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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a German philosopher whose work is considered to be the cornerstone of modern philosophy, despite the fact that his writing is among the most difficult to wade through. Kant believed that reason was the source of morality, and his Critique of Pure Reason is widely held as one of the best philosophical statements in history.
Immanuel Kant's most famous writings are:
- The Critique of Pure Reason
- The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
- The Critique of Judgement
- Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime
Kant was born in the Prussian city of Königsberg (now part of Russia) and never traveled outside of his hometown his entire life. Studying philosophy at the University of Königsberg, Kant showed early brilliance, but was forced to become a private tutor upon the death of his father.
Kant was also a brilliant astronomer, deducing that the solar system was formed out of nebular gas and realizing that the Milky Way was a large collection of stars. However, most of his life was spent on philosophical problems, and after a decade of silence and isolation, produced the Critique of Pure Reason in 1781.
Kant’s philosophy asserts that human experience is the result of both the individual’s perception of the external world and a prior knowledge. The human mind processes information and provides order and structure, producing human understanding. Kant also held that the concept of duty provides a single moral obligation for humans and that this moral law is produced by human reason, and not any divine force, although he did not openly discount the notion that there was a God.