IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804)

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who began in the tradition of Continental rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz), was awakened from his dogmatic slumber by Hume's attacks on the rationalist account of causality, and ended by producing a critical philosophy which in some ways synthesizes elements from both the empiricist tradition (Gassendi, Locke, Berkeley and Hume) and the Continental rationalists. At least, this is where Kant placed himself in the picture, whether accurately or not is open to question.

Kant sought to show that some basic principles of science and mathematics which in fact tell us things about the world (and are therefore synthetic, could be known a priori -- that is by intuition alone without experience. While allowing that some synthetic a priori judgements are possible, Kant holds that a good deal of metaphysics which claims to know about the world by reasoning alone is illegitimate. The Kantian system has been enormously influential over the last two centuries.

Kant's ethical works have also had an enormous influence. The distinction between categorical and hypothetical imperatives, the concept of the good will and the idea that ethical judgements should not be made on the basis of the consequences of actions but on whether they are right or not measured by the standard of the categorical imperative have made Kantianism a great contender with Utilitarianism and other ethical systems.

Kant Time Line

1724April 22, born in Königsburg, East Prussia, to a family of the pietist sect.
1734Enters the Collegium Fredericianum to study theology, excells in the classics.
1740Enters the University of Konigsburg and studies mathematics and physics.
1746Finishes study at the university and spends the next nine years employed as a private tutor. His father dies.
1755Earns his masters degree and lectures at the university for the next fifteen years as a Privatdozent.
1766Earns the post of the under-librarian.
1770Finally promoted to professorship of logic and metaphysics.
1781Publishes Critique of Pure Reason.
1783Publishes Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics.
1785Publishes Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.
1788Publishes Critique of Practical Reason.
1790Publishes Critique of Judgement.
1792Is embroiled with the Government review regarding his religious doctrines and prohibited from lecturing or writing on religious subjects by the king Frederick William II.
1793Publishes Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.
1794Withdraws from society but continues his lectures.
1795Reduces his lectures to one each week.
1797Retires from his post at the university. The death of King Frederick William II removes the ban on his religious writing and lecturing. Publishes Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.
1798Publishes Anthropology, Considered from a Pragmatic Viewpoint.
1804February 12, dies in Konigsburg having never travelled more than forty miles from his home town.

Kant Time Line Sources


        Critique of Pure Reason
        Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
        Idea for a Universal History
        Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals
        Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
        Critique of Practical Reason
        Critique of Judgement
        Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone
        Perpetual Peace
        Metaphysic of Morals
        Anthropology from a Pragmatic Viewpoint

For a access to variety electronic texts of Kant's works including all three and the Metaphysics of Morals click on "Kant's works" in the this sentence.