Kant's Philosophy: Dare To Think


Use your brain! With that message, Immanuel Kant called on people to think for themselves. Born 300 years ago in Königsberg, Prussia, he developed his philosophy in a world of absolutist rulers. He confidently called on people to stop allowing themselves to be treated like "dumb animals" by politicians and the church.

And he was almost shockingly modern: Kant wanted world peace ensured by treaties between nations. His motto was “Make laws, not war.” That made Kant a pioneer of modern international law. If it were up to him, there wouldn’t even be standing armies to threaten other countries.

In addition, Kant set ethical norms for us all, including in everyday life: he demanded that no one should be used as a means to an end, that no one should be instrumentalized. This idea has become famous as the “Categorical Imperative.”

But it’s also true that some of Kant’s views would today be considered racist, antisemitic and sexist – and completely contradictory to his own philosophy. As progressive as he was in some areas, in others he was simply a product of his era and environment.

Yet, as an old man, Kant was fervently committed to global justice, and it’s astonishing how many of his ideas sound almost utopian, even in the 21st century. In 1795, he called for “world citizenship,” a kind of right of visitation for all people on Earth: freedom of movement without passports or visas. And he wanted refugees to be taken in.

Immanuel Kant: an amazing thinker who still has a lot to say to us 300 years after his birth!

- DW


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