could not be described as a conjectural history at all, but merely as a work of fiction. CONJECTURES ON THE BEGINNING OF HUMAN HISTORY.? Ohe. a kind of call to action. — human history is going from worse to better. (slowly), and we can help move it along (last sentence). — we can do so in part through the . In the following passage from Conjectural Beginning of Human History (from On History, ed by Lewis White Beck, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Educational.
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Immanuel Kant — is the central figure in modern philosophy. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields. He argues that the human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality.
Therefore, scientific knowledge, morality, and religious belief are mutually consistent and secure because they all rest on the same foundation conjecgural human autonomy, which is also the final end of nature according to the teleological worldview of reflecting judgment that Kant introduces to unify the theoretical and practical parts of his philosophical system.
Kant was kqnt into an artisan family of modest means. His father was a master harness maker, and his mother was the daughter of a harness maker, though she was better educated than most women of her social class. Pietism was an evangelical Lutheran movement that emphasized conversion, reliance on divine grace, the experience of religious emotions, and personal devotion involving regular Bible study, prayer, and introspection.
Leibniz — was then very influential in German universities. But Kant was also exposed to a range of German and British critics of Wolff, and there were strong doses of Aristotelianism and Pietism represented in the philosophy faculty as well.
For the next four decades Kant taught philosophy there, until his retirement from teaching in at the age of seventy-two. Kant had a burst of publishing activity in the years after he returned from working as a private tutor. In and he published three scientific works — one of which, Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavenswas a major book in which, among other things, he developed what later became known as the nebular hypothesis about the formation of the solar system.
Unfortunately, the printer went bankrupt and the book had little immediate impact. To secure qualifications for teaching at the university, Kant also wrote two Latin dissertations: The following year he published another Latin work, The Employment in Natural Philosophy of Metaphysics Combined with Geometry, of Which Sample I Contains the Physical Monadologyin hopes of succeeding Knutzen as associate professor of logic and metaphysics, though Kant failed to secure this position.
Both works depart from Leibniz-Wolffian views, though not radically. As an unsalaried lecturer at the Albertina Kant was paid directly by the students who attended his lectures, so he needed to teach an enormous amount and to attract many students in order to earn a living. Kant held this position from toduring which period he would lecture an average of twenty hours per week on logic, metaphysics, and ethics, as well as mathematics, physics, and physical geography.
In his lectures Kant used textbooks by Wolffian authors such as Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten — and Georg Friedrich Meier —but he followed them loosely and used them to structure his own reflections, which drew on a wide range of ideas of contemporary interest. These ideas often stemmed from British sentimentalist philosophers such as David Hume — and Francis Hutcheson —some of whose texts were translated into German in the mids; and from the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau —who published a flurry of works in the early s.
From early in his career Kant was a popular and successful lecturer. After several years of relative quiet, Kant unleashed another burst of publications in —, including five philosophical works. The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures rehearses criticisms of Aristotelian logic that were developed by other German philosophers.
The book attracted several positive and some negative reviews. The Prize Essay draws on British sources to criticize German rationalism in two respects: In Negative Magnitudes Kant also argues that the morality of an action is a function of the internal forces that motivate one to act, rather than of the external physical actions or their consequences.
Finally, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime deals mainly with alleged differences in the tastes of men and women and of people from different cultures. After it was published, Kant filled his own interleaved copy of this book with often unrelated handwritten remarks, many of which reflect the deep influence of Rousseau on his thinking about moral philosophy in the mids. These works helped to secure Kant a broader reputation in Germany, but for the most part they were not strikingly original.
While some of his early works tend to emphasize rationalist ideas, others have a more empiricist emphasis.
During this time Kant was striving to work out an independent position, but before the s his views remained fluid. In Kant published his first work concerned with the possibility of metaphysics, which later became a central topic of his mature philosophy. Inat the age of forty-six, Kant was beginnning to the chair in logic and metaphysics at the Albertina, after teaching for fifteen years as an unsalaried lecturer and working since as a sublibrarian to supplement his income.
Kant was turned down for the same position in In order to inaugurate his new position, Kant also wrote one more Latin dissertation: Inspired by Crusius and the Swiss natural philosopher Johann Heinrich Lambert —Kant distinguishes between two fundamental powers of cognition, sensibility and understanding intelligencewhere the Leibniz-Wolffians regarded understanding intellect as the only fundamental power.
Moreover, as the title of the Inaugural Dissertation indicates, Kant argues that sensibility and understanding are directed at two different worlds: The Inaugural Dissertation thus develops a form of Bevinning and it rejects the view of British sentimentalists that moral judgments are based on feelings of pleasure or pain, since Kant now holds that moral judgments are based on pure understanding alone.
After Kant never surrendered the views that sensibility and understanding are distinct powers of cognition, that space and time are subjective forms of human sensibility, and that moral judgments are based on pure understanding or reason alone. But his embrace of Platonism in the Inaugural Dissertation was short-lived.
He soon denied that our understanding is capable of insight into an intelligible histoey, which cleared the path toward his mature position in the Critique of Pure Reasonaccording to which the understanding like sensibility supplies forms that structure our experience of the sensible world, to which human knowledge is limited, while the intelligible or noumenal world is strictly unknowable to us. Kant spent a decade working on the Critique of Pure Reason and published nothing else of significance between and Kant also published a number of important essays in this period, including Idea for a Universal History With a Cosmopolitan Aim and Conjectural Beginning conjetcural Human Historyhis main contributions to the philosophy of history; An Answer to the Question: Jacobi — accused the recently deceased G.
