The most recommended Immanuel Kant books

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to Immanuel Kant, and here are their favorite Immanuel Kant books.
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Book cover of Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

Matt Qvortrup Author Of Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

From my list on deep thinkers of politics, democracy, and philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

"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. 

Matt's book list on deep thinkers of politics, democracy, and philosophy

Matt Qvortrup Why did Matt love this book?

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…

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…

Book cover of The Critique of Pure Reason

Charles P. Webel Author Of The World as Idea: A Conceptual History

From my list on how the world may or may not be what you think it is.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a lifelong student with what I sometimes call “a multidisciplinary disorder,” I have been intrigued both about “the outer world,” or the “external environment of life on planet Earth, and “the mind that knows the world.” Hence, as a teenager in New York City, I read voraciously books in philosophy, history, and the social and natural sciences to learn what “great minds” have thought about “the world.” Much later, as an “academic” researcher and writer, I scoured the shelves of university libraries to examine what I considered the strengths and weaknesses of the academic disciplines that addressed our “knowledge of the world,” and their applications for “changing the world for the better.” My book The World as Idea is the first volume of a projected trilogy modestly entitled The Fate of This World and The Future of Humanity. I’m now working on the second volume, The Reality of This World.

Charles' book list on how the world may or may not be what you think it is

Charles P. Webel Why did Charles love this book?

Kant is one the most important, and many, including myself, would argue the most seminal thinkers in the Western intellectual tradition.

His epistemological and metaphysical masterpiece, The Critique of Pure Reason, has had the single greatest impact on my own thinking about how we think and know “the world,” both in its “inner” and “outer” dimensions.

By Immanuel Kant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Critique of Pure Reason (1781) is one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. It is also referred to as Kant's "First Critique", being followed by the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Critique of Judgment (1790). In the preface to the first edition Kant explains what he means by a critique of pure reason: "I do not mean by this a critique of books and systems, but of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all knowledge after which it may strive independently of all experience." “There is no single philosopher of…

Book cover of Transnational Cosmopolitanism: Kant, Du Bois, and Justice as a Political Craft

Lucia M. Rafanelli Author Of Promoting Justice Across Borders: The Ethics of Reform Intervention

From my list on Political theory books on what makes a just world.

Why am I passionate about this?

To me, political and moral questions have always seemed intertwined. My career as a political theorist is dedicated to using philosophical argument to untangle the moral questions surrounding real-world politics. I am especially interested in ethics and international affairs, including the ethics of intervention, what a just world order would look like, and how our understandings of familiar ideals—like justice, democracy, and equality—would change if we thought they were not only meant to be pursued within each nation-state, but also globally, by humanity as a whole. As faculty in Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University, I explore these issues with colleagues and students alike.

Lucia's book list on Political theory books on what makes a just world

Lucia M. Rafanelli Why did Lucia love this book?

The first half of this book offers a rich, careful textual engagement with the works of Immanuel Kant and his intellectual descendants. It is sure to be rewarding to those interested in Kant’s cosmopolitanism and its present-day variants.

But, to me, the real beauty of Valdez’s book lies in its second half, where she discusses W.E.B. Du Bois’s political thought and the history of his transnational activism against racism and empire.

Drawing on Du Bois, Valdez presents a radical vision of what democracy and political community can look like beyond the nation-state. She also offers an excellent model of how to discuss oppressed people not as helpless victims, but as political agents in their own right with lessons to teach the world about how best to struggle for justice.

By Inés Valdez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the theoretical reconstruction of neglected post-WWI writings and political action of W. E. B. Du Bois, this volume offers a normative account of transnational cosmopolitanism. Pointing out the limitations of Kant's cosmopolitanism through a novel contextual account of Perpetual Peace, Transnational Cosmopolitanism shows how these limits remain in neo-Kantian scholarship. Ines Valdez's framework overcomes these limitations in a methodologically unique way, taking Du Bois's writings and his coalitional political action both as text that should inform our theorization and normative insights. The cosmopolitanism proposed in this work is an original contribution that questions the contemporary currency of Kant's…

Book cover of The Critique of Judgement

Carolyn L. Kane Author Of Electrographic Architecture: New York Color, Las Vegas Light, and America's White Imaginary

From my list on how and why things are chosen as beautiful.

Why am I passionate about this?

