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Kant: A Biography Paperback – Aug 19 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (Aug. 19 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521524067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521524063
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 921 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #498,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

For opposite reasons, Kant's life (1724-1804) and ideas are equally difficult to expound engagingly: the ideas, because of their philosophical complexity; the life, because of its uneventful simplicity. Acknowledging as much in his prologue to this earnest biographical effort, Kuehn (of Philipps University in Germany) largely succeeds at this daunting, two-fold task. Nonspecialist readers in philosophy will be intrigued by the lesser-known works of Kant summarized here, such as Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, on the mystical theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, or, more relevant to our own copyright-obsessed times, "On the Injustice of Counterfeiting Books." Seasoned students of Kant will appreciate Kuehn's attention to the genesis of Kant's enormously influential critical philosophy in specific events and epiphanies of his life. Most notably, he explains how a foundational tenet of Kantian thought--that sensation and intellect are discontinuous (propounded in defiance of the then commonly received philosophy of Christian Wolff)--originates in a little-known Latin dissertation that Kant publicly defended in 1770, 11 years before the Critique of Pure Reason appeared. Or again, the categorical imperative, which defines Kantian ethics, owes in part, Kuehn suggests, to the influence on Kant of his long-time English friend, Joseph Green, who first lived the kind of principled life for which Kant then laid the theory. Kuehn's descriptions of Kant's richly inclusive social life, witty conversation and elegant dress will delight all who have wrongly identified the sage of K”nigsberg with dour dispassion. The biography, however, suffers from repetition, digression and excessive attention to characters of only passing general interest. Still, as the first biography of the great philosopher in more than 50 years, this is a welcome addition to the literature.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This book bills itself as "the first full-length biography of Kant in over fifty years," but it is more than that. Other biographies are available, after all, including neo-Kantian Ernst Cassirer's classic Kant's Life and Thought. But these dated biographies were written without access to the most recent scholarship, and even the Cassirer book is more of an "intellectual biography," devoting more time to an analysis of the major works than to the minutiae of Kant's life. The present work excels in both regards: the explication of Kant's thought (for example, in the seminal Critique of Pure Reason) is exemplary, and the details of Kant's life, time, and influences is rendered so thoroughly that the reader will finish the book knowing Kant and his thinking intimately. (This is not to say that Kant's thought is not difficult: it is.) Keuhn (philosophy, Philipps Univ., Marburg, Germany) has produced a work of the highest quality. For all academic collections and larger public libraries.DLeon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, DC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Superb, biography !!! In which the writer seems to heading for a definitive biography on one of the greatest masters that ever touched a Philosophical matter. Kant has earned the reputation as a very complicated thinker. I have read a few of his works and I can do nothing else than agree in this.
After I read this book I really seemed to understand his philosophy much beter. I feel I have a good idea about what were his major concerns and what was it that he tried to solve and prove. I have a good idea now about what the Critique Of Pure Reason is, such as other works as the other 2 Critiques & Groundworks.
If you want to read the works of Kant himself, make sure you pick this one up first and learn it by heart. Its as best as any introduction can get on his work, A truly homage to a great master.
There are besides that plenty of details about his personal life. His love for Frederik The Great, plenty of stuff from his students, how they thought about him, and what kept him occupied in his free hours. And there we get a very different Kant than the one that went into history for so far.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an interesting guide to what we now know about Kant's life, and a scholarly summary of what he might have meant in his own time and place. Kant was the philosopher selected by Nietzsche for section 193 of THE GAY SCIENCE: "Kant's joke. Kant wanted to prove in a way that would dumfound the common man that the common man was right: that was the secret joke of this soul. He wrote against the scholars in favor of the popular prejudice, but for scholars and not for popularity." (THE PORTABLE NIETZSCHE, p. 96). In TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS, Nietzsche named Kant in his explanation of "How the `true world' finally became a fable:" (THE PORTABLE NIETZSCHE, pp. 485-6). "Any distinction between a `true' and an `apparent' world ~ whether in the Christian manner or in the manner of Kant (in the end, an underhanded Christian) ~ is only a suggestion of decadence, a symptom of the decline of life." (THE PORTABLE NIETZSCHE, p. 484). What set Nietzsche apart from the scholars of his own day, at least as long as he was considered sane, was his willingness to display a sly contempt for the kind of clarity which any functioning society demands, which suggests that Nietzsche had some different ideas. If anyone who wrote philosophically at the level of Kant could still be understood well enough to be called "an underhanded Christian," it is ironic that a more modern philosopher would consider Kant "an embodiment on a large scale of what is wrong with philosophy" for the opposite reason: "Suppose he had not insisted on certainty, necessity, and completeness!" (Walter Kaufmann, DISCOVERING THE MIND, VOLUME ONE, GOETHE, KANT, AND HEGEL, p. 195).Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first new biography of Kant in many years, and there seem to have been good reasons for that. One, which Kuehn tactfully does not discuss, is the postwar political situation of Kant's hometown. Another, he admits, is that there is a stereotype of Kant as having lived a dull, boring life; and further, he also admits, there were earlier and quite successful attempts to cover up aspects of Kant's life that earlier biographers found distasteful. And the trouble with this biography is that in spite of all the author's efforts, these earlier assessments really turn out to be quite correct. Kant really did lead an extremely meager, restricted, spartan life even by the standards of that time and place, and this was by his own choice. Starting as a young child, his life was devoted to study, first as a student and then without a break, as a professor. His only recreation consisted in conversing and eating with friends. Koenigsburg did offer other opportunities. As Kuehn correctly points out, it was then a busy commercial city, on a popular trade route along the Baltic, and at the time a strong English connection. In addition, it was the administrative capital of eastern Prussia, second only as a government center to Berlin, and with a busy social season. It was especially noted for its musical culture - but Kant couldn't play an instrument, sing, or even enjoy listening. He couldn't dance. He wasn't interested in sports or nature. He walked daily, but only for exercise, in the same place and at the same time - in fact, the "Philosopher's Walk" remained a tourist attraction well into this century. He didn't go to church, and his near-atheism almost cost him his job. He didn't belong to the then popular Freemasons or any similar group.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Even for those among us who have read and taught Kant, Manfred Kuehn's biography opens up a much richer portrayal of his many-sided genius and of his sensitivity to the external conditions of social and political life, not only in his native Konigsberg but in the global arena. At the same time, Kuehn carefully dissects many of the false views of Kant, especially around the issues of religion. We find that Kant not only firmly rejected the pietism from which he had (reluctantly) come, but that he was open to Freemasonry and something like a post-Christian universal religion. Ironically, the establishment of Freemasonry (which carried its own dogmatism concerning revelation) as a submerged perspective during the rule of his censor, King Willhelm II, caused him to withold some of his manuscripts until after the King's death in 1797. These manuscripts were published soon after. Kuehn gives a lively account of Kant's intense social life and of his flexibility during the Russian occupation of Konigsberg. This is fully consistent with Kant's anti-nationalism and healthy bias toward cosmopolitanism. Kuehn's discussions about Kant's sexuality are, however, a bit prissy and tend to give him credit for an asexual existence, even if he did fall in love more than once. He does succeed in at least putting pressure on the view that Kant was a mysogynist. Kuehn more or less dismisses any serious psychoanalytic reading of the motives behind Kant's drive for formal a priori constructions, thereby limiting his reach into Kant's real inner life. His exegesis of almost all of the writings is very traditional, although Kuehn takes great care to examine the false readings of Kant's contemporaries--seeing envy where it intervened in many of those readings.Read more ›
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