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Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German
philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Suc ...
and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Born in
Königsberg Königsberg (, ) was the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement ''Twangste'' by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades, and was named ...
, Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in
epistemology Epistemology (; ), or the theory of knowledge, is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemology is considered a major subfield of philosophy, along with other major subfields such as ethics, logic, and metaphysics. Epis ...
,
metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of conscio ...
,
ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' The field of ethics, alo ...
, and
aesthetics Aesthetics, or esthetics, is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aesthetics). It examines aesthetic values, ...
have made him one of the most influential figures in modern
Western philosophy Western philosophy encompasses the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with the ancient Greek philosophy of the Pre-Socratic p ...
. In his doctrine of
transcendental idealism Transcendental idealism is a philosophical system founded by German philosophy, philosopher Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Kant's Epistemology, epistemological program is found throughout his ''Critique of Pure Reason'' (1781). By ''transcend ...
, Kant argued that
space Space is the boundless Three-dimensional space, three-dimensional extent in which Physical body, objects and events have relative position (geometry), position and direction (geometry), direction. In classical physics, physical space is often ...
and
time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various me ...
are mere "forms of intuition" which structure all
experience Experience refers to Consciousness, conscious events in general, more specifically to perceptions, or to the practical knowledge and familiarity that is produced by these conscious processes. Understood as a conscious event in the widest sense, ex ...
, and therefore that, while "
things-in-themselves In Kantian philosophy, the thing-in-itself (german: Ding an sich) is the status of Object (philosophy), objects as they are, independent of representation and observation. The concept of the thing-in-itself was introduced by the German philosophe ...
" exist and contribute to experience, they are nonetheless distinct from the objects of experience. From this it follows that the objects of experience are mere "appearances", and that the nature of things as they are in themselves is unknowable to us. In an attempt to counter the
skepticism Skepticism, also spelled scepticism, is a questioning attitude or doubt toward knowledge claims that are seen as mere belief or dogma. For example, if a person is skeptical about claims made by their government about an ongoing war then th ...
he found in the writings of philosopher
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 New Style, NS (26 April 1711 Old Style, OS) – 25 August 1776)Maurice Cranston, Cranston, Maurice, and T. E. Jessop, Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999avid Hume" ''Encyclopædia Britannica''. Retrieve ...
, he wrote the '' Critique of Pure Reason'' (1781/1787), one of his most well-known works. In it, he developed his theory of experience to answer the question of whether synthetic '' a priori'' knowledge is possible, which would in turn make it possible to determine the limits of
metaphysical Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of conscio ...
inquiry. Kant drew a parallel to the
Copernican revolution The Copernican Revolution was the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic system, Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which described the cosmos as having Earth stationary at the center of the universe, to the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center ...
in his proposal to think of the objects of the senses as conforming to our spatial and temporal forms of
intuition Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge Knowledge can be defined as Descriptive knowledge, awareness of facts or as Procedural knowledge, practical skills, and may also refer to Knowledge by acquaintance, familiarity with objects o ...
, so that we have ''a priori'' cognition of those objects. Kant believed that
reason Reason is the capacity of Consciousness, consciously applying logic by Logical consequence, drawing conclusions from new or existing information, with the aim of seeking the truth. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activ ...
is also the source of
morality Morality () is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper (right) and those that are improper (wrong). Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of co ...
, and that
aesthetics Aesthetics, or esthetics, is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aesthetics). It examines aesthetic values, ...
arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of
epistemology Epistemology (; ), or the theory of knowledge, is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemology is considered a major subfield of philosophy, along with other major subfields such as ethics, logic, and metaphysics. Epis ...
,
ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' The field of ethics, alo ...
,
political theory Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politics, l ...
, and post-modern aesthetics. He attempted to explain the relationship between reason and human experience and to move beyond what he believed to be the failures of traditional philosophy and metaphysics. He wanted to put an end to what he saw as an era of futile and speculative theories of human experience, while resisting the skepticism of thinkers such as Hume. He regarded himself as showing the way past the impasse between rationalists and
empiricists In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be stud ...
