Cherrypicker | Literature  Kant is by no means rigid!

Kant: book covers © Reclam, C.H. Beck, Propyläen, Wallstein, Wienand / Canva

300 years ago, on 22 April 1724, Immanuel Kant was born. In this anniversary year, he is being honoured, celebrated and critically examined as an important philosopher and pioneer of the Enlightenment. Here is a small selection of current books about him.

In this Kant Year 2024, those without much prior knowledge but with an interest in the philosopher and his ideas can get a brief and comprehensible insight in the booklet Immanuel Kant. 100 Seiten, which offers tips for further reading. In it, author Claudia Blöser, now a professor of philosophy specialising in ethics, remembers the first time she encountered Kant when, as an A-level student, she read a similarly slim book.

Those looking for a playful approach to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason can fall back on Hanno Depner’s wonderful and multi-award-winning construction kit Kant für die Hand. Die ‘Kritik der reinen Vernunft’ zum Basteln & Begreifen (2011).

Bridges to the present day

Kant. Die Revolution des Denkens by professor of modern philosophy Marcus Willaschek offers new insights. Neither a typical biography nor a textbook on philosophy, the book links ideas, lives and contemporary history and builds bridges to the present day. Willaschek also discusses the problematic aspects of Kant and his work. Organised by topic, he offers readers an introduction to Kant’s revolutionary and varied ideas and even refutes the widespread image that Kant was a rigid thinker.

Der bestirnte Himmel über mir by Daniel Kehlmann and Omri Boehm is a dialogue that is well suited for people with some prior knowledge. In eight chapters, the successful writer and the German-Israeli philosopher exchange views on Kant’s central ideas. The sequence organically follows the lively dialogue, which also addresses the problem of racism in Kant. Kehlmann studied Kant extensively during his philosophy degree before abandoning his dissertation in favour of his literary career. Omri Boehm teaches at the New School for Social Research in New York and is a recognised Kant expert. In 2024, he received the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding for his remarkable book Radikaler Universalismus. Jenseits von Identität (2022).

Kant in pictures and in fiction

With their original book Immanuel Kant und die offenen Fragen, Antje Herzog and Thomas Ebers take us on a pictorial journey that is designed to be accessible and arouse our curiosity. Brief texts and fine illustrations offer much to discover about the biography and everyday life of the philosopher; his home town of Königsberg is presented to us in great detail. The book also successfully conveys Kant’s fundamental philosophical ideas. This pictorial journey was on display in the exhibition of the same name at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn (November 2023 to March 2024), which focused on central questions of the Enlightenment, and is now available in book form. Antje Herzog also produced a graphic novel Lampe und sein Meister Immanuel Kant, published in 2017, in which the illustrator places the servant Martin Lampe at the centre of the story alongside his master.

Towards the end of his life, Kant not only dismissed his long-time servant Martin Lampe, but also wrote on a note that the name Lampe must be completely forgotten. This curious and as yet unexplained note is the subject of Felix Heidenreich’s novel Der Diener des Philosophen. Heidenreich, primarily known as a political scientist and philosopher, creates the character of a surprisingly cunning servant. Lampe not only finds himself in an ongoing domestic feud with a sometimes devious Kant, but also has another opponent in the form of his jealous private secretary Wasianski. With a great deal of humour and philosophical allusions, Heidenreich stages the relationship between master and servant(s) as well as stories from Kant’s milieu, which he combines brilliantly from verified facts and fictional narrative elements. This book is also suitable for philosophy beginners!

Blöser, Claudia: Immanuel Kant. 100 Seiten
Ditzingen: Reclam, 2023. 100 p.
ISBN: 978-3-15-020704-8
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Felix Heidenreich: Der Diener des Philosophen. Roman
Göttingen: Wallstein, 2023. 149 p,
ISBN: 978-3-8353-5530-9
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Antje Herzog und Thomas Ebers: Immanuel Kant und die offenen Fragen. Eine Bilderreise
Köln: Wienand, 2023. 168 p.
ISBN: 978-3-86832-785-4

Daniel Kehlmann/ Omri Boehm: Der bestirnte Himmel über mir. Ein Gespräch über Kant
Berlin: Propyläen, 2024. 352 p.
ISBN: 978-3-549-10068-4

Marcus Willaschek: Kant. Die Revolution des Denkens
München: C.H. Beck, 2023. 430 p.
ISBN: 978-3-406-80743-5
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.