Kant's life, works and bibliography

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  1. Modern Philosophy
    1. Detailed biography: Kant's life
    2. Youth
    3. The Master
    4. The Philosopher: The Critical Period
    5. Key dates
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Modern Philosophy

Kant is an 18th century German philosopher (1724-1804). A thinker of the German Enlightenment (the Aufklärung), he is known primarily for his work The Critique of Pure Reason, but also for his reflections on morality, aesthetics and politics.

Kant

Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

The fourth of a family of eleven children, he was born and died in Könisberg, without ever leaving his native region. He lived according to an immutable schedule.

Professor at the University of Königsberg, he was one of the first philosophers to hold a university chair.

Detailed biography: Kant's life

Youth

Kant was born in 1724 in Königsberg, Germany, in a modest environment. He is the fourth child of a large family: he has ten brothers and sisters. His father, a saddler, worked in leather.

He studied at the Collegium Fridericianum and entered the University of Königsberg at the age of sixteen.

He wanted to study theology, but also took courses in mathematics and philosophy, which introduced him to Leibniz's thought.

Discovers Newton's thinking and becomes interested in physics and astronomy.

At the age of twenty-six, he had to interrupt his studies, after the death of his father, to earn a living.

As a tutor, he teaches classes to wealthy families. This phase of his life will last nine years, and he writes his first Dissertation: Thoughts on the True Evaluation of Life Forces.

His thoughts then turned to the natural sciences and mathematics. From this period dates, for instance, a General History and Theory of the Sky, or a reflection on earthquakes.

The Master

In 1755, he became a professor at the University of Königsberg; he was not paid by the state, but by his students.

Therefore, he was a private tutor who taught in a public structure.

This is because he did not win a public competition, but was named after the publication of his second essay New Explanation of the First Principles of Metaphysical Knowledge.

Kant is the first historical example of a great philosopher providing a university education.

He teaches various subjects, from moral philosophy to mathematics, from the art of fireworks to the science of fortifications.

He lives according to an immutable schedule, set like a metronome: he starts work at 5 in the morning, has dinner at 12:45, and in his daily walk he always makes the same route, arriving at this or that street at the same time every day, so that some of the city's inhabitants put their clocks in his sight.

Finally, he goes to bed every night at ten o'clock.

He has never left his native region, but in his own way, he is open to the world, as he follows the political news every day, especially the problems related to the French Revolution, and receives many friends for dinner, as well as strangers.

He only changed his daily rhythm twice, once to get a copy of Rousseau's Social Contract, and once when he received news of the first successes of the French Revolution.

It was in 1762 that he first heard of Rousseau's works. Having read the Emile and the Nouvelle Héloïse, he was immediately seduced by their thoughts, and the bust of the French philosopher was to the end the only ornament on his desk.

His thought then takes an important turn: he abandons physical matters to become interested in moral philosophy. If he was strongly influenced by Rousseau, also he was influenced by Hume.

In 1764, he turned down a professorship in poetic art.

In 1766, he was given an additional position as a sub-librarian in the court library, a job he held for six years.

Likewise, in 1770, he was appointed professor after the publication of his third Dissertation: On the Form of the Principles of the Sensitive and Intelligible World.

Then he began to write the Critique of Pure Reason, his most famous work.

The Philosopher: The Critical Period

Eleven years later, in 1781, the Critique was published.

This masterpiece, which revolutionized the theory of knowledge and ended the supremacy of metaphysics, initially met with little interest. This led Kant to rework it and propose a second version in 1787.

From that moment on, his thinking operates a third and final fundamental turning point: this is the critical period.

Professionally, he was appointed member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters of Berlin. He also became Rector of the University of Königsberg.

Key dates

April 22, 1724: Birth of the philosopher Immanuel Kant

A German philosopher of modest origins, Kant was born in Königsberg, East Prussia. After his university studies, he lectures and publishes extensively in a wide variety of fields.

The first great modern philosopher, his three main works are Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of the Faculty of Judgment.

1781: Kant publishes the Critique of Pure Reason

Wishing to break with classical metaphysics, Kant published a work that would profoundly modify philosophy: Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant wishes to reconcile reason and sensibility while firmly delimiting the field of knowledge and differentiating man's faculties.

It shows that what exists is not perceived in itself but as a phenomenon, that is, that we apprehend objects through our faculties and that this prevents us from perceiving them as they are in themselves. Therefore, it gives rise to German idealism.

February 12, 1804: Death of Emmanuel Kant

Founder of transcendental idealism, Kant died at the age of 79 in Königsberg, a city he never left.

He rests near the cathedral of his hometown in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the new name of Königsberg.

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