, and is widely held to have synthesized both traditions in his thought. Kant was an exponent of the idea that perpetual peace could be secured through universal
democracy Democracy (From grc, δημοκρατία, dēmokratía, ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which people, the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to choo ...
and international cooperation, and that perhaps this could be the culminating stage of world history. The nature of Kant's religious views continues to be the subject of scholarly dispute, with viewpoints ranging from the impression that he shifted from an early defense of an
ontological argument An ontological argument is a Philosophy, philosophical argument, made from an ontology, ontological basis, that is advanced in support of the existence of God. Such arguments tend to refer to the state of being or Existence, existing. More speci ...
for the existence of
God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxford Companion to Philosophy'', Oxford University Press, 1995. God is typicall ...
to a principled
agnosticism Agnosticism is the view or belief that the existence of God, of the divinity, divine or the supernatural is unknown or Uncertainty, unknowable. (page 56 in 1967 edition) Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable o ...
, to more critical treatments epitomized by
Schopenhauer Arthur Schopenhauer ( , ; 22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work ''The World as Will and Representation'' (expanded in 1844), which characterizes the Phenomenon, phenomenal world ...
, who criticized the imperative form of Kantian ethics as "
theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the ...
morals" and the "Mosaic Decalogue in disguise", and
Nietzsche Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (; or ; 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, Prose poetry, prose poet, cultural critic, Philology, philologist, and composer whose work has exerted a profound influence on contemporary philo ...
, who claimed that Kant had "theologian blood" and was merely a sophisticated
apologist Apologetics (from Greek , "speaking in defense") is the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argument An argument is a statement or group of statements called premises intended to determine the degree of ...
for traditional
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...
faith. Beyond his religious views, Kant has also been criticized for the
racism Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to inherited attributes and can be divided based on the superiority of one Race (human categorization), race over another. It may also mean prejudice, d ...
presented in some of his lesser-known papers, such as "On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy" and "On the Different Races of Man". Although he was a proponent of
scientific racism Scientific racism, sometimes termed biological racism, is the pseudoscience, pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism (racial discrimination), racial inferiority, or racial superiority.. "Few tragedies ...
for much of his career, Kant's views on race changed significantly in the last decade of his life, and he ultimately rejected racial hierarchies and European
colonialism Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their relig ...
in '' Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch'' (1795). Kant published other important works on ethics, religion, law, aesthetics, astronomy, and history during his lifetime. These include the '' Universal Natural History'' (1755), the ''
Critique of Practical Reason The ''Critique of Practical Reason'' (german: Kritik der praktischen Vernunft) is the second of Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German Philosophy, philosopher and one of the central Age of E ...
'' (1788), the ''
Critique of Judgment The ''Critique of Judgment'' (german: Kritik der Urteilskraft), also translated as the ''Critique of the Power of Judgment'', is a 1790 book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 180 ...
'' (1790), '' Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason'' (1793), and the ''
Metaphysics of Morals The ''Metaphysics of Morals'' (german: Die Metaphysik der Sitten) is a 1797 work of political philosophy, political and moral philosophy by Immanuel Kant. In structure terms, it is divided into two sections: the ''Doctrine of Right'', dealing wi ...
'' (1797).


Biography

Kant was born on 22 April 1724 into a
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a Germans, German state on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It formed the German Empire under Prussian rule when it united the German states in 1871. It was ''de facto'' dissolved ...
n German family of
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism, identifying primarily with the theology of Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Cathol ...
Protestant Protestantism is a branch of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Na ...
faith in
Königsberg Königsberg (, ) was the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement ''Twangste'' by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades, and was named ...
, East Prussia (since 1946 the city of
Kaliningrad Kaliningrad ( ; rus, Калининград, p=kəlʲɪnʲɪnˈɡrat, links=y), until 1946 known as Königsberg (; rus, Кёнигсберг, Kyonigsberg, ˈkʲɵnʲɪɡzbɛrk; rus, Короле́вец, Korolevets), is the largest city and ...
,
Kaliningrad Oblast Kaliningrad Oblast (russian: Калинингра́дская о́бласть, translit=Kaliningradskaya oblast') is the westernmost federal subjects of Russia, federal subject of Russia. It is a Enclave and exclave, semi-exclave situated o ...
,
Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and North Asia, Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the ...
). His mother, Anna Regina Reuter (1697–1737), was born in Königsberg to a father from
Nuremberg Nuremberg ( ; german: link=no, Nürnberg ; in the local East Franconian dialect: ''Nämberch'' ) is the second-largest city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 518,370 (2019) inhabitants ...
. Her surname is sometimes erroneously given as Porter. Kant's father, Johann Georg Kant (1682–1746), was a German harness maker from Memel, at the time Prussia's most northeastern city (now Klaipėda,
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no ), is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. It is one of three Baltic states and lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania ...
