KANT IN THE CLASSROOM     Materials to aid the study of Kant’s lectures

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> Kant’s Lectures

The Student Notes

Contemporary Accounts of Kant’s Lectures and Notes

The vast majority of the following excerpts come from Rudolph Malter’s fine collection of texts on Kant’s life [1990], and the original German can be consulted there.  You can also locate these accounts from an index alphabetized by author.

1750s1760s1770s1780s1790s

Borowski (WS 55/56)

Borowski (1756?)

Borowski (after 1755)

Rink

Hippel (after 55/56)

Mortzfeld

Anon. (Wasianski?)

Hamann’s Brother to Lindner (16 Mar 57)

K. to Lindner (28 Oct 59)

Wannowski (after 1759)

Herder (1762-64)

Herder, Kalligone

Herder, Travels

K. G. Bock

Wilpert

Caroline Herder

v. Schön (early 60's)

Jensch (WS 63/64)

Hamann to Lindner (1 Feb 64)

Hagen (WS 63/64)

Reichardt (1765-70)

v. Braxein (Oct 64)

Herz (1766-70)

Meyer (1770)

Baczko (WS 72/73)

K. to Herz (WS 73/74)

Kraus (1773)

Kraus (SS 1774)

Kant (1776)

Mortzfeld (1776)

Kraus (1776)

Mendelssohn's Visit (18 Aug 77)

K. to Herz (20 Aug 77)

v. Zedlitz (21 Feb 78)

v. Zedlitz (28 Feb 78)

Bernoulli (SS 78)

v. Zedlitz (1 Aug 78)

K. to Herz (28 Aug 78)

v. Zedlitz (16 Oct 78)

K. to Herz (20 Oct 78)

Herz to K. (24 Nov 78)

K. to Herz (15 Dec 78)

K. to Herz (Jan 79)

Rink

Puttlich (April 82)

Puttlich (Sept 82)

Puttlich (May 83)

Hamann (Oct 83)

Jachmann (83-93)

Puttlich (Apr 85)

Hamann to Jacobi (Mar 86)

Hamann to Jacobi (25 Mar 86)

Rink (Easter 86)

Rink (86)

Hamann (May 86)

v. Schön (Sep 88)

J. C. F. Schulz (Jan 91)

Fichte (Jul 91)

Lehmann/Pfeifer (WS 91/92)

K. to Reinhold (Sep 91)

Hippel (early 90s)

Thibaut (May 93)

Kant to Fr. Wilh. II (Oct 94)

Reusch (WS 93/94)

Purgstall (Apr 95)

Lichtenberg (Feb 1999)

1750s

WS 55/56
L. E. Borowski [index] [top]

Ludwig Ernst Borowski (1740-1831) was an early student of Kant's and later close acquaintance. The following comes from his 1804 biography of Kant:

I attended his first lecture in 1755. He lived then in the house of Professor Kypke,[1] in the Neustadt, where he had a spacious lecture hall. This, as well as the stairway and the entrance hall, was filled with a nearly unbelievable number of students. This seemed to make Kant quite embarrassed. Unused to this situation, he nearly lost his composure, speaking even more softly than usual and often correcting himself. But this just increased our admiration of the man whom we presumed to have the most wide-ranging learnedness and who seemed to us merely modest, rather than afraid. Things were already quite different by the next lecture. His delivery was, just as in the lectures that followed, not only thorough, but also liberal-minded and pleasant. The textbook upon which he more or less based his lectures was never followed closely, and only such that he arranged his own teaching according to the ordering of the author. The fullness of his learning often led him into digressions, that were still always quite interesting. When he noticed that he had strayed too far, he would quickly cut himself off with an “and so forth” or “and so on,” and return again to the main subject. He often brought a special, hand-written notebook, besides his textbook, whose margins were filled with notes.

Admittedly it was necessary to pay close attention to his lectures. The gift that many teachers have to make the concepts and material completely clear for everyone, to make themselves understood, even by students who would skip class or be distracted, by repeating himself using different expressions, and essentially to force these students to understand, was clearly not Kant’s. Everything must be carefully noted, as is only reasonable.

He was not keen on taking notes. It bothered him when he noticed that more important material was being overlooked, while the less important was being noted down; also other things bothered him, e.g., a striking manner of dress, and that sort of thing. He would repeat unceasingly to his students: “You will learn not philosophy from me, but philosophizing; not thoughts merely to repeat, but rather thinking.” He deeply disliked all blind adherence. Seldom did teachers warn students from this as often and as earnestly as did Kant. Nevertheless the blind adherent had his opinions without examining these; perhaps had more than others; it is certain that he didn’t want to have them. To think for oneself — to inquire for oneself — to stand on one’s own feet — were expressions that constantly came forth.

Doubt from students and requests for a closer explanation, he accepted in his early years most agreeably. Even his lectures were a free discussion spiced with and good humor. Often citations and references to writings that he had just read; occasional anecdotes which, however, always suited the material. I never heard in his lectures any sexually suggestive remarks, by which many other teachers, however, would use to enliven their lectures, but which drives the good, well-raised boys from their lecture halls. His later students have also testified to this. One of these, now a man, always thought well of Kant to the very end, praised Kant to me recently that Kant in his lectures was always so careful in his interaction with the students regarding anything that could have been harmful to them. E.g., in his physical geography, he obviously must mention aqua tofana, but he did not say how to make it, and later remarked at dinner: “One of them might have been able to make it.” On the contrary we often heard fatherly admonitions to good moral sense and behavior, although he otherwise promoted with the youth a proper freedom and many sorts of pleasure. As is known from his anthropology, he didn’t want to employ hothouse breeding with youth. Trust in his knowledge and the desire to take classes from him went so far during his years as a lecturer that one believed he was able to teach anything that could be considered part of the philosophy faculty. So some students, mainly from Curland, wanted him to offer a course on aesthetics and lessons on German eloquence. He surely would have done a fine job lecturing, but it was simply too far afield for him; he assigned it to me and under his direction I gave lessons on this during the winters of 1759 and 1760 to a circle of 15-18 young people, some of whom are still living. Forty years and more he was a thoroughly honored teacher in our province, whose lecture room was never empty. Many indeed came merely to be able to say that they had taken his class. [Borowski 1804, 185-90; repr. Malter 1990, 26-28]

Ich hörete ihn im J. 1755 in seiner ersten Vorlesungsstunde. Er wohnte damals in des Prof. Kypke Hause, auf der Neustadt und hatte hier einen geräumigen Hörsaal, der samt dem Vorhause und der Treppe mit einer beinahe unglaublichen Menge von Studierenden angefüllt war. Dieses schien K. äußerst verlegen zu machen. Er, ungewöhnt der Sache, verlor beinahe alle Fassung, sprach leiser noch als gewöhnlich, korrigirte sich selbst oft: aber gerade dieses gab unserer Bewunderung des Mannes, für den wir nun einmal die Präsum- [186] tion der umfänglichsten Gelehrsamkeit hatten, und der uns hier bloß sehr bescheiden, nicht furchtsam vorkam, nur einen desto lebhafteren Schwung. In der nächstfolgenden Stunde war es schon ganz anders. Sein Vortrag war, wie er’s auch in der Folge blieb, nicht allein gründlich, sondern auch freimüthig und angenehm. Das Kompendium, welches er etwa zum Grunde legte, befolgte er nie strenge und nur in so fern, daß er seine Belehrungen nach der Ordnung des Autors anreihete. Oft führte ihn die Fülle seiner Kenntnisse auf Abschweifungen, die aber doch immer sehr interessant waren, von der Haputsache. Wenn er bemerkte, daß er zu weit ausgewichen war, brach er geschwind mit einem “Und so weiter” oder “Und so fortan” ab und kehrte zur Hauptsache zurück. Oft brachte er ein besonderes handschriftliches Heft außer dem Kompendium mit. In diesem hatte er sich Marginalien beigezeichnet.

Freilich war rege Aufmerksamkeit bei seinen Vorträgen nötig. Die [187] manchem Gelehrten ganz eigene Gabe, die vorkommenden Begriffe und Sachen ganz ins Klare für jeden zu setzen, sie etwa durch Wiederholung in andern Ausdrücken auch dem versäumtern und zerstreutern Zuhörern doch faßlich zu machen, diesen, nach dem jetzt in Gang gebrachten Ausdrucke, gleichsam zum Verstehen zu zwingen, war Kant freilich nicht eigen. Es mußte auf Alles, wie billig, genau gemerkt werden.

Dem Nachschreiben war er nicht hold. Es störte ihn, wenn er bemerkte, daß das Wichtigere oft übergangen und das Unwichtigere aufs Papier gebracht ward, so wie auch manche andre Kleinigkeit, z.E. eine auffallende Kleidungsart u. dergl. ihn störete. “Sie werden,” das wiederholte er seinen Schülern unablässig, “bei mir nicht Philosophie lernen, aber - philosophieren; nicht Gedanken bloß zum Nachsprechen, sondern denken.” Aller Nachbeterei war er herzlich gram. Selten mögen Lehrer so oft und so ernstlich dafür warnen, als Kant that. Dennoch hat er der [188] Nachbeter seiner Meinungen, ohne diese selbst zu prüfen, vielleicht mehr gehabt, als irgend einer; gewiß ist es, daß er sie nicht haben wollte. Selbst denken - selbst forschen, - auf seinen eigenen Füßen stehen, - waren Ausdrücke, die unablässig wieder vorkamen.

