Summary of Immanuel Kant's Life Essay

Summary of Immanuel Kant's Life Essay

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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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