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Immanuel Kant

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) led the quiet life of a scholar as a professor of logic and metaphysics in Königsberg, Prussia. Kant is known as the founder of critical philosophy. Surveying the new scientific truths of his time Kant embarked upon a voyage to obtain certain evidence of the human ability to know, his goal being the transcendence of the philosophical currents of his era, namely rationalism and empiricism. To this extent, Kant delineated the function of reason within the synthesis of sensory data. Yet Kant’s work was far more theoretically complex than a simplistic assertion of human rationalism. In distinct contrast to René Descartes, he was convinced that the thought process (understanding) and perception (sense) are distinct cognitive capacities. Departing from this dualistic perspective, Kant attempted to assert the authority of science, while simultaneously guarding the autonomy and viability of ethical judgments in his magnum opus, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Moving beyond strictly empirical assertions concerning human reason, Kant “recognized that aesthetic judgement had to be construed as distinct from practical reason (moral judgement) and understanding (scientific knowledge), and that it formed a necessary though problematic bridge between the two."1