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In epistemology, it is the view that what is knowable has distinct limits that need to be traced for us to be aware of the true nature of our cognitive access to things. That which is capable of being known is described as phenomena while noumena is that which is beyond the limits of knowledge. The phenomenal world consists of objects of the senses, as grasped by the categories. The judgments by which we can capture what is necessary in the world are termed by Kant synthetic a priori. The nature of Kant's investigations of cognition revolve around the notion of transcendental psychology, an area often assimilated to cognitive science but having significantly different range.
In metaphysics, this view states that we are not able to prove either the existence or non-existence of God, that the freedom of the will cannot be demonstrated to be impossible, that we can make no claims concerning "simples," that is, hypothetical ultimately simple building blocks of the cosmos, and that we can make no meaningful claims concerning the beginning of the world or the finiteness of the universe. The revolution brought about in this area by Kant has been one of the most lasting, affecting all of the major movements of philosophy since his time, from analytic philosophy to phenomenology.
In ethics, Kant wrote works that both described the nature of universal principles and also sought to demonstrate the procedure of their application. Kant maintained that only a "good will" is morally praiseworthy, so that doing what appears to be ethical for the wrong reasons is not a morally good act. Kant's emphasis on one's intent or reasons for acting is usually contrasted with the utilitarian tenet that the goodness of an action is to be judged by its results. Utilitarianism is a hypothetical imperative, if one wants _____, they must do ______. Contrast this with the Kantian ethic of the categorical imperative, where the moral act is done for its own sake, and is framed: One must do ______ or alternatively, one must not do ______.
The Kantian view of radical evil has also been important in recent years with increasing attention being focused on the nature of his moral psychology.
In aesthetics, the argument for purposive judgments that are disinterested led to a non-cognitivist conception of beauty, but more recently the accounts offered by Kant of the sublime have been more influential. The distinction between pure judgments of taste — which primarily on natural beauty — and judgments concerning artistic objects — which always embody some purpose — was of central importance to Kant, but has often been obscured in criticism, particularly in the work of Clement Greenberg. The assessment of the enduring nature of his legacy in aesthetics and artistic criticism has been subjected to essential new interpretations.
In teleology, Kant's positions were neglected for many years because in the minds of many scientists they were associated with vitalist views of evolution. Their gradual rehabilitation recently is evident in teleonomy which bears a number of features, such as the description of organisms, that are reminiscent of the Kantian conception of final causes as essentially recursive in nature.
In political philosophy Kant has had wide and increasing influence with the major political philosopher of the late twentieth century, John Rawls drawing heavily on his inspiration in setting out the basis for a liberal view of political institutions. The nature of Rawls's use of Kant has engendered serious controversy but has demonstrated the vitality of Kantian considerations across a wider range of questions than was once thought plausible.
- Thomas Auxter (1982) Kant's Moral Teleology (Mercer University Press)
- Lewis White Beck (1960) A Commentary on Kant's Critique of Practical Reason (University of Chicago Press)
- R. Beiner and W.J. Booth (eds.) (1993) Kant and Political Philosophy (Yale University Press)
- Gary Banham (2000) Kant and the Ends of Aesthetics (Macmillan)
- Gary Banham (2000) "Teleology, Transcendental Reflection and Artificial Life" Tekhnehma: Journal of Philosophy and Technology Number 6.
- Gary Banham (2003) Kant's Practical Philosophy: From Critique to Doctrine (Palgrave Macmillan)
- Howard Caygill (1989) Art of Judgment (Blackwell)
- Howard Caygill (1995) A Kant Dictionary (Blackwell)
- Mary Gregor (1963) Laws of Freedom: A Study of Kant's Method of Applying the Categorical Imperative in the Metaphysik Der Sitten (Basil Blackwell)
- John Rawls (2000) Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (Harvard University Press)
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