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Immanuel Kant Essay

HYPERLINK “http://www. philosophypages. com/ph/kant. htm” Immanuel Kant answers the question in the first sentence of the essay: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. ” He argues that the immaturity is self-inflicted not from a lack of understanding, but from the lack of courage to use one’s reason, intellect, and wisdom without the guidance of another. He exclaims that the motto of enlightenment is “Sapere aude”! – Dare to be wise! The German word Unmundigkeit means not having attained age of majority or legal adulthood.

“Unmundig” also means “dependent” or “unfree”, and another translation is “tutelage” or “nonage” (the condition of “not [being] of age”). Kant, whose moral philosophy is centred around the concept of autonomy, here distinguishes between a person who is intellectually autonomous and one who keeps him/herself in an intellectually heteronomous, i. e. dependent and immature status. Kant understands the majority of people to be content to follow the guiding institutions of society, such as the Church and the Monarchy, and unable to throw off the yoke of their immaturity due to a lack of resolution to be autonomous.

It is difficult for individuals to work their way out of this immature, cowardly life because we are so uncomfortable with the idea of thinking for ourselves. Kant says that even if we did throw off the spoon-fed dogma and formulas we have absorbed, we would still be stuck, because we have never “cultivated our minds. ” The key to throwing off these chains of mental immaturity is reason. There is hope that the entire public could become a force of free thinking individuals if they are free to do so. Why? There will always be a few people, even among the institutional “guardians”, who think for themselves.

They will help the rest of us to “cultivate our minds. ” Kant shows himself a man of his times when he observes that “a revolution may well put an end to autocratic despotism . . . or power-seeking oppression, but it will never produce a true reform in ways of thinking. ” The recently completed American Revolution had made a great impression in Europe; Kant cautions that new prejudice will replace the old and become a new leash to control the “great unthinking masses. ” Immanuel Kant’s Ideas on Science and Morality According to the 18th-century German thinker Immanuel Kant, no person may possess inherent wisdom about reality.

This is best summarized in the philosopher’s famous expression, “Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without data are blind. ” Indeed, Kant believes that in order for us to utilize our sensible intuition, we must possess two stimuli, “physical sensation” and “moral duty. ” The first of the two addresses a portion of Kantian thought known as “empirical realism,” a reasoning that defines that absolute reality as the entire universe in which all human beings dwell.

Every time we acquire external data from that absolute reality, our perception of it assumes a greater degree of accuracy. And what would be the optimal way of acquiring such data with only minimal if any contact with other persons’ perceptions (which are, like ours, inaccurate, only in different ways, since each human being possesses a unique arsenal of experiences)? Scientific exploration is, therefore, the key to an ultimate comprehension of things-in-themselves. Kant was a fervent admirer of Newtonian thought and the Scientific Method, which permitted scientists to ascend to unprecedented heights in their understanding of and control over nature.

The second stimulus to action, moral duty, provides the explanation for the purpose of all human actions toward the comprehension of the universe. This portion of Kant’s doctrine has been dubbed by the philosopher as “transcendental idealism,” since it establishes a framework outside the natural world upon which correct actions are based. Kant sees the ultimate virtues to be the attempts to reach three goals which are not yet found in reality, God, freedom, and the immortality of individuals. God, the Creator and Supreme Being of the universe, must be fathomed, properly interpreted, and obeyed in accordance with his true desires.

Freedom, the individual liberty to act as one wishes and to grant all others this right, must be instituted through societal reforms and a development of ideology to understand the proper order that would establish such an atmosphere. And, at last, every human being must rise to possess the right to exist for an indefinite length of time that he may 1 / 3 obey the commandments of God and practice his freedoms. Kant states that all which is right and moral must be based upon those three principles.

As such, Kant separates the scientific realm (which describes what is) from the moral realm (which explains what ought to be), but he considers these two realms to go hand-in-hand — ultimately advocating putting the scientific realm in service to moral one. Kant: The “Copernican Revolution” in Philosophy The philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is sometimes called the “Copernican revolution of philosophy” to emphasize its novelty and huge importance.

Kant synthesized (brought together) rationalism and empiricism. After Kant, the old debate between rationalists and empiricists ended, and epistemology went in a new direction. After Kant, no discussion of reality or knowledge could take place without awareness of the role of the human mind in constructing reality and knowledge. Summary of Rationalism The paradigm rationalist philosophers are Plato (ancient); Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz (modern).

Don’t trust senses, since they sometimes deceive; and since the “knowledge” they provide is inferior (because it changes). Reason alone can provide knowledge. Math is the paradigm of real knowledge. There are innate ideas, e. g. , Plato’s Forms, or Descartes’ concepts of self, substance, and identity. The self is real and discernable through immediate intellectual intuition (cogito ergo sum).

Moral notions are comfortably grounded in an objective standard external to self — in God, or Forms. Kant says rationalists are sort of right about (3) and (4) above; wrong about (1) and (2). Kant would like (5) to be true. Summary of Empiricism The paradigm empiricist philosophers are Aristotle (ancient); Locke, Berkeley, Hume (modern). Senses are the primary, or only, source of knowledge of world. Psychological atomism. Mathematics deals only with relations of ideas (tautologies); gives no knowledge of world. No innate ideas (though Berkeley accepts Cartesian self).

