German Philosopher Immanuel Kant Philosophy

Essay add: 28-10-2015, 13:40   /   Views: 226

Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest German philosophers born to a respected family of Konigsberg, Prussia. He was brought up in such a way that he himself admits and confirms that he could have received no better moral education. So, the foundation of ethical principles in his personality was laid down since his childhood.

Natural sciences and philosophy were the main domains which captured Kant's attraction. Kant's influence on nineteenth-twentieth century's philosophy was so strong that it is said that without going through Kant's writings one cannot understand the thoughts of that period. Kant who initially in his tenure was thought to be a passive follower of a school of thought, later became an innovator of an important school of thought. He also made his philosophical contributions in American and French revolutions.


General Natural history and theory of heavens, Critique of pure reasons, Critique of judgment, The fundamental principles of metaphysics of morals, Critique of practical Reasons.


Kant's philosophical work basically an answer to 18th Century's Descartes' skepticism about knowledge. Kant for the first time treated philosophy in truly scientific manner.

Kant argued against skepticism through analysis of the nature of mental processes and knowledge and argued that certainty of scientific knowledge is guaranteed by the laws of mind, which he called Categories of understanding.

These categories of understanding are the forms of all possible knowledge e:g The principle of causality by means of which our mind believes that every event has a cause. Though it is a general belief that nature provides a causal order of our experiences but Kant opines that it is not rather it is our mind which order our experiences causally.. Hence categories are a priori i.e. these are not derived from experience but in fact these are necessary precondition for the empirical knowledge.

Kant applies the same principle to morality and believes that morality also requires an a priori foundation because moral precepts like science must be universal and necessary and valid for all rational beings. Kant states that moral principles must be derived on the basis of rational nature of human beings because this is the only thing which is same in every individual. Hence no moral law can be valid if it is not rational. On the basis of this Kant proposes some core fundamental moral laws which he calls Categorical Imperatives. Kant proposes that these imperatives can be used as unconditional directives for human behavior.


In his moral philosophy Kant first of all criticizes the community accepted goods e;g health, wealth, friendship, courage etc. Kant argues that these qualities are not good under all circumstances and can be diminished or sacrificed under certain circumstances. Kant's good is something which is good in itself and whose goodness is not influenced by circumstances. To Kant GOOD WILL is the only unqualified good which he describes as "the effort of rational being to do what he ought to do rather than to act from inclination or self interest". Kant further elaborates that goodness of good will is not due to its ability to produces certain desirable or good results rather it will continue to be good even if the results are not favorable. So in Kant's philosophy morally worthy or good actions are those which are done out of good will. Kant further supports his good by describing that reason which is imparted to humans as a practical faculty also discerns the good will and not the happiness as its highest practical destination.


Duty is the necessity of action from respect of law. According to Kant only actions which are performed by the sense of duty rather reverence of duty and which do not involve any element of self interest, carry a good will behind them. So Kant's moral act is the one which is performed out of duty and not with a concern of results produced.


Kant holds that fundamental principles of moral duty are categorical and not the hypothetical. The two imperatives differ from each other on the basis of conditionality. Categorical imperatives imply unconditional directives which command an action based on its moral worth and not on the consequences. These imperatives direct us to exercise our free will (against natural inclinations) without bothering about good or band result, while hypothetical imperative is a conditional directive which recommends that what ought to be done if desired results are to be achieved.

Kant put forward two categorical imperatives of morality which can be used as a test to judge the moral worth of an action. These are as follows;

One should only go for those actions which he may wish to become universal law for all.

Every human being must be respected impartially and one should never use any human being as mere means.

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