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Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804)

Updated Wednesday, 30th August 2006

Introducing the 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant

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Kant book montage

The son of a saddler in Königsberg, East Prussia, Immanuel’s parents were persuaded by their pastor to enter him into the local church school at the age of eight. He went on to study at the University of Königsberg at Bachelors and, after a period working as a tutor, Masters levels.

In 1770 Kant was appointed Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the university when he widened his interests from the natural sciences to philosophy. His work sought to find a way between the two philosophical polarities at the time, Rationalism (with its focus on reason) and Empiricism (which focused on experience).

Kant attempted to generate morality from a foundation of reason, rather than from religion or custom and practice. He thought the test of morality was whether it applied to everyone. He argued that we should see whether the principles that govern our actions could be universally applied. Kant would argue that we could quickly appreciate the importance of trust. If our moral principals allow us to break bonds of trust then we should not expect others to honour such bonds - in which case trust would simply be a word without any real meaning.

Kant’s work was hugely influential, although it was slow to spread due to the difficulty in translating his writing from German, mainly due to his considerable use of technical terms. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest philosopher for three hundred years, and often ranked alongside Plato and Aristotle for importance within western philosophy.

Read more on Kant's relevance to Trust by reading our article 'Kantian Trust'.


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