Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nietzsche, "Kant became an idiot."

This line is from Friedrich Nietzsche's book The Anti-Christ. Why does Nietzsche call Immanuel Kant an idiot? Here is an excerpt:

"A word now against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defense. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the concept
of “virtue,” as Kant would have it, is pernicious. “Virtue,” “duty,” “good for its own sake,” goodness grounded upon impersonality or a notion of universal validity — these are all chimeras, and in them one finds only an expression of the decay, the last collapse of life, the Chinese spirit of Konigsberg. Quite the contrary is demanded by the most profound laws of self-preservation and of growth: to wit, that every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative. A nation goes to pieces when it confounds its duty with the general concept of duty. Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every “impersonal” duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction. — To think that no one has thought of Kant’s categorical imperative as dangerous to life! …"

"'Duty'… impersonal and universal – phantom expressions of decline, of the final exhaustion of life… each one of us should devise his own virtue, his own categorical imperative… Kant’s categorical imperative should have been felt as mortally dangerous… What destroys more quickly that to work, to think, to feel without inner necessity, without a deep personal choice… as an automaton of duty? It is a recipe for decadence, even for idiocy…  Kant became an idiot." 1

For more on Nietzsche's moral thought check out If Morality Is Invented, Can We Complain about Immorality?


1.  Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ § 11

Image taken from this website


  1. Hi
    I read that Nietzsche used "idiot" in another way, not as an mere insult. In The Antichirst (Alianza) there is a text in which Sánches Pascual explains that the word "idiot" was a influence of Dostoievsky, where the figure of the prince Mishkin was a super sensitive, "idiot" was about the sense of touch.
    Its interesting at this point, because I had the same feeling, felt like it was a big insult. But Nietzsche also calls Jesus an idiot (and he admired Jesus).
    Just a comment :-) (any mistake:sorry, I speak spanish)

  2. Interesting comment! Thanks!

  3. One of Nietzsche's Ubermenschs was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, yet Goethe was an Optimist, not a Nihilist.

    Nietzsche's philosophy is not really that difficult to understand, but then again, I've read Leibniz, Goethe, Berkeley, Erasmus and Grotius.

    1. Though Nietzsche isn't a nihilist.


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