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Kant: A Biography

572 Pages · 2006 · 9.07 MB · English

  • Kant: A Biography

    KANT


    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 as


    well as the one with the most powerful and broad influence on contemporary


    philosophy.


    It is well known that Kant spent his entire life in an isolated part of Prus¬


    sia, living the life of a typical university professor. This has given rise to the


    view that Kant was a pure thinker with no life of his own, or at least none worth


    considering seriously. Manfred Kuehn debunks that myth once and for all.


    Kant's life (1724-1804) spanned almost the entire eighteenth century, and


    the period of his adulthood coincided with some of the most significant changes


    in the Western world, many of which still reverberate in our lives today. This


    was the period in which the modern view of the world originated, and this


    biography reveals how Kant's philosophy was an expression of and response


    to this new conception of modernity. His intellectual life reflects the most


    significant intellectual, political, and scientific developments of the period,


    from the literary movement of Sturm und Drang to such distant events as the


    French and American Revolutions.


    Taking account of the most recent scholarship, Professor Kuehn allows the


    reader (whether interested in philosophy, history, politics, German culture, or


    religion) to follow the same journey that Kant himself took: from being a


    scholar narrowly focusing on the metaphysical foundations of Newtonian


    science to emerging as a great thinker expounding the defense of the morality


    of an enlightened citizen of the world.


    Manfred Kuehn was a professor of philosophy at Purdue University from 1983


    to 1999. He is now teaching at the Philipps-Universität Marburg. Kant


    A Biography


    Manfred Kuehn


    Philipps-Universität Marburg


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    © Cambridge University Press 2001


    This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception


    and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,


    no reproduction of any part may take place without


    the written permission of Cambridge University Press.


    First published 2001


    First paperback edition 2002


    Printed in the United States of America


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    A catalog record for this book is available from the British Library


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    ISBN 0 521 49704 3 hardback


    ISBN 0 521 52406 7 paperback To


    Margret Contents


    Acknowledgments page ix


    Cast of Characters xi


    Chronology of Kant's


    Life and Works xv


    Prologue i


    1 Childhood and Early Youth (1724-1740) 24


    2 Student and Private Teacher (1740-1755) 61


    3 The Elegant Magister (1755—1764) 100


    4 A Palingenesis and Its Consequences


    (1764-1769) 144


    5 Silent Years (1770-1780) 188


    6 "All-Crushing" Critic of Metaphysics


    (1780-1784) 238


    7 Founder of a Metaphysics of Morals


    (1784-1787) 277


    8 Problems with Religion and Politics


    (1788-1795) 329


    9 The Old Man (1796-1804) 386


    Notes 423


    Works Cited 511


    Index 531


    vii Acknowledgments


    THE FOUNDING of the North American Kant Society in 1986 was a sig¬


    nificant event not only for Kant scholarship in the United States but also


    for me personally. I have been lucky to be able to serve as the society's bib¬


    liographer since its inception, and I am glad to observe that Kant scholar¬


    ship has become a more cooperative enterprise since that time. Indeed, I


    have benefited greatly from the help of many friends and colleagues whom


    I might never have known without this institution. I cannot thank all of


    those who have had an influence on my work over the years, but I would like


    to give a special thanks to the late Lewis White Beck, who was the found¬


    ing father of the society. Like many, I owe him a great debt. I am sure this


    book would have been greatly improved if it could have benefited from his


    advice, but unfortunately that was not to be.


    I have, however, been fortunate to benefit from the help and advice of


    many others. I am very grateful to Terry Moore, who first encouraged me to


    think about the necessity for a new biography of Kant, and then suggested


    that I write it. Without him, this book would never have been written. It


    would have remained a dream. In writing the book, I have incurred many


    other debts. First among those are the ones to my friends in Marburg, who


    helped me greatly not only in the research, but also in the preparation of


    the first draft. Heiner Klemme's encouragement, help, and friendship were


    decisive from beginning to end. I cannot thank him enough. Werner Stark's


    expert advice improved the work a great deal and saved me from a num¬


    ber of serious errors. Werner Euler generously shared some of his unpub¬


    lished work with me. Reinhard Brandt, who rightfully pointed out to me


    early on that any biography of Kant could be written only in Marburg, was


    also helpful in a number of ways. His comments on the penultimate version


    were especially important.