Zweifel, die ihm zur Auflösung vorgelegt wurden; Bitten um etwas nähere Auseinandersetzungen nahm er in seinen jüngern Jahren sehr freundlich an. Sonst war seine Vorlesung - freier Discours, mit Witz und Laune gewürzt. Oft Zitaten und Hinweisungen zu Schriften, die er eben gelesen hatte, bisweilen Anekdoten, die aber immer zur Sache gehörten. Nie habe ich eine Schlüpfrigkeit, durch die wohl mancher andrer Lehrer seinen Vortrag beleben will, und gute, wohlgezogene Jünglinge aus seinem Hörsaal wegtreibt, in seinen Vorlesungen gehört. Dieses bezeugen mir auch seine späteren Schüler. Einer von diesen, jetzt ein Mann, gegen den K. bis an sein Ende sehr freundschaftlich dachte, lobte mir in diesen Ta- [189] gen noch, daß K. in seinen Lehrstunden so höchstsorgfältig alles umgangen habe, was irgend der Jugend hätte nachtheilig werden können. Z.B. in der physischen Geographie müßte er freilich der aqua tofana erwähnen, aber er verschwieg die Zubereitung und sagte nachher bei Tische: “Es könnte doch irgend Einer einmal davon Gebrauch machen”. Dagegen höreten wir oft väterliche Anmahnungen zum guten moralischen Sinn und Wandel, obwohl er sonst bei Jünglingen eine anständige Freiheit und manche Arten von Vergnügungen wohl begünstigte. Treibhauszucht wollte er, wie aus seiner Anthropologie bekannt ist, bei jungen Leuten nicht angewandt wissen. Oben ist in der Skizze gesagt, was er in jüngeren und spätern Jahren aus dem Umfange der Wissenschaften vortrug. Das Zutrauen zu seinen Kenntnissen und der Wunsch, von ihm Unterricht zu erhalten, ging in seinen ersten Magisterjahren so weit, daß man glaubte, er könne und müsse Alles, was man nur irgend zum [190] Gebiet der sogenannten philosophischen Fakultät rechnet, lehren. So baten ihn einige, besonders kurländische Studirende damals um ein ästhetisches Kollegium und Uebungen in Wohlredenheit und im deutschen Stil. Er hätte es gewiß vortrefflich gelesen, aber es lag ihm zu weit aus seinem Wege; er übertrug es aus gutem Zutrauen mir und unter seiner Direktion erteilte ich die beiden Winter 1759 und 1760 hindurch, einem Kreise von 15 bis 18 jungen Leuten, davon einige noch leben, Unterricht dieser Art. Vierzig Jahre und drüber, war er ein durchaus verehrter Lehrer an unserm Orte, dessen Hörsaal man nie leer sah. Viele kamen freilich nur, um sagen zu können, daß sie bei ihm gehört hätten.


[1] Intended here is either Johann David Kypke [bio] — the professor of logic and metaphysics since 1727 — or else his younger nephew, Georg David Kypke [bio], who attended grammar school as well as the university alongside Kant, and who had just been appointed to the full professorship of oriental languages in 1755 (having served as an associate professor since 1746); see also Kant’s Classrooms.


L. E. Borowski [index] [top]

A student had promised to pay off the honorarium this morning for a course of lectures he had heard. How often and how gladly he would waive this, either wholly in part, everyone knows! But his student had made a certain promise to come. Kant explained that he didn’t need the money all that much. But every quarter-hour he would come back to it, and remark that the young man still hadn’t arrived! He showed up a few days later. He reproached him so earnestly, and when the student requested a position as opponent at the next Disputation, Kant refused, with the bitter remark to him: “You would likely not keep your word, not show up for the Disputation — and then ruin everything!” These earnest, yet otherwise softly uttered words, kept this young man — I have known him for many years since — from any mistake of this sort again. [Borowski 1912, 59-60; repr. Malter 1990, 36]

Ein Studierender hatte ihm auf diesen Vormittag die Abtragung des Honorars für gehörte Vorlesungen zugesagt. Wie oft und wie gerne er dieses vielen ganz oder teilweise erließ, wissen alle! Dieser aber hatte ein bestimmtes Versprechen gegeben. K. äußerte, daß er des Geldes gar nicht so sehr bedürfe. Alein nach jeder Viertelstunde kam er darauf zurück, daß der junge Mann sich doch — nicht einfinde! Nach ein paar Tagen erschien er. K. hielts' ihm so ernstlich vor und nahm ihn, da er sich zu seiner Opponentenstelle bei einer nächstens zu haltenden Disputation erbot, nicht dazu an mit der bitteren Bemerkung: 'Sie möchten doch,' sagte er zu ihm, 'nicht Wort halten, sich nicht zum Disputationsakt einfinden und — dann ales verderben!' Dieses ernste, obwohl sonst sanft ausgesprochene Wort schützte nachher diesen jungen Mann — ich kannte ihn noch viele Jarhre hindurch — vor jedem Fehler dieser Art.

Since Kant would have been only a lecturer when this happened (Prof. Funck, who died in 1764, was also present with Borowski), then why would the student be asking Kant for permission to participate in a disputation, unless it was Kant’s own? Of Kant’s three public disputations, only his 1756 (April 10) disputation is a possible candidate (his pro receptione disputation of 1755 took place before he was teaching, and his pro loco disputation of 1770 would have been too late — unless, of course, the student was simply asking for a position on Kant’s next disputation, without there being one already in the works.


L. E. Borowski [index] [top]

He became a teacher at our university. Equipped with all the knowledge necessary for the discipline in which he was to lecture, he appeared in his lecture hall with the most unassuming modesty — always reminding us that he would not teach philosophy, but rather how to philosophize, etc. — demonstrated thoroughness in his lectures, and yet accompanied this thoroughness with charm and interesting descriptions. Never, never, did he take refuge in that sorry aid of satire, or in taking shots at other teachers. Never — as I have seen with my own eyes in many settings and over many years — did he head down some lower path in order to win popularity. He lectured on logic, metaphysics, ethics, etc., without tying himself to the textbook, and often without any notebook, entirely in the manner described in his Program of 1765 — and then he added to this his physical geography and anthropology. The former lectures were for those interested in an educated knowledge; the latter for those who wanted to educate their head and heart, as well as to make more attractive and entertaining their social intercourse and conversations with others. Of course, a lively attentiveness was always required. Without this his lectures couldn’t be understood, and one would get lost. For his part, the lectures were held with punctuality and conscientious fidelity, allowing only those vacations that were legally allowed. Could this have any other consequence than that, from 1755 until today, a great many of students — and especially those most noble and most hungry for knowledge — have been streaming to him? And to whom he was always so glad to be of help, willingly helping to resolve their various doubts by discussing whatever seemed difficult to them, etc., whether on walks or at any other opportunity outside those hours in the classroom.

The young theologians especially learn from him how to avoid that false, windy, boastful, and fruitless enlightenment (which many call the disposition to distance oneself from the Bible and the system based on it), not merely to repeat mechanically the system, but rather to think through everything, even the theological truths. They convince themselves from his lectures that his morality does not contradict the Christian moral theory — even if there is not a point-by-point harmony between them Kantian virtue theory agrees completely with the Christian, although the motives for the latter are taken from elsewhere, as well as being more popular and comprehensible for everyone. Students from other faculties also came to him in droves, and all guided by him to an understanding of oneself and of humans in general, to a striving for truth and morality. Add also to this his many effective moral examples. Thus for the last forty years, men have been employed in all stations and offices who use his teachings and his wise hints in their circles of influence — and to a large extent have Kant to thank for their useful activity and the good results. In later years, older men would visit his lecture hall, if their official duties allowed them, and gladly expand their store of accumulated knowledge. It is indisputable: Kant has done unspeakably much for the well-being of our students — and to him remains their general trust and love. [Borowski 1912, 40-42; repr. Malter 1990, 28-29]


F. T. Rink [index] [top]

Friedrich Theodor Rink (1770-1811)[bio] was a close associate of Kant in his later years, and author of an 1805 biography, from which comes the following:

His teaching skills, as well as his many-sided knowledge that, because of its relevance to the human condition, provided his talents for social conversation such a wide playing field; and this, along with the fame from his earlier writings, especially the Allgemeine Naturgeschichte des Himmels appearing in 1755,[1] quickly made his lecture hall into one of the most frequented, even though he was just a private lecturer, and also led many students to him outside the lecture hall, and won for him many respectable friends and admirers. Among the latter belonged — not to mention many others — the Generals von Meyer[2] and von Lossow,[3] and the Count von Keyserling and his wife [bio]. Just as he was often the companion of the latter family, he was also nearly a daily dinner guest of General von Meyer — a clear-thinking man who was especially glad to see the officers of his regiment seeking to educate themselves by way of Kant’s private instructions in mathematics.