Understanding the world is important for everyone. For me, it takes the form of analyzing colorful images and artifacts in the built environment. In the broad traditions of the global northwest, color is regarded as deceptive and unreliable. For centuries now, and throughout disparate media and technical systems, color has had to maintain this secondary, subordinate status as “other,” linked to falsity, manipulation, and deceit or, to quote David Batchelor, “some ‘foreign’ body". In my work, I argue that we have all inherited this tradition in the global northwest, fetishizing color as both excessive and yet indispensable in its capacity to retroactively confirm the sanctity of what it is not.

Carolyn's book list on how and why things are chosen as beautiful

Carolyn L. Kane Why did Carolyn love this book?

Also one of the most comprehensive philosophical accounts of aesthetic judgment and why taste is taste and not something else…Even though it was penned circa 1790, it still has many gems of insight for the present, especially when it comes to our biases and prejudices regarding color, charm, and sense perception.

For example, Kant writes of color: “The colours which give brilliancy to the sketch are part of the charm. They may no doubt, in their own way, enliven the object for sensation, but make it really worth looking at and beautiful they cannot.” (¶14; p. 56)

By Immanuel Kant, James Creed Meredith (translator), Nicholas Walker (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'beauty has purport and significance only for human beings, for beings at once animal and rational'

In the Critique of Judgement (1790) Kant offers a penetrating analysis of our experience of the beautiful and the sublime, discussing the objectivity of taste, aesthetic disinterestedness, the relation of art and nature, the role of imagination, genius and originality, the limits of representation and the connection between morality and the aesthetic. He also investigates the validity of our judgements concerning the apparent purposiveness of nature with respect to the highest
interests of reason and enlightenment.

The work profoundly influenced the artists and writers…

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

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew Curran Author Of Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

From my list on race and the enlightenment.

Why are we passionate about this?

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.

Henry's book list on race and the enlightenment

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew Curran Why did Henry love this book?

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.

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…

Book cover of The Sources of Normativity

Mark Schroeder Author Of Reasons First

From my list on reasons in ethics.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Mark's book list on reasons in ethics

Mark Schroeder Why did Mark love this book?

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.

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…

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

Ritchie Robertson Author Of The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790

From my list on the Enlightenment.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Ritchie's book list on the Enlightenment

Ritchie Robertson Why did Ritchie love this book?

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.

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…

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

Frank Scalambrino Author Of The Philosophy of Being in the Analytic, Continental, and Thomistic Traditions: Divergence and Dialogue

From my list on philosophical metaphysics on what is be-ing.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Frank's book list on philosophical metaphysics on what is be-ing

Frank Scalambrino Why did Frank love this book?

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…

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.

Book cover of Forking Good: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of The Good Place

Bridget Thoreson Author Of The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook For Kids: 50 Fun and Easy Recipes for Tricks, Treats, and Spooky Eats Inspired by the Halloween Classic

From my list on pop culture cookbooks for fans of just about anything.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. My books include The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook, XOXO: A Cocktail Book, and consulting for Are You My Wine? Clearly, I am very interested in drinking, eating, and pop culture. When we started talking about a follow-up project for The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook, my mind first went to my daughter Beatrice. I was excited for the day when she could watch the movie with me and share a part of my own life as a kid. I knew that many other millennial parents probably felt the same way, and so I knew I wanted to do a book that would enhance that experience. 

Bridget's book list on pop culture cookbooks for fans of just about anything

Bridget Thoreson Why did Bridget love this book?

The Good Place is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.

You might not think of it as a food-based show, but there are some excellent gags, storylines, and hilarious one-liner jokes based around food. The humanity of frozen yogurt, Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump, hot ocean milk, jalapeno poppers…the list goes on.

The authors of this cookbook are clearly huge fans of the show and do a wonderful job of paying tribute to the clever writing of the series.

By Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Stephen H. Segal, Dingding Hu (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With its high concept, exceptional writing, eye-popping set design, stellar cast, meaningful explorations of what it means to be a good person, and clam chowder fountains, The Good Place has captured the hearts and minds of critics and viewers alike. For the first time ever, fans can indulge their cravings for The Good Place with delicious, comforting, original recipes like Macaroni and Socra-cheese, I Think Therefore I Clam (Chowder), Arendt You Glad I Didn t Say Banana (Split), I Kant Believe It s Not Buttermilk Pancakes, and more. Each recipe title references a philosopher or philosophical concept from the show…

Book cover of Critique of Pure Reason

Adrian Johnston Author Of Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity

From my list on understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Adrian's book list on understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek

Adrian Johnston Why did Adrian love this book?

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.

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…