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Detail of Biography - Immanuel Kant
Name :
Immanuel Kant
Date :
Views :
548
Category :
Birth Date :
22/04/1724
Birth Place :
Königsberg a city in East Prussia
Death Date :
February 12 ,1804
Biography - Immanuel Kant
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[b]Birth[/b][br /]
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Immanuel Kant was born on April 22, 1724 at 5 am in Königsberg, then a city in East Prussia. He was named Immanuel, meaning ‘God with us’, after the saint of his birthday. His last name was Cant. The Germans pronounced it ‘Tsant’, and hence he started spelling it ‘Kant’.[br /]
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[b]Family[/b][br /]
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Kant was the fourth of 11 children. He was of Scottish origin; his grandfather had emigrated from Scotland at the end of the 17th century. Kant’s father, Johann Georg Cant, was a saddler. Immanuel lost his parents at early age. His mother, Anna Regina was of German origin, uneducated but intelligent. She died when Immanuel was 13. His father died when Kant was 22 years old. He was quite influenced by his mother.[br /]
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The Kant family was Pietist. As devout Pietists they believed in simplicity, and in having a direct relationship with God without any intermediaries such as the church and the priests. Kant always respected this kind of Pietism. In the short span of life that she was there to take care of him, he experienced the ultimate spiritual experience that guided him through life and influenced his life and thoughts to a great extent.[br /]
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[b]Education[/b][br /]
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Kant joined Collegium Fridericianum, a Pietist Latin school at the age of eight years. Its principal was the family pastor, Franz Albert Schultz. He provided Kant with aid to complete his schooling. Kant also financed his education by helping his classmates with their work for money.[br /]
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Kant studied at the Collegium Fridericianum for eight years. The curriculum and the life at this school revolved around religion. The students had to begin their day at 5:30 a.m. with a half hour of prayer. They had an hour of religious instruction, and all classes ended with prayer. The Old Testament was the text for history, and the New Testament for Greek classes. Kant developed a strong dislike for this form of religious attitude.[br /]
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There was one teacher at school whom Kant found very inspiring. This was the Latin teacher Heydenreich from whom he acquired a taste for Latin literature. Kant had nothing good to say of his other teachers.[br /]
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During his childhood, he suffered from internal as well as external pressures. The internal pressure came from his questioning mind and inquiring heart, while the external pressure came from circumstances. Kant, at later age, could never come to terms with his childhood experiences. They left an ineffaceable mark on his mind. It is considered to be his childhood, that never let him make 'happiness' the goal of his life. Rather, he chose self sufficiency in thought and independence of will to be more important. From a very early age, at bout 17, he assert his independence of choice and selection.[br /]
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Another thing that shaped his thought-process, was his mind rushing towards separation of religious philosophy from rituals and dogmas; the thought-process that crystallized in form of his philosophy later on. The worthlessness and mechanization of religious rituals like prayer, was always expressed freely by Kant.[br /]
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Kant joined the University of Königsberg in 1740. A major influence on him was a young professor, Martin Knutzen. Knutzen introduced him to Newtonian physics, Leibniz’s Rationalist philosophy, and Christian Wolff’s synthesis of the two. During his college years it had become clear that he was not much of a theology student. But Newton remained a symbol of concept of science for him throughout his life.[br /]
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He got chance to attend a lecture of his former teacher Schultz. He stood out as one of the most interested and intellectual student. Schultz met him personally and asked him his plans for future. Kant's reply that he wanted to become a doctor, initiated Schultz to inquire why did he attend a theology lecture when he intended for something else in future. Kant put it very simply, "Out of intellectual curiosity".[br /]
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Kant started working on his first book, a work on Physics, in 1744 and it was published in 1747 as Thoughts on the True Evaluation of Dynamic Forces.[br /]
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In 1746, Kant was offered a position with the Lutheran church. Though the prospects were bright, he was not interested in a religious career. He wanted to pursue an academic career instead. But he was not selected to the post of undertutor in the university school. His father also died that year. So he had to abandon his academic ambition for the time being.[br /]
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Interlude[br /]
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Kant left Königsberg in 1747 and worked as a family tutor for the next nine years. He taught three influential families during this period. This was the only time in his life he left Königsberg – the farthest he went was to Arnsdorf, a town 60 miles from Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]Back to Königsberg[/b][br /]
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In 1754, Kant returned to Königsberg. He obtained his doctoral degree the next year and this made him eligible to apply for a teaching position at the university. He took up the position of a private teacher, Privatdozent.[br /]
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The only money Kant received as a Privatdozent was the fee that his students chose to pay. He had no secure status or salary. His poverty forced him to move from one boarding house to another till he got his own house at the age of 59.[br /]
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Financial insecurity forced Kant to lecture on a wide variety of subjects. He became a very popular teacher. He lectured on Physics, Mathematics, Logic, Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, and even on fireworks and fortifications. Kant conducted a very popular course on Geography for thirty years. But interestingly enough, he never saw a mountain or the sea in his life.[br /]
