Immanuel Kant

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Birth Date:
22.04.1724
Death date:
12.02.1804
Extra names:
Immanuel Kant, Imanuels Kants, Иммануил Кант, Imanuelis Kantas
Categories:
Aristocrat, Freemason, Nobleman, landlord, Pedagogue, teacher, Philosopher, Physicist, Professor, Publicist, Scientist, Writer
Nationality:
 latvian, german, scot
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Immanuel Kant (German: [ɪˈmaːnu̯eːl kant]; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher who is widely considered to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that human concepts and categories structure our view of the world and its laws, and that reason is the source of morality. His thought continues to hold a major influence in contemporary thought, especially in fields such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics.

Kant's major work, the Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1781), aimed to bring reason together with experience and to move beyond what he took to be failures of traditional philosophy and metaphysics. He hoped to end an age of speculation where objects outside experience were seen to support what he saw as futile theories, while resisting the skepticism of thinkers such as David Hume.

Kant stated:

It always remains a scandal of philosophy and universal human reason that the existence of things outside us ... should have to be assumed merely on faith, and that if it occurs to anyone to doubt it, we should be unable to answer him with a satisfactory proof.

Kant proposed a "Copernican Revolution-in-reverse", saying that:

Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but ... let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition.

In simple terms, Kant argued that our experiences are structured by necessary features of our minds. The mind shapes and structures experience so that, on an abstract level, all human experience shares certain essential structural features. Among other things, Kant believed that the concepts of space and time are integral to all human experience, as are our concepts of cause and effect. We never have direct experience of things, the noumenal world, and what we do experience is the phenomenal world as conveyed by our senses. These observations summarize Kant's views upon the subject–object problem.

Kant published other important works on ethics, religion, law, aesthetics, astronomy, and history. These included the Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, 1788), the Metaphysics of Morals (Die Metaphysik der Sitten, 1797), which dealt with ethics, and the Critique of Judgment (Kritik der Urteilskraft, 1790), which looks at aesthetics and teleology. He aimed to resolve disputes between empirical and rationalist approaches. The former asserted that all knowledge comes through experience; the latter maintained that reason and innate ideas were prior. Kant argued that experience is purely subjective without first being processed by pure reason. He also said that using reason without applying it to experience only leads to theoretical illusions. The free and proper exercise of reason by the individual was a theme both of the Age of Enlightenment, and of Kant's approaches to the various problems of philosophy.

His ideas influenced many thinkers in Germany during his lifetime. He settled and moved philosophy beyond the debate between the rationalists and empiricists. The philosophers Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer amended and developed the Kantian system, thus bringing about various forms of German idealism. He is seen as a major figure in the history and development of philosophy. German and European thinking progressed after his time, and his influence still inspires philosophical work today.

Biography

Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in Königsberg, the capital of Prussia at that time, today the city of Kaliningrad in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast. He was the fourth of nine children (four of them reached adulthood). Baptized 'Emanuel', he changed his name to 'Immanuel' after learning Hebrew. In his entire life, he never traveled more than ten miles from Königsberg. His father, Johann Georg Kant (1682–1746), was a German harnessmaker from Memel, at the time Prussia's most northeastern city (now Klaipėda, Lithuania). His mother, Anna Regina Reuter (1697–1737), was born in Nuremberg. Kant's paternal grandfather had emigrated from Scotland to East Prussia, and his father still spelled their family name "Cant". In his youth, Kant was a solid, albeit unspectacular, student. He was brought up in a Pietist household that stressed intense religious devotion, personal humility, and a literal interpretation of the Bible. Kant received a stern education – strict, punitive, and disciplinary – that preferred Latin and religious instruction over mathematics and science. Despite being raised in a religious household and still maintaining a belief in God, he was skeptical of religion in later life and was an agnostic, though it would be more precise to call him a deist. The common myths concerning Kant's personal mannerisms are enumerated, explained, and refuted in Goldthwait's introduction to his translation of Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. It is often held that Kant lived a very strict and predictable life, leading to the oft-repeated story that neighbors would set their clocks by his daily walks. He never married, but did not seem to lack a rewarding social life - he was a popular teacher and a modestly successful author even before starting on his major philosophical works.

