Immanuel Kant disagreed with both the rationalist and empiricist, especially concerning knowledge. To Kant the mind was active in the world. This opposed Locke, who thought the mind was simply a passive receptor of information and experience.
Kant thought that when we look at the world we conceptualize it in a peculiarly human way. We do this because we already have conceptions of how we think the world to be. And these conceptions precede experience, thus being, what he termed, a priori, as opposed to a posteriori, or knowledge gained from experience alone. In effect, knowledge becomes a synthesis of experience and concepts.
In its most basic form consider a farmer, an artist and a builder looking at a field. The field exists in the real world in an exact form, and this is what we experience. But it merges with conceptions in the mind. Hence, the farmer sees the field in terms of feeding his stock; the artist sees only its aesthetic beauty; the builder sees its proportions in terms of how many houses he can build. At a higher level, we know of space and time through pure intuition, preceding sense impressions.
The world within the individual’s head is thus different to the real world. We have mental filters which add biases, ideals and other human peculiarities to the world. Thus the truth of the world is unknowable. As this is metaphysical, we should not bother with metaphysical arguments BECAUSE they are unknowable.
Within this unknowable world, Kant attempted to add a universal morality based on individual free will. Introducing the ‘categorical imperative’, he argued that to be moral, we must look at our actions and see what the world would be like if everybody did it. For instance, lying must be wrong, for if everyone did it, there would be no truth.
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