Essay Preview: Immanuel Kant
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Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, Russia on April 22nd 1724. From a young age he attended a school devoted to the tenets of Pietism (a 17th century evangelical movement) based on bible study and personal religious experience. His Mother had no education and dedicated her life to God and her family, while his father supported her on the little wages he earned from making saddles. In 1740, at the age of sixteen, he enrolled in the University of Koningsberg. He developed a passion for physics and mathematics as a child and continued an in-depth study of these at the University. His father died in 1742, which resulted in Kant being forced to drop out of education and become a private tutor to support himself. In 1755, he received financial aid from a friend and continued his education. He obtained a doctorate and became a professor at the institution teaching in mathematics and science for the following fifteen years. Throughout this time he attended a number of lectures by other members of staff in the field of philosophy and eventually began to teach this subject also soon thereafter.
Kant began to attract students from all over the world, intrigued by his ideas and concepts of philosophy. He gained national recognition due to his concepts of morality, his idea of the categorical imperative and his description of the autonomy of will. He worked towards making philosophy a scientific concept, that knowledge is also a matter of human reason. Kant believed that in observing moral instincts of people, through the eyes of faith we can see a source behind the mere human will itself that directs life. Kant began to publish books relating his ideas and concepts on philosophy. In 1785 he published a book entitled ÐMetaphysics of Morals and later in 1788 he published his most famous book ÐThe Critique of Practical Reason. By the time he died on February 13th, 1804 had published ten books in his name and spread his views on philosophy throughout the world.
Immanuel Kant tried to form a base by rejecting all ethical theories that are connected to consequences, and then focusing on our ethical motivations and actions. Kant wanted to derive good characters out of contingently right actions. He believed that everything was contingent (everything could have good or bad worth, depending on how it is used). He tried to find the supreme principal of morality in all of his reasoning. Kant also believed that an action is right or wrong based solely on the reason by which it was performed.
Kant believed that an action has moral worth only if it is done out of respect for our moral code. He named this moral action a Ðduty. Kant also believed that in determining the moral worth of an action, we needed to look at the maxim by which it was performed. So, we needed to look at ones reason for doing an action to determine if it is a duty. If the reason for performing the action is justified, then the action is a duty. However, Kant said there are two different types of reasons for performing an action. Kant called these reasons Ðimperatives.
The first reason for performing an action, the hypothetical imperative, is based on consequences and on our personal preferences. They are also contingent, meaning that they can be good or bad depending on how they are used. People choose to perform a given action because of the hypothetical imperative. The second reason for performing an action according to Kant is called the categorical imperative. These are not based on our preferences, dont deal with consequences of an action, and are derived a priority. They are completely separate from hypothetical imperatives. We all have knowledge of categorical imperatives before experiencing them first. They are kind of a second nature for us, which needs to be recognized according to Kant. These are the most important reason for performing an action. These imperatives also have the characteristics that Kant needed in order to make his point that all of our moral principals are categorical, have absolute authority, and are independent of different situations. These categorical imperatives have three different formulations.