Like other watershed figures, Kant has contributed to the shape of world civilization, and the conceptualization we have of the world today. His practical ideas, such as the Categorical Imperative and its implications , informed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , the Political and Economic Covenants , and the International Criminal Court His exploration of natural sciences and his metaphysical ideas, particularly those of his pre-critical period — , are stunning.
Kant gave the first account of the evolutionary reciprocity of spacetime and momentum-energy, and formulated the first general law of free field radiation He suggested the conceptual solution of the three body problem, which emerges in the interplay of Earth, Moon, and Sun He was the first to construct a detailed evolutionary cosmology His ideas on biospherical dynamics allowed him to predict the rhythms of the monsoon and the oscillation of coastal winds — He suggested that the building blocks of matter are energy bubbles —an idea that is useful today in superstring theory in the guise of Calabi-Yau manifolds.
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First, in terms of science, it now appears that his metaphysics has withstood the test of time. Second, in terms of religion, important recent scholarship indicates an ambivalence, if not dislike of Christianity—something that his early biographers, all of them Lutheran theologians, took pains to avoid revealing. Kant, himself, was always cautious when writing on such topics. In the context of censorship, writers tend to become circumspect. To avoid trouble, they may publish something anonymously; or they may make oblique remarks instead of direct statements; or they may have second thoughts and retract earlier statements.
Kant did all three things. Importation and serious consideration of eastern thought was in its infancy during the end of the modern period, and Kant was unaware of the Far Eastern roots of the notions that influenced him. The historical irony is that he dismissed nonwestern cultures while being deeply influenced by their insights. From the start, Kant was pushing quite a unique agenda.
Its theme is his intellectual formation: the influences in his youth and education; his views on natural philosophy, ontology and cosmology shaped during his early adulthood; the questions subsequently pursued; and the historical fate of his answers. The Reuters were shoe- and harness-makers; the Kants were harness-makers Riemer , a guild similar to saddlers. The union of Kants and Reuters provided an initial economic, emotional and religious stability for Kant during his early years.
His grandfather and father were competent businessmen, initially flourishing and respected in their strata of society. The family was rather well off. The parents got along and loved their son. Johann Kant appears to have been a gentle and hardworking man. Little Immanuel was her constant company, and her influence on him was considerable.
She taught him what she could, of the seasons, the plants and animals, and the sky. Her little son responded eagerly with questions; and the mother encouraged his outdoor curiosity with praise, patience, and more information Wasianski Walks, as the ones he enjoyed at the edge of town, were fun and perfectly safe.
For Prussians at the time, excursions into nature also had a spiritual subtext. Like Japanese Shinto, German tradition invests natural places with meaning. The late and superficial conversion of the Baltic lands to Christianity, after the fourteenth century, coupled with the fact that persecution drove pagan faiths temporarily underground instead of eliminating them altogether, allowed the ancient nature-worship to prevail in forms inoffensive to the clergy, as in the guise of outdoor walks. Thus people used to attend Sunday service—before heading out for their Sonntagsspaziergang.
The Protestant Church avoided a schism in Prussia, but at the price of friction between the Lutheran mainstream, orthodoxy, and the Pietist firebrands. Pietism stressed literal exegesis, quiet humility, and charitable deeds. It allowed believers to practice a spirituality of mystical intensity—but as the purge of Halle University illustrates, it had a totalitarian streak. The local authorities frowned on the movement, but the Pietists enjoyed protection of King Friedrich Wilhelm I reign —40 and thus persisted.
In , the field chaplain Franz Albert Schulz came to town, rising to become the local leader of the movement. He was appointed to director of the Pietist high school the Collegium Fridericianum and later to professor of theology. It stood for the equality of all to interpret the Bible and a practical faith through charitable acts, while at the same time endorsing the political ambitions of Frederick I. It was a grassroots movement that the emphasized the personal nature of religion in contrast to establishment orthodoxy; politically, it allied itself with the common citizen over the nobility.
I will never forget my mother, for she implanted and nurtured in me the first germ of goodness; she opened my heart to the impressions of nature; she awakened and furthered my concepts, and her doctrines have had a continual and beneficial influence in my life. Jachmann ; tr. Kuehn a: Later, he would develop a metaphysics whose claims would anticipate scientific discoveries, and an ethics that culminated in the Categorical Imperative.
His friends chose the dictum from the Critique of Practical Reason for his tombstone:. Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. Guyer 1.
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Had it not been for his sensitive and intelligent mother, his life might well have taken an entirely different course. As Immanuel grew older, hardships befell the family. After the death of his maternal grandfather , the Kants suffered from a series of events that would eventually ruin the family. The saddlers, a guild distinct from harness-makers while producing similar goods, did not welcome the competition.
