Immanuel Kant
German philosopher

1724 - 1804

German philosopher. Through the influence of the pastor of the family's Lutheran Church, Kant obtained a classical education. The death of his father in 1746 cut short his college education. It was not until 1755, after several years as a private tutor, that Kant was awarded a doctor`s degree from the University of Königsberg, whereupon he became a lecturer at the university. Although he was known as an excellent teacher, Kant was not elevated to a full professorship of logic and metaphysics until 1770. He held this position until just before his death.

Kant's early thinking was heavily influenced by the rationalism of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and Sir Isaac Newton. During the 1760s his close reading of the English philosophers John Locke and David Hume began to undercut his earlier belief in dogmatic rationalism. His meditations on these writers resulted in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and Critique of Judgment (1790), among others. Kant's achievement was that he produced a synthesis of Leibniz's rationalism and Hume's skepticism. He argued a thing can be known only insofar as it conforms to the way the mind knows things. Objects can only be perceived through the senses and understood only in categories by which the mind makes sense of perceptions. Kant went on to say that even if some things are unknowable, for example, the existence of God cannot be scientifically proved, they must be presumed to exist a priori because they are necessary for certain universal laws to be binding on all people.

Kant was the foremost philosopher of the late Enlightenment and his ideas structured the nature of philosophical debate throughout the nineteenth century.

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