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On Education (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]


"[T]he rule of education is the chief end whereby man is formed under civilization." - Immanuel Kant

On Education (1803) is a collection of Kant's lectures on physical and practical education, pedagogy, and moral culture, and it is the only work in which Kant's views on education are presented comprehensively. On Education introduces us to the practical implications of Kant's theoretical philosophy and instructs us on how to tame and cultivate the excellence in human nature. Fast-moving and engaging, On ...
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On Education (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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"[T]he rule of education is the chief end whereby man is formed under civilization." - Immanuel Kant

On Education (1803) is a collection of Kant's lectures on physical and practical education, pedagogy, and moral culture, and it is the only work in which Kant's views on education are presented comprehensively. On Education introduces us to the practical implications of Kant's theoretical philosophy and instructs us on how to tame and cultivate the excellence in human nature. Fast-moving and engaging, On Education is highly readable and reminds us that Kant's pedagogical mission included his interest in "teaching [his students] how to live, by recommending a certain way of life."
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Meet the Author

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) has been caricatured as a stiff German professor, whose Stoic habits were so predictable that the people of Königsberg, his hometown, could set their clocks by his daily walks. Kant's life is best described as a heroic struggle to discover order within chaos or, better, an effort to fix human thought and behavior within it proper limits. He lived and worked during the Enlightenment, a time when political, religious, and intellectual freedom erupted across the Western world.
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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) may be the most revolutionary philosophical figure of modern philosophy. This new edition of On Education (1803) is a collection of Kant's lectures on physical and practical education, pedagogy, and moral culture, and it is the only work in which Kant's views on education are presented comprehensively. While Kant's Critiques are probably his most influential works, On Education introduces us to the practical implications of his theoretical philosophy. This primer instructs us on how to tame and cultivate the excellence in human nature, while simultaneously providing a glimpse into the sophisticated theories detailed in Kant's scientific, religious, and philosophical works. In a 1784-5 lecture on ethics, Kant explains "the rule of education is the chief end whereby man is formed under civilization." On Education presents Kant's "rules of education," depicting how a person should be formed so that he or she might maintain a balance between discipline and freedom. And, while Kant's writings on philosophy of mind, ethics, and aesthetics can be slow and arduous reading, On Education captures the sense of Kant's public lectures: "like an entertaining conversation." Fast-moving and engaging, On Education is highly readable and reminds us that Kant's pedagogical mission included his interest in "teaching [his students] how to live, by recommending a certain way of life."

Immanuel Kant was born on April 22, 1724, in Königsberg, where he spent the entirety of his life, passing away on February 12, 1804. Following a stint as a tutor, Kant began teaching in Königsberg in 1755. He attracted a number ofstudents who would go on to become significant authors in their own right. While changing worldviews sometimes challenged these friendships, Kant's students were indebted to his model: as a teacher, philosopher, and generous human being. After Kant finished his lectures, he would invite his students on walks where they would continue to discuss numerous topics. As Manfred Kuehn documents in Kant: A Biography, Kant's most enthusiastic student, J.G. Herder (1744-1803), provides an elaborate explanation of the thirty-eight year old lecturer:
[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.

As Kant grew older, it was more and more difficult for him to continue the publication schedule he enjoyed in his younger years, during his "critical period." Between 1781 and 1798, Kant produced forty-one works including several revised editions of his more influential works. This is remarkable for, in 1789, Kant's associates began to remark on the diminishing capacity for his intellectual endeavors. The most famous works, a series of studies about understanding, morality, and beauty and theology, are presented as three "critiques." They are The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgment. Respectively, they deal with the concept of nature, the concept of freedom, and the mediation of both, in and through judgment. Kant's last major publication, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, returns to the subjects of the earlier critiques: the cognitive power, the feeling of pleasure and displeasure and the power of desire, by examining the empirical manifestation of these human characteristics. And while Kant was loathe to be labeled a psychologist in relation to his critiques, this later work is often considered an empirical psychology as it addresses reason's distorted states, such as madness.

The later work, On Education (1803), was published as Kant's own faculties were rapidly failing. During this period, Kant no longer exclusively constructed his published writings. Instead, his work was comprised of collected papers and lectures that he had passed on to trusted colleagues. Friedrich Theodor Rink, a former student of Kant's, came to edit two works, On Education (1803) and Physical Geography (1802). In an earlier work, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764), Kant spoke mysteriously about education. A fan of Rousseau (1712-1778), Kant wrote Observations soon after reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile - a work depicting the proper education of a young man. Kant's early work on aesthetics concludes by beginning to project his view of education: a tool to dissuade us from "false glitter" and "deception" while instilling us with "lively sensitivity." Kant writes:
  1. What can I know?
  2. What ought I to do?
  3. What may I hope?
  4. What is man?
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:
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.

