Saturday, January 3, 2009


Uploaded by jamesinger June 14, 2006 at 05:44 pm

After answering the question, “what can we know?” Kant was naturally confronted with the next question: “what should we do?” and the closely related third question, “what can we hope for?”
Kant was born in Königsberg; he spent his life there; he died there. At the age of forty-six, Kant received an appointment as a professor of logic and metaphysics at his alma mater the University of Königsberg.

The old building of the Albertina
The old building is where Kant taught
It no longer exists, because of World War II
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher whose comprehensive and systematic work in the theory of knowledge, ethics, and aesthetics greatly influenced all subsequent philosophy, especially the various schools of Kantianism and Idealism. He was the foremost thinker of the Enlightenment and one of the greatest philosophers of all time. In him were subsumed new trends that had begun with the Rationalism (stressing reason) of René Descartes and the Empiricism (stressing experience) of Francis Bacon. He thus inaugurated a new era in the development of philosophical thought.
During the 1760s he became increasingly critical of Leibnizianism. According to one of his students, Kant was then attacking Leibniz, Wolff, and Baumgarten, was a declared follower of Newton, and expressed great admiration for the moral philosophy of the Romanticist Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Image by Raquel at © 2005-2009
He argued that philosophy must begin with concepts that are already given, “though confusedly or insufficiently determined,” so that philosophers cannot begin with definitions without thereby shutting themselves up within a circle of words. Philosophy cannot, like mathematics, proceed synthetically; it must analyze and clarify. The importance of the moral order, which he had learned from Rousseau, reinforced the conviction received from his study of Newton that a synthetic philosophy is empty and false.
In 1781 the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (spelled “Critik” in the first edition; Critique of Pure Reason) was published, followed for the next nine years by great and original works that in a short time brought a revolution in philosophical thought and established the new direction in which it was to go in the years to come. Full Text of The Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn from Kant Archive at
Kant had accounted for the application of the mind’s a priori principles to objects by demonstrating that the objects conform to the mind: in knowing, it is not the mind that conforms to things but instead things that conform to the mind.

John Clarke's outline of Kant's first Critique at
Kelley Ross's Overview of Kant at with a concentration on Kant's view of space; Dr. Ross teaches philosophy at Los Angeles Valley College
(From David Hume: Links (web resources on Hume)maintained by Richard Lee)

