Immanuel Kant-The Greatest Thinker


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was considered by philosophers to have been one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Kant lived in remote province where he was born for his entire life. He was the fourth of nine children but the oldest surviving child to obtain an education.

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His parents were devoted followers of Pietistic branch of the Lutheran church, which taught that religion belongs to the inner life expressed in simplicity and obedience to moral law. From the age of eight to sixteen, Kant entered the Pietist school where his pastor directed. The influencer of the pastor made it possible for Kant to obtain an education. Similarly, like his mother, Kant throughout his life became highly respectful of the inner peace Pietists. (Verkamp, 2009) In 1740, at the age of sixteen, he enrolled in the University of Konigsberg’s school of theology as a theological student. Although, Kant attended courses in theology, and even preach on a few occasions, he spent his time devoted most of his early years studying science, mathematics and physics. The death of Kant father had a significant impact on his life. The failure to obtain the post of undertutor in one of the schools attached to the university compelled him to withdraw and seek a means of supporting himself It was during that time that he decided to pursue an academic career. (Verkamp, 2009).


Immanuel Kant was considered one of the Enlightenment’s greatest philosopher. The Enlightenment began in Europe and was a part of the changes associated with the renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the Protestant Reformation, all taking place between 1450 and 1750. The 1700s were sometime referred to as the “Age of Enlightenment”, because philosophical and political ideas were begun to seriously question the assumptions of absolute governments. The Enlightenment invited people to use their reason (Szalay, 2016). For instance, people can figure things out, and they can come up with better governments and societies.

At the end of the period, philosophers began to consider exactly what they meant by the term “enlightenment.” Immanuel Kant offered his definition in his essay” What is Enlightenment?” He responded by saying “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage”. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. Many interpret nonage as “immaturity” (Szalay, 2016). According to Kant’s theory, “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.” He believed that immaturity is the hindrance in the way of a human life towards enlightenment. According to Kant’s theory man can overcome his immaturity. Other philosophers such as John Locke, Voltaire and Jean- Jacques Rousseau were part of the enlightenment. John Locke wrote that a ruler’s authority is based on the will of the people. He also spoke of a social contract that give subjects the right to overthrow the ruler if he ruled badly. On the other hand, Voltaire and Jean- Jacques Rousseau spread the new ideas to France, where they began uproar in a land that epitomized absolutism (New Political Ideas and Revolution, n.d.).

Kant’s was known for his notable works of “Critique of Practical Reason”, Critique of Judgment, Critique of Pure Reason”. Kant’s opinions on science changed and evolved over a period with both current scientific developments and his own philosophical development. His writings began with “Critique of Pure Reason” which addressed philosophical issues rather than science. Kant’s early writings addressed scientific questions directly. For instance, his “Universal History and Theory of the Heavens” set forth the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system, which was later known as the Kant-Laplace hypothesis. In addition, his Latin “Physical Monadology” set forth an atomistic matter theory he later renounced in favor of the idea that matter was infinitely divisible and filled space. Kant also taught many scientific subjects, including physics (Burns, 2003).
In the 18th century, Immanuel Kant developed the Kantian ethics which had an impact on Christian theology. Kant taught that natural theology was an illusion, but that the voice of conscience would establish truth where reason could not. He felt that a sense of duty assures one that the idea of freedom is real, and since God is requires to establish justice and freedom, there must be another world in which he can redress the balance (McLeish, 1993).

Kantian ethics are based on three fundamental ideas:
• Moral principles are priori knowledge- one is not taught the difference between right and wrong. One knows instinct what is right. How one does what is right, the application of moral principles, may depend on experience and observation. For instance, in Kantian ethics it is wrong to lie, as conscience declares it is, then it is always wrong to lie even if someone will be injured if the truth is known.
• Kant stated, “Act to treat humanity both in your own person and that of every other man always as an end and never only as a means.” The high value set on every individual treating fellow human beings as ends in themselves meant no slavery, exploitation and the denial of human rights.
• The idea of the will of every rational being as universally legislating will- This is the pinnacle of the Protestant principle that each individual is responsible for making his or her own ethical decisions in the light of their conscience, and is little more than the restatement of the principle of universalism (McLeish, 1993).

Kant’s educational background may have had profound effect on his life. However, how much influence his Pietistic education had on Kant’s intellectual development is still debatable. Throughout his life he would remain highly respectful of the inner peace Pietists. The experience at the Collegium Fridericianum only served to trigger the resistance he would show for the rest of his life to any kind of servile, emotional form of religious practice. Although Kant wrote about the existence of God and personal immortality in his writings, there is reason to doubt how much credence he himself any longer put in such religious ideas. For he consistently declined participating in any kind of public prayer or worship service. Kant was confident to the end that he had fulfilled his duty and to that account he could only hope that any God that existed would still be with him. He had expressed no fear of dying (Verkamp, 2009).