). Kant believed that his paternal grandfather Hans Kant was of Scottish origin. While scholars of Kant's life long accepted the claim, modern scholarship challenges it. It is possible that Kants got their name from the village of Kantvainiai (German: Kantwaggen – today part of Priekulė) and were of Kursenieki origin. Kant was the fourth of nine children (six of whom reached adulthood). Baptized Emanuel, he later changed the spelling of his name to Immanuel after learning
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, ...
. He was brought up in a
Pietist Pietism (), also known as Pietistic Lutheranism, is a movement within Lutheranism Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism, identifying primarily with the theology of Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and Protestan ...
household that stressed religious devotion, humility, and a literal interpretation of the
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacredness, sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of ...
. His education was strict, punitive and disciplinary, and focused on
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
and religious instruction over mathematics and science. In his '' Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals'', he reveals a belief in immortality as the necessary condition of humanity's approach to the highest morality possible. However, as Kant was skeptical about some of the arguments used prior to him in defence of
theism Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a Creator deity, supreme being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with ''deism'', the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (a ...
and maintained that human understanding is limited and can never attain knowledge about
God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxford Companion to Philosophy'', Oxford University Press, 1995. God is typicall ...
or the
soul In many religious and philosophical traditions, there is a belief that a soul is "the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being". Etymology The Modern English noun '':wikt:soul, soul'' is derived from Old English ''sāwol, sāwel''. The ea ...
, various commentators have labelled him a philosophical
agnostic Agnosticism is the view or belief that the existence of God, of the divinity, divine or the supernatural is unknown or Uncertainty, unknowable. (page 56 in 1967 edition) Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable o ...
, even though it has also been suggested that Kant intends other people to think of him as a "pure rationalist", who is defined by Kant himself as someone who recognizes revelation but asserts that to know and accept it as real is not a necessary requisite to religion. Kant apparently lived a very strict and disciplined life; it was said that neighbors would set their clocks by his daily walks. He never married, but seems to have had a rewarding social lifehe was a popular teacher, as well as a modestly successful author even before starting on his major philosophical works. He had a circle of friends with whom he frequently metamong them Joseph Green, an English merchant in Königsberg, whom reportedly he first spoke to in an argument in 1763 or before. According to the story, Kant was strolling in Dänhofschen Garten when he saw one of his acquaintances speaking to a group of men he did not know. He joined the conversation, which soon turned to unusual current events in the world. The topic of the disagreement between the English and the Americans came up. Kant took the side of the Americans, and this upset Green. He challenged Kant to a fight. Kant reportedly explained that patriotism did not get in the way of his view, and that any cosmopolitan citizen could take his position if he held Kant's political principles, which Kant explained to Green. Green was so stunned by Kant's ability to express his views, that Green offered to become friends with Kant, and invited him to his apartment that evening. Between 1750 and 1754 Kant worked as a tutor (''Hauslehrer'') in Jučiai (German: Judtschen; now Veselovka,
Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and North Asia, Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the ...
, approximately 20 km) and in Groß-Arnsdorf (now Jarnołtowo near Morąg (German: Mohrungen),
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative provinces called Voivodeships of Poland, voivodeships, covering an area of . Poland has a population of over 38 million and is ...
, approximately 145 km). Many myths grew up about Kant's personal mannerisms; these are listed, explained, and refuted in Goldthwait's introduction to his translation of '' Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime''.


Young scholar

Kant showed a great aptitude for study at an early age. He first attended the Collegium Fridericianum from which he graduated at the end of the summer of 1740. In 1740, aged 16, he enrolled at the University of Königsberg, where he spent his whole career. He studied the philosophy of
Gottfried Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz . ( – 14 November 1716) was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and diplomat. He is one of the most prominent figures in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathema ...
and Christian Wolff under Martin Knutzen (Associate Professor of Logic and Metaphysics from 1734 until his death in 1751), a rationalist who was also familiar with developments in British philosophy and science and introduced Kant to the new mathematical physics of
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, Theology, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosophy, natural philosopher"), widely ...
. Knutzen dissuaded Kant from the theory of pre-established harmony, which he regarded as "the pillow for the lazy mind". He also dissuaded Kant from
idealism In philosophy, the term idealism identifies and describes metaphysics, metaphysical perspectives which assert that reality is indistinguishable and inseparable from perception and understanding; that reality is a mental construct closely con ...