The young scholar

Kant showed a great aptitude to study at an early age. He was first sent to Collegium Fredericianum and then enrolled at the University of Königsberg (where he would spend his entire career) in 1740, at the age of 16. He studied the philosophy of Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Wolff under Martin Knutzen, a rationalist who was also familiar with developments in British philosophy and science and who introduced Kant to the new mathematical physics of Isaac Newton. Knutzen dissuaded Kant from the theory of pre-established harmony, which he regarded as "the pillow for the lazy mind". He also dissuaded the young scholar from idealism, which was negatively regarded by most philosophers in the 18th century. (The theory of transcendental idealism that Kant developed in the Critique of Pure Reason is not traditional idealism, i.e. the idea that reality is purely mental. In fact, Kant produced arguments against traditional idealism in the second part of the Critique of Pure Reason.) His father's stroke and subsequent death in 1746 interrupted his studies. Kant became a private tutor in the smaller towns surrounding Königsberg, but continued his scholarly research. In 1747, he published his first philosophical work, Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces.

Early work

Kant is best known for his work in the philosophy of ethics and metaphysics, but he made significant contributions to other disciplines. He made an important astronomical discovery, namely a discovery about the nature of the Earth's rotation, for which he won the Berlin Academy Prize in 1754.

According to Lord Kelvin:

"Kant pointed out in the middle of last century, what had not previously been discovered by mathematicians or physical astronomers, that the frictional resistance against tidal currents on the earth's surface must cause a diminution of the earth's rotational speed. This immense discovery in Natural Philosophy seems to have attracted little attention,--indeed to have passed quite unnoticed,--among mathematicians, and astronomers, and naturalists, until about 1840, when the doctrine of energy began to be taken to heart."

—Lord Kelvin, physicist, 1897

According to Thomas Huxley:

"The sort of geological speculation to which I am now referring (geological aetiology, in short) was created as a science by that famous philosopher, Immanuel Kant, when, in 1775 [1755], he wrote his General Natural History and Theory of the Celestial Bodies; or, an Attempt to Account for the Constitutional and Mechanical Origin of the Universe, upon Newtonian Principles."

—Thomas H. Huxley, 1869

In the General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens (Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels) (1755), Kant laid out the Nebular hypothesis, in which he deduced that the Solar System formed from a large cloud of gas, a nebula. He thus attempted to explain the order of the solar system, seen previously by Newton as being imposed from the beginning by God. Kant also correctly deduced that the Milky Way was a large disk of stars, which he theorized also formed from a (much larger) spinning cloud of gas. He further suggested the possibility that other nebulae might also be similarly large and distant disks of stars. These postulations opened new horizons for astronomy: for the first time extending astronomy beyond the solar system to galactic and extragalactic realms.

From this point on, Kant turned increasingly to philosophical issues, although he continued to write on the sciences throughout his life. In the early 1760s, Kant produced a series of important works in philosophy. The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures, a work in logic, was published in 1762. Two more works appeared the following year: Attempt to Introduce the Concept of Negative Magnitudes into Philosophy and The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God. In 1764, Kant wrote Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and then was second to Moses Mendelssohn in a Berlin Academy prize competition with his Inquiry Concerning the Distinctness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morality (often referred to as "The Prize Essay"). In 1770, at the age of 45, Kant was finally appointed Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Königsberg. Kant wrote his inaugural dissertation in defense of this appointment. This work saw the emergence of several central themes of his mature work, including the distinction between the faculties of intellectual thought and sensible receptivity. Not to observe this distinction would mean to commit the error of subreption, and, as he says in the last chapter of the dissertation, only in avoidance of this error does metaphysics flourish.

The issue that vexed Kant was central to what twentieth century scholars termed "the philosophy of mind." The flowering of the natural sciences had led to an understanding of how data reaches the brain. Sunlight may fall upon a distant object, whereupon light is reflected from various parts of the object in a way that maps the surface features (color, texture, etc.) of the object. The light reaches the eye of a human observer, passes through the cornea, is focused by the lens upon the retina where it forms an image similar to that formed by light passing through a pinhole into a camera obscura. The retinal cells next send impulses through the optic nerve and thereafter they form a mapping in the brain of the visual features of the distant object. The interior mapping is not the exterior thing being mapped, and our belief that there is a meaningful relationship between the exterior object and the mapping in the brain depends on a chain of reasoning that is not fully grounded. But the uncertainty aroused by these considerations, the uncertainties raised by optical illusions, misperceptions, delusions, etc., are not the end of the problems.

