Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is the central figure in modern philosophy. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields. The fundamental idea of Kant's “critical philosophy” — especially in his three Critiques: the Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) — is human autonomy. He argues that the human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality. Therefore, scientific knowledge, morality, and religious belief are mutually consistent and secure because they all rest on the same foundation of human autonomy, which is also the final end of nature according to the teleological worldview of reflecting judgment that Kant introduces to unify the theoretical and practical parts of his philosophical system.
Kant's theory of morality is based what he called "Categorical Imperative", a duty or obligation that comes from principles intrinsically valid, that are good in and of themselves. In his view, what we "ought" to do to be moral is whatever is good, not in a particular individual or situation, but what would be good if universally implemented. In one of his letters, Mahatma K.H. makes a comment to A. O. Hume about this aspect of Kant's philosophy:
We, who have studied a little Kant's moral teachings, analyzed them somewhat carefully, have come to the conclusion that even this great thinker's views on that form of duty (das Sollen) which defines the methods of moral action — notwithstanding his one-sided affirmation to the contrary — falls short of a full definition of an unconditional absolute principle of morality — as we understand it.
Scottish philosopher David Hume held that the self is nothing but a bundle of experiences and perceptions. Kant claimed there was an internal faculty of "understanding" that orders our sensations according to the common categories of space, time, and causality, and that if we experience things in meaningful sequences, it is because there exists inside us an enduring and coherent "self". Kant called this unifying self the Transcendental Subject. H. P. Blavatsky agrees on this view:
The true Self is per se, impersonal; the personal or brain-consciousness being but an illusory reflection in incarnated existence. Western Psychology errs in regarding this personal ego as the only factor to be considered in its researches . . . we assert with Kant and his modern exponents, the existence of a Higher Self or “Transcendental subject.”
Space and Time
Master K.H., in one his letters to A. P. Sinnett, discusses the nature of time on the inner planes in the context of the post-mortem experience of Devachan. He makes reference to Kant's idea that space and time are not derived from experience but rather are preconditions (a priori) to any experience. He accepts that this may be so, but only in regards to the physical consciousness:
Space and time may be — as Kant has it — not the product but the regulators of the sensations, but only so far, as our sensations on earth are concerned, not those in devachan. There we do not find the a priori ideas of those "space and time" controlling the perceptions of the denizen of devachan in respect to the objects of his sense; but, on the contrary, we discover that it is the devachanee himself who absolutely creates both and annihilates them at the same time. Thus, the "after states" so called, can never be correctly judged by practical reason since the latter can have active being only in the sphere of final causes or ends, and can hardly be regarded with Kant (with whom it means on one page reason and on the next — will) as the highest spiritual power in man, having for its sphere that WILL.
- The Theosophy of Immanuel Kant by Robert Bonnell
- Immanuel Kant at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), fn., 598.
- Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in Chronological Sequence No. 11 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 35. See Mahatma Letter No. 11 page 18.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 96.
- Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in Chronological Sequence No. 104 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 357. See Mahatma Letter No. 104 page 15.