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Kant, Immanuel

Kant, Immanuel

Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804, German metaphysician, one of the greatest figures in philosophy, b. Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

Early Life and Works

Kant was educated in his native city, tutored in several families, and after 1755 lectured at the Univ. of Königsberg in philosophy and various sciences. He became professor of logic and metaphysics in 1770 and achieved wide renown through his writings and teachings. His early work, reflecting his studies of Christian Wolff and G. W. Leibniz, was followed by a period of great development culminating in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781, tr. Critique of Pure Reason). This work inaugurated his so-called critical period—the period of his major writings. The more important among these writings were Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik (1783, tr. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics), Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785, tr. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals), Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788, tr. Critique of Practical Reason), and Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790, tr. Critique of Judgment). His Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft (1793, tr. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone) provoked a government order to desist from further publications on religion.

Philosophy

According to Kant, his reading of David Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumber and set him on the road to becoming the "critical philosopher," whose position can be seen as a synthesis of the Leibniz-Wolffian rationalism and the Humean skepticism. Kant termed his basic insight into the nature of knowledge "the Copernican revolution in philosophy."

Instead of assuming that our ideas, to be true, must conform to an external reality independent of our knowing, Kant proposed that objective reality is known only insofar as it conforms to the essential structure of the knowing mind. He maintained that objects of experience—phenomena—may be known, but that things lying beyond the realm of possible experience—noumena, or things-in-themselves—are unknowable, although their existence is a necessary presupposition. Phenomena that can be perceived in the pure forms of sensibility, space, and time must, if they are to be understood, possess the characteristics that constitute our categories of understanding. Those categories, which include causality and substance, are the source of the structure of phenomenal experience.

The scientist, therefore, may be sure only that the natural events observed are knowable in terms of the categories. Our field of knowledge, thus emancipated from Humean skepticism, is nevertheless limited to the world of phenomena. All theoretical attempts to know things-in-themselves are bound to fail. This inevitable failure is the theme of the portion of the Critique of Pure Reason entitled the "Transcendental Dialectic." Here Kant shows that the three great problems of metaphysics—God, freedom, and immortality—are insoluble by speculative thought. Their existence can be neither affirmed nor denied on theoretical grounds, nor can they be scientifically demonstrated, but Kant shows the necessity of a belief in their existence in his moral philosophy.

Kant's ethics centers in his categorical imperative (or moral law)—"Act as if the maxim from which you act were to become through your will a universal law." This law has its source in the autonomy of a rational being, and it is the formula for an absolutely good will. However, since we are all members of two worlds, the sensible and the intelligible, we do not infallibly act in accordance with this law but, on the contrary, almost always act according to inclination. Thus what is objectively necessary, i.e., to will in conformity to the law, is subjectively contingent; and for this reason the moral law confronts us as an "ought."

In the Critique of Practical Reason Kant went on to state that morality requires the belief in the existence of God, freedom, and immortality, because without their existence there can be no morality. In the Critique of Judgment Kant applied his critical method to aesthetic and teleological judgments. The chief purpose of this work was to find a bridge between the sensible and the intelligible worlds, which are sharply distinguished in his theoretical and practical philosophy. This bridge is found in the concepts of beauty and purposiveness that suggest at least the possibility of an ultimate union of the two realms.

The Impact of Kantian Philosophy

The impact of Kant's work has been incalculable. In addition to being the impetus to the development of German idealism by J. G. Fichte, F. W. Schelling, and G. W. F. Hegel, Kant's philosophy has influenced almost every area of thought. Among the major outgrowths of Kant's work was the Neo-Kantianism of the late 19th cent. This movement had many branches in Germany, France, and Italy; the two chief ones were the Marburg school, founded by Hermann Cohen and including Ernst Cassirer, and the Heidelberg school, led by Wilhelm Windelband and Heinrich Rickert.

The Marburg school was primarily concerned with the application of Kantian insights to the understanding of the physical sciences, and the Heidelberg school with the application of Kant to the historical and cultural sciences. Closely connected with the latter group was the social philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey. Kant influenced English thought through the philosophy of Sir William Hamilton and T. H. Green, and some Kantian ideas are found in the pragmatism of William James and John Dewey. In theology, Kant's influence can be seen in the writings of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl; his ideas in biology were developed by Hans Driesch and in Gestalt psychology by Wolfgang Köhler. All of Kant's important works have been translated into English.

