Huxleў
Author: Huxleў
© Huxleў — almanac about philosophy, business, art and science.
Liberal ArtsPhilosophy
7 minutes for reading

TO THE 300TH ANNIVERSARY OF KANT’S BIRTH: the story of a life that never happened, or still existed…

TO THE 300TH ANNIVERSARY OF KANT'S BIRTH: the story of a life that never happened, or still existed...
Share material
Emmanuel Kant by Julissa Lopez, 2012, via the artist’s Behance / thecollector.com

 

On April 22, 1724, Immanuel Kant was born — a great philosopher with a strange biography. The poet Heinrich Heine wrote: «It is difficult to tell the history of Kant’s life. Because he had neither a life nor a history». Due to the apparent lack of events in his biography, various people «read out» completely non-Kantian meanings. What can be said about a man who never left the borders of East Prussia? It turns out quite a lot.

 

WHAT KANT WOULD NOT SIGN

 

Who only did not want to «appropriate» the great philosopher. The current Russian authorities are trying to make Kant a Russian brand on the grounds that his grave is in Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg, where the philosopher lived and worked in the 18th century. The idea is not new.

Earlier, Hitler’s Nazis were concerned with turning Kant into a German brand. Fitted into the system of fascist ideology, Kant transformed it into a kind of «fascism with a human face». Even earlier, Kaiser Wilhelm II mentioned Kant’s outstanding role in the formation of German militarism. He sincerely believed that he owed his victories to «the moral and spiritual legacy of the great thinker from Königsberg».

Neither Putin, Hitler, nor Wilhelm was confused by the fact that Kant could by no means be «their». His categorical imperative is completely incompatible with the cult of violence and war, to the denial of which Kant devoted his later works.

The outstanding Austrian satirist Karl Krause wrote, «Please bear in mind that the orders “Halt!”, “Forward march!”, “Hit them!” and “Not a step back!” have nothing to do with my categorical imperative. Signed: “Kant”».

 

KANT WAS LATVIAN ON HIS FATHER’S SIDE?

 

So whose is Kant really? Of course, his ideas and philosophical heritage belong to the whole of humanity. However, if we talk about ethnic roots, we should say that there is a lot of confusion here as well. It started with Kant himself. He believed that his ancestors moved to Prussia from Scotland. But in fact, the philosopher was not a Scotsman.

The version about the British origin is based on the fact that both of Kant’s great-aunts were married to Scots. In reality, on the paternal side, the Kant family comes from the Baltic states, more precisely, from Latvia. The philosopher’s great-grandfather, Richard Kant, lived in the small Latvian town of Priekule, not far from the Lithuanian Klaipeda.

In the 15th century, Priekule became «German» in the sense that the German baronial family of Korf owned it. However, Richard himself was not German and did not even know German. His son Hans left the remote Priekule and moved to Klaipeda, which at that time was called Memel. The next generation of Kants moved from Lithuania to Prussia.

 

SADDLERS AND THE WAR INDUSTRY

 

Johann, Immanuel’s father, knew German, did not put emphasis on his origin, and was engaged in saddlery in Königsberg. Are you familiar with the expression «blinders on the eyes»? That’s where the name of the profession of saddlers — leatherworkers who made horse gear — came from. Including eye protection, which restricted the horses’ view so that it was easier to control them.

Since the Middle Ages, saddlers have been organized into workshops — closed communities of craftsmen where outsiders were not allowed. The craft was not easy, and leatherwork was aesthetically repellent, so saddlers lived in closed communities. Nevertheless, the profession was respected.

Wars in Europe were going on non-stop, and well-equipped horses were a formidable weapon. Therefore, a whole industry arose around them — in addition to the saddlers’ shop, there were shops of belt makers, bridle makers, seat makers… All these «little things» were given great attention — the fate of both the horse and its rider in battle depended on their quality.

It turns out that although Kant was against the war, his ancestors contributed to the development of the military-industrial complex of the epoch. Maybe Immanuel was practicing his anti-war stance to fulfill his family karma?