, the idea that reality is purely mental, which most philosophers in the 18th century regarded in a negative light. The theory of
transcendental idealism Transcendental idealism is a philosophical system founded by German philosophy, philosopher Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Kant's Epistemology, epistemological program is found throughout his ''Critique of Pure Reason'' (1781). By ''transcend ...
that Kant later included in the '' Critique of Pure Reason'' was developed partially in opposition to traditional idealism. His father's stroke and subsequent death in 1746 interrupted his studies. Kant left Königsberg shortly after August 1748—he would return there in August 1754. He became a private tutor in the towns surrounding Königsberg, but continued his scholarly research. In 1749, he published his first philosophical work, '' Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces'' (written in 1745–47).


Early work

Kant is best known for his work in the philosophy of ethics and metaphysics, but he made significant contributions to other disciplines. In 1754, while contemplating on a prize question by the Berlin Academy about the problem of Earth's rotation, he argued that the Moon's gravity would slow down Earth's spin and he also put forth the argument that gravity would eventually cause the Moon's
tidal locking Tidal locking between a pair of co-orbiting astronomical body, astronomical bodies occurs when one of the objects reaches a state where there is no longer any net change in its rotation rate over the course of a complete orbit. In the case where ...
to coincide with the Earth's rotation. The next year, he expanded this reasoning to the
formation and evolution of the Solar System The formation of the Solar System began about 4.6 bya, billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened in ...
in his '' Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens''. In 1755, Kant received a license to lecture in the University of Königsberg and began lecturing on a variety of topics including mathematics, physics, logic and metaphysics. In his 1756 essay on the theory of winds, Kant laid out an original insight into the
Coriolis force In physics, the Coriolis force is an fictitious force, inertial or fictitious force that acts on objects in motion within a rotating reference frame, frame of reference that rotates with respect to an Inertial frame of reference, inertial fram ...
. In 1756 Kant also published three papers on the
1755 Lisbon earthquake The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon earthquake, impacted Portugal, the Iberian Peninsula, and Northwest Africa on the morning of Saturday, 1 November, All Saints' Day, Feast of All Saints, at around 09:40 local time. In ...
. Kant's theory, which involved shifts in huge caverns filled with hot gases, though inaccurate, was one of the first systematic attempts to explain earthquakes in natural rather than supernatural terms. According to
Walter Benjamin Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (; ; 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mys ...
, Kant's slim early book on the earthquake "probably represents the beginnings of scientific geography in Germany. And certainly the beginnings of seismology". In 1757, Kant began lecturing on geography making him one of the first lecturers to explicitly teach geography as its own subject. Geography was one of Kant's most popular lecturing topics and in 1802 a compilation by Friedrich Theodor Rink of Kant's lecturing notes, ''Physical Geography'', was released. After Kant became a professor in 1770, he expanded the topics of his lectures to include lectures on natural law, ethics, and anthropology, along with other topics. In the ''Universal Natural History'', Kant laid out the
Nebular hypothesis The nebular hypothesis is the most widely accepted model in the field of cosmogony to explain the formation and evolution of the Solar System (as well as other planetary systems). It suggests the Solar System is formed from gas and dust orbiting t ...
, in which he deduced that the
Solar System The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies. The International Astronomical Union, the authoritative body regarding astronomical nomenclature, specifies capitalizing the names of all individual astronomical objects but uses mixed "Solar S ...
had formed from a large cloud of gas, a
nebula A nebula ('cloud' or 'fog' in Latin; pl. nebulae, nebulæ or nebulas) is a distinct luminescent part of interstellar medium, which can consist of ionized, neutral or molecular hydrogen and also cosmic dust. Nebulae are often star-forming region ...
. Kant also correctly deduced that the
Milky Way The Milky Way is the galaxy that includes our Solar System, with the name describing the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. ...
was a large disk of stars, which he theorized formed from a much larger spinning gas cloud. He further suggested that other distant "nebulae" might be other galaxies. These postulations opened new horizons for astronomy, for the first time extending it beyond the Solar System to galactic and intergalactic realms. According to
Thomas Huxley Thomas Henry Huxley (4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895) was an English biologist and anthropologist specialising in comparative anatomy. He has become known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The storie ...
