Why the world still needs Immanuel Kant

Why the world still needs Immanuel Kant

All this is true, but it hardly explains why the poet Heinrich Heine found Kant more ruthlessly revolutionary than Robespierre. Nor does it explain why Kant himself said that only pedants cared about this kind of skepticism. Ordinary people don’t worry about the reality of billiard tables, chairs or balls. They wonder, however, if ideas like freedom and justice are just fantasies. Kant’s main goal was to show that this was not the case.

We often forget this point, because Kant was as bad a writer as he was a great philosopher. By the time he has finished proving the existence of the objects of ordinary experience and is ready to show how they differ from the ideas of reason, the semester is almost over. The length of his work, however, is not the only reason why his work is often misinterpreted. Consider the effects of a bad review.

If Kant had died before his 57th birthday, some scholars would remember him for his early short texts. He retired from their editorial staff in 1770 to design and compose his great “Critique of Pure Reason”..” After what scholars call his “silent decade,” Kant collected the text in six months and finally published it in 1781. For a year and a half, Kant waited for answers. When one finally appeared, it was an ax swing accusing him of being a Berkeleyan solipsist: someone who denies the existence of ordinary objects.

Any author can imagine Kant’s dismay, and very probably his anger. In haste to refute the distortion of his life’s work, Kant wrote a second edition of the “Critique of Pure Reason” and, more fatally, the “Prolegomena.”.” As the latter is much shorter than the main book, it is read much more often, which has distorted the interpretation of Kant’s work as a whole. If the major problem of philosophy was to prove the existence of the world, then Kant would surely have solved it. (Richard Rorty argued that he had done so and that philosophy had little more to offer.)

In fact, Kant was driven by a question that still haunts us: are ideas like freedom and justice utopian daydreams, or are they more substantial? Their reality cannot be proven like that of material objects, because these ideas make entirely different claims about us – and some people are completely unmoved by their claims. Could philosophy show that acting morally, if not particularly common, is at least possible?

An astonishing thought experiment answers this question in his next book, the “Critique of Practical Reason.”.” Kant asks us to imagine a man who says that temptation overwhelms him every time he passes “a certain house.” (The 18th century was discreet.) But if a gallows were built to ensure that the individual would be hanged upon leaving the brothel, he would find that he could very well resist temptation. All mortal temptations fade in the face of threats to life itself.

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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