Kant saw that the mind could not function as an empty container that simply receives data from the outside. Something must be giving order to the incoming data. Images of external objects must be kept in the same sequence in which they were received. This ordering occurs through the mind's intuition of time. The same considerations apply to the mind's function of constituting space for ordering mappings of visual and tactile signals arriving via the already described chains of physical causation.

It is often held that Kant was a late developer, that he only became an important philosopher in his mid-50s after rejecting his earlier views. While it is true that Kant wrote his greatest works relatively late in life, there is a tendency to underestimate the value of his earlier works. Recent Kant scholarship has devoted more attention to these "pre-critical" writings and has recognized a degree of continuity with his mature work.

The silent decade

At the age of 46, Kant was an established scholar and an increasingly influential philosopher. Much was expected of him. In correspondence with his ex-student and friend Markus Herz, Kant admitted that, in the Inaugural Dissertation, he had failed to account for the relation and connection between our sensible and intellectual faculties—he needed to explain how we combine sensory knowledge with reasoned knowledge, these being related but very different processes. He also credited David Hume with awakening him from "dogmatic slumber" (circa 1771). Hume had stated that experience consists only of sequences of feelings, images or sounds. Ideas such as 'cause', goodness, or objects were not evident in experience, so why do we believe in the reality of these? Kant felt that reason could remove this skepticism, and he set himself to solving these problems. He did not publish any work in philosophy for the next eleven years.

Although fond of company and conversation with others, Kant isolated himself. He resisted friends' attempts to bring him out of his isolation. In 1778, in response to one of these offers by a former pupil, Kant wrote:

"Any change makes me apprehensive, even if it offers the greatest promise of improving my condition, and I am persuaded by this natural instinct of mine that I must take heed if I wish that the threads which the Fates spin so thin and weak in my case to be spun to any length. My great thanks, to my well-wishers and friends, who think so kindly of me as to undertake my welfare, but at the same time a most humble request to protect me in my current condition from any disturbance."

When Kant emerged from his silence in 1781, the result was the Critique of Pure Reason. Although now uniformly recognized as one of the greatest works in the history of philosophy, this Critique was largely ignored upon its initial publication. The book was long, over 800 pages in the original German edition, and written in a convoluted style. It received few reviews, and these granted no significance to the work. Its density made it, as Johann Gottfried Herder put it in a letter to Johann Georg Hamann, a "tough nut to crack," obscured by "all this heavy gossamer". Its reception stood in stark contrast to the praise Kant received for earlier works, such as his Prize Essay and shorter works that preceded the first Critique. These well-received and readable tracts include one on the earthquake in Lisbon that was so popular that it was sold by the page. Prior to the change in course documented in the first Critique, his books sold well, and by the time he published Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime in 1764 he had become a popular author of some note. Kant was disappointed with the first Critique's reception. Recognizing the need to clarify the original treatise, Kant wrote the Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics in 1783 as a summary of its main views. He also encouraged his friend, Johann Schultz, to publish a brief commentary on the Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant's reputation gradually rose through the 1780s, sparked by a series of important works: the 1784 essay, "Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?"; 1785's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (his first work on moral philosophy); and, from 1786, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. But Kant's fame ultimately arrived from an unexpected source. In 1786, Karl Reinhold began to publish a series of public letters on the Kantian philosophy. In these letters, Reinhold framed Kant's philosophy as a response to the central intellectual controversy of the era: the Pantheism Dispute. Friedrich Jacobi had accused the recently deceased G. E. Lessing (a distinguished dramatist and philosophical essayist) of Spinozism. Such a charge, tantamount to atheism, was vigorously denied by Lessing's friend Moses Mendelssohn, and a bitter public dispute arose among partisans. The controversy gradually escalated into a general debate over the values of the Enlightenment and the value of reason itself. Reinhold maintained in his letters that Kant's Critique of Pure Reason could settle this dispute by defending the authority and bounds of reason. Reinhold's letters were widely read and made Kant the most famous philosopher of his era.

