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Immanuel Kant

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    Choose another writer in thiscalendar: by name: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Zby birthday fromthe calendar .Credits andfeedback TimeSearch for Books andWritersby Bamber Gascoigne Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)  German philosopher, professor of logic andmetaphysics, whose masterpiece, T    h    e C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e of P    u    r    e R    eas    o    n    , appeared in 1781 and then in asubstantially revised edition in 1787. The work wasan answer to Descartes's skepticism aboutknowledge. Kant's aim was to make philosophy, for the f    irst time, truly scientific, but his jargon made hiscentral writings nearly impossible for the uninitiatedto understand. Even professional philosophers havehad problems with Kant. A.J. Ayer (1910-1989), thewriter of La    n    g    u    ag    e, T    r    u    t    h   a    n    d   Log    i    c  , tells that heread  T    h    e C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e   on a ship bound for the Gold Coast.After a sunstroke, he fully grasped Kant's work in astate of   epiphany, but once he had recovered he hadlost the insight. Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely themind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavensabove me and the moral law within me. (from Ci    ti    que of   P    r    acti    cal   Reason  , 1799) Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg(Kaliningrad), which then was the eastern part of Prussia. His f    ather, Johann Georg Kant, was a poor but respected saddler, whose strict pietisticProtestantism made a lasting impression upon hisson. Johann's wife, Anna Regina (née Reuter), wasthe daughter of another harness maker. Immanuelwas the fourth child, but two of his siblingshad already died. Of   the five siblings born after him,only three survived early childhood.Kant attended the Collegium Fridericianum, and atthe age of 16 he entered the University of Köningsberg, where he studied philosophy,mathematics, and physics, and attended lectures intheology. When his father died in 1746, Kant'sfinancial situation became difficult. His mother haddied nine years earlier. To earn his living, he served  as a private tutor from 1747 to 1754 in variousprovincial households. Though penniless he foundmuch time for scientific research. In G    en    er    al   H    i    s    t    or     y of   N    at    u    r    e   an    d   T    h    eor     y   of   t    h    e H    ea    v    en    s      (1755) heargued that the system of heavenly bodies couldhave developed from an unf    ormed nebula. Hisdoctor's degree Kant received for the work O    n   F    i    r    e  ,and was appointed a lecturer at the university.Kant taught logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy,natural theology, anthropology, as well asmathematics, physics, and physical geography. Hisincome during the f    irst years was very small, and hewore the same coat until it was worn out. When hisfriends r    efused to buy him a new one, he refused.Later in life he was known as a person of elegance.He was 1.57 meters tall (5 f    eet 2 inches), slender,with eyes of light sky blue. One contemporary said: It is impossible to describe the bewitched ef    fect of his look on my f    eeling when I sat across him andwhen he suddenly raised his lowered eyes to look atme. I always felt as if I looked through this blueether-like fire into the most holy of Minerva. In 1756 Kant wrote on the earthquake in Lisbon,which his great French contemporary Voltaire dealtin the satirical story C    an    d    i    d    e (1759). Kant himself almost never   laughed, and like Buster Keaton,he told f    unny anecdotes with a stone f    ace. Af    ter hehad unsuccessfully applied in 1758 for prof    essorship, he wrote an essay on optimism. Oneof his students during the early sixties was JohannGottf    ried Herder   (1744-1893), who became one of the most important writers of the S    t    u    r    m   an    d   D    r    an    g  movement. Kant reviewed Herder's I    d    een   z    u    r P    h    i    l    os    oph    i    e d    er   G    es    ch    i    ch    t    e d    er   M    en    s    ch    h    ei    t      (IdeasToward a Philosophy of the History of Man) verycritically. In 1766 he worked as an assistant-librarian in the royal palace. He declined the off    ersof professor    ship at the universities of   Erlangen andJena, and eventually in 1770 Kant was appointedprof    essor of   logic and metaphysics at Köningsberg.His inaugural dissertation was O    n   t    h    e F    or    m    s   an    d   P    r    i    n    ci     pl    es   of   t    h    e S    en    s    i    bl    e a    n    d   I    n    t    el    l    i    g    i    bl    e W    or    l    d    .  