Geoffrey Warnock on Kant: Section 1 (Time: 8:46)
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Kant's analysis of commonsense ideas begins with the thought that the only thing good without qualification is a ‘good will’. While the phrases ‘he's good hearted’, ‘she's good natured’ and ‘she means well’ are common, ‘the good will’ as Kant thinks of it is not the same as any of these ordinary notions. The idea of a good will is closer to the idea of a ‘good person’, or, more archaically, a ‘person of good will’. The basic idea is that what makes a good person good is his possession of a will that is in a certain way ‘determined’ by, or makes its decisions on the basis of, the moral law. The idea of a good will is supposed to be the idea of one who only makes decisions that she holds to be morally worthy, taking moral considerations in themselves to be conclusive reasons for guiding her behavior. Courage may be laid aside if it requires injustice, and it is better not to be witty if it requires cruelty. possessing and maintaining one's moral goodness is the very condition under which anything else is worth having or pursuing. Intelligence and even pleasure are worth having only on the condition that they do not require giving up one's fundamental moral convictions.
Duties are created by rules or laws of some sort. For instance, the bylaws of a club lay down duties for its officers. City and state laws establish the duties of citizens. Thus, if we do something because it is our ‘civic’ duty, or our duty ‘as a boy scout’ or ‘a good citizen’, our motivation is respect for the code that makes it our duty. Thinking we are duty bound is simply respecting certain laws pertaining to us.
As it turns out, the only (non-moral) end that we must will in Kant's view (by ‘natural necessity’ he says) is our own happiness. Any imperative that applied to us because we will our own happiness would thus be an assertoric imperative. As it turns out, however, rationality can issue no imperative if the end is indeterminate, and happiness is an indeterminate end. Although we can say for the most part that if one is to be happy, one should save for the future, take care of one's health and nourish one's relationships, these fail to be genuine commands. Some people are happy without these, and whether you could be happy without them is, although doubtful, an open question.
we may think of a person as free when bound only by her own will and not by the will of another. Her actions then express her own will and not the will of someone or something else. The authority of the principles binding her will is then also not external to her will. It comes from the fact that she willed them. So autonomy, when applied to an individual, ensures that the source of the authority of the principles that bind her is in her own will. Kant's view can be seen as the view that the moral law is just such a principle.
Kant's says that a will that cannot exercise itself except under the Idea of its freedom is free from a practical point of view (im practischer Absicht). In saying such wills are free from a practical point of view, he is saying that in engaging in practical endeavors — trying to decide what to do, what to hold oneself and others responsible for, and so on — one is justified in holding oneself to all of the principles to which one would be justified in holding wills that are autonomous free wills. Thus, once we have established the set of prescriptions, rules, laws and directives that would bind an autonomous free will, we then hold ourselves to this very same of set prescriptions, rules, laws and directives. And one is justified in this because rational agency can only operate by seeking to be the first cause of its actions, and these are the prescriptions, and so on, of being a first cause of action.
Crucially, rational wills that are negatively free must be autonomous, or so Kant argues. This is because the will is a kind of cause — willing causes action. Kant took from Hume the idea that causation implies universal regularities: if x causes y, then there is some universally valid law connecting Xs to Ys. So, if my will is the cause of my φing, then Φing is connected to the sort of willing I engage in by some universal law. But it can't be a natural law, such as a psychological, physical, chemical or biological law. These laws, which Kant thought were universal too, govern the movements of my body, the workings of my brain and nervous system and the operation of my environment and its effects on me as a material being.
Kant defines virtue as “the moral strength of a human being's will in fulfilling his duty” (6:405) and vice as principled immorality.
Kant's account of virtue presupposes an account of moral duty already in place. Thus, rather than treating admirable character traits as more basic than the notions of right and wrong conduct, Kant takes virtues to be explicable only in terms of a prior account of moral or dutiful behavior. Virtue is for Kant a strength of will, and hence does not arise as the result of instilling a ‘second nature’ by a process of habituating or training ourselves to act and feel in particular ways. It is indeed a disposition, but a disposition of one's will, not a disposition of emotions, feelings, desires or any other feature of human nature that might be amenable to habituation.
A virtue is some sort of excellence of the soul , but one finds classical theorists treating wit and friendliness along side courage and justice. Since Kant holds moral virtue to be a trait grounded in moral principle, the boundary between non-moral and moral virtues could not be more sharp. Morality is ‘duty’ for human beings because it is possible (and we recognize that it is possible) for our desires and interests to run counter to its demands. Should all of our desires and interests be trained ever so carefully to comport with what morality actually requires of us, this would not change in the least the fact that morality is still duty for us. The lack of virtue is compatible with possessing a good will. That one acts from duty, even repeatedly and reliably can thus be quite compatible with an absence of the moral strength to overcome contrary interests and desires. Indeed, it may often be no challenge at all to do one's duty from duty alone. Someone with a good will, who is genuinely committed to duty for its own sake, might simply fail to encounter any significant temptation that would reveal the lack of strength to follow through with that commitment.
-'Kant's Moral Philosophy', First published Mon Feb 23, 2004
Copyright © 2008 by Robert Johnson at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (The University of Adelaide)
The Critique of Judgement (translated by James Creed Meredith)
The Critique of Pure Reason (translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn)
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals (translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott)
Introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals (translated by W. Hastie)
The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics (translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott)
The Science of Right (translated by W. Hastie)

1 Life and works
2 Kant's work to 1770
3 The Inaugural Dissertation of 1770 and the problem of metaphysics
4 The project of the Critique of Pure Reason
5 Space, time and transcendental idealism
6 Pure concepts of the understanding
7 The principles of judgment and the foundations of science
8 The illusions of theoretical reason
9 The value of autonomy and the foundations of ethics
10 Duties of right and duties of virtue
11 Freedom of the will and the highest good
12 Taste and autonomy
13 Design and autonomy
14 The final decade of Kant's public and private career
(GUYER, PAUL (1998, 2004). Kant, Immanuel. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved January 03, 2009, from

Of his parents he said:
"My two parents (from the class of tradesmen) were perfectly honest, morally decent, and orderly. They did not leave me a fortune (but neither did they leave me any debts). Moreover, they gave me an education that could not have been better when considered from the moral point of view. Every time I think of this I am touched by feelings of the highest gratitude".
"I will never forget my mother, for she implanted and nurtured in me the first germ of goodness; she opened my heart to the impressions of nature; she awakened and furthered my concepts, and her doctrines have had a continual and beneficial influence in my life."

Kaliningrad: homage to German philosopher Immanuel Kant
Photo by G.Frysinger
Image is part of

Kaliningrad: Immanuel Kant tomb / Grabmal Immanuel Kants
Photo by G.Frysinger
Image is part of

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