The Great Synthesis: Immanuel Kant and the Paradigm Shift of Philosophy Humanities 2A, Honors Fall, 2009 C. Rostankowski
Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804
There are three Philosophers in the Western Tradition who completely changed the path and understanding of philosophy because of the synthesis they taught. They were:
Socrates - who connected the opposing ideas of the Pre-Socratic Cosmologists and Sophists to form the basis of all philosophy in the Western world.
Thomas Aquinas - who connected the opposing Platonic and Aristotelian traditions in the Middle Ages to form the basis for the conceptual open-mindedness and eventually the rise of science.
3. Immanuel Kant - who connected the opposing Rationalist and Empiricist positions, and thus preserved the legitimacy of scientific investigation, as well as cemented the major shift in philosophical inquiry from metaphysics to epistemology.
Truth and Knowledge Truth refers to statements. A statement is true only if it corresponds to what is so. Knowledge refers to mental states, but we articulate what we know by means of statements. • Knowledge for Descartes: ideas (via reason) • Knowledge for Hume: impressions & ideas (via experience) • Knowledge for Kant: reason & experience
Where does Kant fit in?(cartoon from:Philosophy for Beginners by Richard Osborne; illustrated by Ralph Edney)
Analytic statement: true by definition synthetic statement: true by experience a priori - knowledge by reason, definition a posteriori - knowledge by experience
Kant’s ethical theory: • There must be an ”I” for without it, there is no morality. • A person acts from one’s will; moreover, there is nothing good in and of itself but a good will. • The will is moved to act by a command, called an imperative.
Remembering that all rational beings have as their end or goal HAPPINESS, There are two sorts of imperatives: • Hypothetical imperatives: a possible action is a practical necessity to attaining one’s goal. (e.g. “I must finish college in order to get a good job.”) • Categorical imperatives: an action is objectively necessary in and of itself, aside from any further end or goal. (e.g. “I must always recognize the intrinsic worth of all persons.”)
So, • Even though we may be motivated to act by Sentiment, self-interest and duty, only DUTY Is consistent with objective motivation of the will. The CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE reveals to us what our duty is in every case.
There is only one CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE, but it has several formulations. Here are two: • Always act on the maxim that you can will to be universal law. • Always treat persons as ends in themselves and never merely as means.
Diagram of Kantian philosophy aesthetics