Immanuel Kant: An Introduction and Collection of Resources

This page contains an organized collection of links to beginner friendly videos, podcasts and articles on Immanuel Kant. To get started, simply choose a topic from the list below.

Who was Immanuel Kant?

“One man who devoted his whole life to the pursuit of absolute truth was Immanuel Kant: indeed, apart from this pursuit, there is little to tell about his biography. Born in 1724 in Königsberg, which was then in the eastern part of Prussia, he lived all his life in the town of his birth. From 1755 until 1770 he was a Privatdozent or lecturer in Königsberg University, and from 1770 until his death in 1804 he held the professorship of logic and metaphysics there. He never travelled or married or held public office, and the story of his life is the story of his ideas.” – Excerpt from A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny.

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Kant’s Metaphysics and Epistemology

“If you are wearing rose-tinted spectacles they will colour every aspect of your visual experience. You may forget that you are wearing them, but they will still affect what you see. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) believed that we are all walking around understanding the world through a filter like this. The filter is the human mind. It determines how we experience everything and imposes a certain shape on that experience. Everything we perceive takes place in time and space, and every change has a cause. But according to Kant, that is not because of the way reality ultimately is: it is a contribution of our minds. We don’t have direct access to the way the world is. Nor can we ever take the glasses off and see things as they truly are. We’re stuck with this filter and without it we would be completely unable to experience anything. All we can do is recognize that it is there and understand how it affects and colours what we experience.” – Excerpt from A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton.

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Kant’s Ethics

“The starting point of Kant’s moral theory is that the only thing that is good without qualification is a good will. Talents, character, and fortune can be used to bad ends and even happiness can be corrupting. It is not what a good will achieves that matters; good will, even if frustrated in its efforts, is good in itself alone. What makes a will good is that it is motivated by duty: to act from duty is to exhibit good will in the face of difficulty. Some people may enjoy doing good, or profit from doing good, but worth of character is shown only when someone does good not from inclination, but for duty’s sake.

To act from duty is to act out of reverence for the moral law, to act in obedience to a moral imperative. There are two sorts of imperative, hypothetical and categorical. A hypothetical imperative says: if you wish to achieve a certain end, act in such-and-such a way. The categorical imperative says: no matter what end you wish to achieve, act in such-and-such a way. There are as many sets of hypothetical imperatives as there are different ends that human beings may set themselves, but there is only one categorical imperative which is this: ‘Act only according to a maxim by which you can at the same time will that it shall become a universal law.’ Whenever you are inclined to act in a certain way—for instance, to borrow money without any intention of paying it back—you must always ask yourself what it would be like if everyone acted in that way.” – Excerpt from A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny.

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Kant’s Aesthetics

“Kant’s aesthetics is based on a fundamental problem, which he expresses in many different forms, eventually giving to it the structure of an ‘antinomy’. According to the ‘antinomy of taste’, aesthetic judgement seems to be in conflict with itself: it cannot be at the same time aesthetic (an expression of subjective experience) and also a judgement (claiming universal assent). And yet all rational beings, simply in virtue of their rationality, seem disposed to make these judgements. On the one hand, they feel pleasure in an object, and this pleasure is immediate, not based in any conceptualization of the object, or in any enquiry into cause, purpose or constitution. On the other hand, they express their pleasure in the form of a judgement, speaking ‘as if beauty were a quality [Beschaffenheit] of an object’, thus representing their pleasure as objectively valid. But how can this be so? The pleasure is immediate, based on no reasoning or analysis; so what permits this demand for universal agreement?” – Excerpt from Kant: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton.

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Why is Kant worth studying?

“There are few philosophers whose influence is more widely felt across the range of the subject in the contemporary world than is the case with Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Despite the breadth of Kant’s influence on contemporary philosophy, it can be extremely difficult to get a grip on the nature of Kant’s own work. One of the central reasons why this can be so difficult is precisely because of the range of Kant’s own philosophical contributions. To make a major impact on the understanding of metaphysics would be sufficient reason for a thinker to be regarded as a ‘major’ philosopher. But Kant’s ethics are surely as central to debates in contemporary moral philosophy as the Critique of Pure Reason is in contemporary metaphysics and epistemology. Nor does Kant’s importance end there since, as is widely recognized, the Critique of Judgment is foundational for the modern discipline of aesthetics (in addition to raising questions about teleology that have, if anything, gained in resonance in recent years). Finally, the comprehension of the status of scientific laws and the way science itself is philosophically understood are topics that often lead thinkers to read or re-read The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. When these points are put together, it becomes evident that Kant‘s influence is not only broad in range on contemporary philosophy but comprehending the nature of this influence is itself something that requires extended reflection and for such reflection to be effective, there is a need for guidebooks that clearly map all the central elements of Kant’s philosophy.” – Excerpt from The Bloomsbury Companion to Kant edited by Gary Banham, Dennis Schulting & Nigel Hems.

Further Reading

If you’re new to the philosophy of Kant, the following books are a good place to start:

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Secondary Resources:

Miscellaneous Resources

Video Lectures

Audio Lectures

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

If you’d like to learn more about philosophy, check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.