Kant Essay

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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): an Introduction Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a leading figure in the German Enlightenment and one of the last of the great systematic philosophers. He is best known for his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), a work in which he attempted to establish the extent and the limitations of human knowledge by adjudicating between the epistemological skepticism of David Hume and the apparently certain knowledge about the natural world described in the work of Isaac Newton. Kant also composed a comprehensive and internally consistent moral philosophy--of which the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) is an early statement-and a similarly systematic philosophy of aesthetic judgment, presented most fully in the Critique of Judgment (1790). Kant once asserted that "[if] there is any science humans really need, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in creation that is assigned to humans, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human." The central tenets of this science of practical reasoning and conduct are expressed in three prescriptions: "think for yourself," "think in harmony with yourself," and "in your thinking, put yourself in the place of every other person." The central exhortation of "What is Enlightenment?"--"dare to know"--is a version of the first of these prescriptions. Written in 1784 in response to a question posed by the monthly Berlinische Monatsschrift, the essay belongs to Kant's most fruitful period, coming three years after the Critique of Pure Reason and the year preceding the publication of the Grounding, for the Metaphysics of Morals. Unlike most of his philosophical works, it is written in non-technical language for a general audience and addresses a question of great intellectual interest at the time. Kant's subject in the essay is the breakdown of barriers to the acquisition of

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