Influences: Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was an 18th-century German philosopher from Königsberg in the Kingdom of Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). He is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe.

Overview of his Philosophy

So far-reaching and so comprehensive in nature, it is not possible to give a brief overview of the thought and work of Immanuel Kant. But it is, perhaps, possible to summarise his main concerns and to list some of his greatest achievements:-

The age and work of Immanuel Kant is defined by the Enlightenment. On the one hand science on the other nature. On the one hand Rationalism on the othe Empiricism. Kant is the bridge between that period and the modern age. The starting point for 20th Century Philosophy.

As a starting point - and there are many - one can note that Kant asserted that, because of the limitations of reason, no one could really know if there is a God and an afterlife, and conversely that no one could really know that there was not a God and an afterlife. For the sake of society and morality, Kant asserted, people are reasonably justified in believing in them, even though they could never know for sure whether they are real or not. The presupposition of God, soul, and freedom was then a practical concern, for "Morality, by itself, constitutes a system, but happiness does not, unless it is distributed in exact proportion to morality. This, however, is possible in an intelligible world only under a wise author and ruler. Reason compels us to admit such a ruler, together with life in such a world, which we must consider as future life, or else all moral laws are to be considered as idle dreams… ."

The two interconnected foundations of what Kant called his "critical philosophy" of the "Copernican revolution" which he claimed to have wrought in philosophy were his epistemology of Transcendental Idealism and his moral philosophy of the autonomy of practical reason. These placed the active, rational human subject at the center of the cognitive and moral worlds.

With regard to knowledge, Kant argued that the rational order of the world as known by science could never be accounted for merely by the fortuitous accumulation of sense perceptions. It was instead the product of the rule-based activity of "synthesis." This consisted of conceptual unification and integration carried out by the mind through concepts or the "categories of the understanding" operating on the perceptual manifold within space and time, which are not concepts, but the forms of sensibility that are a priori necessary conditions for any possible experience. Thus the objective order of nature and the causal necessity that operates within it are dependent upon the mind.

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With regard to morality, Kant argued that the source of the good lies not in anything outside the human subject, either in nature or given by God, but rather only the good will itself. A good will is one that acts from duty in accordance with the universal moral law that the autonomous human being freely gives itself. This law obliges one to treat humanity — understood as rational agency, and represented through oneself as well as others — as an end in itself rather than (merely) as means.

These ideas have largely framed or influenced all subsequent philosophical discussion and analysis. The specifics of Kant's account generated immediate and lasting controversy. Nevertheless, his theses - that the mind itself necessarily makes a constitutive contribution to its knowledge, that this contribution is transcendental rather than psychological, that philosophy involves self-critical activity, that morality is rooted in human freedom, and that to act autonomously is to act according to rational moral principles - have all had a lasting effect on subsequent philosophy.

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