Quotations by Kant, Immanuel


Through laziness and cowardice a large part of mankind, even after nature has freed them from alien guidance, gladly remain immature. It is because of laziness and cowardice that it is so easy for others to usurp the role of guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor!

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
“An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?]” (1784)
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The public use of a man’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment among men.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
“An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?]” (1784)
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Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
“Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose [Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht]” (1784)
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One cannot suppress a certain indignation when one sees men’s actions on the great world-stage and finds, beside the wisdom that appears here and there among individuals, everything in the large woven together from folly, childish vanity, even from childish malice and destructiveness. In the end, one does not know what to think of the human race, so conceited in its gifts.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
“Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose [Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht]” (1784) [tr. Beck (1963)]
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It is not God’s will merely that we should be happy, but that we should make ourselves happy.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
(Attributed)
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Men will not understand that when they fulfill their duties to men, they fulfill thereby God’s commandments; that they are consequently always in the service of God, as long as their actions are moral, and that it is absolutely impossible to serve God otherwise.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Karl Hillebrand, Lectures on German Thought, Lecture 5 "The Triumvirate of Goethe, Kant, and Schiller (1787-1800)" (1879)
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Have patience awhile; slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time; ere long she shall appear to vindicate thee.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
(Attributed)
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The death of dogma is the birth of morality.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
(Attributed)

Sometimes (apparently) misquoted as "The death of dogma is the birth of reality."
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Morality is not properly the doctrine [of] how we should make ourselves happy, but how we should make ourselves worthy of happiness.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Critique of Practical Reason [Kritik der praktischen Vernunft], 1.2.2.5 (1788) [tr. Abbott (1873)]
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Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Critique of Pure Reason [Kritik der reinen Vernunft], A 51, B75 (1781, 1787)

Alt. trans.: "Concepts without perceptions are empty; perceptions without concepts are blind."
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Every man is to be respected as an absolute end in himself; and it is a crime against the dignity that belongs to him to use him as a mere means to some external purpose.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Eternal Peace (1795)
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Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals [Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten] (1785)
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There is, therefore, only one categorical imperative. It is: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals [Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten], Sec. 2 (1785) [tr. Beck (1969)]

Alternate translations:
  1. I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.
  2. Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
  3. Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.
  4. So act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world.
  5. May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.
  6. Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.
  7. Do not feel forced to act, as you're only willing to act according to your own universal laws. And that's good. For only willful acts are universal. And that's your maxim.

(As noted in the comments, the "alternate translations" may represent other restatements by Kant of the categorical imperative.)

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Beneficence is a duty. He who often practices this, and sees his beneficent purpose succeed, comes at last really to love him whom he has benefited. When, therefore, it is said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” this does not mean, “Thou shalt first of all love, and by means of love (in the next place) do him good”; but: “Do good to thy neighbour, and this beneficence will produce in thee the love of men (as a settled habit of inclination to beneficence).”

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], “Preliminary Notions of the Susceptibility of the Mind for Notions of Duty Generally”, Part C “Of love to men” (1797) [tr. Abbott]
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By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], “The Doctrine of Virtue [Tugendlehre]” (1797) [tr. Gregor (1964)]
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A man who himself does not believe what he tells another … has even less worth than if he were a mere thing. For a thing, as something real and given, has the property of being serviceable. … But the man who communicates his thoughts to someone in words which yet (intentionally) contain the contrary of what he thinks on the subject has a purpose directly opposed to the natural purposiveness of the power of communicating one’s thoughts, and therefore renounces his personality and makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], “The Doctrine of Virtue [Tugendlehre]” (1797) [tr. Gregor (1964)]
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Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], ch. 2 (1797) [tr. Beck (1969)]
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The wish to talk to God is absurd. We cannot talk to one we cannot comprehend — and we cannot comprehend God; we can only believe in Him. The uses of prayer are thus only subjective.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Lecture, Königsberg (1775)
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Religion is too important a matter to its devotees to be a subject of ridicule. If they indulge in absurdities, they are to be pitied rather than ridiculed.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Lecture, Königsberg (1775)

Quoted in H. L. Mencken, A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1946).
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As everybody likes to be honoured, so people imagine that God also wants to be honoured. They forget that the fulfillment of duty towards men is the only honour adequate to him. Thus is formed the conception of a religion of worship, supposed to be agreeable to God himself, and capable of propitiating him, instead of a merely moral religion.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Quoted in Karl Hillebrand, Lectures on German Thought, Lecture 5 “The Triumvirate of Goethe, Kant, and Schiller (1787-1800)” (1879)
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Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly. If once a man has come to the idea of a service which is not purely moral, but is supposed to be agreeable to God himself, or capable of propitiating him, there is little difference between the several ways of serving him. For all these ways are of equal value. … Whether the devotee accomplishes his statutory walk to the church, or whether he undertakes a pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of Loretto and Palestine, whether he repeats his prayer-formulas with his lips, or like the Tibetan, uses a prayer-wheel … is quite indifferent. As the illusion of thinking that a man can justify himself before God in any way by acts of worship is religious superstition, so the illusion that he can obtain this justification by the so-called intercourse with God is religious mysticism. Such superstition leads inevitably to sacerdotalism which will always be found where the essence is sought not in principles of morality, but in statutory commandments, rules of faith and observances

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Quoted in Karl Hillebrand, Lectures on German Thought, Lecture 5 “The Triumvirate of Goethe, Kant, and Schiller (1787-1800)” (1879)
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