Yet all of that did not wholly lift the weight of his financial burden, and it was entirely justified that he once returned the remainder of an honorarium to a poor student who had wanted to pay him, after — as Kant himself said — he used some to finish paying his six-month rent and kept just a little extra for himself.[4] I heard this anecdote from the reliable mouth of that former student, who is now a worthy man in a respectable office. But all the same, Kant later would often assure us that he had always taken care that creditors were never able to come knocking at his door with their unpleasant surprise. [Rink 1805, 31-33; repr. Malter, 1990, 30-31]

Seine Lehrergeschicklichkeiten, wie seine mannigfaltigen Kenntisse, die, weil sie in nächste Bezeihung auf den Menschen standen, seinem Talente für die gesellschaftliche Unterhaltung einen um so größern Spielraum gaben, verbunden mit dem Ruhme, den ihm seine frühern Schriften schon, und nahmentlich die im Jahre 1755 erschienene Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels erwarben, machten nicht nur seinen Hörsaal, obwohl er bloßer Privatdocent war, in Kurzem zu einem der besuchtesten, sondern führten ihm auch außer demselben mehrere Schüler zu, und erwarben ihm viele und angesehene Freunde und Gönner. Zu den leztern gehörten, vieler Anderer nicht zu gedenken, die Generale von Meyer und von Lossow, und der Graf von Keyserling nebst seiner Gemahlin; Wie er öfter der Gesellschafter dieser zuletz genannten Familie war, so war er fast der tägliche Tischgenosse auch des Generals von Meyer, eines helldenkenden Mannes, der es gerne sah, wenn die Officiere seines Regiments sich durch Kant's Privatunterricht, nahmentlich in der Mathematik, auszubilden suchten.

Das Alles indessen hob doch nicht ganz den Druck seiner häuslichen Lage, und es hat seine völlige Richtigkeit, daß er einst einem armen Studirenden, als dieser ihm das Honorarium abtrug, den ganzen Rest desselben weider zurückgab, nachdem er, wie er selbst gesagt, zu völliger Tilgung seiner halbjährigen Miethe, nur etwas davon an sich behalten hatte. Diese Anecdote habe ich aus dem glaubwürdigen Munde jenes damahligen Studirenden, der itzt als würdiger Mann in einem angesehenen Amte steht. Aber eben so gewiß ist es auch, daß Kant späterhin oft versicherte, er habe immer dafür gesorgt, daß er nie ein Gläubiger an seine Thüre habe klopfen, und ihn auf eine unangeneme Weise überraschen dürfen.


[1] Actually, this early publication brought little fame to Kant at the time, since the publisher went bankrupt shortly after printing, and all the copies were impounded [Kuehn 2001, 98-99].

[2] Karl Friedrich von Meyer (1708-1775), the commander of a regiment of dragoons; cf. Kuehn [2001, 127-28].

[3] Daniel Friedrich von Lossow (1722-1783), the general of the hussar regiment in Könïgsberg. Kant was often the guest at Lossow's estate near Goldapp, about 75 km. east of Königsberg; cf. Kuehn [2001, 128].

[4] This very same anecdote appeared in an anonymous memoire published in 1804 [Kotzebue 1804, 171] (see below).


Hippel [index] [top]

Theodor Gottlieb Hippel [bio] was a student, but later a close friend and dinner guest of Kant’s, who bought a house just around the corner from Hippel. He was a politically influential man in Königsberg — serving as mayor for a period of time — and he anonomously published novels on the side. The following comes from his autobiographical sketch:

I studied mathematics and philosophy with extraordinary eagerness, and since I unfortunately lacked the opportunity to go any further with Latin, and even less with Greek, I had to make do with dead teachers, instead of the living with whom I had begun. Kant had begun his lecturing at that time, but I didn’t visit his school until I had already attended the entire so-called “philosophical course” with Buck. [Hippel 1801, 91; repr. Malter 1990, 41]

Ich studierte Mathematik und Philosophie mit außerordentlichem Eifer, und da ich leider weder im Lateinischen, noch weniger im Griechischen weiter zu kommen Gelegenheit fand, so mußt’ ich mich anstatt der lebendigen Lehrer, nach denen ich ausgegangen war, mit todten behelfen. Kant fing damals erst zu lesen an, und ich besuchte seine Schule nicht eher, als bis ich den ganzen sogenannten philosophischen Cursus bei Buck gehört hatte.


Johann Christoph Mortzfeld [index] [top]

The best of his later lectures were metaphysics, logic, physical geography, rational theology, anthropology, physics, etc.

The opinion had spread even among his students that his lectures were hard to comprehend, for which reason most began with his course on physical geography, or with the moral philosophy.

It no doubt must have been hard to understand him completely before becoming more familiar with his delivery — especially in the later years, where occasionally he was hard to follow. In his early years, nevertheless, he presented his lectures as harmonious wholes, and insured each time that his material was well-prepared. The infirmities of old age hindered his efforts, right down to the last moments of his life, of which he sometimes bitterly complained.

No one need extol his achievements in the learned world; his works speak for themselves.

The direction which his instruction gave to his students’ thought will be noticeable for a long time; and even if the obscurities prevail in the lecture notebooks that are circulating, as well as in his writings, still Mr. Jäsche and Rink will show for posterity by way of his Nachlaß that changing the fashion of philosophical systems is not so easy as changing one’s hairstyle. [Mortzfeld 1802, 58-60; repr. Malter 1990, 32-33]

Seine vorzüglicheren späterhin vorgetragenen Vorlesungen, waren Metaphyisik, Logik, physische Geographie, Rational-Theologie, Anthropologie, Physik u.s.w.

Selbst unter seinen Schülern hatte sich die Meinung verbreitet, daß seine Vorlesungen schwer zu fassen wären, weswegen die mehresten mit den Collegien der physischen [59] Geographie, oder mit der philosophischen Moral anzufangen pflegten.

Ehe der Schüler seinen Vortrag gewohnt wurde, möchte es manchem freilich schwer geworden seyn, ihn ganz zu fassen; vorzüglich in den spätern Jahren, wo er zuweilen schwer zu folgen war. Jedoch trug er in seinen frühern Jahren, seine Vorlesungen jederzeit im harmonischen Ganzen vor, und versicherte jederzeit auf das vorzutragende sich wohl vorbereitet zu haben. Die Beschwerlichkeiten seines Alters verhinderten ihm seine Bemühungen bis zu dem lezten Augenblikke seines Lebens fortzusezzen, worüber er sich auch an einem Orte bitter beklagt.

Was er der gelehrten Welt geleistet, dies bedarf keiner Anpreisung, seine Werke sprechen für ihn selbst.

Die Richtung, welche er dem Denken seiner Schüler durch seinen Unterricht gab, wird lange noch bemerkbar bleiben, und [60] wenn noch Dunkelheiten in den circulirenden Compendien seiner Vorlesungen sowohl, als in seinen Schriften obwalten sollten, so werden durch seinen Nachlaß die Herren Jäsche und Rink versprochener Maaßen der Nachwelt die günstige Aussicht eröfnen, daß der Moden-Wechsel philosophischer Systeme nicht so leicht, als eine Tour falscher haare zu verändern seyn möchte.


1757?
Anonymous (Wasianski?) [index] [top]

The following comes from an anonymous piece entitled “Kant, in seiner letzten Lebenszeit” and was dated “Königsberg, den 15. Februar 1804.” It appeared in Der Freimüthige, oder, Ernst und Scherz, edited by A. von Kotzebue and G. Merkel (Berlin, March 1, 1804, #43, pp. 169-71). Arnoldt reports that Reicke believed that the source was Wasianski.