General or complex ideas are derived by abstraction from simple ones (conceptualism). Hume — there’s no immediate intellectual intuition of self. The concept of “Self” is not supported by sensations either. Hume — no sensations support the notion of necessary connections between causes and effects, or the notion that the future will resemble the past. Hume — “is” does not imply “ought”. Source of morality is feeling. Kant thinks empiricism is on the right track re (1), sort of right re (2), wrong re (3), (4), (5), and (6). Summary of Kant’s Argument The epistemological debate between rationalism and empiricism is basically about whether, or to what extent the senses contribute to knowledge.

Both rationalism and empiricism take for granted that it’s possible for us to acquire knowledge of Reality, or how things really are, as opposed to how they seem to us. But both rationalism and empiricism overlook the fact that the human mind is limited; it can experience and imagine only within certain constraints. These constraints are both synthetic and a priori. All our possible experience must conform to these SAPs. The SAPs include location in space and time, causality, experiencing self, thing-ness, identity, and various mathematical notions.

(Twentieth- century Gestalt psychology’s attack on psychological atomism is based on Kant’s views. ) Therefore, we must distinguish the world we experience, bounded by SAPs, and the world of things as they really are “in themselves”. Kant calls these two worlds the phenomenal (apparent) world versus the noumenal (real) world. Empiricism pretty much nails what it means to know something, once the SAPs are in place; i. e. , within the phenomenal world, empiricism rules. The phenomenal world is a world of things, publicly observable, describable by science, known to the senses, determined by physical laws.

No God, no 2 / 3 freedom, no soul, no values exist in this world. If God, freedom, souls, and values exist, then they must be noumenal and unknowable by any ordinary means. Thus, according to Kant: Both rationalism and empiricism are wrong when they claim that we can know things in themselves. Rationalists are wrong not to trust senses; in the phenomenal world, senses are all we have. Rationalists are right about “innate ideas”, but not in Plato’s sense of Forms— much more like Descartes’ in argument of the wax. Hume is wrong when he claims the concept of self is unsupported by senses, and thus bogus.

Rather, the experiencing self is a pre-condition for having any experience at all (Descartes was right). Hume is wrong when he says the notion that the future will resemble the past is due only to “custom and habit”. That notion is a SAP; we couldn’t have ordinary experience without it. Hume is wrong when he says the source of morality is feeling. Morality, properly understood, provides the key to linking the noumenal and phenomenal worlds. Kant argues that if morality is real, then human freedom is real, and therefore humans are not merely creatures of the phenomenal world (not merely things subject to laws).

Ramifications of Kant’s Views Kant revolutionized philosophy. Kant showed that the mind, through its innate categories, constructs our experience along certain lines (space, time, causality, self, etc. ). Thus, thinking and experiencing give no access to things as they really are. We can think as hard as we like, but we will never escape the innate constraints of our minds. Kant forced philosophy to look seriously at the world for the agent (what Kant calls the phenomenal world) independently of the real world outside consciousness – the world in itself (the noumenal world).

Ethics had long recognized the importance for moral evaluation of “how things seem to the agent. ” But the ramifications of Kant’s noumenal-phenomenal distinction extend far beyond ethics. Philosophers like to take credit for all the big events in 19th century intellectual history as direct consequences of Kant’s philosophical legitimizing of the perspective of the subject: Hegel and German idealism, Darwinism, Romanticism, pragmatism, Marxism, the triumph of utilitarianism, Nietzsche, and the establishment of psychology as a science, especially Gestalt psychology.

Phenomena and NoumenaHaving seen Kant’s transcendental deduction of the categories as pure concepts of the understanding applicable a priori to every possible experience, we might naturally wish to ask the further question whether these regulative principles are really true. Are there substances? Does every event have a cause? Do all things interact? Given that we must suppose them in order to have any experience, do they obtain in the world itself? To these further questions, Kant firmly refused to offer any answer.

According to Kant, it is vital always to distinguish between the distinct realms of phenomena and noumena. Phenomena are the appearances, which constitute the our experience; noumena are the (presumed) things themselves, which constitute reality. All of our synthetic a priori judgments apply only to the phenomenal realm, not the noumenal. (It is only at this level, with respect to what we can experience, that we are justified in imposing the structure of our concepts onto the objects of our knowledge. ) Since the thing in itself (Ding an sich) would by definition be entirely independent of our experience of it, we are utterly ignorant of the noumenal realm.

Thus, on Kant’s view, the most fundamental laws of nature, like the truths of mathematics, are knowable precisely because they make no effort to describe the world as it really is but rather prescribe the structure of the world as we experience it. By applying the pure forms of sensible intuition and the pure concepts of the understanding, we achieve a systematic view of the phenomenal realm but learn nothing of the noumenal realm. Math and science are certainly true of the phenomena; only metaphysics claims to instruct us about the noumena. POWERED BY TCPDF (WWW. TCPDF. ORG).


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