As the spirit of the Enlightenment swept across Europe, Kant was eager to shift philosophical inquiry from the claims or products of reason, to a close examination of reason as the tool through which we are able to make judgments or claims about the world. According to Kant, philosophy had long neglected such close examination of such faculties in favor of debating beliefs about the universe and man without considering the nature and limits of our intellectual abilities. Kant would eventually turn the faculties on themselves: using reason to examine understanding, morality, and judgment. In order to do this, however, Kant would divide the world in two: there was a world of appearance and a world of things in themselves. While we can obtain information concerning the world as it appears to us, we cannot, Kant urged, obtain certain information about things in themselves. This shift, sometimes referred to as Kant's "Copernican Revolution," requires us to recognize that we cannot make claims about things in themselves but, rather, can only make claims about appearances. Our cognitive faculties, and their intricate mechanics, create the appearances that are then incorporated into our experiences. In so doing, Kant examined empirical phenomena by defining the intellectual, rational foundations necessary to be able to identify, quantify, and even perceive experience. In other words, Kant attempted to examine how our cognition works prior to its engagement with the physical, external world. Admitting, famously, that experience is the "go-cart" of reason, Kant refused to definitively separate reason from experience.

The Critique of Pure Reason and, with more brevity, the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics present the system of knowledge that provides us with the "conditions for the possibility of" experience. These conditions must be established before we can begin to make intelligible judgments about the world. By establishing this "transcendental" foundation for reason, Kant would provide an answer to one of the most famous debates of the Enlightenment: the question of whether knowledge is empirically established, transcendentally established, or derived from a union of empirical and transcendental principles. Kant's ideas in The Critique of Pure Reason would provide a direct answer to the skepticism of Scottish philosopher David Hume, who held that causal connections could not be rationally verified. And while Kant is considered a "transcendental idealist," due to the necessity for cognitive conditions underlying the possibility of intelligible experience, his works in anthropology, geography, and physics reflect his direct engagement with and interest in empirical science.

Once Kant had presented how our intellectual or cognitive faculties function and the limitations of these faculties, he was able to present a moral view of the universe. Much like his position on knowledge, morality, and ethics were derived from the nature and limitations of the human subject. The essence of human morality (and its problems) derives from our free will and potential autonomy. In the Critique of Practical Reason, the second critique, Kant examines the reasoning that takes place in moral judgments. This practical reason requires us to abide by three principles. All these ethical principles recognize that rational action and ethical action coincide, by creating several logic experiments to help test the validity of our action. First, Kant calls us to act according to a "categorical imperative." The categorical imperative -- a principle that places moral authority within the thinking human subject and not in divine instruction -- holds that we must act as if the specific rule of our individual action (or maxim) were to become a universal law (or principle). If we cannot, in good conscience, act accordingly, then our action cannot be logically valid. This litmus test for ethics, also articulated in Kant's Metaphysics of Morals, aids us in determining our moral duties in the endless struggle between reason, free will, and desire. Kant's second principle requires that we act so that we treat other rational beings as ends in themselves and not as means to ends. Finally, the third principle requires us to recognize that individual action is regularly held as an example for others. Therefore, we must recognize that all individual actions (and accompanying maxims) must be subject to becoming universal principles. In other words, I must always act under the condition that my action provides the example of others and, thereby, a universal law. Again, this is similar to the categorical imperative: I must act so that my maxim can become a universal law; I must act so that my action is logically consistent for all rational beings. What is the benefit of applying these principles in order to assure ethical, moral action? Kant holds that "a good will seems to constitute the indispensable condition of being even worthy of happiness."

The third text in Kant's series of Critiques presents reflective judgments, as distinct from the determinative judgments of rational cognition described in The Critique of Pure Reason. Reflective judgment admires beauty, experiences the sublime, and opens one to nature. Further, reflective judgment allows us to recognize something Kant names "purposiveness." Purposiveness provides us with the feeling of purpose without a requisite and definite purpose in sight. And while Kant explains the cognitive mechanics of this state of mind, he refers to such a condition as a life-feeling which inspires us to connect with nature and recognize our own moral vocation and religious capacity. In this work, Kant seeks to define and inspire the "lively sensitivity" of a tasteful world-citizen by requiring a "common sense." This sense allows us to see from another's perspective, an aspect of the aesthetic sensibility that links us to others as we contemplate beauties and sublimities of nature.

Kant's statement about education in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764) vaguely predicts the course of his thinking. Kant struggles with reason's deceptions and "false glitter" in the Critique of Pure Reason. Within The Critique of Practical Reason, he seeks to define the nature of moral feeling in relation to the rational obligations that lead one toward a good will and happiness. His last critique, The Critique of Judgment, addresses "delicacy of feeling" and the "enjoyment of judgment" in relation to aesthetic experience. These views on reason, ethics, and aesthetics are embedded within Kant's ultimate ideas on education and his determination to reveal the mystery of education. This text, On Education, finally reveals Kant's discoveries about "the secret of education," allowing us an insight into how the early stages of a child's life might strive to obtain the ideals detailed in his other writings.

Sarah Cunningham is deputy director of K-12 Programs at the American Academy for Liberal Education in Washington, D.C., and previously served as founding dean of the Oxbow School in Napa, CA. She has taught philosophy at Vanderbilt University, the University of Maine, and Belmont University, and she writes frequently on education reform, aesthetics, political philosophy, and Kant.
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