'Kant Is a Moron': Graffiti Artists' Unreasonable Critique

Russian police are investigating vandalism on the walls of a crumbling house where the philosopher once lived.

Not for the first time, vandals are wreaking havoc in central Europe. Russian police say they're looking for the intellectually minded miscreants who graffitied "Kant is a moron"—along with a flower and heart—on the philosopher's home outside Kaliningrad.

With Arthur Schopenhauer dead for 155 years, however, authorities start off with few strong leads. They say no reason, pure or otherwise, was given for the crime. Whoever left the marking did not elaborate on their antipathy, though they reportedly used a relatively mild term.

Even the timing of the crime is unclear—journalists discovered the note, at once crude and rather refined, while exploring Kant's derelict home. Despite repeated promises of restoration, the house remains in sorry shape, according to The Telegraph.

Kaliningrad is the capital of a small Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, but in Kant's day it was Königsberg, a Prussian and German city. It was only at the end of World War II that it switched to Soviet control as the Nazi regime crumbled, and in 1946 the city was renamed.

Philosophy may have a reputation for impenetrability and for arid classroom discussion today, but for those who would reclaim the discipline's more raucous reputation of the past, the graffiti is perhaps a positive sign, and maybe the first salvo in a war between Situationists and Enlightenment thinkers. Indeed, a critic of Kant's ideas might feel a categorical imperative to take such direct action.

With his focus on the importance of space and time, Kant would surely want us to note that it appears the existing house was not the one he inhabited. Prior to his appointment as professor at the University of Königsberg in 1770, he taught in towns around the city, which is when he lived at the site. The original house seems to have been largely demolished at some point in the 19th century, with the present structure later constructed atop the same foundation.

We don't have any way of proving this to be true, of course—nor any way to prove that it is false. But for the sake of morality, it is perhaps enough to believe that the house is Kant's, and that the vandalism is therefore immoral. Fans of the philosopher are left hoping that police can determine who is behind the petty crime, and that they can be rehabilitated by the justice system. Yet as the great man warned, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."