Sunday, January 21, 2018

Kant’s Apology for Writing "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer"

In Kant: A Biography, Manfred Kuhen points out that Dreams of a Spirit-Seer is the only book for which Immanuel Kant came close to apologizing. The Book was published anonymously, but eventually Kant accepted the responsibility for writing it. In his letter (Dated: April 6, 1766) to Moses Mendelssohn, Kant said that he was a philosophical author of steadfast character and he apologized for the ambiguous style of his book.

Here’s an excerpt from Kant’s letter:

"The estrangement you express about the tone of my little work proves to me that you have formed a good opinion of the sincerity of my character, and your very reluctance to see that character ambiguously expressed is both precious and pleasing to me. In fact, you will never have to change this opinion. For, though there may be flaws that even the most steadfast determination cannot eradicate completely, I shall certainly never become a fickle or fraudulent person, having, during what must have been the largest part of my life, learned to do without as well as to scorn most of the things that tend to corrupt one's character. The loss of self-respect, which originates from the consciousness of an undisguised way of thinking, would thus be the greatest evil that could befall me, but which most certainly never will befall me. Although I am personally convinced with the greatest clarity and satisfaction of many things which I will never have the courage to say, I will never say anything that I do not mean (dencke)."

Manfred Kuhen also sheds light on the peculiar manner in which Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit-Seer was published. The book’s publisher failed to send the manuscript to the censor, as he should have. Instead, he directly submitted a printed copy of the book. For this infraction, the publisher was fined 10 Thalers which was equivalent to one-sixth of Kant’s yearly income.

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