Immanuel, Kant (1724-1804) Essay examples

Immanuel, Kant (1724-1804) Essay examples

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Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in the East Prussian town of Königsberg and lived there practically all his life. He came from a deeply pious Lutheran family, and his own religious convictions formed a significant background to his philosophy. Like Berkeley, he felt it was essential to preserve the foundations of Christian belief.

Kant became Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Königsberg in 1770 and taught there for most of his life. He was also greatly interested in science and published works on astronomy and geophysics.

His three most significant works were published later in life. The Critique of Pure Reason came out in 1781, followed in 1788 by the Critique of Practical Reason and in 1790 by the Critique of Judgment. The Critique of Pure Reason is one of the most important works in the whole of philosophy. Unfortunately it is also one of the most unreadable - Kant himself described it as dry and obscure.

Kant had generally been an outgoing and friendly man but towards the end of his life his mental faculties and his sight deteriorated badly. He died a shadow of his former self, aged 80. One of his most quoted sayings is carved on his gravestone in Königsberg: "Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the reflection dwells on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me".


IDEAS
Kant believed that there are clear limits to what we can know. You could perhaps say that the mind's "glasses" set these limits.

The philosophers before Kant had discussed the really "big" questions - for instance, whether man has an immortal soul, whether there is a God, whether nature consists of tiny indivisible particles, and whether the universe is finite or infinite. Kant believed there was no certain knowledge to be obtained on these questions. In such great philosophical questions, he thought that reason operates beyond the limits of what we humans can comprehend. At the same time there is in our nature a basic desire to pose these questions. When, for example, we ask whether the universe has always existed, we are asking about a totality of which we ourselves are a tiny part. We can therefore never completely know this totality.

According to Kant there are two elements that contribute to our knowledge of the world - sensory perception and re...


... middle of paper ...


...etimes you might only be kind and helpful to others because you know it pays off. It could be a way of becoming popular. But if this is your only motive you are not acting out of respect for moral law. You might be acting in accordance with moral law - and that could be fair enough - but if it is to be a moral action, you must have conquered yourself. Only when you do something purely out of duty can it be called a moral action. Kant's ethics is therefore sometimes called duty ethics.

Kant also advocated the establishment of a "league of nations". In his treatise Perpetual Peace, he wrote that all countries should unite in order to assure peaceful coexistence between nations. He believed that man's "practical reason" would force the nations to emerge from the wild state of nature which creates wars, and make a contract to keep the peace. Kant recognised that this would take time to achieve but he saw it as our duty to work for the universal and lasting securing of peace. About 125 years after the appearance of Kant's treatise in 1795, the League of Nations was founded, after the First World War. After the Second World War it was replaced by the United Nations.

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