The Kantian Revolution in Philosophy

Lesson Objectives

Appreciate the revolution that Immanuel Kant brought to Western Philosophy

Appreciate Kant's realization that Ethics would now arise from reason alone

Understand the difference between Hypothetical & Categorical Imperatives

Understand the distinction between the Noumenal & Phenomenal world

Appreciate why Kant links Ethics & Phenomenology by using Aesthetics

Understand how Kant presents the Self as a Unity of Consciousness

Key Terms


Hypothetical Imperative

Categorical Imperative

Autonomous Lawmaker


Analytic Truth

Synthetic Truth


Phenomenal (Phenomenology)

Rational Man vs. Natural Man


Unity of Consciousness

The Kantian Revolution

Only two people have revolutionized Philosophy in 2300 years

• Aristotle organized philosophy ontologically ("what is?")

     • His Classical Philosophy focused on existence, form, and function

     • This became the way Medieval philosophers and theologians worked

• Kant organized philosophy not according to what is... but on what it is to think

     • Kant organizes and categorizes Modern Philosophy epistemologically

Why Does Kant reorganize Philosophy epistemologically?

• The two competing Western views of reality were epistemic claims

     • European Cartesian Rationalism – the mind is the path to knowledge

     • British Empiricism – all knowledge arises from physical experience

• One held objective truth was internal to our thinking (Rationalism), the other that objective truth was out there (Empiricism), waiting for us to discover it

• In either case, the promise was that objective truth was waiting for us

     • Kant's criticisms of both Rationalism and Empiricism will

     produce his first two critiques of Western Philosophy

Kant's Three Critiques of Western Philosophy

• 1st Critique (1781): Kant investigates theoretical reason (cf. Phenomenology)

     • Thinking done in the service of the natural world

• 2nd Critique (1788): Kant investigates practical reason (cf. Ethics)

     • Thinking done in the service of discovering absolute moral laws

• 3rd Critique (1790): Kant investigates our judgment and taste (cf. Aesthetics)

     • His first two critiques are theoretical and practical, but our subjective

     taste is neither of those. Taste, it turns out, transcends and links the two.