Scottish skeptic David Hume and German critic Immanuel Kant were both philosophers that attempted to address similar concepts of reason and human nature, albeit in very different ways. Both men, alive and practicing during the 1700s, had a lasting impact on the philosophical community. The two men not only differed personally, but philosophically, addressing issues at very different standpoints.
Immanuel Kant, born in Prussia, was raised by a conservative family and quickly earned a PhD from his local university in Konigsberg. As a private, unmarried teacher, he mainly studied the sciences and is credited with devising the first working Big Bang Theory. Unlike other thinkers of his time, Kant was not skeptical or negative about humankind. Rather, he believed that all moral reasoning was based on rational thought. A rational man would make moral choices; an irrational man would not. This provides every man with an equal opportunity to use reason as moral guidance. Kant was also much more concerned with scientific reasoning and explanations.
David Hume was far different from Kant in almost every way. Unlike Kant, Hume did not achieve a degree; he abandoned a course in law to pursue his philosophical calling. He was an overall skeptic, hesitant to approach huge, overarching ideals and more focused on the effect of memories and emotions. Unlike Kant, he did not believe in reason being rational; rather he believed that humans, though possessing free will, are at the mercy of passions which are mistook for reason. Morals, then, are derived from feelings, not reason. This is the main area of difference between Kant and Hume’s philosophies.
The main difference in Kant and Hume’s arguments was the deciding force behind morality. Kant proposed that reason drove morality; Hume proposed that emotion did. In essence, the two were combating practical thought with passionate. While Kant relies on the mind as an instrument of rational and reasonable thought, Hume relies on the mind as an advocator of free will based on emotional stimuli. As a skeptic realist, Hume also believed that the idea of cause and effect was not absolute, but something assumed by the human mind. Kant did not share this reasoning. Kant, unlike Hume, also believed that happiness was a result of satisfaction of pure intention and moral action.
Another large difference between Kant and Hume’s practices was that Hume employed multiple experimental approaches to his ideas; Kant, though more scientific, was more rooted in principles. The two men, though far apart in their ideas and methods, were nonetheless of equal impact on the Enlightenment era.