Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Thomas Singh Khurana (Yale University and University of Essex)

March 8, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The Art of Second Nature

by Thomas Singh Khurana of Yale University and University of Essex

While the concept of “second nature” has received remarkable attention in recent years, the discussion has mainly focused on neo-Aristotelian accounts. In developing the idea that reason can become second nature to us through habituation into the right kinds of practices, the contemporary discussion has given the notion both a therapeutic and a normative significance. Therapeutically, the reminder that our rational second nature is nature too is meant to cure us of a misguided dualism of mind and world, reason and nature. Normatively, the idea of second nature contains a picture of ethical perfection, identifying it with the capacity to see and do the right things immediately, as if naturally.

In my talk, I develop a neglected post-Kantian conception of second nature that provides us with an attractive alternative to this neo-Aristotelian account. Instead of offering a mere therapeutic reminder, the post-Kantian conception provides a constructive elaboration of the intricate relation of reason and nature. And instead of presenting us with a normative ideal of ethical immediacy, the post-Kantian notion gives us resources for a critical account of the dialectical challenges of ethical agency. This constructive and critical account becomes available once we attend to a different paradigm of second nature: instead of focusing solely on the model of habit, this post-Kantian conception directs our attention to the work of art as a paradigm for second nature. In the third critique, Kant argues that to produce a work of beautiful art is to bring about an “other nature,” a nature that is expressive of supersensible ideas. As the post-Kantian tradition develops, this “other nature” of art can serve as an instructive model for our ethical second nature. According to this model, the development of an ethical second nature is not mere habituation and the naturalization of an acquired capacity, but is an essentially creative and expressive process whereby we take up nature and transform it into an other nature that is expressive of freedom. For the post-Kantian tradition from Schiller and Hegel to Marx and Nietzsche, the production of second nature thus appears as an “art”: an aesthetic task, a complex dialectical exercise, and a social practice of objectification. This conception of second nature not only allows us to grasp the relation of spirit and nature more adequately than the dominant neo-Aristotelian conceptions. It also opens up a critical perspective on our contemporary aesthetic self-understanding.


March 8, 2019
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


HMNSS 1500