Mature work

Kant published a second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft) in 1787, heavily revising the first parts of the book. Most of his subsequent work focused on other areas of philosophy. He continued to develop his moral philosophy, notably in 1788's Critique of Practical Reason (known as the second Critique) and 1797's Metaphysics of Morals. The 1790 Critique of Judgment (the third Critique) applied the Kantian system to aesthetics and teleology.

In 1792, Kant's attempt to publish the Second of the four Pieces of Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason, in the journal Berlinische Monatsschrift, met with opposition from the King's censorship commission, which had been established that same year in the context of 1789 French Revolution. Kant then arranged to have all four pieces published as a book, routing it through the philosophy department at the University of Jena to avoid the need for theological censorship. Kant got a now famous reprimand from the King, for this action of insubordination. When he nevertheless published a second edition in 1794, the censor was so irate that he arranged for a royal order that required Kant never to publish or even speak publicly about religion. Kant then published his response to the King's reprimand and explained himself, in the preface of The Conflict of the Faculties.

He also wrote a number of semi-popular essays on history, religion, politics and other topics. These works were well received by Kant's contemporaries and confirmed his preeminent status in eighteenth century philosophy. There were several journals devoted solely to defending and criticizing the Kantian philosophy. But despite his success, philosophical trends were moving in another direction. Many of Kant's most important disciples (including Reinhold, Beck and Fichte) transformed the Kantian position into increasingly radical forms of idealism. The progressive stages of revision of Kant's teachings marked the emergence of German Idealism. Kant opposed these developments and publicly denounced Fichte in an open letter in 1799. It was one of his final acts expounding a stance on philosophical questions. In 1800, a student of Kant, Gottlob Benjamin Jäsche, published a manual of logic for teachers called Logik, which he had prepared at Kant's request. Jäsche prepared the Logik using a copy of a textbook in logic by Georg Freidrich Meier entitled Auszug aus der Vernunftlehre, in which Kant had written copious notes and annotations. The Logik has been considered of fundamental importance to Kant's philosophy, and the understanding of it. The great nineteenth century logician Charles Sanders Peirce remarked, in an incomplete review of Thomas Kingsmill Abbott's English translation of the introduction to the Logik, that "Kant's whole philosophy turns upon his logic." Also, Robert Schirokauer Hartman and Wolfgang Schwarz, wrote in the translators' introduction to their English translation of the Logik, "Its importance lies not only in its significance for the Critique of Pure Reason, the second part of which is a restatement of fundamental tenets of the Logic, but in its position within the whole of Kant's work."

Kant's health, long poor, took a turn for the worse and he died at Königsberg on 12 February 1804, uttering "Es ist gut" ("It is good") before expiring. His unfinished final work, the fragmentary Opus Postumum, was, as its title suggests, published posthumously.

Tomb and statue

Kant's tomb is today in a mausoleum adjoining the northeast corner of Königsberg Cathedral in what is now known as Kaliningrad, Russia. The mausoleum was constructed by the architect Friedrich Lahrs and was finished in 1924 in time for the bicentenary of Kant's birth. Originally, Kant was buried inside the cathedral, but in 1880 his remains were moved outside and placed in a neo-Gothic chapel adjoining the northeast corner of the cathedral. Over the years, the chapel became dilapidated before it was demolished to make way for the mausoleum, which was built on the same spot, where it is today.

The tomb and its mausoleum are some of the few artifacts of German times preserved by the Soviets after they conquered and annexed the city. Today, many newlyweds bring flowers to the mausoleum.

Artifacts previously owned by Kant, known as Kantiana, were included in the Königsberg City Museum. However, the museum was destroyed during World War II.

A replica of the statue of Kant that stood in German times in front of the main University of Königsberg building was donated by a German entity in the early 1990s and placed in the same grounds.

After the expulsion of Königsberg's German population at the end of World War II, the historical University of Königsberg where Kant taught was replaced by the Russian-speaking Kaliningrad State University, which took up the campus and surviving buildings of the historic German university. In 2005, that Russian-speaking university was renamed Immanuel Kant State University of Russia in honour of Kant. The change of name was announced at a ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany, and the university further formed a Kant Society, dedicated to the study of Kantianism.

Source: wikipedia.org, news.lv

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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
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        Johans Heinrihs KantsBrother28.11.173522.02.1800
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