Meet four of the most influential philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries: Immanuel Kant, Georg W. F. Hegel, Søren Kierkegaard, and Karl Marx. Learn about concepts such as Kant’s “synthetic a priori,” Hegel’s “absolute mind”, Kierkegaard’s “irrational” Christianity, and Marx’s materialist dialectic. Each week, we’ll take in a brief overview of the cultural, intellectual, and historical context that influenced each philosopher, followed by an introduction of some of his most influential ideas. No previous background in philosophy is expected.
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was concerned about an over-emphasis on reason and experience, at the expense of ideals, by Enlightenment philosophers. Kant’s response was his “Copernican moment”: three great critiques of reason, morality and aesthetics.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) sought to “close the gap” Kant left between what can be rationally understood and the idealistic that cannot be experienced. Hegel constructed a method of philosophy in which both experience and ideals fit into a rational systematic process, based in history.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) “loathed Hegel” (says Lawrence Cahoone). Kierkegaard’s overarching question was: “What does it mean to be a Christian?”. He held that religious experience is by necessity irrational and cannot therefore be molded into Hegel’s great rational system.
Karl Marx (1820–1895) rejected Hegel’s idealist dialectic, believing there’s nothing idealist about class struggle. Our fundamental need, according to Marx, is to convert raw materials into goods necessary for survival, and a fundamental problem is who owns the means and rewards of this process.
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