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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index K > Immanuel Kant Quotes > Reason

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Immanuel Kant
(22 Apr 1724 - 12 Feb 1804)

German philosopher whose writings investigated rational understanding and were some of the most influential of his era. He wrote the well-known Critique of Practical Reason.


Immanuel Kant Quotes on Reason (6 quotes)

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I maintain that in every special natural doctrine only so much science proper is to be met with as mathematics; for… science proper, especially [science] of nature, requires a pure portion, lying at the foundation of the empirical, and based upon a priori knowledge of natural things. … To the possibility of a determinate natural thing, and therefore to cognise it ΰ priori, is further requisite that the intuition corresponding ΰ priori to the conception should be given; in other words, that the conception should be constructed. But the cognition of the reason through construction of conceptions is mathematical. A pure philosophy of nature in general, namely, one that only investigates what constitutes a nature in general, may thus be possible without mathematics; but a pure doctrine of nature respecting determinate natural things (corporeal doctrine and mental doctrine), is only possible by means of mathematics; and as in every natural doctrine only so much science proper is to be met with therein as there is cognition ΰ priori, a doctrine of nature can only contain so much science proper as there is in it of applied mathematics.
— Immanuel Kant
From Preface to The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786), as translated by Ernest Belford Boax, in Kant’s Prolegomena: And The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1883), 140.
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Mathematics, from the earliest times to which the history of human reason can reach, has followed, among that wonderful people of the Greeks, the safe way of science. But it must not be supposed that it was as easy for mathematics as for logic, in which reason is concerned with itself alone, to find, or rather to make for itself that royal road. I believe, on the contrary, that there was a long period of tentative work (chiefly still among the Egyptians), and that the change is to be ascribed to a revolution, produced by the happy thought of a single man, whose experiments pointed unmistakably to the path that had to be followed, and opened and traced out for the most distant times the safe way of a science. The history of that intellectual revolution, which was far more important than the passage round the celebrated Cape of Good Hope, and the name of its fortunate author, have not been preserved to us. … A new light flashed on the first man who demonstrated the properties of the isosceles triangle (whether his name was Thales or any other name), for he found that he had not to investigate what he saw in the figure, or the mere concepts of that figure, and thus to learn its properties; but that he had to produce (by construction) what he had himself, according to concepts a priori, placed into that figure and represented in it, so that, in order to know anything with certainty a priori, he must not attribute to that figure anything beyond what necessarily follows from what he has himself placed into it, in accordance with the concept.
— Immanuel Kant
In Critique of Pure Reason, Preface to the Second Edition, (1900), 690.
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Reason must approach nature with the view, indeed, of receiving information from it, not, however, in the character of a pupil, who listens to all that his master chooses to tell him, but in that of a judge, who compels the witnesses to reply to those questions which he himself thinks fit to propose. To this single idea must the revolution be ascribed, by which, after groping in the dark for so many centuries, natural science was at length conducted into the path of certain progress.
— Immanuel Kant
Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn (1855), Preface to the Second Edition, xxvii.
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The ideal of the supreme being is nothing but a regulative principle of reason which directs us to look upon all connection in the world as if it originated from an all-sufficient necessary cause.
— Immanuel Kant
Critique of Pure Reason (1781), trans. Norman Kemp Smith (1929), 517.
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The science of mathematics presents the most brilliant example of how pure reason may successfully enlarge its domain without the aid of experience.
— Immanuel Kant
In Immanuel Kant and F. Max Mόller (trans.), 'Method of Transcendentalism', Critique of Pure Reason (1881), Vol. 2, 610.
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When Galileo caused balls, the weights of which he had himself previously determined, to roll down an inclined plane; when Torricelli made the air carry a weight which he had calculated beforehand to be equal to that of a definite volume of water; or in more recent times, when Stahl changed metal into lime, and lime back into metal, by withdrawing something and then restoring it, a light broke upon all students of nature. They learned that reason has insight only into that which it produces after a plan of its own, and that it must not allow itself to be kept, as it were, in nature's leading-strings, but must itself show the way with principles of judgement based upon fixed laws, constraining nature to give answer to questions of reason's own determining. Accidental observations, made in obedience to no previously thought-out plan, can never be made to yield a necessary law, which alone reason is concerned to discover.
— Immanuel Kant
Critique of Pure Reason (1781), trans. Norman Kemp Smith (1929), 20.
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  • 22 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Kant's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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