Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) was an 18th century German philosopher born in Konigsberg, East Prussia. He was born in a Pietist household that stressed on love, good works, simplicity and individual worship to God i.e. Protestant which made a lasting impression upon Kant. His father was a harness maker and his mother was the daughter of another harness maker, they were a lower class family. At the age of 16, Kant attended University of Konigsberg where he studied mathematics, physics, philosophy, theology, and classical Latin literature. He later became a private tutor after his father had died and at the age of 31, he became a lecturer after receiving his master’s degree. He became a professor of logic and metaphysics at the age of 46 after which he started publishing his famous work such as Critique of Pure Reason, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Critique of Judgment (1790) and Religion within the limits of reason alone (1793). Among these, his first published work was called Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces, in which he compared scientific laws and metaphysics.
Kant had three main background influences namely, British empiricism, Continental rationalism and Newtonian physics. British empiricism was basically the knowledge from the senses i.e. sensation, continental rationalism was the knowledge from pure reason whereas Newtonian physics was the laws of motion and theory of gravitation put forth by Isaac Newton.
One of the most famous and influential works of Kant was the ‘Critique of pure reason’ which he published in 1781. The main concept that Kant stressed upon in this critique was that knowledge in that, that is given to us by our senses. Kant basically wanted to prove that, although our knowledge is derived from experience, it is possible to have knowledge of objects in advance of experience. The knowledge cannot be separated from the power of demonstrating the truth or falsity of an idea and this power is limited to our senses. The objects of empirical knowledge are basically ‘facts’ that are present in the world of phenomena i.e. world observed by the senses (things out there). Thus, by observation and reasoning, the truth or falsity of a ‘fact’ can be determined using the scientific method. God is not really a fact (which can be determined by our senses), but rather a super sensible reality i.e. an ‘a priori’ (knowledge which is independent of all experience) idea about a super sensible reality in the world of noumena (idea). In conclusion, he says that there is no possible way to prove the truth or falsity or God or any other super sensible concept (immortality of soul, freedom of will) which belong in the world of ideas. And hence these concepts are a matter of faith which depend on the belief and it is a common error to employ a priori reason beyond the domain of our senses.
After the ‘Critique of pure reason’ Kant published his well known ‘Critique of practical reason’ in 1788. The focus of this critique was on his moral philosophy. This critique is not a critique of ‘pure’ practical reason but rather the focus is on the concept that, practical reason is the rational faculty concerned with human conduct. There are two main motivations of human conduct namely the will (rational faculty for moral actions) and the inclination (emotions, desires, feelings). This critique has three postulates, the first being, since the freedom of will is presupposed and since it is impossible in the phenomenal world of casual necessity, therefore it can only exist in the noumenal (ideal) world i.e. the freedom of will is an ideal toward which we strive. Basically he is transcending religious laws and is seeking to create universal moral law. In the second postulate, the immortality of soul is presupposed i.e. the immortality of soul is required for moral perfection. This is a weak argument because since it is nearly impossible to become morally perfect in one’s lifetime, the soul continues to seek moral perfection in the life after death, which is a super sensible concept. The third postulate presupposes the existence of God, and like the second postulate, though God is not a fact, God is an ideal of absolute goodness (moral perfection) towards which we strive. Hence god is not a fact, but rather an object of belief. He then concludes by relating religion with morally by saying, to be religious is to be moral and to be moral is to be religious, where being morally perfect is the ideal of harmony among humans.
In 1793 Kant published ‘Religion within the limits of reason alone’ in which he asserts the unity of all religions. He interpreted Christian principles on basis of his moral interpretation. He said that God is Christ is basically the ideal of a morally perfect being which is similar in all religions. He further states that the ideal of moral perfection is rather the archetype of a moral life such as Buddha, Mohammed, etc. But although Kant accepted these ideals, he rejected the concepts of supernatural revelations and focussed on the unity of all religions by saying that natural religion can be discovered by natural reason and since natural religion belongs to ‘pure’ practical reason, unity of all religions can be achieved.
Fate Rarely Calls Upon Us at a Moment of Our Choosing
A priori knowledge must be rationally supported. One cannot claim a god is a priori knowledge therefore I don't need to provide empirical evidence, without demonstrating that god is a logical necessity. Hiding behind the veil of faith doesn't help determine the state of affairs and intuition is a poor tool for determining reality with the exception of tautologies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_WRFJwGsbY#t=2m50s
Last edited by Paroxysm; 05-09-2010 at 11:40 AM.
"We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter." ~ Denis Diderot