Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Beth Lord

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    The most important European philosopher of the last millenium, there is virtually no area of modern philosophy that has not been influenced by the work of Immanuel Kant. Kant was born the son of a saddle-maker in 1724 in Konigsberg, East Prussia, a city which, famously, he never left. After completing his schooling at the Pietist Collegium Fredericianum, Kant began his studies at the University of Konigsberg, which was to be his base for all of his academic life. He became Privatdozent at the University, where he was obliged to lecture for long hours on a wide array of subjects, including physics, mathematics, anthropology and pedagogy, with no regular income beyond the money paid to him by lecture audiences. Both his studies and his teaching were dominated by Leibnizian-Wolffian philosophy and Newtonian mechanics, but during his time as Privatdozent Kant managed to publish a number of scientific and metaphysical pieces that established him as a rigorous philosophical thinker in his own right. The influence of Hume was instrumental, as Kant was later to remark, for interrupting his "dogmatic slumber" (Prolegomena, 260). Kant finally received a professorship in philosophy in 1770 at the age of 46. After the publication of his Inaugural Dissertation, a work that remained tied to the rationalist interests of his early thought, Kant even went through a "silent decade" in which he reassessed his philosophical position and began to reformulate the problems and arguments that would dominate his "critical" period. In 1781, after a rush to assemble a manuscript, he finally published the Critique of Pure Reason. The second edition of the Critique, with substantial changes, was published in 1787; the difference between the two editions shows Kant actively developing his thought on the possibility of knowledge, the limits of metaphysics, and the formulation of a coherent philosophy of nature. Arguably, from1781 Kant was in a continuous and active process of assessing and rethinking. The development of the ideas in the first critique can be seen in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786), Critique of Judgment (1791), and Opus Postumum (unpublished in his lifetime). During this period Kant also published his major works of moral theory: the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1788). These were supplemented by practical moral and political works including the Metaphysics of Morals (1797), Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (1793), and Perpetual Peace (1795). Kant also published influential essays on the sciences, the philosophy of history, and legal theory, and published his lectures on logic and anthropology. It has passed into philosophical folklore that the people of Konigsberg would set their watches by Kant's daily walks. Yet while Kant's life was undoubtedly disciplined, it was by no means ascetic or narrowly-focused. He enjoyed the company of men and women from cosmolpolitan Konisberg society, and hosted frequent lunch parties at which politics, literature, fashion and food were as much discussed as metaphysics. Kant did not marry or have children, but seems to have been sustained by a number of close friendships through his adult life. He died in 1804, his reputation as a great philosopher firmly established.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Whiteheadian process thought
    EditorsMichel Weber, Will Desmond
    PublisherOntos Verlag
    Number of pages11
    ISBN (Print)978-3-938793-92-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Publication series

    NameProcess thought


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