Kant as a Philosopher

analytical Essay
1257 words
1257 words

Kant as a Philosopher

How does one label Kant as a philosopher? Is he a rationalist or an empiricist? Kant makes a distinction between appearances and things in themselves. He also says that things in themselves exist, and that we have no knowledge of things in themselves. This could be labeled "CLOSE TO NONSENSE", but we know Kant better than that. No matter how many laps on the track of metaphysics Kant takes us through, he is still widely held as one of the greatest modern philosophers of our time. Let us explore the schools of rationalism and empiricism and compare his views with that of other rationalists and empiricists (mainly Hume), and see where he ends up on the finish line towards the nature of human knowledge.

The term rationalism is used to designate any mode of thought in which human reason holds the place of supreme truth. Knowledge in this school of thought must be founded upon necessary truths (those that must be true and cannot be false); our ideas are derived from our experience; everything we experience is finite, but we do have the idea of infinity or else we couldn’t conceive of things as finite. Descartes and Leibniz are well-known rationalists (handout on Rationalism versus Empiricism).

Empiricism, on the other hand, is the concept that knowledge is grounded in experience, not reason, and our minds begin as a tabula rasa (term used by the great empiricist, John Locke meaning blank slate). Reason, for empiricists, can only process the ideas experience gives us. Knowledge is also founded on contingent truths (those that can be false and true); necessary truths are only good for organizing our ideas, as in mathematics, but that is all. There are also no innate ideas in empiricism; all of ou...

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...ive today, maybe he wouldn’t choose either side. So, as for the race for who is more accurate at explaining the nature of human knowledge, it turns out that Kant is not a participant in the race after all. Nevertheless, he stands at the sidelines and fires the gun, and awaits the other modern philosophers to complete their race towards the finish line.


Ariew, R. and Watkins, E. Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources

Hackett: Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1998.

Ross, K.L., 2000.

Note: I found this website and judged its credibility to be pretty accurate. I usually don’t quote so much from websites, but he (or she) mainly quoted from the texts that I read for class anyway. Reading the text that the website provided helped me to better understand Kant. I hope that this was okay.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains kant's distinction between appearances and things in themselves. he is widely held as one of the greatest modern philosophers of our time.
  • Explains that rationalism is a mode of thought in which human reason holds the supreme truth.
  • Explains that empiricism is the concept that knowledge is grounded in experience, not reason, and our minds begin as a blank slate.
  • Explains that kant's theory of the thing in itself is the product of our mind’s commitment to thinking about phenomena as appearances.
  • Explains that kant believed that there are important propositions that can be known independently of experience, contrary to the basic empiricist principle.
  • Analyzes kant's critique of pure reason (transcendental deduction) and his position with rationalism.
  • Argues that kant's notion that reason connects us directly to things in themselves doesn't allow for metaphysics as practiced by the rationalists because reason alone does not determine any positive content of knowledge.
  • Argues that kant's theory of empirical realism is difficult to understand. since phenomena are mental contents, it is natural and easy to infer from this a cartesian transcendental
  • Opines that the lack of clear settlement in this area of basic thought is one of the most difficult problems in kant's philosophy.
  • Explains berkeley was an idealist and characteristic empiricist while descartes was a realist, believing reasonably that objects exist independent of us, but who also thought that we could only know their essences through "clear and distinct" innate ideas, not experience.
  • Explains that locke was not aware that everything familiar from traditional philosophy (or even mathematics) wasn't going to be so traceable. kant began, like hume, asking about the legitimacy of concepts.
  • Analyzes how hume's critique of the concept of cause and effect questioned the principle of causality, and how he expressed the defect of such a principle made sense to kant.
  • Explains that hume denied the existence of synthetic a priori propositions, but he does not see that the relationship of cause and effect is discovered or known from anything.
  • Explains that kant believes that concepts like causality are "conditions of the possibility of experience" because they are the rules by which perception and experience are united into a single consciousness called "synthesis".
  • Opines that kant's argument is of great value, especially when we untangle it from the earlier views of perception in the critique, but it suffers from a couple of drawbacks.
  • Opines that kant's critique of pure reason (transcendental aesthetic and analytic) was difficult to interpret. philosophers and essayists around the world have made numerous attempts at cracking the code to his cryptic hypotheses.
  • Explains that they found this website and judged its credibility to be pretty accurate.
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