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An Overview of Immanuel Kant

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Essay title: An Overview of Immanuel Kant

The exploration into Immanuel Kant's thought is one of, insight, perception, and open-mindedness. His work in the field of philosophy and intellectual development spanned over thirty-five years. He wrote on virtually all philosophical topics but his love was in the branch of metaphysics. His role in the evolvement of modern thought is vast and profound. Immanuel Kant was born, lived, and died in Konigsberg, East Prussia. Although he never left East Prussia, he is one of the most highly regarded philosophers of modern times. This paper will be an overview of his thoughts. We can divide Kant's career into four phases. The First of which stems from 1746 to 1759, this is referred to as the "period of infatuation". During this time, his main propose was to provide a foundation for metaphysics. Correspondingly, he developed a rationalist epistemology that could justify the possibility of the knowledge of God and what Kant refers to as, the first causes of nature.(1) The second phase from, 1760 to 1766, is called the, "period of disillusionment". In this phase he broke from his earlier epistomolgy and was prone towards a more, Cartisain, skeptical, view point. Kant rejected the possibility of metaphysics transcending the limits of experience.(1) The third phase, 1760 to 1766, was called "partial reconciliation", he returned to metaphysics in the belief that he could finally provide a solid foundation for it. He also sketched plans for his thoughts on ontology.(1) The fourth and final phase of Kant's career, 1772 to 1780, is referred to as the, "period of divorce". At this point in his career, he had realized that his renewed confidence in metaphysics could not solve one fundamental problem: "How are synthetic a priori principles valid experiences if they are not derived from it?"(1) Between 1771-1780, Kant published virtually nothing, he spent most of his time reflecting and studying. The end of this silent decade was closed by the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) in the 1780's he published five dissertations. He published many other essays and lectures until the late 1790's when he revised of some of his basic views on science and metaphysics, his work remains unfinished due to his death at eighty years of age in 1804. His final work, although not completed, was edited and published under the title, Opus Postumum.(3) The main idea of what most call, Kant's greatest work, the Critique of Pure Reason, is with the possibility of metaphysics, understood as the philosophical knowledge that transcends the bounds of experience. For Kant, such knowledge claims to be both synthetic and a priori, which is knowledge attained only from operations of the mind, therefore he sirmises that God exists and that every event has a cause, much like St. Thomas Aquinas. Kant also believed

that all mathematical propostions are of the same nature (synthetic a priori).(5) The second concern with Kant's metaphysics in the Critique of Pure Reason is with the antinomies or pairs of contradictory propositions. Because of his reflections on the concept of a world, he became convinced that reason inevetably falls into contradiction with itself when it endeavors to "think the whole". For example, does the universe have a beginning? Has the universe been around for an infinite amount of time? This would lead to hopeless skepticism, Kant came to see that the "fate of metaphysics" is crucially dependent on a successful resolution of the antinomies as well as an account of the possibility of synthetic a priori knowledge.(3) To solve this problem Kant came to a "Copernican revolution in philosophy", since he compared his innovation to Copernicus' first thoughts. The way his thoughts were conjectured was, to reverse the usual way we think of our knowledge conforming to the realm of objects, instead we should think of objects conforming to our ways of knowing. Therefore, he thought that human knowledge was limited to appearances or phenomena, whereas things-in-themselves are thinkable but not actually knowable. Kant termed this way of thought as "transcendental idealism" so both pairs of the contradiction could be proved true.(4) In the Metaphysics of Ethics (1797) Kant described his ethical system, which is based on a belief

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