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During these 15 years as a Privatdozent, Kant twice applied for professorship without any success. He did get offers from other places, including the prestigious professorship of poetry at Berlin, but because of his fondness for Königsberg, he didn’t accept any of these.[br /]
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Kant had a hectic social life in Königsberg. He was so busy entertaining others and being entertained by others that he was unable to work upon the several ideas that he had for publication. He was a regular at the officers’ mess at the Königsberg garrison.[br /]
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[b]The Period Of Science[/b][br /]
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Before the age of 57, Kant wrote extensively on science. The world was yet to discover the philosopher in him. The first work that Kant produced at the age of 23, dealt with the problem of measuring the force of a body in motion. In 1754, he wrote a paper on the effect of tides on the time of the earth’s rotation.[br /]
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Kant wrote a treatise on cosmogony at the age of 31. He proposed the theory that all the processes of the universe can be reduced to mechanical laws. His nebular hypothesis was an attempt at explaining the origin of the solar system. He speculated on the existence of volcanoes on the moon in one of his papers.[br /]
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Kant even toyed with the idea of evolutionary biology. He wrote a book on mental disorders. He believed that madness resulted from monotonous and repetitious work.[br /]
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[b]Reconsidering Philosophy[/b][br /]
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During these years as a Privatdozent, Kant became disillusioned with the philosophy of Leibniz and Wolff. Added to the influence of Newtonian Physics was his newfound admiration for Rousseau’s philosophy.[br /]
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The turning point in his intellectual life was reading Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding. According to Kant, Hume’s skepticism interrupted his ‘dogmatic slumber’ and gave ‘a completely different direction to his inquiries in the field of speculative philosophy’.[br /]
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Kant recognized the contradictory nature of science and theology. Religion was deeply ingrained in him because of the influence of the religious milieu he was brought up in. His intellect made him incline towards science. Kant wanted to reconcile the two and it was this attempt that made him delve into philosophy.[br /]
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[b]The Silent Period[/b][br /]
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Kant became the professor of logic and metaphysics in 1770. He now received a regular public salary. This was the beginning of what is known as the silent period. He produced nothing for about a decade and spent this time in intense speculation.[br /]
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[b]The Critical Period[/b][br /]
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The publication of his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 marked the beginning of a new era in the field of philosophy – that of critical philosophy. This book was followed by Prolegomena, and two other critiques, the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgment.[br /]
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Soon enough critical philosophy became extremely popular and Kant attained the status of a reigning deity among those interested in philosophy. The street in Königsberg along which he took his daily walks became famous as ‘The Philosopher’s Walk’.[br /]
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[b]Religion In His Life[/b][br /]
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Kant believed in a religion that inspired men to lead a moral life. He did not approve of formal religions and their rituals. Kant never prayed in his adult life, and he went to church only when his duty as a member of the University faculty forced him to do so.[br /]
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The person who stayed with Kant the longest was his servant, Lampe. It has been said that Kant once saw Lampe weeping because Kant had killed God. Kant wrote the second Critique to prove the existence of God and to make Lampe happy. Lampe quit working for Kant in 1802.[br /]
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Though Kant had a sympathetic patron in King Fredrich the Great, he was careful in expressing his thoughts on religion. When the less tolerant Fredrich Wilhelm II ascended the throne in 1788, his Minister for the Lutheran Department issued a religionsedikt putting an end to religious toleration in Prussia.[br /]
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Defying the religious edict, Kant published an essay on religion On Radical Evil in the Berliner Monatsschrift. When the permission to print his other essays was not forthcoming, he circumvented the censor by obtaining an imprimatur from the University of Jena to publish Religion within the Boundaries of Pure Reason. This prompted Fredrich Wilhelm II to censure the publication of this book. Kant was ordered not to write anymore on religious subjects. Kant agreed, but only to write again on the subject after the King's death. Kant declared that freedom of thought and expression was essential for the growth of civilization.[br /]
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Later Years[br /]
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Kant was as much concerned with the political and social life of people as with philosophy. He issued a pamphlet On Perpetual Peace in 1795 on the occasion of peace talks between Germany, Spain and France. He put forth ideas that would ensure lasting peace. Though he was against complete democracy, he believed in constitutional government.[br /]
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In spite of his enthusiasm for the American and the French Revolutions, he believed that education was superior to revolution in bringing about social change. Kant was against the Church and the State taking on the role of educators. He was all for private schools managed by enlightened scholars.[br /]
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Though Kant started late as a philosopher, he became famous as the Sage of Königsberg. He retired from the University in 1797. His health had started deteriorating in 1790. He developed cerebral arteriosclerosis. Amnesia set in as a result, and he began having delusions about electricity. He died on February 12, 1804.[br /]
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His last words were:[br /]
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‘Es ist gut’[br /]