Before retiring, Kant served as the dean of thefaculties six times and rector of the university twice.During this period he published C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e of   P    u    r    e R    eas    on    , P    r    o    l    eg    om    e    n    a t    o An     y   F    u    t    u    r    e M    et    ap    h     y    s    i    c    s  (1783), C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e of   P    r    act    i    ca    l   R    eas    o    n   (1788), and C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e of   J    u    d    g    m    en    t      (1790). Kant never left hishome town to see the world beyond his limitedhorizon. Outside the walls of   the university Rousseaupublished C    on    f    es    s    i    on    s      (1781), Goethe wrote F    au    s    t    ,and the French Revolution abolished absolutemonarchy. Kant believed in his own rationalthinking, and did not consider traveling necessary tosolve the problems of philosophy. However, he wasnot withdrawn until late in life. He enjoyedconversation and was very interested in theaccounts of   travellers. His lectures were fr    eelydelivered, spiced with humor. Kant's friends includedthe f    amous Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn,the writer Theodor Gottlieb Hippel, the book dealer and publisher Johann Jakob Kanter, CountessCaroline Charlotte Amalie Keyserlingk, the moralphilosopher Jacob Christian Kraus, and themathematician and philosopher Johann HeinrichLambert. Kant's daily luncheons with his friends frequentlyran on through the afternoon until four or fiveo'clock. His menus were simple: three courses,followed by cheese.Kant adored especially Englishcheese. All courses were accompanied withmustard. He drank red wine, usually Medoc, andwhite wine, as a way to of relieving the astringentafter-effects of the red wine. Af    ter dinner he drank aglass of dessert wine, which was warmed andscented with orange peel. According to an anecdote, Kant's lif    e habits were soregular, that people used to set their clocks by himas the philosopher passed their houses on his dailywalk – the only time when the schedule changedwas when Kant read Jean-Jacques Rousseau's  E    m    i    l    e    , and forgot the walk. Mar    tin Lampe, Kant'sservant, was a retired soldier, who drank heavily. Hislast lecture Kant held in 1796. During the last yearsof his life, his physical and mental powersdeteriorated noticeably. He developed delusionsabout electricity and began to believe that it causespeculiar configurations of   clouds and a widespreaddisease amongst cats. In 1802 he dismissed Lampe,for treating him in a way which he was ashamed torepeat. In his diary he wrote: The name of   Lampemust now be remembered no more. Kant died on February 12, 1804, less than twomonths before his eightieth birthday. For the nexttwo weeks, people lined up to see his dried outcorpse, which looked like a skeleton that one mightexhibit. Kant never   married. After his death ananonymous writer, most probably Johann DanielMetzger, a pr    ofessor of medicine at the university of Königsberg, published a book which slanderedKant's character: he was an egoist and a miser, didnot tolerate criticism, disliked religious people,mistr    eated his servans, and his sister was notallowed to eat at his table. Moreover, he defendedthe principles of   the French Revolution. Kant's output was large but he produced his mostimportant works, the three C    r    i    t    i    q    u    es    , late in life. Hisattempts to establish an objective basis for aesthetic judgments have influenced later artcriticism. In C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e of   J    u    d    g    m    en    t   he argued thataesthetic judgments do not depend on anyproperty – such as beauty – of the object. Kant'sfamous contribution to moral philosophy is theprinciple   act only on that maxim through which youcan at the same time will that it should to become auniversal law. In T    h    e C    r    i    t    i    q    u    e of   P    u    r    e R    ea    s    on   Kant wanted toprove, that although our knowledge is derived fromexperience, it is possible to have knowledge of objects in advance of exper    ience. The key questionis how are synthetic a pr    i    or    i    judgments possible? An

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