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[Kant] had the most cheerful sprightliness of a youth. . .his open brow, made for thinking, was the seat of clarity; and the most profound and pleasant speech came from his eloquent mouth. Jest, wit, and caprice were in his command - but always at the right time so that everyone laughed… He spoke about his author, thought on his own, and often beyond the author. During the three years I listened daily to his lectures I never noticed the smallest trace of arrogance.More objectively, Hamann notes, "Kant is a man who loves the truth as much as the tactfulness of good society." According to his students, Kant remained an endearing, sociable figure with an elegantly powerful yet humble intellect. Kant's Berlin readers explain: "Kant has here [in Berlin] uncommon credit. . .[he] has the gift to present the most abstract philosophical truths in the simplest way and to make them distinct for everyone…" Thus, Kant's knack for communication distinguishes him from the stereotype of the dry, antisocial philosopher solely absorbed in texts and arguments. Indeed, he urged his students to contemplate beauty in addition to engaging in philosophical debate.
While these questions reflect Kant's ability to engage with multiple disciplines of inquiry (not excluding his studies in physics and geography), his interrogatory approach also sheds light on his "critical method." With the "critical method," Kant demanded that philosophers examine the limitations of reason's activities while keeping these questions in mind. Philosophy, especially metaphysics, had long been burdened with unanswerable questions. However, Kant explains, instead of recognizing the impossibility of answering certain questions, our reason has urged us to provide answers "which overstep all possible empirical employment, and which yet seem so unobjectionable that even ordinary consciousness readily accepts them." As a result, however, Kant explains "human reason precipitates itself into darkness and contradictions." So begins The Critique of Pure Reason:
- What can I know?
- What ought I to do?
- What may I hope?
- What is man?
Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions that, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.This singular observation would lead Kant to discover new, original answers to the four questions of human existence.