Kant’s thought on religion was rationalists were wrong in thinking that reason alone can deliver innate knowledge of God’s existence and nature. He claimed that dogmatic empiricists were wrong in claiming that reality consists of nothing more than sensible phenomena (Verkamp, 2009). Kant’s claimed that we are by nature obliged to obey the categorical imperative of acting always as one would want everyone else to act and treating all one’s fellow human beings as ends in themselves, is to imply that we are free. He stated since the highest good is not, and cannot, ever be achieved in this life, we have good reason to hope that as humans we are immortal, and that there is holy, omniscient, and just God who will reward those who do their duty and punish those who do not (Verkamp, 2009). Kant asserted that religion was no more than the recognition of all our duties as divine commands. The moral law had no purpose beyond itself. He felt that there was no need of a personal savior, and a moral person had no need of prayer (McLeish, 1993).

Kant’s view on politics was posted as the first definitive article of an eternal peace that the “the civic constitution in every state should be republican, by which he meant a representative one. He believed that a state was not a dynastic patrimony, but a society of human beings, over whom only themselves had the right to order or dispose of. Kant also believed that citizens should have the right to make decisions on war, given the effect it would have upon citizens. Furthermore, Kant believed that the international law should have been best established in a federation of free states in which he believed would have been broaden out eventually (Mansergh, 2004). That would of involve loss of a lawless freedom or sovereignty, which would have been necessary to prevent war. He also believed that rulers should not be expected to be philosophers, as power would have inevitably polluted the free exercise of reason. He concluded by saying that rulers should not silence or object the class of philosophers, but to allowed them to speak openly. In addition, Kant recognized politically that while human wanted peace, nature wanted disagreement to make human beings work to resolve conflict (Mansergh, 2004).


Kant’s was one of the most challenge philosopher to understand. The complexity of his prose made it difficult for many to understand. The philosopher idea was central around religion and Science. Kant attacked natural theology and the idea that God’s existence was demonstrable from science. His philosophy is often seen as clearly distinguishing between science and religion without subordinating either to the other. Kant’s views as a philosopher may have be seen as radical as many critics find his work very hard to understand. His critics regarding Issacs Newton and Leibniz dealt with the conflict between Newtonian absolute space and time and Leibnizian relational space and time.

Kant tried to reconcile by transcending both space and time, rather than compromising between the two. He did this by identifying both space and time as mental categories. Kant believed that there can only be one priori knowledge of the properties of space. That was the spatial properties of the world must be contributed by the knowing subject. Kant felt that the world as it is was not made up of objects arranged in space. He believed that world as it appeared to us was spatial and that was because space was nothing more that our way of representing the world to ourselves (Baggini & Stangroom, 2004). Kant’s own terminology was space and time was nothing more than a form of intuition or perception. He referred to space and time as features of the phenomenal world. That is the world as it appears to us only. The noumenal world was the world of things as they had appeared in themselves was a spatial and temporal (Baggini & Stangroom, 2004). While Kant believed that we had no theoretical knowledge of such things, he maintained that we can have a practical knowledge of them which he had considered to be free will. Although Kant may not have believed in the existence of things in themselves. He never denied the possibility existed, except he believed we have no means of knowing them as we perceived everything from a different angle.

Kant was one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Some may have found his theory very complexed and difficult to understand, while others may have found his theory very intriguing. Kant’s idea can be viewed differently from different perspective depending upon how we each see the world. Some of us have been grounded on a foundation of our belief such as religion and the nature of our faith. Some may tend to belief in a higher power, others may belief in scientific theory and the nature of its existence, while others may base their foundation on ethical principles that may guide us as we believe to be right or wrong. Since none of us know exactly what we should considered to be right or wrong, everyone deserves a chance to be heard. With that said, Kant’s theory or philosophical ideas may have been connected to us in some way or the other whether it’s for religion purposes, politics, scientific or teaching purposes. One of the things that was intriguing with Kant was the way he based his reasons.

To fully understand Kant philosophical teaching, one must first understand the problems he and other philosophers faces at that time. The meaning the philosopher idea may have upon us is that one must be willing to open our mind to different reasoning. For instance, Kant’s view on utilitarianism was that it judges actions by our consequences. He noted that if our action makes people happy, then it should be good but if it does the reverse then it should be bad. We would all think that to be common sense, but if consequences are all that matter, then a millionaire who donates one million dollars to charity just to impress his girlfriend should be better over the man that donates a day pay just because he wants to help the needy. So, a lot can be learned from Kant’s teaching such as having a moral obligation or a sense of duty or good will. In every case, one might encounter a situation in which good is not good after all. For instance, a person can be corrupted by wealth that this may cause them to abuse others or take advantages.

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