An outline of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche’s key ideas and their contribution to the development of social thought.

Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche are two important intellectuals whose thoughts are integral to the development of social thought in Europe and North America.

Immanuel Kant’s thoughts have enriched a wide variety of disciplines within humanities, including theology, political science and sociology. But Kant’s work does not fit easily into any particular disciplinary paradigm.  Of late, Kant’s thoughts have regained eminence in the study of international politics.  Contemporary proponents of Kant’s relevance to international politics espouse the view that democracy leads to peace. But this position contradicts the philosophic foundations of Kant’s works.  Hence there is not straightforward account of how Kant’s works have influenced subsequent social thought.  The infiltration of Kant’s ideas into later scholarship is at places overt and at others subtle.  Neither is the influence uniform and unidirectional for contradictions abound. (Rossi, 2010, p.79)

Later generation of scholars studying Kant’s works have rejected the “overly constraining the republicanism, internationalism, and individualistic humanism that obviously inform Kant’s political writings.” (Franke & Franceschet, 2001, p. 713) Perceiving these liberal political concepts to be anachronistic and outdated, scholars have tried to fit Kant to the postmodern understanding of politics. Kant had espoused liberal universalism, but its premises have proven to be limited and contestable.  To redress this drawback in Kantian thought, modern philosophers have tried to “cultivate a political scepticism that is ethically attentive and responsive to the Other, whoever or whatever he or she may be.” (Franke & Franceschet, 2001, p. 713) Though this a sound position to take with respect to international politics, the key question is how we go about acting upon and institutionalizing such ethical responsibility and respect globally?

Kantian thought has been a strong source of support for theologians of last two centuries.  That theology needed this support from outside is a reflection of the waning influence of religion – especially organized religion.  Moreover, the 18th century Age of Enlightenment had significantly undermined the hold of religious superstition and dogma over people’s lives.  That Kant’s life coincided with the upheavals of the Enlightenment can be interpreted as the philosopher’s attempt at reconciling his personal faith with looming currents of doubt created by rationalism. (Caird, 1889, p.56)  Hence there is a degree of merit to the view that theological presuppositions are present within Kant’s work.  A key term here is “theological horizons”, which served as a set of analytic frameworks for Kant’s argument of his theses. Such theological horizons function,

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