Seminar 2, Kant and Hegel

March 10, 2010



Kant was the last influential philosopher of modern Europe. He was a German philosopher who was born in 1724 and died in 1804.

Kant’s most well known book is the ‘Critique of reason’. It explains the theory that knowledge is a priori, and cannot always be gained through experience. Kant states that if the mind can only think of terms of casualty, then we can have an existing knowledge prior to experience, and that all objects must either be a cause or an effect. -When reading this I thought that Plato’s theory of the forms linked in well; to read my notes on his theory, visit: http://charlotteaclarke.blogspot.com/2009/09/plato-forms-and-caves.html

Kant was the founder of German idealism (which is similar to the Romantic Movement), which rejects Utilitarian beliefs and puts mind over matter. German idealism was a philosophical movement which happened in the last 18t centaury. The philosophical meaning of idealism is that the properties we discover in objects depend on the way that those objects appear to us as perceiving subjects, and not something they possess "in themselves," apart from our experience of them.


Kant made a distinction between the terms ‘analytic’, ‘synthetic’, ‘a priori’ and ‘empirical’.

Kant stated that an analytic proposition is where the predicate is part of the subject, for example ‘all bachelors are unmarried’. The concept ‘bachelor’ contains the concept ‘unmarried’, and the concept ‘unmarried’ contains the concept ‘bachelor’.

Any proposition we know through experience is therefore a synthetic proposition, for example ‘all bachelors are unhappy’. The concept bachelor does contain the concept unhappy, and vies versa, so this statement must be known through experience.

An ‘a priori’ proposition does not rely on experience to justify it; for example 7+3=10. However, Kant did state that an experience is required in order to obtain a concept. Once we have the concept, experience is no loner needed. For example, a small child learning to add and subtract could use objects to help; after the child has learnt this, the objects or no longer used.

‘Empirical’ or ‘a posteriori’ propositions are those which rely on experience for justification, for example chairs exist. Experience is needed to justify a proposition, as an experience of the statement is needed.

The analytic/synthetic distinction and the a priori/a posteriori distinction together create four types of propositions:
1. analytic a priori
2. synthetic a priori
3. analytic a posteriori
4. synthetic a posteriori

Kant thought the third type is self-contradictory, so he discusses only three types as components of his epistemological framework. Kant proved that although the law on causality is not analytic, it is still known as a priori. He asked, "How are synthetic judgements a priori possible?" Kant is basically asking how unnatural judgements are possible, if you have knowledge based on something other than experience.

Kant’s theory of space and time, however, is very different. He states that these are not concepts, but forms of intuition.

Kant also believes there are only 3 ways to prove the existence of God. These are ontological proof, cosmological proof and physic-theological proof.

The Ontological argument uses a priori proof as evidence of Gods existence. It states that if we can understand the concept of God (the greatest possible being) then it must exist. -This is known as a circular argument, as the premise relies on the conclusion, and conclusion relies on the premise.

The Cosmological argument questions the existence of the universe. –Logically, there must have been a first cause to everything. The only thing which this could be is God, and he is omniscient. Therefore God exists and he is the only possible conclusion.

The physic-theological argument ( also known as the Teleological argument by Plato), looks at the fact that everything is so uniquely designed and interlinked. Therefore, there has to be something that created and planned us and our purposes. The argument states only a supernatural being can create something ‘ex nihilo’ –out of nothing.


Hegel (1770-1831) was the philosopher who concluded the German movement after Kant.
Hegel believed that nothing is ultimately real except the Whole, 'the real is rational and the rational is real'. Hegel believes the ‘Whole’ is called the ‘Absolute’, which is spiritual. Hegel has a metaphysics approach, and focused mainly on logic and dialect.

He created a process to understand any result; he says that it is impossible to come to any conclusion without going through all the steps of dialect. These steps are sense perception, sceptical criticism and self knowledge. You firstly have to have an awareness of the object (sense perception), to criticise it so it becomes subjective (sceptical criticism) and to then gain knowledge of that object to the extent that the subject and object are no longer different (self knowledge).

Hegel states that the highest form is knowledge is self conscious and that we cannot tell if something is wholly right, or wholly wrong; the Absolute therefore possesses this quality, and is thought thinking about itself.

He held a strong belief that there was no freedom without law. He believes that the State should only act for the interest of individuals, and that individuals should exist to help the state uphold independence, sustainability and sovereign. This reminded me of the famous John F. Kennedy speech, ‘ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man’. Hegel believes that you should not think about what the state can do for you, but what you can do for the state.