The Critique of Pure Reason is the first of Immanuel Kant’s three critiques. In it, Kant seeks to establish what human reason is capable of knowing without the senses. Kant argues that while reason is capable of arriving at some truths, it is not capable of comprehensive knowledge. Rather, says Kant, our understanding of reality comes by our mind shaping our sense experience. Our sense of time makes us see the world as temporal. Kant argues that it is impossible to have certain knowledge of a thing “in itself.” We can have accurate knowledge, but it is shaped by our perceiving minds.
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One of the most influential works in the history of philosophy.
—The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was born in Königsberg, Prussia, in a Pietist Lutheran family. He attended the University of Königsberg, becoming a lecturer there after graduation. In 1770, he accepted the chair of logic and metaphysics at Königsberg. He published and taught a variety of subjects, but focused on metaphysics and its relationship to physics and mathematics. He was heavily influenced by the writings of Leibniz, Newton, Hume, and Rousseau, drawing on both the empiricist and the rationalist schools. He wrote works of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and teleology. His revolutionary contribution to philosophy is his argument that human knowledge of the world comes from sense experience but is shaped by innate structures inherent in human reason.