Kant wrote his works in notoriously difficult and elaborate German. I’ve once heard that his strict and peculiar style is in parts explained and made more accessible by the view point that he was writing German in a way one would write Latin at the time. Is this true?

Latin has been the language of science in the previous centuries and virtually all major works had been written and available to Kant in Latin and in Latin only. Surely, this has had a great impact on his verbal thinking. But is this the reason why his German sounds so different? Has he actually been trying to write German as if it was Latin?

Does anyone know the reasons why he has chosen German over Latin for his writing? Was it political? Did he care about accessibility to his writings? Was it already firmly established to write in German at his time?

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    Perhaps, he learned from the example of his main role model and target, Wolff. Wolff wrote his original works in German, then rewrote them in Latin to reach Europeans, but Latin versions never approached the popularity of the German ones, neither in Germany nor in Europe, see SEP, 18th Century German Philosophy Prior to Kant. Latin was not only the language of science, it was also the language of scholastics and dogma, Enlightenment figures generally made a point of transitioning to national languages accessible to broader audiences.
    – Conifold
    May 5, 2020 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


At the time Kant was writing his major work German was well established and accepted as the language for science in Germany. The audience he wanted to reach was speaking German. Further the German language had evolved the as a language of science since mid 16th century and you were now able to express the concepts Kant needed in that language. There is no direct evidence answering this question and one can only speculate. I think the way he wrote came from the way he thought rather from the choice of language.

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