Posted in Kafevend Blog
Today's blog here at Kafevend will be continuing our recent series on some of history's famous coffee drinkers. Like last week's subject, Voltaire, we will be examining the life, work and coffee drinking habits of yet another philosopher; the father of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant.
Kant was born in 1724 in the Prussian city of Königsberg, where he spent the vast majority of his rather long life. His early life and education was primarily of a religious tone, but his devotion to study led him to enrol at the University of Königsberg where he began to delve into a variety of subjects, including philosophy, under the guidance of the philosopher, Martin Knutzen.
Whilst Kant is best known for his ethical and metaphysical philosophy, he covered a variety of fields in his early life. He made valuable advances in astronomy, for example: in 1754 he pointed out that the tidal movements of the seas must have a reducing effect on Earth's rotation. The next year he developed the Nebular Hypothesis- that is, that the solar system was formed from a large cloud of gas, or nebula. Kant began concerning himself more with philosophical issues during the second half of the 18th century and wrote a series of important works during the 1760s.
Kant's big success in philosophy was combining two age of old schools of thought, rationalism and empiricism, and moving the conversation on to consider philosophy from inside our minds and outward, as opposed to from the outside into our minds. He said that due to the way we acquire information about the inside world, there must already be prebuilt concepts- time, space and causality- within our minds that shape the incoming information, as opposed to the information shaping how we perceive it.
This culminated in the publishing of his book "The critique of pure reason" in 1781. Following its release it didn't garner much attention, partly due to its impenetrable nature, consisting of over 800 pages! It did become more popular in his lifetime though following an argument between two philosophers. One of them used Kant's book to explain his side of the argument in one of a series of public letters which were widely read, which had the knock on effect of promoting Kant's new book.
It was often the case among the intellectuals of this time that coffee had something to do with their drive, but this wasn't the case with Kant. He loved the smell and taste of coffee, but prevented himself from drinking it as he was convinced that coffee oils were detrimental to his health. He finally made an exception during the last year of his life and was known to enjoy a cup immediately following his dinner- and when we say immediately, we really mean it. According to his friend Thomas De Quincey, Kant would begin demanding that 'coffee must be brought upon the spot' and was hugely impatient. When Quincey was joining him for dinner he ensured that everything needed for the coffee was ready beforehand so that it could be rushed in and made in a flash, though even that was too long for Kant!