Lessing — of Spinozism. With these works Kant secured international fame and came to dominate German philosophy in the late s. But in he announced that the Critique of the Power of Judgment brought his critical enterprise to an end 5: Beinning his chair at Jena passed to J. Kant retired from teaching in For nearly two decades he had lived a highly disciplined life focused primarily on completing his philosophical system, which began to take definite shape in his mind only in middle age.
Immanuel Kant, from Conjectural Beginning of Human History
After retiring he came to believe that there was a gap in this system separating the metaphysical foundations of natural science from physics itself, and he set out to close this gap in a series of notes that postulate the existence of an ether or caloric matter. Kant died February 12,just short of his eightieth birthday. The main topic of the Critique of Pure Reason is the possibility of metaphysics, understood in a specific way. See also Bxiv; and 4: Thus metaphysics for Kant concerns a priori knowledge, or knowledge whose justification does not depend on experience; and he associates a priori knowledge with reason.
The project of the Critique is to examine whether, how, and to what extent human reason is capable of a priori knowledge. To understand the project of the Critique better, let us consider the historical and intellectual context in which it was written. The Enlightenment was a reaction to the rise and successes of modern science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The spectacular achievement of Newton in particular engendered widespread confidence and optimism about the power of human reason to control nature and to improve human life. One effect of this new confidence in reason was that traditional authorities were increasingly questioned.
For why should we need political or religious authorities to tell us how to live or what to believe, if each of us has the capacity to figure these things out for ourselves? Kant expresses this Enlightenment commitment to the sovereignty of reason in the Critique:. Enlightenment is about thinking for oneself rather than letting others think for you, according to What is Enlightenment?
In this essay, Kant also expresses the Enlightenment faith in the inevitability of progress.
A few independent thinkers will gradually inspire a broader cultural movement, which ultimately will lead to greater freedom of action and governmental reform. The problem is that to some it seemed unclear whether progress would in fact ensue if reason enjoyed full sovereignty over traditional authorities; or whether unaided reasoning would instead lead straight to materialism, fatalism, atheism, skepticism Bxxxivor even libertinism and authoritarianism 8: The Enlightenment commitment to the sovereignty of reason was tied to the expectation that it would not lead to any of these consequences but instead would support certain key beliefs that tradition had always sanctioned.
Crucially, these included belief in God, the soul, freedom, and the compatibility of science with morality and religion. Although a few intellectuals rejected some or all of these beliefs, the general spirit of the Enlightenment was not so radical. The Enlightenment was about replacing traditional authorities with the authority of individual human reason, but it was not about overturning traditional moral and religious beliefs.
Yet the original inspiration for the Enlightenment was the new physics, which was mechanistic. If nature is entirely governed by mechanistic, causal laws, then it may seem that there is no room for freedom, a soul, or anything but matter in motion. This threatened the traditional view that morality requires freedom. We must be free in order to choose what is right over what is wrong, because otherwise we cannot be held responsible. It also threatened the traditional religious belief in a soul that can survive death or be resurrected in an afterlife.
So modern science, the pride of the Enlightenment, the source of its optimism about the powers of human reason, threatened to undermine traditional moral and religious beliefs that free rational thought was expected to support. This was the main intellectual crisis of the Enlightenment.
In other words, free rational inquiry adequately supports all of these essential human interests and shows them to be mutually consistent. So reason deserves the sovereignty attributed to it by the Enlightenment. To see how Kant attempts to achieve this goal in the Critique, it helps to reflect on his grounds for rejecting the Platonism of the Inaugural Dissertation.
In a way the Inaugural Dissertation also tries to reconcile Newtonian science with traditional morality and religion, but its strategy is different from that of the Critique. According to the Inaugural Dissertation, Newtonian science is true of the sensible world, to which sensibility gives us access; and the understanding grasps principles of divine and moral perfection in a distinct intelligible world, which are paradigms for measuring everything in the sensible world.
So on this view our knowledge of the intelligible world is a priori because it does not depend on sensibility, and this a priori knowledge furnishes principles for judging the sensible world because in some way the sensible world itself conforms to or imitates the intelligible world.
Soon after writing the Inaugural Dissertation, however, Kant expressed doubts about this view. As he explained in a February 21, letter to his friend and former student, Marcus Herz:.
Here Kant entertains doubts about how a priori knowledge of an intelligible world would be possible. The position of the Inaugural Dissertation is that the intelligible world is independent of the human understanding and of the sensible world, both of which in different ways conform to the intelligible world.
HST Ideas in the Western Tradition: the modern era (Hutton)
But, leaving aside questions about what it means for the sensible world to conform to an hidtory world, how is it donjectural for the human understanding to conform to or grasp an humah world? If the intelligible world is independent of our understanding, then it seems that we could grasp it only if we are passively affected by it in some way. But for Kant sensibility is our conjedtural or receptive capacity to be affected by objects that are independent of us 2: So the only way we could grasp an intelligible world that is independent of us is through sensibility, which means that our knowledge of it could not be a priori.
The pure understanding alone could at best enable us to form representations of an intelligible world. Such a priori intellectual representations could well be figments of the brain that do not correspond to anything independent of the human mind. In any case, it is completely mysterious how there might come to be a correspondence between purely intellectual representations and an independent intelligible world. But the Critique gives a far more modest and yet revolutionary account of a priori knowledge.
This turned beginnign to be a dead end, and Kant never again maintained that we can have a priori knowledge about an intelligible world precisely because such a world would be entirely independent of us. The sensible world, or the world of appearances, is constructed by the human mind from a combination of sensory matter that we receive passively and a priori forms beginniny are supplied by our cognitive faculties.
We can have a priori knowledge only about aspects of the sensible world that reflect the a priori forms supplied by our cognitive faculties. So according to the Critique, a priori knowledge is possible only if and to the extent that the sensible world itself depends on the way the human mind structures its experience.