [insbes. Kap. 4.6 Genderperspektive. Kap. 4.7 Interkultureller Polylog.]

Paseka, Angelika. „Gesellschaft und pädagogische Praxis. Dekonstruktionen am Beispiel von Sexismus und Rassismus.“ In: Fritzsche, Bettina/Hartmann, Jutta/Schmidt, Andrea/Tervooren, Anja (Hg.). Dekonstruktive Pädagogik. Erziehungswissenschaftliche Debatten unter poststrukturalistischen Perspektiven. Opladen: 2001, S. 187-199.

Riegel, Christine. Bildung – Intersektionalität – Othering. Pädagogisches Handeln in widersprüchlichen Verhältnissen. Bielefeld: 2016.

Scharathow, Wiebke/Leiprecht, Rudolf (Hg.). Rassismuskritik. Band 2: Rassismuskritische Bildungsarbeit. Schwalbach: 2009.

Steenblock, Volker. Philosophische Bildung. Einführung in die Philosophiedidaktik und Handbuch: Praktische Philosophie. Berlin: 2009. [insbes. Kap. 2.3 Gesellschaftlicher Dialog im Klassenzimmer – Zur besonderen Herausforderung der Philosophiedidaktik durch Migration und kulturelle Heterogenität.]

Stender, Wolfram/Follert, Guido/Özdogan, Mihri (Hg.). Konstellationen des Antisemitismus. Antisemitismusforschung und sozialpädagogische Praxis. Wiesbaden: 2010.

Tiedemann, Markus/Rohbeck, Johannes (Hg.). Philosophie und Verständigung in der pluralistischen Gesellschaft. Jahrbuch für Didaktik der Philosophie und Ethik, 2013 (14).

Good Practices Guides

The following is but a short listing of the many Good Practices Guides (GPGs) that have been published by institutions from Canada, UK, USA, and in Germany. Most of these GPGs are concerned with creating more inclusive spaces of academic teaching and learning; often they concentrate on methods which foster students’ participation in seminars. Partly, they also contain diversified reading lists.

We have noted that many GPGs depart from experiences of sexism and racism; thoughts on experiences of antisemitism are rare, or, if they are expressed, they portray antisemitism as sub-category of racism. There are, indeed, “Guides to Combat Antisemitism” and the like. These, however, deal with everyday-antisemitism that Jews experience, e.g., on campus, and much less with antisemitism in the context of philosophical writings or discussions.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): „Active Bystanders“:

American Philosophy Association: „Good Practices Guide“:

British Philosophical Association: „Good Practices Guide“:

Canadian Philosophical Association: „Equity Committee“:

New York University (NYU): Guidelines for Respectful Philosophical Discussion:

Minorities and Philosophy: „Best Practices for the Inclusive Philosophy Classroom“:

Minorities and Philosophy:

SWIP Germany e.V.: „Good Practice Guide“:

Datenschutz & Impressum

(c) Wie umgehen mit RSA? 2021