A German philosopher who wrote such works as Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. He came up with the idea of the Categorical Imperative which states that all people are ends in themselves. When we all live by the Categorical Imperative, we will have reached the Kingdom of Ends.

Other philosophers such as Nietzsche say that Kant is full of it.
1724 - 1804. German. Taught at Univ. of Konigsberg. Influenced by David Hume and Gottfried Wilhem Baron von Leibniz (let's stick with just Leibniz...) Stated that transcendental notions such as divinity and morality, being beyond direct experience, are unprovable and unknowable. Influenced Hegel (and by extension, Karl Marx), and William James.

"Act as if the maxim from which you act were to become through your will a universal law."

Bruces' Philosophers Song
Kant on aesthetics

Aesthetical judgment can be divided into pure judgment and empirical judgment; free beauty and dependent beauty. Only free beauty, representing nothing, is a pure judgment of taste (e.g. parrots, seashells). Dependent beauty relies on concepts, and so cannot be a pure judgment (e.g. human beauty, buildings).

Disinterested pleasure, the basis of the aesthetic judgment, is a result of harmony between imagination and understanding. To say that something is pleasant is judgment of sense and not taste : "The rose is pleasant." One should thus say "It is pleasant to me." One can only demand agreement for the judgment of beauty, not sense, for a judgment of beauty is based on a formal purposiveness.

"If all humans have these cognitive abilities (imagination and understanding), then all should be able to reach the same judgment." Kant
Kant insists that a set of rules is necessary for cognitive judgment, that one must have a trained and cultivated eye to judge objectively.

In defense of Kant and his enterprise, I offer the following observations:

  • Kant's language is difficult not because of "university seclusion" but because he is attempting to make metaphysics into a scientific discipline. I refer to the Preface to the Second Edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant's masterwork:
    Mathematics has been following the secure path of a science since the earliest times to which the history of human reason extends; it did so already among that admirable people, the Greeks... I believe that for a long time... mathematics did no more than grope about, and that its transformation into a science was due to a revolution...

    He goes on to illustrate the role of construction in geometry, when the ancient philosopher realized that "what he needed to do was not to investigate what he saw in the figure... and to let that inform him, as it were, of the figure's properties. He found, rather, that he must bring out (by constructing the figure) the properties that the figure had by virtue of what he himself was...".

    Kant's goal is to do for metaphysics what this ancient seer did for mathematics. (I say mathematics, and not geometry, because all self-consistent mathematics are reducible to geometry -- corollary of Gödel's Theorem.) So he picks terms in language and gives them VERY specific meanings. This results, naturally, in rather twisted and stilted prose, but it is unavoidable.

  • Kant was hardly the first to systematize reason. Diogenes, Plato, and Aristotle all took cracks at it 2000 years before Kant, with similar goals as Saul appears to ascribe to Kant. Why is this a failing of Kant alone?
  • Studying metaphysics is a bitch. No one would suggest otherwise. You have to deal with ugly things like semantics, weird meanings for common words, and unthinkable ideas. Is there anything to the last paragraph above other than a taunt of Kant scholars?
Zwei Dinge erfüllen das Gemüt mit immer neuer and zunehmender Bewundering und Ehrfurcht, je öfter und anhaltender sich das Nachdenken damit beschäftigt: der besternte Himmel über mir und das moralische Gesetz in mir.

(Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.)

--Kant, Critique of Practical Reason

Important works:

Immanuel Kant is widely acknowledged by philosophers of all persuasions to have been one of the greatest thinkers of all time. He is also notorious for being one of the most difficult to understand. The complexity of his prose, however, is not due to any wilful obscurantism; in reading Kant, one is aware of a thinker struggling to clothe in language ideas of the very highest level of complexity and profundity.

Born in 1724, Kant lived his entire life in the East Prussian town of Konigsberg. He never married, though he was a popular man who by all accounts led a life of the utmost order and regularity. His unique contribution to Western thought is his 'Critical Philosophy': a devastating and ingenious critique of both speculative rationalistic metaphysics, and unfettered empiricism. And yet this monumental system of thought, as set out in the Critique of Pure Reason, stems from just one seemingly humble question: how are synthetic a priori truths possible?

Kant introduced the distinction between 'analytic' and 'synthetic' judgements, despite its having been implicit in the works of Hume and Aristotle, amongst others. He characterises an analytic judgement as one in which 'the predicate B belongs to the subject A, as something which is (covertly) contained in this concept A'. (Critique of Pure Reason) The favourite example of philosophers is 'All bachelors are unmarried'. Here, the predicate ('are unmarried') simply 'unpacks' the conceptual content of the subject ('bachelors'). A distinguishing feature of such propositions is that they tell us nothing about the way the world is; instead, they simply clarify what is involved in our concepts.

