Summary of Immanuel Kant's Life

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Summary of Immanuel Kant's Life Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) spent all of his life in Königsberg, a small German town on the Baltic Sea in East Prussia. (After World War II, Germany's border was pushed west, so Königsberg is now called Kaliningrad and is part of Russia.) At the age of fifty-five, Kant appeared to be a washout. He had taught at Königsberg University for over twenty years, yet had not published any works of significance. During the last twenty-five years of his life, however, Kant left a mark on the history of philosophy that is rivaled only by such towering giants as Plato and Aristotle. Kant's three major works are often considered to be the starting points for different branches of modern philosophy: the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) for the philosophy of mind; the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) for moral philosophy; and the Critique of Judgment (1790) for aesthetics, the philosophy of art. The Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals was published in 1785, just before the Critique of Practical Reason. It is essentially a short introduction to the argument presented in the second Critique. In order to understand what Kant is up to in this book, it is useful to know something about Kant's other works and about the intellectual climate of his time. Kant lived and wrote during a period in European intellectual history called the "Enlightenment." Stretching from the mid-seventeenth century to the early nineteenth, this period produced the ideas about human rights and democracy that inspired the French and American revolutions. (Some other major figures of the Enlightenment were Locke, Hume, Rousseau, and Leibniz.) The characteris... ... middle of paper ... ...mental concepts of reason. Some later scholars and philosophers have criticized Enlightenment philosophers like Kant for placing too much confidence in reason. Some have argued that rational analysis isn't the best way to deal with moral questions. Further, some have argued that Enlightenment thinkers were pompous to think that they could discover the timeless truths of reason; in fact, their ideas were determined by their culture just as all other people's are. Some experts have gone as far as to associate the Enlightenment with the crimes of imperialism, noting a similarity between the idea of reason dispelling myth and the idea that Western people have a right and a duty to supplant less "advanced" civilizations. As we work through the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, we will return to such criticisms as they apply to Kant.
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