Resources for Students and Thinkers: Immanuel Kant

When I was studying for my Master’s degree, I would constantly search the internet for resources on various philosophers. In particular, I was always on the lookout for audio resources, like lectures and audiobooks. Perhaps it is not for everyone, but I personally like to diversify my methods of study: for example, I will read primary sources, read secondary sources, listen to audiobooks of the primary sources, listen to lectures, watch video presentations, etc. So, over the years, I have collected a not-insubstantial list of various philosophical resources, and many of these concern the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

Immanuel Kant was an 18th century German philosopher who wrote prolifically on everything from science and mathematics to metaphysics and ethics. His most famous works are his three critiques, The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgment. In these texts, Kant initiated what is often referred to as his “Copernican revolution,” the philosophical equivalent of what Nicolaus Copernicus did in the natural sciences. Just as Copernicus turned the current science on its head by suggesting that the earth orbits the sun, so Kant overturned the rationalism and empiricism of modern philosophy by maintaining that order of priority between subject and object should be reversed. As he writes, “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge.”1 Further on in the first Critique, after arguing that we only know appearances and that these appearances are subject to the conditions of the possibility of cognition, Kant concludes, “Thus the order and regularity in the appearances, which we entitle nature, we ourselves introduce.”2 Truly, a revolutionary statement!

In his personal life Kant was far less controversial than were his ideas. He lived in his home-city of Königsberg, Prussia (present day Kaliningrad, Russia), for his entire life, and he was known for his orderly, methodical routines. Indeed, according to legend, his neighbors would set their clocks by his daily walks. Although he was a lifelong bachelor, he was well known for hosting dinner parties at his house, events which always featured lively intellectual discussion. The painting below (“Kant and his table mates” by Emil Doerstling) depicts one such gathering. He died in 1804 at the age of 79.

Immanuel Kant influenced in some manner nearly every subsequent philosopher, including Edmund Husserl. In his Ideas I, Husserl describes the history of modern philosophy in relation to phenomenology. He writes that Kant is “the first to truly perceive” the region of phenomenological investigation, explaining that Kant’s “greatest intuitions first become quite clear to us after we have brought the distinctive features of the phenomenological field into the focus of full consciousness. It then becomes evident to us that Kant’s mental gaze rested on this field, although he was not yet able to appropriate it and recognize it as the centre from which to work up on his own line a rigorous science of Essential Being.”3 Thus, Husserl does adopt many terms and ideas from Kant, and he sees phenomenology as clarifying and correcting Kant’s central insights. However, Husserl is not a Kantian. Husserl rejects Kant’s notion of the “thing in itself” and his allegedly psychologistic account of consciousness. Nevertheless, in order to understand Husserl it is absolutely necessary to understand Kant.

Thus, after this rather lengthy introduction, allow me to list several important resources for the study of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy.

First and most importantly, I strongly recommend the Norman Kemp Smith translation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Kemp Smith was a philosopher in his own right and a lecturer at Princeton and the University of Edinburgh in the early 20th century. His translation of Kant is widely considered to be the best available English version of the Critique.

Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Second, if you are like me and enjoy well-read philosophical audiobooks, then you should check out Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason narrated by renowned actor Michael Lunts. This audiobook is of the Kemp Smith translation.

Audiobook of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Third, the best series of lectures on Kant that I have been able to find are given by J.M. Bernstein, a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. Bernstein is clear and engaging, and he examines Kant’s philosophy in depth. You can find lectures on the first and third Critiques (as well as lectures on Hegel) at

Finally, if you are interested in a brief but insightful and enjoyable overview of Kant’s thought in the first Critique, then I would recommend this series of video lectures by Dr. Dan Robinson.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have personally used all of these resources, and I recommend them because they are of high-quality, not because of the small commission I make if you decide to buy them through my links. Please do not spend any money on my recommended products unless you find them interesting or feel that they will help you achieve your goals.

1 Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, preface to second edition, xvi, trans. by Norman Kemp Smith, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 22.

2 Kant, Critique, I, 2, first division, book I, chapter 2, section 2, A 125, trans. by Norman Kemp Smith, 147. 

3 Edmund Husserl, Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, II, 4, §62, trans. W.R. Boyce Gibson (Eastford, CT: Martino Fine Books, 2017), 183. 


2 responses to “Resources for Students and Thinkers: Immanuel Kant”

  1. AJOwens Avatar

    The mention of Kant gives me an anchor for a question I hope you can help with. A confluence of indirect recommendations have led me to read Owen Barfield, specifically Saving the Appearances. In Chapter 2 he proposes two maxims of perception. The first is that “we must not confuse the percept with its cause.” (The second, for reference, is that “I do not perceive any thing with my sense-organs alone, but with a great part of my whole human being.”)

    Barfield goes on to claim that these maxims “are true for any theory of perception I ever heard of—with the possible exception of Bishop Berkeley’s.” He specifically lists among these theories “the phenomenology that underlies Existentialism.”

    It seems to me that the unity of the percept and its cause is a principle of phenomenology. This raises the question of the status of the Kantian noumena in phenomenological thinking. As you say, Husserl rejects the Kantian notion of the thing-in-itself. Is Barfield wrong about the universality of the first maxim?

    1. Michael Teoli Avatar

      You ask a very good question about perception. For Husserl, we must distinguish between the act of perception, the object simpliciter, and the object as it is perceived. The last two are not ontologically distinct but they are not exactly the same either: rather, the object simpliciter (e.g., the tree out in the garden) is simply the identity which is given through manifolds of appearances (e.g., the tree as seen from a particular vantage point, or the tree as touched, etc.). Now, as to causality, Husserl would say that we must bracket causality when we perform the phenomenological reduction. So, from the phenomenological standpoint, what we have is simply the tree as the identical X which is manifested to and in consciousness through a potentially infinite system of appearances. However, for Husserl, we must not confuse the appearance of the tree (the perceived tree as it is perceived) with the psychological state of perceiving the tree, nor should we say that the appearance of the tree is a kind of representation that mediates our awareness of the real tree. For Husserl, what we are immediately aware of is the object, but we are aware of it from a certain perspective: thus, in phenomenology, the philosopher considers the tree as it is given to consciousness, whereas in natural science, the scientist studies the tree as a real object in the world.

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