 

By joining the Huxleў friends club, you support philosophy, science and art

 

THE DIRTY BACKYARDS OF EUROPE

 

Saddlers could be pretty wealthy people. For example, in Charles Dickens’ novel «The Posthumous Notes of the Pickwick Club», one of the characters is old man Lobs — a flighty but very rich saddler. His fortune is so great that it allows him to buy an entire village. Unfortunately, Johann Kant had many children, was nowhere near as wealthy as Lobs, and was severely restricted by the confines of the shop world.

In general, the society of the time was rigidly divided into insiders and outsiders. Königsberg, shortly before Kant’s birth, was an agglomeration of small towns: Altstadt, Kneiphof, and Löbenicht, which were separated from each other by walls, gates, and water trenches. In 1709, King Frederick William I ordered all this to be demolished. Thus, Königsberg was born, and 15 years later, Immanuel was born in it.

The streets of the city were crooked and dirty, pigs frolicked in the center, near the houses there were boxes with manure, a passerby could pour slop on his head, stray dogs could bite him… The place was very unpleasant. And Kant is probably the «brightest spot» in its history. But before he could illuminate the Prussian backwaters with his genius, Immanuel had to come into the world and survive, which was not easy either.

 

THE FAVORITE OF A VISIONARY MOTHER

 

Johann, a saddler, became related to the family of another saddler, Caspar Reuter of Nuremberg. His daughter Anna Regina was a pure-blooded German 14 years younger than her husband. The couple lived poorly but quite devoutly. It is to Anna that the world owes that Kant appeared in it.

She gave birth to 9 children, two of whom died. Immanuel was the fourth. It is not known what moved Regina to single him out among all the children. As if she knew who this painful and shy boy would grow up to be and did everything for his survival and development. And sometimes even to the detriment of the other children.

Johann could hardly pull a large family, but Anna insisted that 6-year-old Immanuel — the only one of all the children! — to study at the prestigious Collegium Fridericianum. With incredible efforts, his father sought money for his studies until his son entered the university.

Philosopher Jean-Baptiste Botul in his book «The Sexual Life of Immanuel Kant» proves that Kant’s sexuality is the key to understanding Kantianism. Behind the outstanding thinker was an exceptional woman. His mother talked a lot to her son about the goodness and wisdom of God… Sadly, Anna died when he was only 13 years old.

 

KANT WAS NOT AN ASCETIC

 

For Kant, the mother forever remained an ideal of love, intelligence, and beauty with which other women could not compete. Perhaps therein lies the reason for his celibacy. However, he was apparently not a virgin. «Every organ exists with some purpose which it must fulfill», Kant said.

To imagine him as an ascetic, like the ancient Cynics, is not worth it.

In his youth, the philosopher liked to drink and once fell asleep in the street, completely dead drunk. In his student years, he played billiards and cards to earn money. He was quite attractive and liked women, was not ashamed of his body, was gallant, and could support small talk.

He loved and knew how to dress elegantly, believing that it is better to be a fool in fashion than a fool not in fashion. It is difficult to say whether Kant had an affair with Countess Keyserling, whom he taught philosophy, but she was the only one who was honored to be depicted in his portrait.

At the age of 70, Kant would often sit a pretty girl next to him when he was visiting so that he could enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of her beauty.

 

MISUNDERSTANDING AND ENVY

 

Kant fell in love many times and even wanted to get married twice. But he was not destined to have a family: «When I could need a woman, I was not able to feed her, and when I was able to feed her, I could not need her anymore».

Relations with his relatives didn’t go well either. He spoke willingly about his mother and father. With his younger brother was in correspondence. But with his sisters, who also lived in Königsberg, he did not communicate for 25 years, probably feeling something like jealousy towards them — after all, in his childhood, he had to share with them a mother’s affection! Kant idolized his mother, but his sisters saw her and her favorite as the cause of their failures and the ruin of the family nest.

Kant’s philosophy is considered difficult to comprehend. But his inner world is no less complex and full of invisible tension. Perhaps only one person in the world could see and understand it — Anna Regina, née Reuter, his mother.

 


When copying materials, please place an active link to www.huxley.media
By joining the Huxleў friends club, you support philosophy, science and art
Share material

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: