Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kant Biography : Intellectual Growth

Kant is considered as one of the greatest philosopher of all time. He himself in the preface of his magnum opus, first published in 1781, ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ says, that in this book, there is not a single metaphysical problem which has not been solved or the solution of which the key at least has not been supplied.

In preface to the second edition he compares himself to Copernicus and says that he has brought a Copernican revolution in philosophy.

In fact if we are to measure the worth of a philosopher by his influence on future generations then Kant certainly deserves his fame. However, many young students and sometimes professional philosophers tend to measure the worth of a philosopher by his work. I personally consider this as bad approach to philosophy. There is something very unbecoming of a man, who seeks knowledge, to treat the work of any philosopher with contempt and derision, just because his work proved to be a bundle of bad ideas. 

Ignorance or false beliefs are the necessary and inescapable stages of learning in our pursuit of knowledge. Out of ignorance grows true knowledge. From true knowledge I mean understanding of the most up-to-date, latest and, advanced information on any subject. Thus even though works of Hume and Rousseau may not be considered as the best philosophical treaties, but it certainly influenced many people living in their time and most of all Kant. 

Day is Beautiful, and Night is Sublime CC
Kant admits that he was awakened from his dogmatic slumber after reading Hume, even though it was temporary and he relapsed in to the bliss of his soporific ignorance. Later, he considered Hume as an adversary to be refuted rather than embraced. However, same was not the case with Rousseau. Kant as we all know was a man of regular habits. In fact everything in his life moved like a clock. His time to eat, time to study, time to go out for a walk, and time to go to bed was all set. He was so regular in his habits that people could set their clock as per his daily activities. But when he started reading Rousseau his daily routine was disturbed for many days. In his own words Kant says , “I have to read Rousseau again and again because at first reading the beauty of style, prevented me from understanding the matter." Thus Rousseau had the most profound impression on Kant.

Kant’s initial work was more concerned with physical geography and science rather than philosophy. He speculated on the direction of wind and its affect on rotation of Earth. He made the discovery that Earth’s period of rotation was retarded due to the frictional affect of wind and tidal currents. For his significant work and important discovery he was awarded Berlin Academy Prize in 1754.

In the field of science he came up with the Nebular Hypothesis in which he explained that our Solar System was formed from a big cloud of gas. However, a Nebula came out of God himself. Some of his ideas were amazingly true, while others merely proved to be speculative and false, like all planets similar to Earth are inhabited by living beings, and the planets farthest in time and space are inhabited by more advanced form of life; an idea that still finds its place in Hollywood and western society. The aliens who come to our planet are far more advanced than us and always land in a developed country rather than a poor underdeveloped banana republic.

However, Kant was not just obsessed with science and geography but also mysticism. He read the work of Swedenborg which he regarded as beautiful, interesting and very sublime, but in the end rejected it as nothing but traditional metaphysics of a theologian. 

Later he published his own work, 'Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime' in 1764 in which he explored the idea of sublime and beautiful. It appealed to layman and general populace who read philosophy for leisure and lacked the patience of academic audience.

According to Kant Sublime and beautiful are feelings aroused at the sight of a certain thing or event in nature.

Anything that aroused a pleasant feeling of joy was beautiful; on the other hand anything that aroused feeling of joy along with fear was sublime.


Day was beautiful, and night was sublime

Women were beautiful, and men sublime

Land was beautiful, and sea sublime.

Kant was truly a genius. He was by nature a perfect blend of a reasoning mind and a feeling heart.


Anonymous said...

I have been reading through your blog, and have been trying to think of a comment, but i couldn't. so i'll just say thanks.

Yogendra Rawat said...

What you are thinking is true. In future, I would not be writing about what is already known to everyone. Perhaps then you would not be asking about my sources.

Anonymous said...

haha it wasnt me who asked about your sources that was someone else. :)

Yogendra Rawat said...

It's okay. Do tell me your name.

Anonymous said...

Does Kant go into more detail about the meaning of beauty? It's just, I feel that beauty invokes feelings of intrigue equal to feelings of joy.
oh and my name is Chris.

Yogendra Rawat said...


Kant's idea of beauty is very simple. Beauty as he explains is dependent on our feelings which are subjective. Moreover, same idea can arouse feeling of fear at one time and feeling of joy at another. Feeling of joy is necessary, but to be more precise we can add the idea of perfection, harmony, symmetry to the idea of beauty and sublime. Sure women are beautiful, but I do not find every woman beautiful. The idea of intrigue is more close to Kant's idea of sublime.

Post a Comment