    I am also grateful to the staffs of the University Library and the Library


    ix Acknowledgments


    X


    of the Institute of Philosophy at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, and of


    the Herder Institute in Marburg. I spent many enjoyable hours there in the


    summers of 1995 and 1997, as well as a few days in 1996 and 1998. Some of


    the preparatory work was done with the support of a summer grant from


    the National Endowment for the Humanities in the summer of 1988 and


    a fellowship at the Center for Humanistic Studies at Purdue University


    during the fall of 1990. This support was originally for a study of Kant's


    philosophical development, parts of which have been incorporated into


    this book. Much of the first draft was written with the support of another


    fellowship at the Center for Humanistic Studies during the fall of 1995.1


    am also thankful to Rod Bertolet, the chair of the department of philosophy


    at Purdue University, who made various arrangements that made it possi¬


    ble for me to return to Marburg in 1997.


    Some of my other colleagues at Purdue, namely Cal Schräg, William


    McBride, and Jacqueline Marina, graciously commented on an early draft


    of the first three chapters, and the comments and suggestions of Mary


    Norton and Rolf George significantly improved the final version of those


    chapters. Martin Curd read various parts and left his mark on them (I have


    indicated some in the text).


    Karl Ameriks, Michael Gill, Steve Naragon, Konstantin Pollok, and


    Frederick Rauscher read the entire manuscript and made many helpful


    comments for which I am most grateful. Karl Ameriks and Michael Gill,


    especially, took such an active interest in the project that their influence is


    everywhere. I wish that the final product could more adequately express


    what I have learned from them.


    Finally, I would like to thank Margret Kuehn for her support during the


    writing of this book and my other quixotic travails. Cast of Characters


    Boromski, Ludwig Ernst (1740-1832), one of Kant's first students; he remained friendly


    with Kant throughout his life. During his later years, Borowski was a high official in


    the Lutheran Church of Prussia. He was a frequent dinner guest during Kant's last


    years. He wrote one of the three "official" biographies of Kant, but did not attend his


    funeral.


    Baczko, Adolph Franz Joseph von (1756-1823), a student of Kant's during the sev¬


    enties (and a friend of Kraus). Although he lost his eyesight, he was a capable historian.


    A professorship at the University of Königsberg was denied him because he was a


    Catholic.


    Beck, Jacob Sigismund (1761-1840), one of Kant's most famous early followers. He


    studied in Königsberg, where he was as much influenced by Kraus as by Kant. He pub¬


    lished between 1793 and 1796 a volume of explanations of Kant's critical philosophy.


    Early on, he was an orthodox follower of Kant's; in his last book, The Only Possible


    Point of View from which Critical Philosophy Must Be Judged, Beck went his own way,


    much to Kant's chagrin.


    Fichte, Johann Gottlieb (1762-1814), famous idealist philosopher. He came to Königs¬


    berg, where he wrote the Critique of All Revelation (1792). Kant used his influence


    to see that it was published. This work, which appeared anonymously, was first viewed


    as Kant's own. Kant's revelation of Fichte's authorship made him famous. Later,


    Fichte went "beyond" Kant. He severely criticized Kantian philosophy and thus drew


    Kant's ire.


    Funk, Johann Daniel (1721-1764), a very popular professor of law in Königsberg and


    a close friend of the young Kant. He led a loose life, and he had a decisive influence


    on Hippel.


    Goeschen, Johann Julius (1736-1798), came to Königsberg in 1760, where he soon


    became a friend of Kant and the Jacobis. He was first the master and then the director


    of the mint in Königsberg. He and Maria Charlotta Jacobi became lovers and married


    after she got a divorce. After the marriage Kant remained friendly with Goeschen, even


    though he never entered their house.


    Green, Joseph (1727-1786), British merchant in Königsberg and the closest friend of


    Kant. Hippel is said to have used Green as a model for his Man of the Clock, a char-


    xi


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