Already as a Magister he was keeping himself out of dire poverty by teaching several Privatissima, even on fortification to young officers. He would always say that he always had money, and never feared creditors knocking on his door to collect. At the same time, things must have been tight early on. [...] He was lecturing on Baumeister’s metaphysics when Baumgarten’s appeared,[1] and over which he would rather have lectured. He thought it necessary first to ask his auditors; and on the paper he circulated, one of his auditors (now an estimable man in public office) quite singularly indicated his preference for Baumgarten. The teacher did not know this auditor personally, and so asked him to introduce himself in the next hour. This he did, and Kant assured him that he would gladly tutor him privately with any difficult parts. The semester course came to an end and the young man, with only half of his money left over, was not in a position to pay the honorarium. A happy accident eventually provided him with two ducats,[2] from which he immediately brought the four thaler that he owed to his teacher, to whom he explained that he had stayed away for so long because of the difficulties, that he had been in. “I am still needing one thaler for my rent,” Kant replied, “so I'll take that much; but the rest you should keep.”[3] [Qtd. in Arnoldt 1908-9, v.274-75; repr. Malter 1990, 41-42]

Schon als Magister arbeitete er sich über die Nothdurft hinaus, durch mehrere Privatissima, die er las, selbst jungen Officieren, über die Fortifikation. Er pflegte zu erzählen, daß er schon damals immer bei Gelde und nie in Furcht gewesen, daß man ihn mahnen komme, wenn an seine Thür geklopft worden. Gleichwohl muß er es ganz im Anfange doch knapp gehabt haben. Um so mehr verdient ein Zug aus jener Zeit von ihm, aufbehalten zu werden. Er las über Baumeisters Metaphysik, als eben die Baumgartensche erschien, über die er lieber gelesen hätte. Indessen fand er nöthig, erst sein Auditorium darüber zu befragen. Auf dem Zettel, den er deshalb cirkuliren ließ, hatte sich Einer von seinen damaligen Zuhörern (jetzt ein würdiger Mann in einem öffentlichen Amte,) ganz besonders angelegentlich für Baumgarten erklärt. Der Lehrer kannte diesen Zuhörer persönlich nicht, bat diesen daher in der nächsten Stunde, sich ihm zu erkennen zu geben. Der that dies, und Kant versicherte ihn, daß er bei Zweifeln und Bedenklichkeiten ihn gerne noch privatim belehren würde. Der halbjährige Unterricht war zu Ende, und der junge Mensch, ausgebliebenen Geldes halber, nicht im Stande, das Honorar zu bezahlen. Ein glücklicher Zufall verhalf ihm endlich zu zwei Dukaten, wovon er nun sofort die schuldigen vier Thaler seinem Lehrer brachte, bei dem er sich zugleich darüber, daß er so lange damit zurückgeblieben, durch die Verlegenheit entschuldigte, in der er bisher gewesen. “An meiner Miethe fehlt mir grade noch ein einziger Thaler” endeckte sich ihm Kant, “diesen werde ich nehmen, das Uebrige behalten Sie doch nur.”


[1] This would perhaps have been in 1757, when the 4th edition of Baumgarten’s Metaphysics appeared.

[2] At this time, one ducat would have been worth about 2.75 Reichsthalern, so two ducats would have easily covered the honorarium.

[3] This very same anecdote appears in Rink [1805, 32] (see above).


Letter: Hamann’s brother to Lindner (16 March 1757) [index] [top]

Johann Gotthelf Lindner [bio] was a close friend of Kant since their days as university students. The “clamorous Watson” is Matthias Friedrich Watson [bio].

Magister Kant lives happy and content. He quietly recruits those attending the lectures of the clamorous Watson, and weakens with industry and true learning the apparent acclaim of this youth.

Herr Magister Kant lebt glücklich und zufriedne, in der Stille wribt er die Zuhörer des marktschreierischen Watson und schwächt durch seinen Fleiß und echte Gelehrsamkeit den scheinenden Beifall dieses Jünglings. [qtd. in Vorländer 1924, i.86]


Letter: Kant to Lindner (28 October 1759) [index] [top]

One of our first glimpses into Kant’s teachings, and one of the very few that Kant himself provides, comes from a letter to Johann Gotthelf Lindner (October 28, 1759), a slightly younger friend from student days currently serving as the rector of Riga’s Cathedral School:

I am very pleased to hear from everyone that you have managed to display your talents in a place where people are capable of appreciating them and that you have succeeded in getting away from the sick wooing of approval and the tasteless arts of ingratiation displayed by pretentious little Magisters around here [...]. For my part I sit daily at the anvil of my lectern and guide the heavy hammer of repetitious lectures, constantly beating out the same rhythm. Now and then I am stirred by some nobler inclination, a desire to extend myself beyond this narrow sphere; but the blustering voice of Need immediately attacks me and, always truthful in its threats, promptly drives me back to hard work. [AA 10: 18-19; repr. in Malter 1990, 50]

Ich bin recht sehr erfreut von jedermann zu erfahren daß Ew: Hochedelgeb. gewußt haben ihre Verdienste auf einem Schauplatze wo man vermögend ist sie zu schätzen u. zu belohnen zu zeigen und daß es Ihnen gelungen ist sich über die elende Buhlereyen um den Beyfall und die abgeschmackte Einschmeichelungskünste hinweg zu sehen welche hier großthuerische kleine Meister die höchstens nur schaden können denen auferlegen welche gerne ihre Belohnung verdienen und nicht erschleichen möchten. Ich meines theils sitze täglich vor dem Ambos meines Lehrpults und führe den schweeren Hammer sich selbst ähnlicher Vorlesungen in einerley tacte fort. Bisweilen reitzt mich irgendwo eine Neigung edlerer Art mich über diese enge Sphäre etwas auszudehnen allein der Mangel mit ungestühmer Stimme so gleich gegenwärtig mich anzufallen und immer warhaftig in seinen Drohungen treibt mich ohne Verzug zur schweren Arbeit zurück.


Wannowski (after 1759) [index] [top]

Stephan Wannowski (1749-1812) [bio] was a Königsberg theologian; his remarks were among those collected by S. G. Wald in 1804 while preparing for a memorial talk on Kant, and since printed in Reicke [1860, 40-41].

He had instructed many Russian officers privately in mathematics during the seven years war.

He was especially attentive to fortification, and military archtecture and pyrotechnics in general. He tried a few times to explain to me what the globe or even the Globes de Compression was, but unfortunately with such matters he found in me an unteachable student.

Apart from these courses, Kant often taught moral philosophy, as well as natural or rational theology. Whether he ever gave public lectures on mathemetics is unknown to me, likewise with whether or not he immediately exchanged his professorship with Buck or only after a time.[1]

With respect to textbooks. Several times he used Baumgarten’s textbook, then also Meyer’s — whether he might have first used Knutzen’s logic text, I don't know.[2]  In general he proceeded — as is known — always along his own trains of thought, and used the textbooks only formally, and never as a canon.

Er hat viele rußische Officiere in der Mathematik — während des siebenjährigen Krieges privatim unterrichtet.

Auf Fortification und überhaupt Archtectura militaris und Pyrotechnie war er sehr aufmerksam. Er hat mir ein paar mal zu erklären versucht, was der globe oder wohl die Globes de Compression wären, aber leider in diesem Fach und Fall einen ungelehrigen Schüler an mir gefunden.

Außer den benannten Collegien hat Kant noch öfters die Moralphilosophie, auch natürliche oder Vernunfttheologie gelesen. Ob er als Magister über mathematische Wissenschaften öffentliche Vorlesungen gehalten, ist mir unbekannt, und eben so wenig, ob er so gleich oder nach einiger Zeit seine Professur mit dem seeligen Buck tauschte.

In Ansehung der Materien und Compendien. Er las mehrentheils über die Baumgartschen Compendia, dann auch über Meyersche — ob er etwa anfänglich Knutzen's Logik mag zum Grunde gelegt haben, ist mir unbekannt. — Ueberhaupt ging er — wie bekannt — stets seinen eigenen Gedankengang, und die zum Grunde gelegten Compendia brauchte er nur so pro forma und nicht als Canon.


[1] These two points are connected, of course, since Kant would offer public lectures in mathematics only if he was a professor of mathematics (which, as we know, he never was). The fortification, military architecture, and pyrotechnics were subjects covered in the Wolff mathematics text that Kant used (see).

[2] The relevant texts are: (1) Alexander Baumgarten, Metaphysica (used for his lectures on metaphysics, anthropology, and natural theology, (2) Georg Friedrich Meier, Auszug aus der Vernunftlehre (used for his logic lectures), and (3) Martin Knutzen, Elementa philosophiae rationalis seu logicae (for which there is no evidence that Kant ever used it). See Textbooks.

