Biography • Born Konigsberg, East Prussia; religious family; educated at U. of Konigsberg; eventually became professor of logic and metaphysics. • Physically frail; regimented; became increasingly detached from family and friends. • Retired from public life in 1797; continued writing.
Biography (cont.) • Major works: Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783), Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Critique of Judgment (1790), Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793).
The Enlightenment (17-18th c.) • Rationalism: knowledge of the external world can be achieved through reason. • Empiricism: knowledge of the external world can be achieved through sensation. • Kant: knowledge can be achieved through interaction between the reason and sensation; requires both subject (knowing mind) and object (that which is known).
Kant’s Ideas • Phenomenal reality: the world as we experience it (human reality). • Noumenal reality: reality independent of our perceptions (pure or objective reality). • Transcendental ideas (Self, Cosmos, God): bridge gap between phenomemal and noumenal worlds.
Kant’s Ideas on Morality • Theoretical reason: knowledge derived from empirical, phenomenal world. • Practical reason: knowledge derived from reason (innate); morality is rational and universal. • Moral goodness is possible for everyone and is dependent on our will - what we intend to do if circumstances do not prevent it. • An act of will is an internal command, not inclination or desire.
Kant’s Morality (cont.) • Moral duty: to act on good will rather than avoidance of negative consequences. • Categorical Imperative: a command that is universally binding on all rational creatures. • “Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become a universal law of nature.” • Practical imperative: treat people as an end not a means.