Kant, Immanuel

(1724-1804)
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all modern philosophers, the German Immanuel Kant has had a profound and lasting influence both in philosophy itself, and across the full range of intellectual disciplines, including of course sociology. The core of Kant's critical philosophy is generally taken to be his synthesis of the two rival traditions of empiricism and rationalism which dominated epistemology (or philosophical theory of knowledge) in Kant's time. Kant argued, against the empiricists, that there were true synthetic a priori judgements; that is to say, judgements which were not mere tautologies , yet which were not derived from experience. Kant's great work the Critique of Pure Reason(1781) is devoted to the demonstration of this claim and to the systematic derivation of those synthetic a priori concepts and judgements which were conditions of the possibility of our apprehension of space and time (the ‘forms of intuition’), and our making of objective judgements of experience (the ‘categories’-causality, necessity, possibility, and others). For Kant, however, the categories, whilst not derivable from experience, could be legitimately applied only within the field of possible experience. To use the categories to offer accounts of ‘things-in-themselves’, beyond possible experience, was to fall into irresolvable contradiction. So, whilst rejecting a central doctrine of empiricism, Kant nevertheless shared with the leading empiricists a concern to defend the cognitive status of empirical science against theological and metaphysical claims to knowledge of ‘things-in-themselves’ beyond experience.
Howvever, for Kant, thought about ‘things-in-themselves’ was unavoidable, even if knowledge of them was impossible. This was not least because of the necessity of a rational grounding for objective moral judgement. For an individual to be bound by a moral maxim requires both freedom of will and a unitary personal identity, neither of which is to be found among the contents of experience. Kant's treatment of aesthetics (in the Critique of judgement, 1790) also makes use of ideas (such as ‘the form of purposiveness’) which can have no application in objective judgements of experience. Despite the anti-metaphysical leanings of the central arguments of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, therefore, there remains a tension between a realm of objectively knowable objects of experience, on the one hand, and unavoidable allusions to an unknowable realm of ‘things-in-themselves’, on the other. This latter realm is especially required in the grounding of moral and aesthetic judgement and the identity of the perceiving, knowing, and acting subject .
The principal non-positivist epistemologies which have been influential in sociology derive from various European traditions of interpretation and resolution of these tensions in Kant's philosophy (most especially neo-Kantianism, phenomenology, and hermeneutics-for all of which see separate entries in this dictionary). Hegel's historical dialectic of self-realization of the ‘Absolute Idea’ arose from the critique of Kant's philosophy and went on to inform both the view of history and the epistemology of Marx and Engels.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • KANT, IMMANUEL° — (1724–1804), German philosopher. Born in Koenigsberg, East Prussia, Kant studied at the university in that city, where in 1755 he began to teach as a Privatdozent. In 1770 he was appointed to the chair of logic and metaphysics. His major work,… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Kant,Immanuel — Kant (kănt, känt), Immanuel. 1724 1804. German philosopher whose synthesis of rationalism and empiricism, in which he argued that reason is the means by which the phenomena of experience are translated into understanding, marks the beginning of… …   Universalium

  • Kant, Immanuel — Kant, Immanuel, einer der größten Philosophen der neuern Zeit, wurde in Königsberg 1724 geb., studirte daselbst und war seit 1770 Professor der Logik und Metaphysik. Im Gegensatz des idealistischen Dogmatismus Plato s, Descartes, Spinoza s und… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Kant, Immanuel — born April 22, 1724, Königsberg, Prussia died Feb. 12, 1804, Königsberg German philosopher, one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlightenment. The son of a saddler, he studied at the university in Königsberg and taught there as privatdocent… …   Universalium

  • Kant, Immanuel — (1724 1804)    by Alison Ross   Immanuel Kant s critical philosophy marks a turning point in modern thought. Kant distinguishes the critical inquiry he conducts into reason from the fanaticism that afflicts the dogmatic philosophy of his… …   The Deleuze dictionary

  • Kant, Immanuel — (1724 1804)    by Alison Ross   Immanuel Kant s critical philosophy marks a turning point in modern thought. Kant distinguishes the critical inquiry he conducts into reason from the fanaticism that afflicts the dogmatic philosophy of his… …   The Deleuze dictionary

  • Kant, Immanuel — (1724–1804) German philosopher and founder of critical philosophy. The son of a saddler, Kant was born and educated in Königsberg (Kaliningrad) in East Prussia. After leaving the university he spent a number of years in private tutoring, but… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Kant, Immanuel — (1724 1804)    The founder of critical philosophy and one of the greatest philosophers of modern times, Kant began as a conventional pre critical philosopher building on the work of Leibniz and his main interpreter Christian Wolff. His monumental …   Christian Philosophy

  • Kant, Immanuel — (1724–1804)    Philosopher.    Kant was born in Königsberg, Germany; he was educated at Königsberg University and he spent most of his career as Professor of Logic there. Despite this circumscribed existence, his in fluence on the philosophy of… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Kant, Immanuel — (22 abr. 1724, Königsberg, Prusia–12 feb. 1804, Königsberg). Filósofo alemán, uno de los más destacados pensadores de la Ilustración. Hijo de un talabartero, estudió en la Universidad en Königsberg, donde enseñó como docente asociado (1755–70) y… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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