1760s

1762-64 — Herder’s Years in Kant’s Classroom
Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Letters on the Advancement of Humanity (#79) [index] [top]

I had the good fortune to know a philosopher who was also my teacher. He was in his best years, and possessed the cheerful vivacity of youth which, I believe, has accompanied him even into old age. His open, thoughtful brow was the seat of undisturbed cheerfulness and joy; language rich in thought flowed from his lips; jokes, wit, and good humor were at his command; and his instructive lectures were the greatest of entertainment. In the same spirit with which he investigated Leibniz, Wolf, Baumgarten, Crusius, and Hume, and traced the laws of Kepler, Newton, and the physicists generally, he also examined the writings then appearing by Rousseau, namely, his Emile and his Heloise. He appreciated every physical discovery that came to his notice, and always returned to an impartial knowledge of nature and the moral worth of man. The well-spring of his lectures was the history of men, of nations, and of nature, as well as natural science, mathematics, and his own experience. He was indifferent to nothing worth knowing. No cabal, no sect, no prejudice, no ambition for fame, had the least influence over him compared with the development and clarification of the truth. He encouraged and pleasantly compelled his hearers to think for themselves; despotism was foreign to his mind. This man, whom I mention with the greatest thankfulness and esteem, is Immanuel Kant; his picture stands pleasantly before me. [Herder 1846, 17: 404; Irmscher 1991, 424-25; repr. in Malter 1990, 57]

Ich habe das Glück genoßen, einen Philosophen zu kennen, der mein Lehrer war. Er in seinen blühendsten Jahren hatte die fröhliche Munterkeit eines Jünglinges, die, wie ich glaube, ihn auch in sein greisestes Alter begleitet. Seine offne, zum Denken gebauete Stirn war ein Sitz unzerstörbarer Heiterkeit und Freude; die Gedankenreichste Rede floß von seinen Lippen; Scherz und Witz und Laune standen ihm zu Gebot, und sein lehrender Vortrag war der unterhaltendste Umgang. Mit eben dem Geist, mit dem er Leibnitz, Wolf, Baumgarten, Crusius, Hume prüfte, und die Naturgesetze Keplers, Newtons, der Physiker verfolgte, nahm er auch die damals erscheinenden Schriften Roußeau's, seinen Emil und seine Heloise, so wie jede ihm bekannt gewordene Natur-Entdeckung auf, würdigte sie, und kam immer zurück auf unbefangene Känntniß der Natur, und auf moralischen Werth des Menschen. Menschen- Völker- Naturgeschichte, Naturlehre, Mathematik und Erfahrung, waren die Quellen, aus denen er seinen Vortrag und Umgang belebte; nichts Wißenswürdiges war ihm gleichgültig; keine Kabale, keine Sekte, kein Vortheil, kein Namen-Ehrgeiz hatte je für ihn den mindesten Reiz gegen die Erweiterung und Aufhellung der Wahrheit. Er munterte auf, und zwang angenehm zum Selbstdenken; Despotismus war seinem Gemüth fremde. Dieser Mann, den ich mit größester Dankbarkeit und Hochachtung nenne, ist Immanuel Kant; sein Bild steht angenehm vor mir.


J. G. Herder, Preface to Kalligone (1800) [index] [top]

Near the end of his life, in the latter years of a bitter falling out with Kant, Herder offers one more glimpse of his student days:

For more than thirty years I’ve known a youth [viz., Herder himself] who heard all of the lectures, some more than once, of the founder of the critical philosophy himself — and indeed in his early, flourishing years. The youth marveled over the teacher’s dialectical wit, his political as well as scientific acumen, his eloquence, his intelligent memory; he was never at a loss for words; his lectures were meaningful conversations with himself. But the youth soon noticed that, when he set aside the gracefulness of the presentation, he would become wrapped in one of its dialectical webs of words, within which he himself was no longer able to think. He therefore set himself the strict task, after each hour of careful listening, of changing it all into his own words, making no use of pet words or phrases of his teacher, and even diligently to avoid this. [Irmscher 1998, 651-52; repr. in Malter 1990, 59-60]


J. G. Herder, Journal of my Travels in the Year 1769 [index] [top]

We also find in Herder’s travel journal from 1769, among plans for a school modeled after Rousseau’s Emile,[1] fond recollections of Kant’s metaphysics lectures, or at least of Kant’s teaching. His future school, Herder wrote, would involve not mere speculation, but rather “the result of all the empirical sciences, without which it would admittedly be just idle speculation.” It will include psychology (“a rich physics of the soul”), cosmology (“the crown of Newtonian physics”), theology (“the crown of cosmology”), and finally ontology (“the most cultivated science of them all”):

I readily admit that we do not yet have a philosophy following this method, such that would really teach students, nor especially ontology — that most excellent teacher of great prospects has become a mere web of jargon! Oh, what might be accomplished with a metaphysics in this spirit, to expand its prospects from one concept to another in the spirit of Bacon, what would that be for a work! And a lively instruction in the spirit of Kant, what for heavenly hours! [From Herder’s Journal of my Travels in the Year 1769, in Wisbert 1997, 49]


[1] Regarding Rousseau, the daily schedule that Herder entered into his brown notebook [Herder NL, XXVI.5] shows him beginning and ending each day reading an hour from Rousseau. And see Herder’s letter to Scheffner (4 October 1766 – new calendar): “I have been, as it were, initiated by Kant into Rousseau’s and Hume’s writings, both of whom I read daily” [Arnold/Dobbek, 1977-96, i.64; repr. in Malter 1990, 70]


K. G. Bock [index] [top]

Karl Gottlieb Bock (1746-1829) [bio] matriculated at Königsberg on 27 September 1762, a month after Herder, and forty-three years later offered these memories of their student days together:

Kant offered to let [Herder] hear, free of charge, all his lectures on logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy, mathematics, and physical geography.[1] It was here, in the years and 1764, that he made his acquaintance. We heard Kant’s lectures together and he still wrote to me about this in a letter of August 11, 1788, on his way to Italy from Nuremberg: ‘I can still see you before me, real as life, sitting at the table at which I also sat. Where has the time gone?’

With strained attentiveness he took in every idea, every word of the great philosopher, and at home ordered his thoughts and expression. He often shared these notes with me and we would discuss them in an isolated summerhouse in a seldom-visited public garden by the Alt-Roßgarten church. [Herder 1846, 133-34; repr. in Malter 1990, 63; Herder’s 1788 letter to Bock is printed in Arnold/Dobbek 1977-96, vi.20-22]

Kant erbot sich, ihm alle seine Vorlesungen in der Logik, Metaphysik, Moral, Mathematik und physischen Geographie unentgeldlich hören zu [134] lassen. Hier war es, wo ich ihn in den Jahren 1763 und 1764 kennen lernte. Wir hörten gemeinschaftlich die Kantischen Vorlesungen und er schrieb mir darüber noch unterm 11. Aug. 1788 auf dem Wege nach Italien aus Nürnberg: “Ich sehe Sie noch lebendig vor mir an dem Tisch sitzen, an welchem auch ich saß. Wo sind die Zeiten.”

Mit gespannter Aufmerksamkeit faßte er jede Idee, jedes Wort des großen Philosophen auf und ordnete zu Hause Gedanken und Ausdruck. Oft theilte er mir diese seine Nachschrift mit und wir besprachen uns darüber in einer abgelegenen Sommerlaube eines wenig besuchten öffentlichen Gartens an der Alt-Roßgärtschen Kirche.

Bock goes on to recall an especially lively lecture where Kant was quoting from his favorite poets (Pope and Haller) to illuminate certain points on the nature of time and eternity. Herder was so moved by this that he returned to his room, set Kant’s lecture down to verse, and then handed this to Kant the following morning before the lecture began. Kant was clearly impressed by Herder’s poem, since he then read it aloud — “with fiery praise” — to the class.[2] The poem is lost, but if Bock is correct that it “sprang out of Kant’s lecture on time and space like Minerva from Jupiter’s head,”[3] then Herder presumably found poetic inspiration sitting in Kant’s metaphysics lectures.


[1] Herder claimed in the “preface” to his Kalligone (see above) that he had attended all of Kant’s lectures, which would have also included physics.

[2] German: mit lobpreisendem Feuer. See Emil Herder’s gloss on Bock’s story [1846, 135-36], and also Malter’s notes to the selection [1990, 64], where he quotes Herder’s letter to Scheffner, dated 31 October 1767 indicating that Herder no longer has the poem, and that he now regards it as “a belch from a stomach overloaded with Rousseau’s writings” [Arnold/Dobbek, i.94]. Dobbek [1961, 220n166] believes Bock misremembered the poem’s topic, and that it was actually the first part of Herder’s “Der Mensch.”

[3] German: welches aus Kant’s Vortrage über Zeit und Raum, wie aus Jupiters Kopf Minerva, entsprang. From Bock’s letter to Herder, dated 9 April 1788, and now lost. The relevant passage is quoted in Herder [1846, 136n].


Wilpert [index] [top]

Jakob Friedrich Wilpert (1741-1812) was a fellow-student of Herder's, and later a two-time mayor of Riga. He recalled attending with Herder ...

... Kant’s lectures on metaphysics, moral philosophy, and physical geography. We sat at a table; at that time he was shy and quiet; his gait was stooped and quick — his eyes often sick-looking; from his appearances, one could see that he was poor; but his spirit was, even then, rich — and when he discussed the lectures of his teachers, it was so thorough and firm, that he commanded respect and affection from his colleagues. — We all heard dogmatics together from Dr. Lilienthal; otherwise I didn’t have any closer relations with him. [Herder 1846, 137; repr. in Malter 1990, 65]

Ich hörte mit ihm bei Kant die Metaphysik, Moral und physische Geographie. Wir saßen an Einem Tisch; er war damals schüchtern und still; sein Gang war gebückt und schnell — seine Augen mehrentheils krank; seinem Aeußern sahe man es an, daß er arm war; sein Geist war aber schon damals reich, und wenn er sich über den Vortrag des Lehrers mittheilte, so war das so gründlich und entschieden, daß er seinen Commilitonen Achtung und Liebe abnöthigte. — Bei Dr. Lilienthal hörten wir zusammen Dogmatik, sonst habe ich nicht nähern Umgang mit ihm gehabt.


