Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant Picture

An eminent philosopher of the Enlightenment era, Immanuel Kant was born of April 22, 1724, in Konigsberg, Prussia. He was the fourth of nine children born to Anna Regina Reuter and Johann Georg Kant. He belonged to an impoverished family, his father was a harness marker, and the family offered unquestionable allegiance to the Pietism branch of the Lutheran Church. Kant was a bright child, he was placed under the tutelage of a local pastor to complete his basic education, and later he attended the Collegium Fridiricianum, a Latin school where developed a great passion for classicism. In 1740, Kant was accepted at the University of Konigsberg, he initially planned to study theology but he found his vocation in physics and mathematics. Upon his father’s death in 1746, Immanuel was forced to leave his education and the university in order to provide financial assistance to his family.

Kant began working as a private tutor for wealthy families, and meanwhile, he began publishing papers that consisted of his analysis on empiricism and rationalism. Kant spent the next decade exploring a centrism between rationalism and empiricism, and he sought to create an approach to deal with scientific questions by implementing both these theologies. In 1755, Kant published his highly praised and much discussed paper, “General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens”. In the same year, a friend provided him some financial assistance and he was able to resume his education at Konigsberg. He received his Ph.D. in 1756.

After completing his education, Kant was offered the position of a lecturer of mathematics and sciences at the University of Konigsberg, which he accepted and held for the next 15 years. Kant employed his free time to study the complex phenomenon of scientific philosophy, and compiled some of his major works during this time. His reputation as an esteemed thinker and philosopher began to spread, and in 1770, he was offered a tenure at Konigsberg, as a professor of metaphysics and logic. In 1781, he published one of his most significant and groundbreaking works on Western ideology, ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, through which he sought to explain the relationship of reasoning and interactions with perceptions and perspectives. His rationalist and unconventional teaching methods gained much popularity among the students, and his agnostic approach in dealing with religious texts gained great momentum. However, the Prussian government took strict notice of his unorthodox approach in dealing with religious texts and King Fredrich William II who viewed his publications as a violation of the sanctity of religion, barred him from teaching or writing on religious matters in 1792. Kant obeyed this prohibition for the next five years, and upon the death of the King, he resumed his analysis of religious dialects.

Kant has made immense contributions to the evolution of scientific philosophy. He is attributed for the formation of a model of individual epistemology, which he believed provided an in depth analysis of human knowledge and its limitation. He entwined the ideologies of empiricism with rationalism, and attempted to examine the limits and extents of human intelligence. He always placed much emphasis on moralities, and formed his own moral law, entitled ‘Categorical imperative’, which proposed that morality is taken from rationality and, the sense of right doing and wrong doing is only obtained from rational thinking. Kant divided moral judgments into three distinct classes: analytic a priori, synthetic a posteriori and synthetic a priori. In 1797, he published ‘Metaphysics of Ethics’, in which he developed an ethical system that proposed reasoning as the fundamental power that guides morality. He stated that reasoning necessitated the need for two essential elements of thought: the categorical and the hypothetical. While the categorical forms the ethical evaluation, the hypothetical constructs a course of action to deal with events, and these two elements serve to uphold a man’s freedom of thought and action, making him independent to act according to his will and engaging his conscience to make ethical decision keeping in mind the societal norms.

Kant continued to write until his death, however, it became increasingly difficult during his last years due to his acute memory loss. He died at the age of 79, on 12 February 1804. Kantian philosophy has influenced the masses for over centuries, and also laid down the basis for modern philosophy. Countless renowned philosophers formed their distinct theories based on the principals laid down by Immanuel Kant, of which Hegel’s dialectical method and Marx’s socialist philosophy are the most acclaimed.

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