(1867), Kant also made contributions to geology in his ''Universal Natural History''. From then on, Kant turned increasingly to philosophical issues, although he continued to write on the sciences throughout his life. In the early 1760s, Kant produced a series of important works in philosophy. '' The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures'', a work in logic, was published in 1762. Two more works appeared the following year: ''Attempt to Introduce the Concept of Negative Magnitudes into Philosophy'' and '' The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God''. By 1764, Kant had become a notable popular author, and wrote '' Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime''; he was second to
Moses Mendelssohn Moses Mendelssohn (6 September 1729 – 4 January 1786) was a German-Jewish philosopher and theologian. His writings and ideas on Jews and the Jewish religion and identity were a central element in the development of the ''Haskalah'', or 'Je ...
in a Berlin Academy prize competition with his ''Inquiry Concerning the Distinctness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morality'' (often referred to as "The Prize Essay"). In 1766 Kant wrote ''Dreams of a Spirit-Seer'' which dealt with the writings of
Emanuel Swedenborg Emanuel Swedenborg (, ; born Emanuel Swedberg; 29 March 1772) was a Swedish Religious pluralism, pluralistic-Christian theologian, scientist, philosopher and mysticism, mystic. He became best known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell ...
. The exact influence of Swedenborg on Kant, as well as the extent of Kant's belief in
mysticism Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of Religious ecstasy, ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or Spirituality, spiritual meaning. It may also refer to ...
according to ''Dreams of a Spirit-Seer'', remain controversial. On the face of it, ''Dreams of a Spirit-Seer'' argued against the ideas of Swedenborg. Kant poked holes in the logic of Swedenborg's view of the nature of spirits, but also communicated his curiosity about Swedenborg's mysticism. On 31 March 1770, aged 45, Kant was finally appointed Full Professor of Logic and Metaphysics (''Professor Ordinarius der Logic und Metaphysic'') at the University of Königsberg. In defense of this appointment, Kant wrote his inaugural dissertation (''Inaugural-Dissertation'') ''De Mundi Sensibilis atque Intelligibilis Forma et Principiis'' (''On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and the Intelligible World'').Since he had written his last
habilitation thesis Habilitation is the highest academic degree, university degree, or the procedure by which it is achieved, in many European countries. The candidate fulfills a university's set criteria of excellence in research, teaching and further education, us ...
14 years earlier, a new habilitation thesis was required (see S.J. McGrath, Joseph Carew (eds.), ''Rethinking German Idealism'', Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, p. 24).
This work saw the emergence of several central themes of his mature work, including the distinction between the faculties of intellectual thought and sensible receptivity. To miss this distinction would mean to commit the error of subreption, and, as he says in the last chapter of the dissertation, only in avoiding this error does metaphysics flourish. The issue that vexed Kant was central to what 20th-century scholars called "the
philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often ...
". The flowering of the natural sciences had led to an understanding of how data reaches the brain. Sunlight falling on an object is reflected from its surface in a way that maps the surface features (color, texture, etc.). The reflected light reaches the human eye, passes through the cornea, is focused by the lens onto the retina where it forms an image similar to that formed by light passing through a pinhole into a
camera obscura A camera obscura (; ) is a darkened room with a aperture, small hole or lens at one side through which an image is 3D projection, projected onto a wall or table opposite the hole. ''Camera obscura'' can also refer to analogous constructions su ...
. The retinal cells send impulses through the
optic nerve In neuroanatomy, the optic nerve, also known as the second cranial nerve, cranial nerve II, or simply CN II, is a paired cranial nerve Cranial nerves are the nerves that emerge directly from the brain (including the brainstem The ...
and then they form a mapping in the brain of the visual features of the object. The interior mapping is not the exterior object, and our belief that there is a meaningful relationship between the object and the mapping in the brain depends on a chain of reasoning that is not fully grounded. But the uncertainty aroused by these considerations, by optical illusions, misperceptions, delusions, etc., is not the end of the problem. Kant saw that the mind could not function as an empty container that simply receives data from outside. Something must be giving order to the incoming data. Images of external objects must be kept in the same sequence in which they were received. This ordering occurs through the mind's intuition of time. The same considerations apply to the mind's function of constituting space for ordering mappings of visual and tactile signals arriving via the already described chains of physical causation. It is often claimed that Kant was a late developer, that he only became an important philosopher in his mid-50s after rejecting his earlier views. While it is true that Kant wrote his greatest works relatively late in life, there is a tendency to underestimate the value of his earlier works. Recent Kant scholarship has devoted more attention to these "pre-critical" writings and has recognized a degree of continuity with his mature work.