Caroline Herder, Erinnerungen aus dem Leben Joh. Gottfried von Herder [index] [top]

Caroline Herder née Flachsland (1750-1809) was married to Johann Gottfried Herder [bio] for thirty years — from 1773 until his death in 1803.

Herder himself often recounted how he occasionally shared his ideas on the lectures with Kant, and he held so much of Kant’s respect and trust that Kant often shared his work with him in manuscript form, so as to hear his opinion. He most preferred hearing Kant talk about astronomy, physical geography, and in general about the great laws of nature: here his presentation was splendid. For his metaphysics lectures he had much less taste — even though he felt he understood these better than his later ideas, and even though Kant at that time presented his material in all his youthful rhetoric and in a much clearer language than the later scholastic jargon. After many of these metaphysical lectures he would hurry outside with some poet or Rousseau, or some such author, so as to free himself of the impressions that agreed so little with his mind. For Kant himself, where he really instructed his soul, Herder gave oral and written testimony of the greatest respect; but he never hid his own way of thinking and feeling; he never wanted to nor could be his blind pupil and imitator. Herder could never fully satisfy Kant’s happy gift of graceful yet acute conversation, and a sympathy between these two minds never happened. Much more intimate and of a wholly different sort was Herder’s relation with his friend Johann Georg Hamann. [...] [This text was collected and described by J. G. Herder’s widow (1830, pp. 68-69; repr. in Malter 1990, 66).]

Herder selbst erzählte oft, er habe Kant zuweilen seine Ideen über seine Vorlesungen mitgetheilt, und so sehr seine Achtung und Vertrauen besessen, daß Kant ihm mehrere seiner Arbeiten in Manuskript, um seine Meinung darüber zu hören, mitgetheilt habe. Er habe Kant am liebsten reden gehört über Astronomie, physische Geographie, überhaupt über die großen Gesetze der Natur; da sey sein Vortrag vortrefflich gewesen; an seiner Metaphysik hingegen, die er richtiger gefaßt zu haben glaube als seine spätere Schule, und obwohl Kant sie damals noch in aller seiner Jugendberedsamkeit und in einer viel hellern Sprache als der spätern scholastischen Kunstsprache vortrug, weniger Geschmack gefunden, und nach mancher metaphysischen Vorlesung sey er mit einem Dichter oder mit Rousseau oder einem ähnlichen Schriftsteller in's Freye geeilt, um jener Eindrücke wieder los zu werden, die seinem Gemüth so wenig zusagten. Für Kant selbst, wo er seinen Geist wirklich unterrichtete, erhob und befriedigte, bezeugte Herder mündlich und schriftlich die größte Hochachtung, verbarg ihm aber seine eigene Art zu denken und zu empfinden niemals; sein blinder Schüler und Nachbeter konnte und wollte er niemals werden. Kants glückliche Gabe schön und scharfsinnig zu reden, konnte Herdern nicht ganz befriedigen, und eine Sympathie beider Gemüther fand niemals statt.


Theodor von Schön (1773-1856) [index] [top]

Theodor von Schön’s [bio] father, Johann Theodor von Schön (1744-1796), a well-to-do civil servant and leaseholder, matriculated at the university on 25 May 1761 [Erler ii.479]. He may well have attended one of the privatissima mentioned by Hamann and Hagen above.

As a student, my father attended a Privatissimum with Kant. [Schön 2006, 64-65]

Mein Vater hatte als Student ein Privatissimum bey Kant gehört.


WS 1763/64
Jensch [index] [top]

Christian Friedrich Jensch (d. 1802) was a regular lunch guest of Kant’s who held office in Königsberg as a Kriminalrat, as well as co-authoring with Hippel a book on the emancipation of women. He matriculated at the university in 1763, and so would have attended Kant’s classes alongside Herder.

The following passage comes from Johann Friedrich Abegg’s travel diary from 1798. Abegg was the inspector of a Gymnasium near Heidelberg, and had been invited by his older brother, a merchant in Königsberg, to come up for a visit, which he did, meeting various luminaries and intellectuals along the way — Fichte in Jena; Goethe in Weimar, as well as Herder, A. W. Schlegel, and Wieland; Jean Paul in Leipzig — and while in Königsberg he witnessed the coronation of King Friedrich Wilhelm III and Queen Luise. Abegg dined with Kant several times during his stay in Königsberg, and this passage comes from just after a lunch with Kant, who had also invited Jensch and Pastor Georg Michael Sommer (1754-1826; a former student of Kant’s and later close friend and regular lunch guest). They had dined from 1 until 4 (5 July 1798, a Thursday), and Jensch related the following to Abegg after they left Kant’s house.

Jensch told me, as we were leaving, how interesting Kant was in his lectures. He would enter the room in a sort of enthusiasm, saying: we left off here or there. He had memorized the main ideas so deeply and vividly that the entire hour was lived in these alone; often he took little notice of the textbook over which he was lecturing.

He lectured on Baumgarten. His copy was covered with notes all over. Hume, Leibniz, Montaigne, and the English novels of Fielding and Richardson; Baumgarten and Wolff are mentioned by Kant as the works from which he learned the most. He thought quite highly of Tom Jones. [Abegg 1976, 251-52; repr. Malter 1990, 73]

Jensch erzählte mir beim Weggehen, wie interessant Kant in seinen Vorlesungen gewesen sey. Wie in einer Begeisterung sey er aufgetreten, habe gesagt: da oder da sind wir stehen geblieben. Er habe sich die Hauptideen so tief und lebendig eingeprägt, daß er nun nach denselben und in denselben die ganze Stunde lebte, und oft wenig Rücksicht auf das Compend. nahm, worüber er las.

Er las über Baumgarten. Sein Exemplar ist aber von oben [252] bis unten u. überall beschrieben. Hume, Leibniz, Montaigne und die englischen Romane von Fielding u. Richardson. Baumgarten und Wolff nennt Kant als die Schriften, aus welchen er am meisten gelernt habe. Den Tom Jones schätzte er sehr hoch. —


WS 1763/64

The two following accounts concern Kant’s privatissima course(s) on physical geography and mathematics given for General Meyer. Hamann’s letter suggests that Kant gave these lectures at the garrison, although Hagen’s account suggests they occurred in Meyer’s own home:

Letter: Hamann to Lindner (Feb. 1, 1764) [index] [top]

[Kant] is now giving a course for Gen. Meyer and his officers that brings him much honor, since almost every day he eats and is picked-up with a coach to take him to his lectures on mathematics and physical geography. Torn away by such a mix of social distractions, he has a pile of writings in his head, Morality, an essay on a new metaphysics, a selection from his physical geography, and a pile of smaller ideas, from which I also hope to profit. [Hamann, Briefwechsel, ii.234; repr. Malter 1990, 74-75]


August Hagen [index] [top]

[Ernst] August Hagen (1797-1880) was the son of Karl Gottfried Hagen [bio], a Königsberg pharmacist and professor of medicine, and a regular guest at Kant’s table during the 1790s. His five surviving children all distinguished themselves in various ways; August became a noted art historian as well as a co-founder of the Neuen Preußischen Provinzial-Blättern, in whose pages the following selection appeared as part of a small collection of “Kantiana”.

General Meyer, chief of a Dragoons regiment in Königsberg and also governor, was an unusually cultivated man. Kant, who held a course on mathematics and physical geography in his house in 1764 for a number of officers, would always be festively picked-up by coach for that purpose. Quite often he ate with him since, being unmarried, he was glad to have company during the noon meal. [Hagen 1848, 14-15; Repr. Malter 1990, 75-76]

Der General Meyer, Chef eines Dragoner-Regiments in Königsberg und zugleich Gouverneur, war ein selten gebildeter Mann. Kant, der 1764 in seinem Hause vor einer Anzahl von Offizieren ein Collegium über Mathematik und physische Geogra- [15] phie hielt, wurde dazu stets feierlichst in einer Kutsche abgeholt. Sehr oft speiste er bei ihm, der wie er selbst unverheirathet gern Mittags-Gesellschaften gab.


WS 1764/65
Report: von Braxein to the Ministry in Berlin (19 October 1764) [index] [top]

Fabian Abraham von Braxein (1722-1798) was the Budget Minister in Königsberg who would have been the local government official overseeing university affairs. On October 5th he had been asked by Berlin to see if Kant would accept the professorship of poetry (vacated since the death of J. G. Bock in 1762). Kant declined the offer, but in his report back to Berlin, Braxein wrote that:

Magister Kant teaches with great effectiveness to general acclaim.


1765-70
Reichardt [index] [top]

Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814) matriculated at the university on 5 May 1765 and attended various of Kant's lectures .... [From an unpublished portion of Johann Friedrich Richardt’s autobiography, as printed in H. M. Schletterer, Joh. Friedrich Richardt. Sein Leben und seine Werke, vol. 1: “Reichardt, der Musiker” (Augsburg: J. A. Schlosser, 1865), pp. 74-75.

