Immanuel Kant

 

Immanuel Kant was born as the fourth of nine children to an artisan family in 22 March 1724. Although his pious family life didn’t help him in developing intellectual ideas, Kant later mentioned that he learned a great deal about morality and virtuousness from his parents – especially his mother – during his childhood. The concept of tolerance in Kant’s philosophy had most likely originated from his childhood education in his family home. In 1732 he started attending to Collegium Friedricionum, one of the best schools in Prussia at the time. Despite the school’s prestige, Kant never really liked attending there and later in his writings criticized the religious restrictions in schools such as the one he attended. He promoted the idea of a more liberal education for children in his writings about pedagogy. One thing that the school actually positively influenced him on was that it introduced Kant to Latin language.

Kant’s mother died in 1737 when he was 13 years old. In 1740, he graduated from Collegium Friedricionum and started studying in the University of Königsberg. Initially he mainly focused on mathematics, physics and astronomy. His professor Martin Knutzen introduced him to other contemporary theories such as those of Isaac Newton. Knutzen was also influential in Kant’s education in that he dissuaded Kant from traditional idealism. In 1746, Kant’s father died, which forced him to start making his own living. This untimely event interrupted his studies. He graduated from the university in 1747 and left Königsberg in 1848 to become a private tutor and make money. He published his first work, Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces, a year later in 1749. In it he argues against the vis motrix (moving force) view supported by Wolff and other post-Leibnizian German rationalists.

After working as a private tutor for 8 years, Kant returned to Königsberg in 1755 and started teaching in the University of Königsberg. In March of the same year, he published Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, in which he explained his reasoning to the formation and evolution of the Solar System. He received his doctorate in June 1755. After this time, Kant progressively focused more philosophical topics. In 1760’s, Kant found himself deep in philosophical self thoughts and he published a series of works on various philosophical subjects. He discussed logic in his The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures (1762), questioned arguments about God and religion in The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God (1763), took up the subject of Aesthetics in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764). Towards the end of the decade, in 1770, Kant was finally appointed as a Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Königsberg after spending 15 years as a lecturer. After the appointment, he wrote On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and the Intelligible World as his inaugural dissertation.

 

With the 1770’s, a new era of intellectual silence and isolation began in Kant’s life. He did not publish any work about philosophy for 11 years. During this time, he spent his time focusing his own researches, studies and readings. It can be derived from his personal notes and correspondences that during this isolation period, he had been questioning his entire philosophical knowledge in order to clear his minds from harmful dogmas. Finally in 1781, Kant published his first work after 11 years, which turned out be one of the greatest works in the history of philosophy: Critique of Pure Reason. At first, there wasn’t much of an interest for this long and hard-to-read work. Only few people reviewed it and some even made pointless criticisms against it without even properly understanding what the work stood for. Being disappointed by how his work was received, Kant published a new work two years later in order to summarize it and make it easier to understand. This work was called Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics.

From this point, Kant’s ideas gradually began to influence contemporary philosophers and his reputation started to grow. In the following years he published several popular works, such as Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment (1784), Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786). The establishment of Kant’s ideas as a philosophical school began with Karl Leonard Reinhold’s reviews on Kant’s works. Reinhold defended Kant’s philosophy in many of his writings, which helped Kant become one of the most popular philosophers at that time. In 1787 Kant published a second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason and the following year he expanded on his moral philosophy with the publishing of Critique of Practical Reason. Two years later, he published his third critique: Critique of Judgment. This third critique heavily influenced the up and coming German idealism. At the end of the book Kant wrote that with this book his studies on critique would be finally over.

Kant faced with censorship when he attempted to publish the Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason (1792) because of the fear that the radical effects of the French Revolution would spread amongst Prussia as well. Kant managed to publish it through the theology department of the University of Jena. He received an admonition directly from the King’s authority for this. When he ignored the King’s warnings and published a second edition for his book, he was ultimately banned from publishing or publicly speaking about religion ever again. Kant later explained himself about this in his work, The Conflict of the Faculties (1798).

Kant ended his career as a professor at the University of Königsberg in 1796. There were many notes, drafts and fragments that were written by Kant during his final 8 years. But unfortunately, he couldn’t put his final studies together since his mind and memory was too weakened after years of incessant work and old age. These final fragments were published with the name Opus Postumum after his death. Kant’s health gradually worsened over years and he died at Königsberg in 12 February 1804. Students of the University of Königsberg respectfully carried him to his grave in his funeral.

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