Income steadily declined, and further hardship occurred with the death of Anna Regina Just thirteen years old, Immanuel must have keenly felt the loss of his first tutor regarding nature and religious sentiment.
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When Immanuel was six or seven, he went to the Hospitalschule , a grammar school at the local clinic, whose teacher was a Pietist candidate in theology. In , Pastor Schulz, who knew the child through Anna, arranged for Immanuel, now eight, to continue his education at the Collegium Fridericianum.
For a child of working-class parents, such as Kant,this was a fortunate opportunity. Practically speaking, this would raise Kant in the eyes of society and offer him the opportunity to raise himself above the rank and economics into which he was born. One might conjecture that the sensitive and bright Kant would look forward to the possibility of advancement. Unfortunately, the tutelage he received there was a rather more stringent form of Pietism than the one he found at home under the instruction of his mother. Kant would later judge the time of youth as the hardest years of life, ruled by discipline, loneliness, and lack of freedom Lectures on Pedagogy , w.
School, at the Collegium , was held six days a week. Sundays were spent with homework and prayer. Primary subjects of instruction were Latin and religion. Only male pupils were admitted; there was no way to meet girls or socialize, and, as the son of a harness-maker, Kant was already at a significant social disadvantage. The later stages of his primary education what we would call high school definitely changed his life for the worse.
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Immanuel was to attend high school until , when he was sixteen. Moreover, the education was not even of great quality. Only rather elementary math was offered, and natural philosophy biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and astronomy was not taught at all. Pupils were groomed for administrative and clerical careers, so science was considered a luxury not to be indulged. The sciences were also suspect from the theological perspectives of his instructors. Pietist indifference to inquiry and fundamentalist denial of facts resulted in contemptuous hostility toward science.
The later Pietist thinker Christian August Crusius —75 essentially concurred. Mathematics was useful for bookkeeping but worthless for describing reality. Physics was acceptable as long as its findings did not undermine the Bible. As independent research programs, however, the sciences were deemed wellsprings of heresy. Although the school did offer a variety of topics: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, logic, history both church and philosophy and geography, the primary use of this instruction was in preparation for further theological study at the university.
Education at the Collegium was always in the service of the Pietist programmatic, conversion and salvation of souls. In Halle, Pietism found its epicenter and religious temperament. With his earliest education at the Collegium , Kant was to suffer from the more severe form of pedagogical ideals. During high school this moderation was not felt. The instructors at the Collegium were stern. Pietist schooling involved a rigorous schedule, strict adherence to religious dogma, and instruction by repetitive drills. Strict adherence to regimen, dogma and practical applications were essential to these two goals.
In contrast to Catholicism where sins are forgiven in confession , Protestant salvation depends on grace. The faithful cannot rely on a ritual for exoneration; non-Catholic Christians steadily collect sins. They can only do their best and better their odds for deliverance by remorseful introspection. Pietism honed remorse into a fine art. The only measure, if there is any, is the intensity of shame—the stronger the cultivated feelings of guilt, the better the chances for salvation. The education at the Collegium institutionalized this guilt and sought to properly instruct its charges with a contrite spirit and sense of conservative propriety.
One should feel an enthusiastic guilt and sense of turpitude in an effort to become a better citizen, both spiritually and practically.
He excelled at Latin, an emphasis at the school, and Greek, but struggled with theology and arithmetic. He appears to have enjoyed classic authors under the guidance of Heydenreich and many thought he would take up classics at university. The lack of scientific training would hamper his later explorations of nature. He tried to make up for it at the university in , but his mathematics instructor, Privatdozent Christian Ammon — was ignorant of the calculus Kuehn b: 13—16 —an essential tool for understanding the cutting-edge physical research of the day.
Such a substandard education in arithmetic, philosophy and the sciences were the norm at the Collegium Fridericianum , and Kant would have to continually work to make up for this early deficit. In the absence of data, this effect is conjectural. Still, common sense suggests that his later interest in dignity and the value of autonomy might have been influenced by the treatment he suffered and witnessed in school.
Anna Kant died in , when Immanuel was thirteen. This may be due, in part, to the daily exposure to the guilt associated with the doctrines of morality to which Immanuel was exposed at the Collegium. And without a mother as an affectionate and sane counterweight, the oppressiveness and negative associations of guilt and morality must have taken its toll.
He suffered the pious whim of teachers, eager to instill feelings of guilt for the sake of salvation. His later contempt for emotion is arguably unjustified, but his upbringing suggests an explanation. Financial considerations at home left much to be desired. His widowed father filed his taxes as a pauper. Often he did so for free, but, on occasion, Kant would accept luxuries to supplement his modest means.
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