In the case of synthetic judgements, by contrast, Kant tells us that the predicate 'lies outside the subject concept'. (ibid.) An example might be 'All humans are under twenty feet tall'. Whilst this proposition is no doubt true, it is nonetheless certainly not a feature of the concept 'human' that anything falling under it is under twenty feet tall. Thus, 'All humans are under twenty feet tall' gives us a substantial piece of information about the world, rather than about the concepts we apply to that world.

It should be easy to see that analytic truths are a priori: that is, knowable independently of any particular experience. I do not have to carry out a survey of bachelors to find out that they are all unmarried. But how could any synthetic truth - one which gives us real information about the world - be a priori?

Kant was of course aware that the vast majority of synthetic truths are knowable only a posteriori - that they require verification through experience. 'All humans are under twenty feet tall' could never be known a priori. He held, however, that there exists a special class of propositions that are both informative and knowable independently of this or that experience. The truths of mathematics (perhaps most significantly those of geometry), he maintained, fall into this class, as do certain other propositions, such as 'Every event has a cause'.

There is nothing about the concept of 7+5 that dictates that it should be equal to 12, nor about the concept of a straight line that it should be the shortest distance between two points. And yet the propositions '7+5=12' and 'A straight line is the shortest distance between two points' are both knowable a priori. Similarly, it is not part of the concept of an event that it should have a cause, and yet we can know with absolute certainty, thinks Kant, that any event will be caused. But how can we know such truths a priori?

Kant's answer to this question is both radical and astonishing. Let us start with the case of geometry. There can only, thinks Kant, be one explanation of our a priori knowledge of the properties of space: the spatial properties of the world must be contributed by the knowing subject. That is, the world as it is in itself is not made up of objects arranged in space. Only the world as it appears to us is spatial, and this is precisely because space is nothing more than our way of representing the world to ourselves. In Kant's own terminology, space is nothing more than a form of intuition (that is, a form of sensory perception). Kant employs a similar, though much weaker, argument to conclude that time, too, is a mere form of intuition. Space and time are features of the phenomenal world - the world as it appears to us - only. The noumenal world - the world of things as they are in themselves - is aspatial and atemporal.

Similarly, causal relations have a subjective origin, being, as it were, 'projected' into the world by the experiencing consciousness. Consequently, causation too is a feature only of the world of appearances, and not of the world independent of our cognitive faculties. However, whereas the forms of intuition are features of our faculty of sensibility (the passive faculty that receives sense impressions), causation is one of twelve 'categories', or 'a priori concepts' imposed on sense impressions by the understanding (the active faculty of reason).

Kant's epistemology stands as a critique of both empiricism and rationalism. The empiricist view is wrong, since the mind is not a mere tabula rasa which passively receives knowledge of the world through the senses. The rationalist view is just as mistaken, as reason alone can never give rise to knowledge, since knowledge demands both concepts and the raw data supplied by the senses. Thus speculative metaphysics - the attempt to achieve theoretical knowledge of non-empirical subjects such as the existence of God, freedom, and immortality - inevitably falls into illusion. It aims to gain knowledge of the world as it is in itself, but theoretical knowledge can only be of the world as it appears.

However, whilst Kant held that we have no theoretical knowledge of such things, he maintained that we can have a practical knowledge of them. Consider free will. When I think of my actions as constituents of the phenomenal world, I am obliged to regard them as produced by rigid deterministic laws, but when I consider those same actions as they are in the noumenal world, I am not so obliged. I can have practical knowledge of that freedom which I am required to postulate in order to account for my inescapable sense of myself as a responsible moral agent.

It seems to many that a choice has to be made between two apparently incompatible ways of looking at the world: the spiritual and the ethical on the one hand, and the scientific on the other. If Kant is right, the dichotomy between these two ways of looking at the world is purely illusory. There is room in the world for both determinism and freedom, for science and spirituality.

Much mystery surrounds the death of Immanuel Kant, the famous German philosopher. I will try to explain his untimely death.

It is well known that Kant met his maker in the United States, less known that it was near a high security federal compound.

On the night of his expiry, Kant was touring the East Coast on a drinking spree with some friends, when he had to pee. He stopped the car, and stumbled into the forest to bleed his lizard. In his inebriated state, after urinating, he could not find his way back to the vehicle. So he wandered around, and by chance found himself opposite a large African American soldier. This is the transcription of the dialogue.

	Soldier (A.A.): “Halt”.
	I.K.: “Ja”
	A.A.: “Sir! Do you know you are on U.S. property?”
	E.K.: “Ja”
	A.A.: “Can you tell me your name, Sir?”
	E.K.: “Kant”
	A.A.: “I said, SIR!!! Can you or can you NOT tell me your NAME? SIR!!!?”
	E.K: ”Kant”
	A.A.: “SIR!!!!! I am afraid you must TELL ME YOUR NAME”
	E.K: “I am sorry, you don’t understand my accent? Kant, kunt.”
        A.A.: “Sir! Tell me your name or I will be forced to discharge this here AK47, SIR!”
	E.K.: “The mind does not get its laws from nature, but DICTATES them to nature.”
	A.A.: “Eat hot lead.”

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