The young man fell into just such [unbridled] society in his 15th year when he entered the university, sadly too soon. He presented himself to the Dean [of the philopophy faculty], not without worry and conscious of his rather inadequate schooling; but he found in Professor Werner an entirely good-natured man. During the examination that was customary before granting matriculation, whenever he posed a question that the boy couldn’t answer immediately, he politely apologized for having chosen that particular question. He also refused to accept the matriculation fee, because the new student, when still a small boy, [75] had so amused him with his violin playing in the concerts arranged by the professor’s wife for his birthday.

The young artist found this same selflessness with most of the professors whose lectures he attended. He was received especially warmly by the excellent Kant, whose serious and repeated advice led the father to agree to his son’s studies, despite clearly foreseeing the disadvantage to his music practice. Kant emphasized the moral end of art, and wanted this to be promoted whenever practicing the art. Fundamentally, Kant had such a meager understanding of music and its actual efficacy, that he was bothered to see the intellectual abilities of the boy — which he believed he had discovered during various discussions with him at evening musical gatherings — applied toward anything else.

The good pious mother gladly supported the well-intentioned aim of the philosopher because she recognized in this an important step in reaching her own main wish. How many students haven’t switched after years of study. And now her Fritz had properly come into his studies; a theologian might easily yet emerge out of the lawyer. But neither the one nor the other was to come of him. Kant’s philosophy lectures alone held enough attraction for him that he paid attention — even then without any great effort, yet diligently enough that he learned to philosophize about his art, just as Kant had actually wanted it and as he often mentioned to his students: “Not philosophy, but rather philosophizing, is what my lectures are supposed to teach.”

In solche Gesellschaft gerieth der junge Mann, als er im 15ten Jahre die Universität bezog, leider nur zu früh. Nicht ohne Besorgniß, im Beweußtsein des sehr mangelhaft genossen Schulunterrichts, ging er zum Decan, fand aber in dem Professor Werner einen überaus gutmüthigen Mann, der ihn in dem damals noch üblichen Examen vor der Ertheilung der Matrikel wegen jeder an ihn gerichteten Frage, die er nicht gleich zu beantworten wußte, höflich um Verzeihung bat, haß er gerade diese Frage gewählt habe. Auch nahm er die Gebühren für die Matrikel nicht an, weil der neue Student ihn als ein kleiner Knable [75] in den Concerten, die seine Gemahlin zur Feier seines Geburtstages zu veranstalten pflegte, durch sein Violinspiel so oft schon erfreut hatte.

Diese Uneigennutzigkeit fand der junge Künstler bei den meisten Professoren, zu deren Vorlesungen er sich meldete. Besonders liebreich wurde er von dem vortrefflichen Kant aufgenommen, auf dessen ernstlichen und wiederholten Rath sein Vater eigentlich in sein Studiren gewilligt hatte, wiewohl er den Nachtheil, der daraus für die bisherige Musikübung seines Sohnes entstehen mußte, gar wohl voraussah. Kant hielt viel auf einen moralischen Zweck der Kunst und wollte diesen durch jede Kunstausübung befördert wissen. Im Grunde hatte er auch wohl einen so geringen Begriff von der Tonkunst und ihrer reellen Wirksamkeit, daß es ihm leid that, die Verstandesfähigkeit des Knaben, die er in einigen Gesprächen mit ihm in musikalischen Abendgesellschaften entdeckt zu haben glaubte, nicht anders angewandt zu sehen.

Die gute, fromme Mutter beförderte die wohlgemeinte Absicht des Weltweisen sehr gern, weil sie darin einen wichtigen Schritt zur Erreichung ihres Hauptwunsches erkannte. Wie viele Studirende hatten nicht schon nach jahrelangen Studien umgesattelt. Und war ihr Fritz nur erst so recht in’s Studiren hineingekommen, so konnte aus dem Juristen leicht noch eine Theologe werden. Es wurde aber weder eins noch das andere aus ihm. Kant’s philosophische Vorlesungen hatten und behielten allein Reiz genug für ihn, sie, wenn auch eben nicht mit Anstrengung, doch fleißig genug zu hören, um selbst über seine Kunst philosophieren zu lernen, wie auch Kant es eigentlich wollte und oft gegen seine Zuhörer mit den Worten aussprach: “Nicht Philosophie, sondern Philosophiren sollen meine Vorelesungen lehren.”


1766-70
Letter: Herz to Kant [index] [top]

Marcus Naphtali Herz (1747-1803)[bio], a nineteen year old Jew from Berlin, arrived at Königsberg for four years of study at the university, matriculating on 21 April 1766. He returned to Berlin on September 1st or 2nd, 1770, having recently had the honor of serving as the respondent at Kant’s pro loco disputation (his “inaugural defense”). In an effusive letter to Kant sent a week later (11 September 1770), Herz wrote:

It is you alone I must thank for my change of fortune, and to you alone am I indebted for what I am; without you I would still be like so many of my kinsmen, pursuing a life chained to the wagon of prejudices, a life no better than that of any animal. I would have a soul without powers, an understanding without efficacy, in short, without you I would be that which I was four years ago, in other words, I would be nothing.

Sie allein sind es dem ich meine glückliche Verändrung des Zustandes zu danken habe, dem ich ganz mich selbst schuldig bin; ohne Ihnen würde ich noch jezo gleich so vielen meiner Mitbrüder, gefeßelt am Wagen der Vorurtheile ein Leben führen, das einem jeden viehischen Leben nach zu setzen ist; ich würde eine Seele ohne / Kräfte haben, ein Verstand ohne Thätigkeit, kurz ohne Ihnen wäre ich dies was ich vor vier Iahre war, das ist, ich wäre nichts. [AA 10:99-100]

Herz then indicated his indebtedness to Kant as a professor of the sciences:

Certainly the role that I now play is a very small one, if I consider the substance of what I know or compare it to what many others know; yet it is an infinitely elevated role compared to the one I played only a few years ago. Let the ignorant always seek to console themselves by claiming that with all our science we have not progressed beyond them; and let hypochondriacal savants complain that our knowledge only increases our misery. I scorn the former and pity the latter; I shall never cease to regard the day that I dedicated myself to the sciences as the happiest, and the day that you became my teacher as the first day of my life.

Freylich ist die Rolle die ich noch jezo spiele sehr klein, wenn ich meine Kentniße an u. für sich betrachte, oder sie mit vieler anderer ihre vergleiche; allein unendlich erhaben ist sie in vergleich mit derjenigen die ich selbst vor wenige Iahre spielte. Es mag imer der Trost der Unwißenden bleiben, daß wir mit alle unsere Wißenschaft nicht weiter als sie gelangen; es sey imer die Klage hypochondrischer Gelehrte, daß unsere Kentniße unser Unglück vermehren; ich verlache die erste u. bedaure die letzte, ich werde nie aufhören den Tag, an welchen ich mich den Wißenschaften übergab für den glücklichsten, u. denjenigen da Sie mein Lehrer wurden für den ersten meines Lebens zu halten. [AA 10:100]

At the end of his long letter, Herz expresses concern with Kant’s health, which he connects with Kant’s lecturing activity:

It troubles me that you, dearest teacher, are not feeling well. Is it really impossible for you to reduce the burden of your lectures? If you spent half the afternoon reading or if you just lectured less strenuously? For it is only this and not your sitting that seems to be to be the cause of your weakness. After all there are teachers in Königsberg who sit from morning till evening and move their mouths, without ever having to complain about their physical condition. [AA 10:99-102; Zweig 1990, 110-1]

Mißvergnügt bin ich, daß Sie theurster Lehrer sich unpäßlich befinden, ist es den gar nicht möglich, daß Sie sich die Last ihrer collegien verringern können? wenn Sie nun die Helfte Nachmittag leseten oder überhaubt nicht mit so vieler Anstrengung vortrügen? Denn diese allein u. nicht das Sitzen scheint mir die Ursache Ihrer Schwäche zu seyn. Es giebt ja Lehrer in Königsberg die von Morgen bis Abend sitzen u. ihr Mund bewegen, ohne daß sie jemals über ihre Leibesbeschaffenheit zu klagen haben. [AA 10:101]

1770s

1770
Andreas Meyer [index] [top]

Most of the teachers at this university have their auditoriums in this part of the city: and since I had the opportunity to speak with the pleasant and brilliant Professor Kant at various social gatherings, I occasionally visited the lectures of this scholar, and I wondered that a man who could be so brilliant a socialite outside the lecture hall could within it be the most serious and deep thinking philosopher. [Repr. Malter 1990, 107]

Die mehresten Lehrer dieser Universität haben in diesem Theile der Stadt ihre Auditorien: und da ich den angenehmen und aufgeweckten Professor Kant in verschiedenen Gesellschaften zu sprechen Gelegenheit hatte, so besuchte ich auch etlichemale das Kollegium dieses Gelehrten, und ich habe mich gewundert, daß ein Mann, der außer seinem Hörsaale der aufgeweckteste Gesellschafter ist, in demselben hingegen den ernsthaftesten und tiefstdenkenden Philosophen macht.

