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Quotes of the day: Immanuel Kant

Published Tuesday, April 21, 2015 @ 3:04 PM EDT
Apr 21 2015

Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 - February 12, 1804) was a German philosopher who is widely considered to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that fundamental concepts structure human experience, and that reason is the source of morality. His thought continues to have a major influence in contemporary thought, especially the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)



A man who acts without settled principles, with no uniformity, has no character.

A public can only arrive at enlightenment slowly. Through revolution, the abandonment of personal despotism may be engendered and the end of profit-seeking and domineering oppression may occur, but never a true reform of the state of mind. Instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones, will serve as the guiding reins of the great, unthinking mass.

All human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas.

All our knowledge falls with the bounds of experience.

All that is required for this enlightenment is freedom; and particularly the least harmful of all that may be called freedom, namely, the freedom for man to make public use of his reason in all matters. But I hear people clamor on all sides: Don't argue! The officer says: Don't argue, drill! The tax collector: Don't argue, pay! The pastor: Don't argue, believe!

Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly.

Beneficence is a duty.

By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man. A man who himself does not believe what he tells another... has even less worth than if he were a mere thing.... makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.

Character is the common ruling principle in man in the use of his talents and attributes.

Character means that the person derives his rules of conduct from himself and from the dignity of humanity.

Enlightenment is man's leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another.

Enlightenment is man's leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence! is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

Even philosophers will praise war as ennobling mankind, forgetting the Greek who said: War is bad in that it begets more evil than it kills.

Everything good that is not based on a morally good disposition, however, is nothing but pretense and glittering misery.

Firmness and unity of principle are essential to character.

Freedom is the alone unoriginated birthright of man, and belongs to him by force of his humanity; and is independence on the will and co- action of every other in so far as this consists with every other person's freedom.

From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned

Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.

Have patience awhile; slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time; erelong she shall appear to vindicate thee.

Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.

Human reason is by nature architectonic.

I have no knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself.

In the end, one does not know what to think of the human race, so conceited in its gifts.

Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.

Man's greatest concern is to know how he shall properly fill his place in the universe and correctly understand what he must be in order to be a man.

Men will not understand... that when they fulfil their duties to men, they fulfil thereby God's commandments...

Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.

Nature does nothing in vain, and in the use of means to her goals she is not prodigal. Her giving to man reason and the freedom of the will which depends upon it is clear indication of her purpose. Man accordingly was not to be guided by instinct, not nurtured and instructed with ready-made knowledge; rather, he should bring forth everything out of his own resources.

Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.

Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.

Psychologists have hitherto failed to realize that imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself.

Religion is too important a matter to its devotees to be a subject of ridicule. If they indulge in absurdities, they are to be pitied rather than ridiculed.

The death of dogma is the birth of morality.

The greatest problem for the human race, to the solution of which Nature drives man, is the achievement of a universal civic society which administers law among men.

The ideal of morality belongs to culture; its use for some simulacrum of morality in the love of honor and outward decorum constitutes mere civilization.

The inscrutable wisdom through which we exist is not less worthy of veneration in respect to what it denies us than in respect to what it has granted.

The means employed by Nature to bring about the development of all the capacities of men is their antagonism in society, so far as this is, in the end, the cause of a lawful order among men.

The public use of a man's reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment among men...

The wish to talk to God is absurd. We cannot talk to one we cannot comprehend- and we cannot comprehend God; we can only believe in Him.

There must be a seed of every good thing in the character of men, otherwise no one can bring it out.

There will always be some people who think for themselves, even among the self-appointed guardians of the great mass who, after having thrown off the yoke of immaturity themselves, will spread about them the spirit of a reasonable estimate of their own value and of the need for every man to think for himself.

Through laziness and cowardice a large part of mankind, even after nature has freed them from alien guidance, gladly remain immature. It is because of laziness and cowardice that it is so easy for others to usurp the role of guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor!

To a high degree we are, through art and science, cultured. We are civilized- perhaps too much for our own good- in all sorts of social grace and decorum. But to consider ourselves as having reached morality- for that, much is lacking.

Variant translations: Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made nothing entirely straight can be built.


(April 22 is also the birthday of Henry Fielding, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Jack Nicholson.)

Categories: Immanuel Kant, Quotes of the day


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