Bibliography

See H. W. Cassirer, A Commentary on Kant's Critique of Judgment (1938, repr. 1970) and Kant's First Critique (1954); L. W. Beck, Studies in the Philosophy of Kant (1965) and (ed.) Kant Studies Today (1969); H. Arendt, Lectures on Kant's Philosophy (1989).

(born April 22, 1724, Königsberg, Prussia—died Feb. 12, 1804, Königsberg) German philosopher, one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlightenment. The son of a saddler, he studied at the university in Königsberg and taught there as privatdocent (1755–70) and later as professor of logic and metaphysics (1770–97). His life was uneventful. His Critique of Pure Reason (1781) discusses the nature of knowledge in mathematics and physics and demonstrates the impossibility of knowledge in metaphysics as it was traditionally conceived. Kant argued that the propositions of mathematics and physics, but not those of metaphysics, are “synthetic a priori,” in the sense that they are about objects of possible experience (synthetic) but at the same time knowable prior to, or independently of, experience (a priori), thus making them also necessarily true, rather than merely contingently true (see necessity). Mathematics is synthetic and a priori because it deals with space and time, both of which are forms of human sensibility that condition whatever is apprehended through the senses. Similarly, physics is synthetic and a priori because in its ordering of experience it uses concepts (“categories”) whose function is to prescribe the general form that sensible experience must take. Metaphysics in the traditional sense, understood as knowledge of the existence of God, the freedom of the will, and the immortality of the soul, is impossible, because these questions transcend any possible sense experience. But though they cannot be objects of knowledge, they are nevertheless justified as essential postulates of a moral life. Kant's ethics, which he expounded in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the earlier Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), was based on the principle known as the “categorical imperative,” one formulation of which is, “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” His last great work, The Critique of Judgment (1790), concerns the nature of aesthetic judgment and the existence of teleology, or purposiveness, in nature. Kant's thought represents a turning point in the history of philosophy. In his own words, he effected a Copernican revolution: just as the founder of modern astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus, had explained the apparent movements of the stars by ascribing them partly to the movement of the observers, so Kant had accounted for the existence of a priori synthetic knowledge by demonstrating that in knowing, it is not the mind that conforms to things but instead things that conform to the mind. Seealso analytic-synthetic distinction; deontological ethics; idealism; Kantianism.

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Kant is a city in the Chui Valley of northern Kyrgyzstan, some 20 km from the capital of Bishkek. It is the administrative center of the Ysyk-Ata District (formerly Kant District).

The Kyrgyz word for sugar is "kant", and the city received its name when a sugar plant was built there in the 1930s. (It is an often repeated myth that the town was named after the German philosopher Immanuel Kant).

Kant is an industrial and service center. Among notable local enterprises is the Abdysh Ata Brewery, whose products are well known throughout Kyrgyzstan. During the Soviet era, Kant and its surrounding area were home to a large number of ethnic Germans who had been forcibly relocated to Central Asia in 1941 from the Volga region when the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was abolished. Most left for Germany during the 1990s and after the demise of the Soviet Union when the factories where they had worked shut down. Several other nearby settlements, such as Luxemburg and Bergtal, still carry their German names, but retain only very small remnants of their Volga German and Russian Mennonite founders.

Air base

The Kant Air Base near the city is now host to the Russian Air Force's 5th Air Army's 999th Air Base positioned in Kyrgyzstan in response to the United States presence at Manas Air Base.

Sports

Recently, Kant became a capital of football in Kyrgyzstan due to its contribution to the development of football. There are many new football grounds and pitches in Kant which will be kept and maintained in good condition throughout the year. Moreover, the Abdysh-Ata company recently installed in a new artificial pitch on the Sportkompleks Abdysh-Ata - home of Abdish-Ata Kant, a local soccer team - which indicates Kant's commitment to make it possible for football to thrive in Kyrgyzstan.

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