Kant, I can’t

Kant’s Principle of Production is more a proof than an essay, but there is nothing that has ever made me more uncomfortable than reading it. The impact Kant had on modern philosophy is undeniable, but when I try to read any of his works, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. He has been following me since high school, but no matter how many times I encounter this proof in my academic journey, no matter how much I’ve grown up, I’ve matured, and how many Piaget’s stages of development I’ve advanced, I never seem to grasp the its actual meaning. My cognitive abilities are never good enough to understand what this is really about.

I’m clearly not part of his audience. This feels too elevated, too inaccessible for me. Last semester, when I had to read it (again) for one of my classes, I thought I was ready to understand it. But I realized that this is just not for me. This proof is supposedly about how our human consciousness operates and how we perceive objects, or so I’ve been told by my professor. I don’t think I would be able to understand much of it without anyone explaining it to me.

Perhaps it’s the language. Kant uses a lot of sophisticated, fancy words that make it hard to get to the end of sentence and ask yourself Wait, what did I just read? Even his examples, which should explain and make clear to the reader what he is trying to explain, are complicated. “Thus, for instance, the apprehension of the manifold in the phenomenal appearance of a house that stands before me, is always successive.” What?

Perhaps it’s the nature of the piece. This is a logical proof, and maybe I don’t like it when things are too rational. There’s no place for emotions in the piece, he talks about how we perceive objects in a strictly objective way. Usually logic is very straightforward. If A, then B, and A is true, therefore B is true. But not with Kant. All those fancy words and long sentences and complicated examples make it hard to understand what he’s talking about.

I still hope that in the future I will be able to understand Kant. Maybe in a few years I will encounter him again and I will be so intellectually advanced that it will be like reading a kid’s book. Or maybe not, and I will just keep telling myself (with a British accent, because it makes it very funny) Kant, I can’t.

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