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Open Theology

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Henrique Vaz, Darwin and Cassirer: Being Human and Transcendence

Agnaldo Portugal
Published Online: 2018-07-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0019


This article compares the approach of the Brazilian philosopher Henrique Vaz to the ones of Charles Darwin and Ernst Cassirer about human nature. Firstly, the text expounds Darwin’s ideas about human species in his The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), showing how the strictly biological approach is insightful in many respects, but becomes insufficient to understand humans in some other important points. Secondly, the article argues that those insufficiencies of Darwin’s theory may be overcome by the culture centered understanding of the human phenomenon held by Ernst Cassirer. Some other inadequacies are shown in Cassirer’s account, however, which can be resolved - preserving the virtues of both his and Darwin’s theories - by Henrique Vaz’s dialectic conception of humans as beings towards transcendence.

Keywords: human nature; biological anthropology; culture; concept of person


  • Cassirer, Ernest. An Essay on Man - An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1944.Google Scholar

  • Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Second Edition, Revised and Augmented. Akron, OH: The Werner Company, 1874.Google Scholar

  • Laland, Kevin and Galef, Bennett (eds.). The Question of Animal Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Vaz, Henrique C. de Lima. Antropologia Filosofica I. Sao Paulo: Loyola, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Vaz, Henrique C. de Lima. Antropologia Filosofica II. Sao Paulo: Loyola, 1992.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-05-15

Accepted: 2018-06-05

Published Online: 2018-07-18

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 258–267, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0019.

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© 2018 Agnaldo Portugal, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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