“in the first instance, on Kant’s own part, inasmuch as the critical philosophy articulates its account of human finitude over against a robust sense of transcendence. For Kant, fundamental to the conceptual space of the human–i.e., to the articulation of an account of what distinctively constitutes our humanity–is the orientation of that space to transcendence as it delimits the contours of our properly human finitude. In affirming human finitude–for which his trope is “the limits of reason”–as marked out by radical difference from transcendence, Kant stands within the theological horizon to which the reflective traditions of Abrahamic monotheism have oriented themselves in affirming “God” as the proper name for the transcendence humanity encounters in radical Otherness.” (Rossi, 2010, p.80)
Kant’s major thrust was not so much against pure reason as against our perception of the ‘real’. Kant found the founding principles of the Enlightenment problematic for they put reason and scientific inquiry as the sole medium for understanding reality. Kant argued against this eminence for human intellect by suggesting that reality as perceived by humans might be very different to absolute reality. That disillusioned reality that lies beneath what is merely apparent to us is unknowable. Hence there is the material reality founded by homocentric perception and the true reality. Kant makes a technical distinction between the two by calling the former the ‘phenomenal world’ and the latter the ‘nuomenal world’. Thus “our human minds have a built-in disposition toward illusion: the illusion that reality must be exactly the way we experience it. When we presume that our experience corresponds to reality, we are making an unjustified leap. We have absolutely no way to know this.” (Dahlen, 2011)
While Immanuel Kant’s influence was most pronounced during the 19th century, his successors, including Friedrich Nietzsche were taking centre stage at the beginning of the twentieth century. Nietzsche is an important intellectual, for he can be credited with ushering the era of postmodernism. Even prior to this retrospective understanding of Nietzsche, he was a pioneer of the Existentialist philosophical movement. Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus’ contribution to existentialist thought is a follow up in the direction shown by Nietzsche. Just as Nietzsche’s importance is established, his legacy is undermined by persistent rumours about his alleged anti-semitism, pro-Nazism, misogyny, anti-morality and even insanity (during his last years).
In order to comprehend Nietzsche’s body of work, one has to look at his sources of inspiration and influence. Some of the earlier philosophers who influenced Nietzsche’s work include Socrates, Wagner, Kant, Schopenhauer; and to a lesser extent Luther and Darwin. But the influence is not always as a result of agreement with the earlier masters. For example in the case of Kant, Nietzsche’s relationship was polemical. Nietzsche’s body of work is closely associated with ‘virtue-ethics’. (Adam, 2001, p.324) The deeper one delves into various aspects of Nietzsche’s political philosophy, the clearer it becomes that Nietzsche’s political philosophy “merits reconstruction not only in broad historical terms. If we succeed in understanding the political perspectivism of Nietzsche’s ideas, we might also be able to contribute substantially to the received canon of political philosophy.” (Kiss, 2001, p. 373)