This page contains a list of the eight best books on or by Immanuel Kant. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on Kant” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works by Kant. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on Kant. Here are the best books on or by Kant in no particular order:
Kant: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton
Category: Short Textbook | Length: 160 pages | Published: 2001
Publisher’s description: Immanuel Kant is arguably the most influential modern philosopher, but is also one of the most difficult. In this illuminating Very Short Introduction, Roger Scruton–a well-known and controversial philosopher in his own right–tackles his exceptionally complex subject with a strong hand, exploring the background to Kant’s work and showing why Critique of Pure Reason has proved so enduring.
Kant by Paul Guyer
Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 456 pages | Published: 2006
Publisher’s description: In this outstanding introduction, Paul Guyer uses Kant’s central conception of autonomy as the key to all the major aspects and issues of Kant’s thought.
Beginning with a helpful overview of Kant’s life and times, Guyer introduces Kant’s metaphysics and epistemology, carefully explaining his arguments about the nature of space, time and experience in his most influential but difficult work, The Critique of Pure Reason. He offers an explanation and critique of Kant’s famous theory of transcendental idealism and shows how much of Kant’s philosophy is independent of this controversial doctrine.
He then examines Kant’s moral philosophy, his celebrated ‘Categorical imperative’ and his theories of duty, freedom of will and political rights. Finally, he covers Kant’s aesthetics, in particular his arguments about the nature of beauty and the sublime, and their relation to human freedom and happiness. He also considers Kant’s view that the development of human autonomy is the only goal that we can conceive for both natural and human history.
Kant: A Biography by Manfred Kuehn
Category: Biography | Length: 576 pages | Published: 2002
Publisher’s description: This is the first full-length biography in more than fifty years of Immanuel Kant, one of the giants among the pantheon of Western philosophers, and one of the most powerful and influential in contemporary philosophy. Taking account of the most recent scholarship, Manfred Kuehn allows the reader to follow the same journey that Kant himself took in emerging as a central figure in modern philosophy. Manfred Kuehn was formerly Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University. A specialist on German philosophy of the period, he is the author of numerous articles and papers on Immanuel Kant.
The Cambridge Companion to Kant by Paul Guyer
Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 500 pages | Published: 1992
Publisher’s description: The fundamental task of philosophy since the seventeenth century has been to determine whether the essential principles of both knowledge and action can be discovered by human beings unaided by an external agency. No one philosopher contributed more to this enterprise than Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason (1781) shook the very foundations of the intellectual world. Kant argued that the basic principles of the natural sciences are imposed on reality by human sensibility and understanding, and thus that human beings are also free to impose their own free and rational agency on the world. This volume is the only systematic and comprehensive account of the full range of Kant’s writings available, and the first major overview of his work to be published in more than a dozen years. An internationally recognized team of Kant scholars explore Kant’s conceptual revolution in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, moral and political philosophy, aesthetics, and the philosophy of religion. The volume also traces the historical origins and consequences of Kant’s work.
Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics by Immanuel Kant
Category: Classic | Published: 1783
Publisher’s description: This new, revised edition of Kant’s Prolegomena, the best introduction to the theoretical side of his philosophy, presents his thought clearly through careful attention to his original language. Also included are selections from the Critique of Pure Reason, which fill out and explicate some of Kant’s central arguments (including famous sections of the Schematism and Analogies), and in which Kant himself explains his special terminology. The first reviews of the Critique, to which Kant responded in the Prolegomena, are included in this revised edition.
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant
Category: Classic | Published: 1785
Publisher’s description: Published in 1785, Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals ranks alongside Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as one of the most profound and influential works in moral philosophy ever written. In Kant’s own words, its aim is to identify and corroborate the supreme principle of morality, the categorical imperative. He argues that human beings are ends in themselves, never to be used by anyone merely as a means, and that universal and unconditional obligations must be understood as an expression of the human capacity for autonomy and self-governance. As such, they are laws of freedom. This volume contains Mary Gregor’s acclaimed translation of the work, sympathetically revised by Jens Timmermann, and an accessible, updated introduction by Christine Korsgaard.
Critique of Judgement by Immanuel Kant
Category: Classic | Published: 1790
Publisher’s description: This entirely new translation of Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment follows the principles and high standards of all other volumes in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. This volume includes for the first time the first draft of Kant’s introduction to the work; the only English edition notes to the many differences between the first (1790) and second (1793) editions of the work; and relevant passages in Kant’s anthropology lectures where he elaborated on his aesthetic views.
Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
Category: Classic | Published: 1781
Publisher’s description: This entirely new translation of Critique of Pure Reason is the most accurate and informative English translation ever produced of this epochal philosophical text. Though its simple, direct style will make it suitable for all new readers of Kant, the translation displays a philosophical and textual sophistication that will enlighten Kant scholars as well. This translation recreates as far as possible a text with the same interpretative nuances and richness as the original.
This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:
- browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
- searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
- browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- searching for recommendations on philosophy forums
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Kant
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Kant
If you’d like to learn more about Kant, check out:
And if you’d like to get more philosophy in your life, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or enter your email below to get a quote/passage from a classic work of philosophy delivered to your inbox each day. They include key passages from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and many more. Each passage is paired with a link to a beginner friendly article, video, or podcast, so you can easily learn more about that day’s idea. The goal is to make it easier for everyone to get a little bit more philosophy into their life.