Is this a real quote from Kant?

“Someone’s intelligence can be measured by the quantity of uncertainties that he can bear”

If so, what is the origin? In what context does he say it?

  • 2
    I don't think this is a real quote, but most likely a misattribution. Indicatively, no german version exists. The french version seems to be en vogue: "On mesure l'intelligence d'un individu à la quantité d'incertitudes qu'il est capable de supporter". Vote to close.
    – DBK
    Sep 12, 2012 at 20:16
  • I am not familiar with Kant's work, but I like this quote and uncertainty is one of my main research interests. Does Kant talk about uncertainty in his work? Do you know some good sources to read about the definition of uncertainty from a philosophical perspective? Sep 13, 2012 at 9:10
  • It reminds me of Nietzsche's slightly different remark about the depth of a soul being measurable by the number of contradictions it can bear...
    – Joseph Weissman
    Sep 21, 2012 at 3:50
  • 1
    Someones intelligence can be reduced by a quantity of cans of beer. Sep 21, 2012 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


I don't know all of Kant's work but I know mainly his point was that using your reason is what gives you freedom, makes you human and is what gives hope to humanity. He never talks about knowledge, he talks about using your own intelligence. In other words, questioning things. He says weak people go for the easy answer, all made for them, all prepared. The hard thing to do is not be sure, is questioning and finding your own answers. Therefore, the more intelligent (and strong) you are, the more you're able to see things as uncertain and don't need the stable certitude of some pre-digested knowledge.

His text called What is enlightenment? is mostly what can be interpreted such as "Someone’s intelligence can be measured by the quantity of uncertainties that he can bear". But I have to say, even though its meaning made sens with my knowledge of Kant's theory, I never saw this quote within his work. I spent the afternoon trying to find it and, just like so many people, I can't. I really don't want to give up because it seems like something Kant would say, but so far, it only seem to be an interpretation of a part of his work.

Refer to Kant's What is Enlightenment? text.

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    Thank you very much for your effort. I had a quick look of the text, it seems very interesting. I'll give it a detailed reading when I have the time. By the way, I see that you are new in stackexchange. What you should have done is to edit your first answer and update it with this new information you gathered. It is the "proper" way according to the community. But of corse, your answer is still valid in this form. I'm just trying to advice you ;) It is also nice if you vote up the question. That will give it status (It'll appear higher in the home page). We will get an answer quicker. Sep 19, 2012 at 6:48

To answer your question, I just happened to stumble upon an old book I had in my Library forever and it actually mentions this quote by Kant.

However my personal interpretation of this quote might be slightly different. I am all for about Kant's work encouraging its reader to use his/her logic and reason at life's given challenges facts and questions, but to me this particular quote [“Someone’s intelligence can be measured by the quantity of uncertainties that he can bear”] means that in life we will face uncertainties and there will be No time in our lives that we will be sure about everything. At some point during adulthood the uncertainties will continue to pile up and only a few stuff will remain certain (at least in our minds). To put it in other words I think this quote is building on Heraclitus "Everything flows" (Τα πάντα ρει)quote and it states that intelligent people can bear moving forward even when a lot of situations in their lives look like they could work... or not! In one word Uncertainty.

So the more of these situations a person can bear the more intelligence he is...? I would really like your input on this!

  • From which writing is the quote supposed to be? That's the central question here. So please disclose your sources.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Aug 14, 2020 at 3:34

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