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Kant—“I Have Come a Century Too Soon”

Immanuel Kant, an 18th century German philosopher, had trouble writing things that people could relate to. He said towards the end of his life:

“I have come a century too soon with my writings. After a hundred years, people will first correctly understand me. And then study my books anew and admit them.”

Maybe Heidegger is right to ask whether Kant said this out of “vain self-importance”or the “angry hopelessness of being shoved aside.” What strikes me is that we live in a world where it’s becoming less and less possible to say things like that. And it’s simply because we’ve become impatient. Things have to be meaningful fast and quick and easy and in the moment or else they’re left for dead in the darkness outside. This kind of postponement of revelation on which Kant hangs his whole life’s work is a mystery to us.


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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “Kant—“I Have Come a Century Too Soon”” Subscribe

  1. Fufeyin, MP 2012/06/07 at 21:25 #

    Old man Kant! His lectures, said to be vivid, animated, even entertaining. The writings, inscrutable, non-decipherable. Why couldn’t there be the easy transition ‘tween the writing and then the talking? I was once hell-bent on conquering one of his volumes, but got a few pages far.

    Being the village philosopher (Time mag. ), Kornisberg, his village then became something of a shrine and an attraction as Europe then flocked in to get words on all things from the philosopher.

    These sagely words of allure never got translated into the works. Doubt if his fear was volumes becoming too voluminous.

  2. Ainehi Edoro 2012/06/08 at 02:05 #

    Lol. And you know he’d get so rattled that people couldn’t grasp his writings. There’s this moment in A Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics where he says something like, Look if after reading the Prolegomena you still don’t understand the central arguments of Critique of Pure Reason, maybe philosophy isn’t just for you.

  3. Fufeyin, MP 2012/06/08 at 06:04 #

    Wonderful! I fondly remember PRELOGOMENA. Just the word and sound. I’m glad there was a “maybe” in the presupposition. So it could as well be a MAYBE NOT. May be NOT philosophy is not for you. All’s negated in the mild assertion.

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