The best Immanuel Kant books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Immanuel Kant and why they recommend each book.

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The Sources of Normativity

By Christine M. Korsgaard,

Book cover of The Sources of Normativity

In this book, Korsgaard makes really forceful the question of what it is that gives morality any authority over us. She divides and surveys the space of possible answers to this question, and develops an incredibly ambitious answer that draws extensively on her interpretation of the historical philosopher Immanuel Kant and makes Kant’s own views intelligible in contemporary terms. It nabs my second recommendation not only because it is gripping and relatively easy to get into, but because, like my top recommendation, of the formative role that it has played for so many contemporary philosophers of my generation, for whom it set the standard of what questions needed to be asked and answered, and what the space of tools might be for trying to answer them.

The Sources of Normativity

By Christine M. Korsgaard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sources of Normativity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ethical concepts are, or purport to be, normative. They make claims on us: they command, oblige, recommend, or guide. Or at least when we invoke them, we make claims on one another; but where does their authority over us - or ours over one another - come from? Christine Korsgaard identifies four accounts of the source of normativity that have been advocated by modern moral philosophers: voluntarism, realism, reflective endorsement, and the appeal to autonomy. She traces their history, showing how each developed in response to the prior one and comparing their early versions with those on the contemporary philosophical…


Who am I?

Mark Schroeder is the author of six books and nearly one hundred articles in philosophy, many of them concerned with the role of reasons in metaethics and moral explanations. Three of his articles have been honored by the Philosophers’ Annual as among the ten best philosophy articles published in their year, and one received the APA article prize as the best paper published in all of philosophy in 2008 or 2009. His former Ph.D. students now teach philosophy on five continents.


I wrote...

Reasons First

By Mark Schroeder,

Book cover of Reasons First

What is my book about?

In the last five decades, ethical theory has been preoccupied by a turn to reasons. The vocabulary of reasons has become a common currency not only in ethics, but in epistemology, action theory, and many related areas. It is now common, for example, to see central theses such as evidentialism in epistemology and egalitarianism in political philosophy formulated in terms of reasons. And some have even claimed that the vocabulary of reasons is so useful precisely because reasons have analytical and explanatory priority over other normative concepts-that reasons in that sense come first.

Critique of Pure Reason

By Immanuel Kant, Paul Guyer (translator), Allen W. Wood (translator)

Book cover of Critique of Pure Reason

In Žižek’s view, philosophy as we know it today does not well and truly begin until the late-eighteenth century, with Kant’s critical-transcendental “Copernican revolution.” The Critique of Pure Reason inaugurates this revolution. It insists on the ineliminable centrality of the structures and dynamics of minded subjectivity for the constitution of what we experience as objective reality. Moreover, on Žižek’s psychoanalytic rereading of Kant’s epoch-making 1781/1787 masterpiece, Kant anticipates, among many other things, Lacan’s idea of an internally divided subject as the ultimate unconscious condition of possibility for how we humans register and understand ourselves and our world. Moreover, the Kant of the first Critique is crucial for Žižek as the inspiration for the entire tradition of post-Kantian German idealism so central to Žižek’s own philosophical program.

Critique of Pure Reason

By Immanuel Kant, Paul Guyer (translator), Allen W. Wood (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Critique of Pure Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This entirely new translation of Critique of Pure Reason is the most accurate and informative English translation ever produced of this epochal philosophical text. Though its simple and direct style will make it suitable for all new readers of Kant, the translation displays an unprecedented philosophical and textual sophistication that will enlighten Kant scholars as well. This translation recreates as far as possible a text with the same interpretative nuances and richness as the original. The extensive editorial apparatus includes informative annotation, detailed glossaries, an index, and a large-scale general introduction in which two of the world's preeminent Kant scholars…


Who am I?

Thanks to developing interests in both psychoanalysis and German idealism during my time as a student, I came across Slavoj Žižek’s writings in the mid-1990s. Žižek immediately became a significant source of inspiration for my own efforts at interfacing philosophies with psychoanalysis. By the time I began writing my dissertation – which became my first book, Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive – I had the great fortune to meet Žižek. He soon agreed to serve as co-director of my dissertation and we have remained close ever since. I decided to write a book demonstrating that Žižek is not dismissible as a gadfly preoccupied with using popular culture and current events merely for cheap provocations.


I wrote...

Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity

By Adrian Johnston,

Book cover of Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity

What is my book about?

Slavoj Žižek is one of the most interesting and important philosophers working today, known chiefly for his theoretical explorations of popular culture and contemporary politics. This book focuses on the generally neglected and often overshadowed philosophical core of Žižek’s work—an essential component in any true appreciation of this unique thinker’s accomplishment. His central concern, Žižek has proclaimed, is to use psychoanalysis (especially the teachings of Jacques Lacan) to redeploy the insights of late-modern German philosophy, in particular, the thought of Kant, Schelling, and Hegel.

By taking this avowal seriously, Adrian Johnston finally clarifies the philosophical project underlying Žižek’s efforts. His book charts the interlinked ontology and theory of subjectivity constructed by Žižek at the intersection of German idealism and Lacanian theory.

Philosophy of Material Nature

By Immanuel Kant, James W. Ellington,

Book cover of Philosophy of Material Nature: Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and Prolegomena

Immanuel Kant is one of the most important figures in the history of philosophy – specifically regarding metaphysics – because he discovered the internal logic and organization for all of philosophical metaphysics. The book with which Kant accomplished that monumental feat is extremely difficult to read and understand. Therefore, Kant wrote an easier-to-read version, and that is the book that I am recommending: Philosophy of Material Nature. This book is highly affordable and readable.

The book that the Philosophy of Material Nature paraphrases is, of course, the Critique of Pure Reason. What all of these works show us is that philosophical metaphysics naturally divides into theological metaphysics, cosmological metaphysics, and psychological metaphysics. Kant’s achievement is standardly characterized as the articulation of philosophical metaphysics as a science. The general term for such a science is “transcendental philosophy.” Thus, the rest of the books in this recommendation list relate to…

Philosophy of Material Nature

By Immanuel Kant, James W. Ellington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Philosophy of Material Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume combines two of Kant's key works on the metaphysics of nature--the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science --in the preeminent translations of James W. Ellington. Each work is preceded by an expert Introduction by Ellington and is followed by a German-English List of Terms and an Index.


Who am I?

I am a classically and formally trained philosopher. I have a Doctorate in Philosophy from Duquesne University (2011). I've been interested in philosophy for as long as I can remember; however, I began formally studying philosophy when I first discovered the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. I began teaching philosophy at the university level in 2004. I've taught over 100 university-level courses, including graduate-level courses in both philosophy and psychology. I'm presently finishing my tenth philosophy book, along with over 50 professional peer-reviewed articles in philosophy. These days my attention is devoted to sharing philosophy on the internet through The Philosophemes YouTube Channel, @Philosophemes on Instagram, and the Basic Philosophical Questions Podcast


I wrote...

The Philosophy of Being in the Analytic, Continental, and Thomistic Traditions: Divergence and Dialogue

By Frank Scalambrino, Joseph P. Li Vecchi, David K. Kovacs

Book cover of The Philosophy of Being in the Analytic, Continental, and Thomistic Traditions: Divergence and Dialogue

What is my book about?

The Philosophy of Being provides a discussion of the philosophy of being according to three major traditions in Western philosophy, the Analytic, the Continental, and the Thomistic. The origin of each of these traditions is associated with a seminal figure, Gottlob Frege, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Aquinas, respectively. The questions addressed in this book are constitutional for the philosophy of being, considering the meaning of being, the relationship between thinking and being, and the methods for using thought to access being.

It honors diversity and pluralism, as it highlights how the three traditions may be clearly and distinctly differentiated regarding the philosophy of being. It also honors a sense of solidarity and ecumenism, as it demonstrates how the methods and focal points of these traditions continue to shape the development of Western philosophy. 

Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

By Immanuel Kant, David L. Colclasure (translator),

Book cover of Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

Immanuel Kant is often seen as a pure philosopher, one who was interested in abstract principles. He was that, but his essays on "Perpetual Peace" and especially his essay "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective" are literally the best things I have ever read, and have so much resonance for us today.

Democracies tend not to go to war as much as dictatorships because the people are likely to be the ones who are killed on the battlefield. In Kant’s time Frederick the Great was able to go to war whenever he wanted. Today, Vladimir Putin can go to war without asking anyone and the people, and Russian conscripts too – suffer the consequences. Kant’s experience of living in a militarised state governed by a single man is eerily relevant today. Reading this thinker tells as much about contemporary politics as it teaches us about 18th…

Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

By Immanuel Kant, David L. Colclasure (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Immanuel Kant's views on politics, peace, and history have lost none of their relevance since their publication more than two centuries ago. This volume contains a comprehensive collection of Kant's writings on international relations theory and political philosophy, superbly translated and accompanied by stimulating essays.
Pauline Kleingeld provides a lucid introduction to the main themes of the volume, and three essays by distinguished contributors follow: Jeremy Waldron on Kant's theory of the state; Michael W. Doyle on the implications of Kant's political theory for his theory of international relations; and Allen W. Wood on Kant's philosophical approach to history and…


Who am I?

"Why don’t they want to have their own country?” I asked this question as I was 12 years old and we were watching the results of the Quebec independence referendums coming in. The Quebecois nationalists had lost- and lost big. And I wanted to know why. I grew up in a political family but none of the adults were able to give me an answer. So, I began to do research on my own. Being a bit of an obsessive, my interest in referendums took me to Oxford University, and as a professor I have specialised in direct democracy. I have advised the US State Department and the British Foreign Office on referendums around the world – and written several books on democracy. 


I wrote...

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

By Matt Qvortrup,

Book cover of Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

What is my book about?

At the time of writing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has proposed a referendum on Ukraine’s status. At the same time, so-called separatists in areas occupied by Russia are planning a vote on their status. These are timely examples of how direct democracy and nationalism collide. What are we to make of this. Can referendums be used to resolve ethnic tensions? And, if so, how? Although referendums have been used for centuries to settle ethnonational conflicts, there has yet been no systematic study or generalized theory concerning their effectiveness.

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict fills the gap with a comparative and empirical analysis of all the referendums held on ethnic and national issues from the French Revolution to the 2020 referendum on independence in Bougainville (currently a part of Papua New Guinea).

Ape to Apollo

By David Bindman,

Book cover of Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race in the 18th Century

David Bindman was among the first scholars to dive deeply into the critically important relationship between aesthetics (including standards of beauty) and the emergence of race within the nascent human sciences. Bindman is a very careful scholar who, in addition to being a superb art historian, pays careful attention to the subtle shifts in terminology (and iconography) that reflect substantive changes in the way that non-European groups were seen and depicted during the Enlightenment era, be they “savages,” Blacks, or Asians. Scholars of race will find unexpected links between aesthetics and race here, including Winckelmann on the link between climate and the supremacy of Greek statues – or Lavater’s aesthetic-driven understanding of human physiognomy. Since it was first published in 2002, this beautifully illustrated book opened up a whole field of research.

Ape to Apollo

By David Bindman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ape to Apollo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ape to Apollo is the first book to follow the development in the eighteenth century of the idea of race as it shaped and was shaped by the idea of aesthetics. Twelve full-color illustrations and sixty-five black-and-white illustrations from publications and artists of the day allow the reader to see eighteenth-century concepts of race translated into images. Human "varieties" are marked in such illustrations by exaggerated differences, with emphases on variations from the European ideal and on the characteristics that allegedly divided the races. In surveying the idea of human variety before "race" was introduced by Linneaus as a scientific…


Who are we?

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is an award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, and has authored or co-authored twenty-two books; he's also the host of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. Andrew Curran is a writer and the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan University. His writing on the Enlightenment and race has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, and more. Curran is also the author of the award-winning Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely and The Anatomy of Blackness.


We wrote...

Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

By Henry Louis Gates Jr. (editor), Andrew S. Curran (editor),

Book cover of Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

What is my book about?

Who’s Black and Why? recounts the birth of the concept of race and anti-black racism during the Enlightenment era. We tell this story by looking back to 1739, the year when the Royal Academy of Sciences in Bordeaux announced that it would give a gold medal to the author of the best essay on the sources of “blackness.” Sixteen essays were ultimately dispatched to the Academy from all over Europe. Some of the contestants affirmed that Africans had fallen from God’s grace; others that blackness had resulted from a brutal climate; still others emphasized the anatomical specificity of Africans. This book, in short, is designed to be a compelling, albeit distressing, gateway to the origins of race and racism – as well as their inextricable links to African chattel slavery.

Light in Germany

By T.J. Reed,

Book cover of Light in Germany: Scenes from an Unknown Enlightenment

For centuries German historians underplayed the Enlightenment, treating it as an unwelcome foreign import. Writing with the zeal almost of a missionary, Reed shows that Germany participated fully in the Enlightenment, and that the great luminaries of the German classical age, Goethe and Schiller, continued its endeavours in individual and sometimes idiosyncratic ways. He also offers a unique introduction to the philosophy of Kant, showing how it developed in the specific milieu of Prussia under the Enlightened despot Frederick the Great, and drawing attention also to his pioneering work as a theoretical scientist: Kant was the first person to suggest that the nebulae visible beyond the Milky Way might be separate galaxies.

Light in Germany

By T.J. Reed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light in Germany as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Germany's political and cultural past, from ancient times through World War II, has dimmed the legacy of its Enlightenment, which these days is far outshone by those of France and Scotland. In this book, T. J. Reed clears the dust away from eighteenth-century Germany, bringing the likes of Kant, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Gotthold Lessing into a coherent and focused beam that shines within European intellectual history and reasserts the important role of Germany's Enlightenment. Reed looks closely at the arguments, achievements, conflicts, and controversies of these major thinkers and how their development of a lucid and active liberal thinking…


Who am I?

In 2021 I retired as Schwarz-Taylor Professor of German at Oxford. For many years I had been interested not only in German literature but in European literature and culture more broadly, particularly in the eighteenth century. Oxford is a centre of Enlightenment research, being the site of the Voltaire Foundation, where a team of scholars has just finished editing the complete works of Voltaire. When in 2013 I was asked to write a book on the Enlightenment, I realized that I had ideal resources to hand – though I also benefited from a year’s leave spent at Göttingen, the best place in Germany to study the eighteenth century. 


I wrote...

The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790

By Ritchie Robertson,

Book cover of The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790

What is my book about?

The Enlightenment is still often thought of as ‘the age of reason’. But it also placed a new value on emotion, sensibility, sympathy. It was held together by the belief that happiness could be attained, not or not only in heaven, but on this earth, and that the conditions of human life could be improved and people could be freed from unnecessary fears. 

These endeavours did not concern only white men in wigs. As the reading public was growing rapidly, Enlightened thought spread widely. It was not confined to philosophers. My book draws heavily on literature to document a change in sensibility and a new readiness to imagine the experiences of others. Sympathy led to the liberation of serfs in Europe and slaves outside Europe, and to denunciations of European colonialism. 

Anathem

By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Anathem

Anathem is remarkable for having a gripping plot and fantastic, epic-fantasy-grade worldbuilding, while uncompromisingly exploring philosophical questions ranging from Platonic Idealism to string theory, to phenomenology, and much else. It’s rare for a novel to be so entertaining without sacrificing its intellectual commitments. At times, it reads like a giant love letter to philosophy. It was a joy for me to find endless references to the history of philosophy and science, often in the guise of alternate-universe versions of the relevant philosophers, with different names and histories, but enough that is familiar to make the informed reader point at the page and think things like, “That’s the Kant of this world!” Anyone can enjoy Anathem, but it especially rewards those curious and knowledgeable about philosophy.

Anathem

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anathem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world, an endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, dark ages and renaissances, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides it is only these cloistered scholars who have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his friends, mentors, and teachers are summoned forth…


Who am I?

I am a lawyer and novelist with a Master’s degree in philosophy. I read philosophy and its history to seek wisdom, knowledge, morality, meaning, and the means by which to think well. That is also why I read fiction. And a great philosophical novel can do what a treatise cannot: it can enlighten by style, perspective, the elicitation of empathy, by poignancy and aesthetic awe, and other qualities unique to good fiction. Although I could not possibly represent all the great philosophical novels in this short list, I’ve tried to present a meaningful cross-section. I hope you find these novels as enjoyable and meaningful as I have.


I wrote...

The Measurements of Decay

By K.K. Edin,

Book cover of The Measurements of Decay

What is my book about?

The Measurements of Decay is about three intertwining stories: a renegade in the far future who seeks to liberate humanity from its technological shackles and hallucinations, a disillusioned philosopher in the 21st Century who succumbs to a steep moral decline while trying to solve the problem of human empathy, and a young girl who reappears through Ancient Greece, Medieval Norway, Bolshevik Russia, and other epochs. The three become entangled in a political scheme spanning centuries.

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