How Philosophy Kills You: The Tragic Story of Von Kleist | Weltgeist

Heinrich von Kleist was a German writer who engaged with Kant’s philosophy. Convinced that metaphysics, and thus meaning, were impossible, he ended his life. “My sole and highest aim has vanished. Now I have none.”

In 1801, German writer and playwright Heinrich von Kleist first came into contact with the Kantian philosophy. His critique of reason and its limits made a lasting impression on him. The young Kleist had been obsessed with finding the answers to the great questions of life, and in the Age of Enlightenment, Reason seemed to conquer all.

However, Immanuel Kant published his Critique of Pure Reason in 1791, and argued that we cannot make definite judgements about the world-in-itself. Our knowledge must be confined to the phenomenon, not the noumenon. For Kleist, this was an admission that humanity’s highest goal would forever be out of reach: the answer to the meaning of life.

Life seemed meaningless to him now, truth impossible, hope useless. In his despair, he ended his life.

  1. Introduction
  2. Heinrich von Kleist
  3. Immanuel Kant
  4. Kant the All-Destroyer
  5. Kleist and Kant
  6. Now what?