It is good.[br /]
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He was buried in the Stoa Kantiana, a cathedral in Königsberg. Inscribed on his tomb are the words from his Critique of Practical Reason:[br /]
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‘The starry heavens above me; the moral law within me’[br /]
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Immanuel Kant, regarded as the greatest of modern philosophers, gave a new direction to philosophy by showing the limits of knowledge, and by reconciling reason with feeling. The awareness of these limits has opened up new possibilities. As Lyotard says, ‘The name Kant …(is an) … epilogue to modernity, it is also a prologue to postmodernity’. The fascinating aspect of Kant’s ideas is that they are still opening up new vistas in fields ranging from philosophy to psychology and neuroscience. Those influenced by his ideas include Hegel, Schopenhauer, Piaget, Freud, Heidegger, Foucalt and Lyotard.[br /]
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[b]1724 [/b]
Born on 22 April in Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]1732 [/b]Joined the Collegium Fridericianum, a Pietist school.[br /]
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[b]1737 [/b]
Mother died.[br /]
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[b]1740 [/b]Completed schooling.[br /]

Enrolled in the University of Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]1746 [/b]Father died.[br /]

Refused a position offered by the Lutheran Church.[br /]
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[b]1747 [/b]Left Königsberg to become a family tutor.[br /]

Published his first work Thoughts on the True Evaluation of Dynamic Forces.[br /]
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[b]1754 [/b]Returned to Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]1755 [/b]Received the degree from the University of Königsberg.[br /]

Became Privatdozent i.e., a private teacher at the University of Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]1757 [/b]Issued the Outline and Announcement of a Course of Lectures on Physical Geography.[br /]
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[b]1758 [/b]Published New Doctrine of Motion and Rest.[br /]
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[b]1763 [/b]Published The Only Possible Ground for Proving the Existence of God.[br /]
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[b]1764 [/b]Published An Inquiry into the Distinctness of the Fundamental Principles of Theology and Morals attacking Leibnizian Philosophy.[br /]
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[b]1770 [/b]Appointed to the chair of logic and metaphysics at the University of Königsberg. [br /]

