Skip to content
Immanuel Kant in Layman's Terms

Immanuel Kant: Life & Philosophy

Immanuel Kant

The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Kant was born in a small province and spent his entire life there. Both of Kant’s parents were followers of the Lutheran Church, who believe in living a simple life following the moral law. Because of his connection to the Church, Kant was able to receive an education. In 1740, Kant entered university, where he studied Religion. Kant’s real passions during this time, however, were math and physics. 

It was here that Kant was introduced to the work of Sir Isaac Newton, which fascinated him. When he left school, Kant began working as a tutor. During this time, Kant became well-known for his teaching and writing abilities.

Greatest Works


Critique of Pure Reason

Critique of Pure Reason

Written over a 10-year period, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is divided into two parts. In the first part, Kant explains his disagreement with the philosopher Leibniz. In the second part, Kant gives his own view on the subject. The area of disagreement is in the area of metaphysics, a branch of philosophy that deals with concepts that are supernatural or mysterious. Examples of metaphysics questions are: “What is the meaning of life?” and “Does God exist?”.


Leibniz argues that humans can use reason alone to understand things like God and immortality. Kant disagrees with this. Kant believes that we can never experience God or immortality directly. Because of this, our minds are never able to understand them using logic alone.

 

Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Like the last work, Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals aims to answer questions about the supernatural, or Metaphysics. In this book, Kant shares his beliefs about morality. Kant’s beliefs here can be broken down into 3 simple rules:

    1. An action is only good when you do it because it is good. If you do something good for your own personal gain, it is no longer good.
      2. How moral an act is can be decided by your intentions. Even if something bad happens because of your actions, all that matters is that you meant to do something good.
        3. An action is good only if you do it because you want to do the right thing

           

          Critique of the Power of Judgment

          Critique of the Power of Judgment

          Unlike the first two books, Kant’s Critique of Judgment doesn’t have a clear focus. What most people remember from it is Kant’s views on Aesthetics. In philosophy, aesthetics is the study of beauty of taste.

          • Kant believes that although each person has different opinions on what is beautiful, there is a truth of the matter. Kant believes we like beauty for its own sake and not for what we can do with it. Beauty is easy to see to every single person.
          • The second half of the book focuses on Teleology. Put simply, teleology is the study of causes. An example of a question in Teleology is “what are forks for?” Part of what Kant tries to answer is the question: Is there a purpose to nature?
          • Kant argues that there is not a purpose for everything in nature. It seems that there is because of the way we describe and define natural things.

           

          Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason

          As the name gives away, Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason,Kant talks about his views on religion. Kant supports a view called rationalism. Put simply, rationalism is the belief that we know some things based on thinking alone, and not by experience.

          • Kant believes that this applies to knowledge about God and religion. So, he questions if religious experience is valuable.
          • Kant believes that human beings are inherently good, but we have the ability to do evil.
          • In part 2, Kant says we can be morally good by following the example of Jesus Christ.
          • In part 3, Kant says it is possible to create a society that encourages moral behavior
          • In part 4, however, Kant shares his problems with organized religion.





          Immanuel Kant’s Most Important Beliefs

          Immanuel Kant believes that God exists and that he gives us free will and makes our souls immortal. Kant believes that we are basically born with knowledge of certain things before we even experience them. This is known as Intuitionism. He also believes that human beings are born good, but that we must follow the example of Jesus Christ in order to live a moral life. According to Kant, beauty is objective, even though most people claim that it is all up to opinion.

          Kant also weighs in on the purpose of plants and animals on our planet. He would agree with the modern belief that things in nature do not have a purpose, but that It only seems that way because of the way we describe and define concepts in nature.

           

          References

          https://www.britannica.com/biography/Immanuel-Kant/Tutor-and-Privatdozent

          https://www.britannica.com/biography/Immanuel-Kant/Period-of-the-three-Critiques#ref393691

          https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-aesthetics/

          https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-religion/

          Previous Philosophy: Trolley Problem Explained In Layman's Terms
          Next Second Treatise of Government