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An article about Emmanuel Kant

Emmanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant was born on 22 April 1724 in the East Prussian city of Konigsberg, now Kaliningrand. He lived a very regulated life; he never travelled more than fifty miles from home. He acquired the basic skills of reading and writing in the Hospital School in the Surburbs of Konigsberg. Kant went ahead to attend the Collegium Friderician Grammar School where emphasis was put on Latin.
In 1740 Kant entered the University of Konigsberg and studied the philosophy of Leibniz and Christian Wolff. He also studied the then new mathematics of Sir Isaac Newton. His father’s stroke and subsequently death in 1746 interrupted his studies. He was ,however, able to graduate in 1755 and became a lecturer at the university. While at this university, Kant published the “Inquiry into the Distinctiveness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morals” where he examined the problem of having a logical system of philosophy that connected with the world of natural philosophy, a concern typical of the Enlightenment period.

Kant finally became a full professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Konigsberg in1770. For the next ten years, he worked on the architecture of his own philosophy, beginning with what he called “the scandal of reality.” In 1781, he released the massive Critique of Pure Reason. In 1788 he wrote the Critique of Practical Reason and the critique of Judgement in 1790.

Apart from these, he wrote a number of semi-popular essays on history, politics, and the application of philosophy to life. By the time of his death in 1804, he was working on the “fourth critique”.
Kant’s ideas, noted in the above, provide a strong theoretical basis of human rights as explained below.

He believed that every rational being exists as an end in him self and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. He must in all his actions whether directed to him self or to other rational beings always be regarded at the same time as an end.

According to Kant, a rational being belongs to the kingdom of ends as a member when he legislates in it universal laws while also being him self subject to these laws. He belongs to it as sovereign when as legislator he is himself subject to the will of no other. A rational being must always regard himself as legislator in kingdom of ends rendered possible by freedom of will, whether as a member or as a sovereign.

Kant also believed in the notion of the individual’s self worth. The self worth is based on the individual’s own ability to make moral laws and to follow them. He argues that legal rights and the political institutions should aim to protect this freedom and equality. He defended the individual’s rights because he believed that they are an inalienable feature of human beings. For Kant, individual rights include what is necessary for person to live in moral liberty. Whatever goes against this right is evil whether it leads to general utility or not. He believes that it is wrong to violate the basic rights of an individual.

He further argued that for people to live in moral liberty, slavery and other forms of inequality must be abolished, and that there must be a constitutional government. He believes that if these inequalities are in existence, we can not be ourselves, because we would always have masters and servants. He also supports the transition from absolutism to constitutional and democratic forms of government.
Kant argued that education is the imperative for development of mankind. He believed that man is that what education makes him and nothing more. Kant subscribed to the view that human nature can be increasingly enhanced through education and that education can be shaped in a manner which is appropriate to mankind.

Kant defended the rule of law and argued against rebellion although he supported the French revolution. During the most turbulent times of the revolution, he said that people will mature to reason only through their own efforts. He insisted that people can not mature to freedom unless they are first set free.

He believed that citizens have a legitimate right to realise their own ends in the way they deem best. Neither the state nor other forms of authority may determine happiness for its citizens. They have to find it on their own. He however argues that if human rights are violated, the state has a legitimate right to intervene.
Kant opposed all attempts to moralise law. He criticised legislations to punish suicide attempts. For him, self preservation is a personal duty and not a legal requirement. Even though an act is immoral, it should not necessarily be made the subject of criminal prosecution.

He believed that laws must express the will of the people but at the same time he did not support voting rights for all citizens. To him, women and all those who are not economically and socially independent like the servants were not supposed to vote.
According to Kant, marriage is a union of different sex for lifelong reciprocal possession of their sexual faculties. He also laid down strict requirements for a natural sex life. He had no respect for the rights of the homosexuals.

There are quite a number of human rights that can be derived from Immanuel Kant’s theoretical basis of human rights discussed above. This basis provides a number of human rights as explained in the case below.

Kant believed in the right to education. He argued that provision of good education holds the great secret of the true perfection of human nature; good education is capable of bringing about a gradual improvement in the world. He said that education is the greatest and most difficult with which man can be confronted, since insight depends on education and education in its turn depends on insight.

He defended the right to family. He said that domestic relations are founded on marriage and marriage is founded upon the natural intercommunity of sexes. He looked at marriage as the union of two persons of different sex for lifelong reciprocal possession of their sexual faculties. It is however, important to note that Kant never respected the rights of homosexuals.

He further believed in the right to vote. Kant subscribed to the position that fitness to vote is a necessary qualification which every citizen must possess. He argued that to be fit to vote, a person must have an independent position among the people. However, he did not support general voting rights for all individuals. He excludes women, temporary workers, and servants from voting.
Kant also defended the right to equality. He argued for the abolition of slavery and other forms of inequality. He believed that every rational being exists as an end in him self and thus should not be treated as means to an end. He argued that act in such a way that you treat humanity whether your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.

He also advocated for the Freedom of speech and expression. Kant believed that freedom of the press and freedom of speech are in accordance with consensus-based principles of the law. He argued that this freedom of the press has a critical normative function.
He defended the right to worship. He argued that we can neither prove nor disapprove the fundamental religious questions and that we can neither prove nor disapprove the existence of God. He thus left room for faith in religion. At the same time, he also preserved reason in the natural sciences and mathematics against Hume’s empiricism.

In conclusion, Immanuel Kant’s philosophical ideas shown in his theoretical pursuits provide a strong theoretical basis of human rights. It is therefore important to note, that the human rights as we know them today owe a lot to the philosophies of Kant.


Donell, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. London: Cornel University Press, 2003.
Morgan, Michael. Classics of Moral and Political Theory. Indianapolis: Hacket publishing company, 1992.
Wright, Shelly. International Human Rights, decolonisation and Colonisation Becoming Human. London:Routledge, 2001.
Bynum, Gregory. Human rights education and Kant’s critical Humanism. Columbia university Library, 2007.
Hancock, Roger. Kant and the Natural Rights Theory. Chicago, 2009.
Messer, Ellen. Pluralist Approaches to Human rights. Journal of Anthropogical Research.
Published: 2009-11-07
Author: nyombi sam

About the author or the publisher
Name :nyombi mwebaza Samson
Tribe: muganda
Nationality: Ugandan
Religion: Protestant
Schools Attended
I had my primary school from Makonzi boarding primary school. Then I went to
Ndejje senior secondary school for my ordinary level from 2001 to 2005
There after I attended my advanced level from st mary’s boarding school kitende in 2006 to 2007
In 2008 I joined makerere university


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