His inaugural lecture delivered in Latin was On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World.[br /]
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[b]1781 [/b]Published his magnum opus, the Critique of Pure Reason.[br /]
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[b]1783 [/b]Published Prolegomena to Every Future Metaphysic that will be able to appear as Science, a reply to the criticisms of the Critique of Pure Reason.[br /]
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[b]1786 [/b]Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia and patron of Kant died.[br /]

The less tolerant Frederick William II succeeded him.[br /]
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[b]1787 [/b]The second and revised edition of the Critique of Pure Reason was published.[br /]
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[b]1788 [/b]Published his second most important work Critique of Practical Reason.[br /]

The Prussian Minister for the Lutheran Department issues a religionsedikt putting an end to religious toleration in Prussia.[br /]
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[b]1789 [/b]Promoted to be the Senator and Senior Faculty of the University of Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]1790 [/b]Published the third major work Critique of Judgment.[br /]

Health began to deteriorate.[br /]
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[b]1792 [/b]Defying the religious edict, published an essay on religion On Radical Evil in the Berliner Monatsschrift.[br /]
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[b]1793 [/b]Circumvented the censor by obtaining an imprimatur from the University of Jena to publish Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone.[br /]
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[b]1794 [/b]Frederick William II sent an Order in Council censuring the publication of Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone.[br /]
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[b]1795 [/b]Issued a pamphlet On Perpetual Peace on the occasion of peace talks between Germany, Spain and France.[br /]
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[b]1797 [/b]Frederick William II died.[br /]

Frederick William III succeeded him and repealed the religionsedikt.[br /]

Retired from the University.[br /]
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[b]1798 [/b]
Published The Classification of Mental Disorders.[br /]
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[b]1804 [/b]Died on February 12 in Königsberg.[br /]
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[b]Pre-Critical Writings[/b][br /]
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• Thoughts on the True Evaluation of Dynamic Forces, 1747[br /]


• Universal Natural History and Theories of the Heavens, 1755[br /]

• The Only Possible Ground for Proving the Existence of God, 1763[br /]

• An Attempt to Introduce the Conception of Negative Quantities into Philosophy, 1763[br /]

• Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, 1764[br /]

• An Inquiry into the Distinctness of the Fundamental Principles of Theology and Morals, 1764[br /]

• Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics, 1766[br /]
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[b]Critical And Post-Critical Writings[/b][br /]
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• [b]Critique of Pure Reason, 1781[/b][br /]

This first major work of the critical trilogy represented the crystallization of Kant’s ideas, a result of 12 years of intense reflection. He wrote the book in just four to five months. Written in an obscure and pedantic style, the book is extremely dense even for those well versed in philosophy. It heralded a new era in philosophy. Kant himself believed that he had brought about a Copernican revolution in philosophy, and that he had solved all problems of metaphysics. ‘Pure reason’ refers to à priori knowledge, that requiring no experience, and ‘critique’ refers to the inquiry into the limits of this knowledge.[br /]
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• [b]Prolegomena to Every Future Metaphysic that will be Able to Appear as Science, 1783[/b][br /]

The Critique of Pure Reason provoked attacks from the religious as well as the irreligious. Kant responded to the attacks by writing the Prolegomena. He also tried to make his philosophy easier to understand. The Critique is an interpretation of his philosophy from the idealistic perspective, and the Prolegomena from the realistic.[br /]
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• [b]The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Ethics, 1785[/b][br /]
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• [b]Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, 1786[/b][br /]
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• [b]Critique of Practical Reason, 1788[/b][br /]

In this book Kant tried to find a rational basis for morality. He was influenced by Rousseau’s theories in acknowledging the importance of feeling and the fallibility of reason. The attempt at reconciliation of reason and feeling led him to come up with an à priori basis for ethics.[br /]
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• [b]Critique of Judgment, 1790[/b][br /]

