Immanuel Kant Essay

Immanuel Kant was a philosopher and theologian who attempted to respect both the new empirical science and the truths of Christianity while Karl Marx at first was an idealist who viewed history as the field of contesting ideas but later became a materialist who saw history as propelled by economic forces.

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According to Kant, human nature is divided into two realms: first part is the homo phenomenon which explains our physical being through our experiences and appearances of things. And the second part is the homo noumenon (spirit) or the mind dimension which constitutes the reality. He argued that human beings experienced these two realms as a physical being and as a spiritual being able to perceive the ideal of perfection and aware of moral truths. The most difficult realm to achieve is the realm of homo noumenon. It is beyond our ability to realize but we have a duty to try and to be perfect. Our human unhappiness or alienation is born from the conflicts and tensions we experienced at being finite. Kant concluded, that the real source of human alienation or unhappiness is our ability to realize our psychological drive to attain completion and perfection. This drive is called pride, it is the failure of man to accept his limitations. Human beings desire to be like God, to have certainty, control, and power which according to Kant in theology is referred as Sin. He argued, that we cannot attain perfection in this life but with the various moral imperatives we can, by our own mind and will, continually try to reach perfection.

As stated on the book of Kant’s Political Writings, page 46 on the sixth proposition,

“This problem is both the difficult and the last to be solved by the human race. The difficulty (which the very idea of this problem clearly presents) is this: if he lives among others of his own species, man is an animal who needs master. For he certainly abuses his freedom in relation to others of his own kind. And even although, as a rational creature, he desires a law to impose limits on the freedom of all, he is still misled by his self-seeking animal inclinations into exempting himself from the law where he can. He thus requires a master to break his self-will and force him to obey a universally valid will under which everyone can be free”.

Kant has its own unique formulation of Golden Rule: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”. When humans are guided by moral imperatives, humans could realize the drive to be perfect. We would also be autonomous because we would have willed the imperatives and applied them to ourselves. As a consequence, we will experience to be masters of ourselves. This idea of Kant was influenced by Rousseau’s conception of a free, autonomous person. Mastery or autonomy is attained, in Rousseau, through obeying a law one has prescribed for oneself, and, by so doing, moral liberty is realized.

Eventually by realizing one’s limitations we are in some ways gaining power and freedom because as a rational being we have the freedom to think of the noumenal realm and understand our limitations. Commonly used example is the existence of God. We can freely say that God really existed through our various phenomenal experiences. Thinking his existence deeply is transcending our ideas. If we can try to look at the picture, there was really an absence of formal justification that which it is impossible for us to claim its truthfulness.

As a rational being, we have all the freedom to think but as Kant insisted that self-realization is gaining one’s freedom and power.

Karl Marx had his own ideas of freedom as stated in his book Communist Manifesto, it is a highlight of class struggle between the people who work for wages which is also known as the proletariat and the people who owned the lands, factories, resources and other means of production are known as the bourgeoisie.

Marx’s Communist Manifesto paints a rosy picture of how the proletariat would overthrow the bourgeoisie and take over the means of production. He emphasized that the proletariat class will destroy the capitalist ruling class and aim for the establishment of classless society. Implying that communism is the complete return of a man to himself as a social being aiming for the equality. Since the economic forces causes the alienation it is the working class that could ultimately resolved the situation. The primary goal of Marx ideas is to have an economic system that does not assign roles as required by the division of labor and the mode of production. As stated in the book of Political Philosophy by John Hallowell and Jene M. Porter (1997), there will have to be the abolition of private property and humans will have to “get exchange, production, the mode of their mutual relations, under their own control again”.

Capitalism presents great oppressions. Marx argued to eliminate this kind of society because it causes too much alienation of person. He insisted to change this kind of society to a classless society of which the effect is the de-alienation of person. Sadly history has proven that this system did not and probably will never work.

As one would expect, the Communist Manifesto is a declaration of the intentions of a communist organization. Yet it has proved to be much more than this. It has also served as a brief and concise explanation of the ideas that form the foundation of communist and socialist ideology.

It begins with the Marxian view of history as a class struggle. As expounded in the first chapter of the manifesto:

“Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
. One class always exploited the other because their interests were always diametrically opposed. As the lower class gained power a new class would arise that would eventually subsume the old upper class. Thus a kind of dialectical (two opposites producing a unified whole) process would create a merchant class and a working class from the struggle between the peasant and the nobility. The Manifesto explains that even though the upper class always oppresses the lower class it primarily obtains its wealth from the labor of the working class.

In the Third chapter of the Communist Manifesto under the topic “Reactionary Socialism”: Marx states that…

“ In political practice, therefore, they join in all corrective measures against the working class; and in ordinary life, despite their high falutin’ phrases, they stoop to pick up the golden apples dropped from the tree of industry, and to barter truth, love, and honor, for traffic in wool, beetroot-sugar, and potato spirits”.

But Marx felt that there was an end to this process. At some point the working class would eliminate all the remaining classes. If there was only one class, there would no longer be a class struggle. There would no longer be a need for all the trappings of class warfare such as money, nation-states and governments.

This quasi-Hegelian view of history would color all of Marx’s philosophy and would influence the entire Communist Manifesto (which would in turn influence generations of radicals). It was an idea that gave history the air of inevitability. Marx and Engels actually believed that they had discovered a scientific truth that could be applied in a scientific manner to the affairs of humanity.

It has been over 150 years since the publication of the Communist Manifesto and the declaration has proved to be hollow in that many of its predictions have not been born out by actual history. There are many arguments as to why this is the case. It may be that some of the assumptions girding communist thought, including the labor theory of value were mistaken.

Yet the real problem with the Marxian ideas imbued in the manifesto might be that Marx misunderstood which class would ultimately subsume all the others. He was under the impression that laborers must ultimately take over the means of production and so destroy the capitalist system. What he could not understand was that the means of production would become less and less expensive all the time due to efficiencies in production. Workers would themselves become entrepreneurs in free and republican societies. The advent of computers, and inexpensive access to the tools of a service industry would make small business a dominant and driving force.

The brewing industry is a perfect example of this. Where there used to be only one or two large brewers, now micro-breweries have become the rage. Where only a few networks dominated the airwaves now hundred of channels proliferate. The internet has opened publishing up to any person who has a few dollars to rent a server. The cost for entry into many, though not all, markets has become comparatively cheap. In essence Marx was wrong not because there was no class struggle. There was indeed class struggle throughout most of history. He was wrong because he could not see that the dialectic process would work to elevate the working class to the entrepreneur class and not pull all of society down to the lowest common denominator.

We are still in the throes of this process. Eventually the efficiencies brought about by the capitalist system, if allowed to operate in a free environment, will provide a high standard of living for most of the world.

The Communist Manifesto still finds favor among many political groups and its tenets and ideas are worthy of study because there are economic and historical truths embedded within it. It has also proved to be the foundation of one of the most prominent economic and political movements of the 20th Century.

Generally, the idea of Immanuel Kant in realizing one’s limitation to attain perfection is right. It leads us to determine our own freedom and power. While on the other hand, Karl Marx idea is just a mere presumption and is not possible to attain. He did not present his unique feature of acquiring freedom. To analyze his ideas, alienation for Marx is not the realization of one’s limitation in society and production process but rather a visible picture of revolution and struggles.

Work Cited:

The Communist Manifesto, Signet by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels


The Political Philosophy by Jean Hallowell and Jene Porter

Prentice Hall Canada Incorporated, 1997

Kant’s Political Writings, Cambridge edited by H. S. Reiss



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