''Critique of Pure Reason''

At age 46, Kant was an established scholar and an increasingly influential philosopher, and much was expected of him. In correspondence with his ex-student and friend Markus Herz, Kant admitted that, in the inaugural dissertation, he had failed to account for the relation between our sensible and intellectual faculties. He needed to explain how we combine what is known as sensory knowledge with the other type of knowledgei.e. reasoned knowledgethese two being related but having very different processes. Kant also credited
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 New Style, NS (26 April 1711 Old Style, OS) – 25 August 1776)Maurice Cranston, Cranston, Maurice, and T. E. Jessop, Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999avid Hume" ''Encyclopædia Britannica''. Retrieve ...
with awakening him from a "dogmatic slumber" in which he had unquestioningly accepted the tenets of both religion and
natural philosophy Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from Latin ''philosophia naturalis'') is the philosophy, philosophical study of Physics (Aristotle), physics, that is, nature and the physical universe. It was dominant before the development of mode ...
. Hume in his 1739 '' Treatise on Human Nature'' had argued that we only know the mind through a subjectiveessentially illusoryseries of perceptions. Ideas such as
causality Causality (also referred to as causation, or cause and effect) is influence by which one event, process, state, or object (''a'' ''cause'') contributes to the production of another event, process, state, or object (an ''effect'') where the ca ...
,
morality Morality () is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper (right) and those that are improper (wrong). Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of co ...
, and objects are not evident in experience, so their reality may be questioned. Kant felt that reason could remove this skepticism, and he set himself to solving these problems. Although fond of company and conversation with others, Kant isolated himself, and resisted friends' attempts to bring him out of his isolation. When Kant emerged from his silence in 1781, the result was the ''Critique of Pure Reason''. Kant countered Hume's
empiricism In philosophy, empiricism is an Epistemology, epistemological theory that holds that knowledge or justification comes only or primarily from Empirical evidence, sensory experience. It is one of several views within epistemology, along with ra ...
by claiming that some knowledge exists inherently in the mind, independent of experience. He drew a parallel to the
Copernican revolution The Copernican Revolution was the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic system, Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which described the cosmos as having Earth stationary at the center of the universe, to the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center ...
in his proposal that worldly objects can be intuited '' a priori'' ('beforehand'), and that
intuition Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge Knowledge can be defined as Descriptive knowledge, awareness of facts or as Procedural knowledge, practical skills, and may also refer to Knowledge by acquaintance, familiarity with objects o ...
is consequently distinct from
objective reality In philosophy, objectivity is the concept of truth independent from individual subjectivity (bias caused by one's perception, emotions, or imagination). A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met withou ...
. He acquiesced to Hume somewhat by defining causality as a "regular, constant sequence of events in time, and nothing more." Although now uniformly recognized as one of the greatest works in the history of philosophy, this ''Critique'' disappointed Kant's readers upon its initial publication. The book was long, over 800 pages in the original German edition, and written in a convoluted style. It received few reviews, and these granted it no significance. Kant's former student,
Johann Gottfried Herder Johann Gottfried von Herder ( , ; 25 August 174418 December 1803) was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment, ''Sturm und Drang'', and Weimar Classicism. Biogr ...
criticized it for placing reason as an entity worthy of criticism instead of considering the process of reasoning within the context of language and one's entire personality. Similar to Christian Garve and Johann Georg Heinrich Feder, he rejected Kant's position that space and time possessed a form that could be analyzed. Additionally, Garve and Feder also faulted Kant's Critique for not explaining differences in perception of sensations. Its density made it, as Herder said in a letter to
Johann Georg Hamann Johann Georg Hamann (; ; 27 August 1730 – 21 June 1788) was a German Lutheranism, Lutheran philosopher from Königsberg known as "the Wizard of the North" who was one of the leader figures of German idealism, post-Kantian philosophy. His work w ...
, a "tough nut to crack", obscured by "all this heavy gossamer". Its reception stood in stark contrast to the praise Kant had received for earlier works, such as his ''Prize Essay'' and shorter works that preceded the first Critique. These well-received and readable tracts include one on the earthquake in Lisbon that was so popular that it was sold by the page. Prior to the change in course documented in the first Critique, his books had sold well.Gulyga, Arsenij. ''Immanuel Kant: His Life and Thought.'' Trans., Marijan Despaltović. Boston: Birkhäuser, 1987, p. 62. Kant was disappointed with the first Critique's reception. Recognizing the need to clarify the original treatise, Kant wrote the '' Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics'' in 1783 as a summary of its main views. Shortly thereafter, Kant's friend Johann Friedrich Schultz (1739–1805) (professor of mathematics) published ''Erläuterungen über des Herrn Professor Kant Critik