The à priori principles underlying judgments of beauty and sublimity in art and nature are delineated in this book. Kant did this in two parts, Critique of Esthetic Judgment, and Critique of Teleological Judgment. He discussed the significance of logical purposiveness and esthetic purposiveness in assessing beauty.[br /]
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[b]• Religion within the Boundary of Pure Reason, 1793[br /]
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• On Perpetual Peace, 1795[br /]
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• The Metaphysic of Morals, 1797[br /]
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• The Classification of Mental Disorders, 1798[br /]
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• Logic, 1800[br /]
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• Kant on Education, 1803[br /]
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• "No confession of faith, no appeal to holy names nor any observance of religious ceremonies can help to gain salvation."[br /]
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• "I have had the fate to be in love with metaphysics although I can hardly flatter myself to have received favors from her."[br /]
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• "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more seriously reflection concentrates upon them : the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."[br /]
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• "Nothing in the world – indeed nothing even beyond the world – can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will."[br /]
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• "Finally, there is an imperative which commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it. This imperative is categorical… This imperative may be called that of Morality."[br /]
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• "Whosoever wills the end, wills also (so far as reason decides his conduct) the means in his power which are indispensably necessary thereto."[br /]
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• "Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination. So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only."[br /]
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• "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made."[br /]
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• "Monetary gain and the excitement of a grand stage are, as you know, not much of an incentive for me. A peaceful situation nicely fitted to my needs, occupied in turn with work, speculation and my circle of friends, where my mind, which is easily touched but otherwise free of cares, and my body, which is cranky but never ill, are kept busy in a leisurely way without strain, is all that I have wished for and had."[br /]
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• "More decisive is the magnanimous sacrifice of one’s life for the preservation of one’s country, and yet there still remain some scruples as to whether it is so perfect a duty to devote oneself spontaneously and unbidden to this purpose….the action itself does not have the full force of a model and impulse to imitation."[br /]
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• "Genius is the innate mental predisposition through which Nature gives the rule to art."[br /]
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• "The sublime moves, whilst the beautiful charms."[br /]
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• "Whether the hypocrite makes his legalistic visit to church or a pilgrimage to the shrines of Loretto or Palestine, whether he brings his prayer formulas to the heavenly authorities by his lips or, like the Tibetan … does it by a prayer wheel, or whatever kind of surrogate for the moral service of God it may be, it is all worth just the same."[br /]
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• "Should it once happen that Christianity stops being lovable (which could indeed occur were it armed with imperious authority, instead of its gentle spirit), then rejection and rebellion against it would inevitably come to be the dominant way of thought among men."[br /]
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• "My question is, what we can hope to achieve with reason, when all the material and assistance of experience are taken away."[br /]
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• "How far we can advance independently of all experience, in à priori knowledge, is shown by the brilliant example of mathematics."[br /]
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• "A virtuous person fears God without being afraid of him."[br /]
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• "Perhaps the most sublime passage in the Jewish Law is the commandment : ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven or on earth’… This pure, elevating, and merely negative exhibition of morality involves no danger of fanaticism, which is the delusion of wanting to see something beyond all bounds of sensibility."[br /]
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• "Everything in the world is good for something or other; nothing in it is gratuitous; everything is purposive in relation to the whole."[br /]
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• "To produce in a rational being the general aptitude for the aims which please him (and consequently in his freedom), that is culture."[br /]
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• "I call knowledge transcendental which is occupied not so much with objects, as with our à priori concepts of objects."[br /]
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• "Perceptions without conceptions are blind."[br /]
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• "It remains completely unknown to us what objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them; that manner being peculiar to us, and not necessarily shared by every being, though, no doubt, but every human being."[br /]
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• "Act as if the maxim of our action were to become by our will a universal law of nature."[br /]
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• "While, I can will the lie, I can by no means will that lying should be a universal law. For with such a law there would be no promises at all."[br /]
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