Meyer doesn’t specify which part of the city, but Kant was living at Kanter’s bookshop at the time [more], so he likely has Löbenicht in mind.


WS 1772/73
von Baczko [index] [top]

Ludwig Franz Adolf Josef von Baczko (1756-1823)[bio] matriculated at the university in Königsberg on 4 April 1772. Here he reports on Kant’s metaphysics lectures.

Kant had entered his most brilliant period then. When I arrived at the Academy, he was giving public lectures. I attended this lecture and didn’t understand it. What with Kant’s reputation and the mistrust that I always have in my own abilities, I simply believed that I needed to study more, so I asked each of my acquaintances whether they didn’t own a Metaphysics or other work of philosophical content. I soon obtained the works of Wolf, Meyer and Baumgarten, as well as many deeply miserable books that I read through with great effort. I stayed up entire nights, spent twenty and more uninterrupted hours with these books, and learned nothing. [...] I noticed that many students in Kant's classroom knew even less than me, and I began to believe that they were attending Kant’s lectures just to show off; I started to tease others about it, and to declare all of philosophy as useless. Helvetius’s Spirit of Man, d’Argent’s Philosophy of Healthy Reason, Brucker’s History of Philosophy, and some things by Grotius, Hobbes, Gassendi, and similar authors were not read by me in this period without benefit, although my readings at that time were also, in part, the seeds of a kind of enthusiasm, some of which one comes across later. [Baczko 1824, i.187-89]

Kant hatte damals seine glänzendste Periode angetreten. Er las, als ich auf die Akademie kam, die Metaphysik unentgeldlich. Ich besuchte nun diese Vorlesung und verstand sie nicht. Bei der Achtung für Kants Ruf und dem Mißtrauen, das ich jederzeit in meine Kräfte setzte, glaubte ich selbst, mehr studiren zu müssen. Daher fragte ich jeden meiner Bekannten: ob er nicht eine Metaphysik oder ein anderes Werk philosophischen Inhalts besäße. Bald erhielt ich die Werke von Wolf, Meyer und Baumgarten; aber auch manche höchst erbärmliche Bücher, die ich mit großer Anstrengung durchlas. Ich durchwachte ganze Nächte, brachte, diese miteingeschlossen, zwanzig und mehrere Stunden ununterbrochen beim Buche zu und lernte nichts. [...] [188] Ich ansah, daß manche Zuhörer von Kant noch weniger als ich wußten. Ich fing an zu glauben, dass die Leute in Kants Vorlesungen liefen, um sich ein Ansehen zu geben; begann, manchen damit zu necken und alle Philosophie fuer unnuetz zu erklaeren. Helvetius vom Geist des [189] Menschen, und d’Argents Philosophie der gesunden Vernunft, Bruckers Geschichte der Philosophie und einiges von Grotius, Hobbes, Gassendi und ähnlichen Schriftstellern waren doch in dieser Epoche nicht fruchtlos von mir durchgelesen worden, obgleich auch meine damalige Lectüre zum Theil Keim der Schwärmerei wurde, wovon man späterhin einiges finden wird.

Christian Jacob Kraus (1753-1807)[bio] matriculated at the university a year before Baczko. In the following, Baczko reports how he first met Kraus.

Several students lived at Kanter’s back then, including the (late) Professor Kraus. To these I quickly felt a warm affection, and during our academic years we were inseparable friends, although our first meeting occurred in a rather unusual way. I was so poor that I couldn’t afford to heat my room. Therefore, as soon as I arrived home I would immediately pull off my boots, put on an old overcoat, and get in bed. When I wanted to write I would lay a board, which I kept for that purpose, over the bedcovers. Now since Kant kept his auditorium especially well-heated, and since I had a course with him from 8 until 9 o’clock, and a class with Jester from 10 until 11, I would often stay the hour from 9 until 10 in Professor Kant’s room since he didn’t lecture that hour,[1] and I wouldn’t be noticed by anyone. I always brought along a book to keep me occupied during these hours. Kraus had a peculiar, somewhat striking liveliness about him, and one day before Kant had begun lecturing he noticed a book lying before me. Kraus immediately picked it up, and perhaps since he had noticed that I never made much of a display of learnedness, and thus held me to be a rather insignificant, perhaps even ignorant, person who nonetheless had brought along Segner’s Cursus mathematici, he asked in his special tone of voice: “My dear soul, what are you doing with this book?” The question irritated me, so I answered in the same tone of voice: “I sing from it at beer parties.” [“Ich singe daraus, wenn ich commercire”] He looked at me and laughed, and I laughed as well. He had opposed Professor Reusch’s dissertation De luce et coloribus with approbation,[2] so I had already thought well of him. I possessed a special ability of pronouncing Latin, and after Kant finished his lecture, and Kraus, perhaps to get to know me better, hung back, we started a conversation using Segner as the occasion. [Baczko 1824, 1.222-23]

Es wohnten damals auch einige Studirende bei Kantern, hierunter der verstorbene Professor Kraus. Für diesen fühlte ich bald herzlichen Anhänglichkeit, und wir waren während unserer akademischen Jahre unzertrennliche Freunde, wenn gleich unsere erste Bekanntschaft auf eine etwas sonderbare Weise entsprang. Ich befand mich in einer so bedrückten Lage, daß ich mein Zimmer zu heizen nicht im Stande war. Daher zog ich sogleich, wenn ich nach Hause kam, die Stiefel aus und einen alten Ueberrock an, setzte mich in das Bett, and legte, wenn ich schreiben wollte, ein Brett, welches ich hiezu vorräthig hielt, auf das Deckbett. Da nun Kant sein Auditorium vorzüglich gut heizen ließ, ich bei ihm von 8 bis 9 Uhr ein Collegium, und von 10 bis 11 ein Collegium bei Jester hörte, so blieb ich oft die Stunde von 9 bis 10 in dem Hörsaale des Professor Kant, [223] der in dieser Stunde nicht las, und wo ich daher von niemanden bemerkt wurde. Ich brachte alsdann, um mich während dieser Stunde zu beschäftigen, irgend ein Buch mit. Kraus, der eine eigenthümliche, etwas auffallende Lebhaftigkeit hatte, sah, ehe Kant noch seine Vorlesungen anfing ein Buch vor mir liegen. Er nahm es sogleich in die Hand, und da es ihm vielleicht auffiel, daß ich, der ich nie mit Kenntnissen prahlte, und den er daher für einen höchst unbedeutenden, vielleicht unwissenden Menschen hielt, Segners Cursus mathematici hier mitgebracht hatte; so fragter er mit seinem besondern Tone: Liebe Seele, was machen Sie mit diesem Buche? Die Frage verdroß mich und ich antwortete daher beinahe in dem nämlichen Tone: Ich singe daraus, wenn ich commercire. Er sah mich an und lachte; ich lachte mit. Er hatte dem Professor Reusch in seiner Dissertation De luce et coloribus mit Beifall opponirt, daher schätzte ich ihn bereits. Ich besaß im mündlichen Ausdrucke der Lateinischen Sprache eine vorzügliche Fertigkeit, und als Kant die Stunde geschlossen hatte und Kraus vielleicht um mich näher kennen zu lernen, zurückblieb, knüpften wir ein Gespräch an, wozu Segner die Veranlassung gab.


[1] This is a troubling claim, since the records suggest that Kant was in fact teaching during this 9-10 hour (anthropology in the winter, physical geography in the summer; not until 1775 did Kant begin to offer these courses on a Wednesday/Saturday schedule).

[2] This disputation took place 24 September 1772 [Stark 1994a, 93].


1773
Kraus (1773) [index] [top]

Kant and Christian Jakob Kraus [bio] eventually became close colleagues, but first Kraus was a shy student unable to introduce himself.  Kraus entered the university in the spring of 1771 as a theology student (changing to law in the summer of 1773) and had attended Kant's lectures for several years before properly making his acquaintance. As described by his biographer, Voigt [1819, 25-27]:

At at the beginning of 1773, his third year at the university, Kraus lost through death his until then fatherly friend and financial supporter, the Pastor Buchholz. His external situation became more pressing, and he often found himself short of the most basic essentials. One thing kept up his courage, strengthened his spirits and kept him on his path; this was his personal acquaintance with Kant. Kant had attended all the lectures that he offered, and despite the large number of auditors, Kraus’s excellent attention, lively interest, and exemplary enthusiasm did not escape Kant’s notice. Because Kraus never attended class just to have attended, but rather so as to to acquire new material to think through and explore, he was constantly running into any number of questions, doubts, obscurities and other thoughts in Kant’s teachings, that would make him restless and often almost crazy. It thus became his deepest desire to become personally acquainted with his teacher. But he did not dare to initiate the acquaintance by visiting Kant, in part because of his shy, withdrawn nature, and in part because back then the academic teacher was still distantly removed from the students, so that a friendship between professor and student was a great rarity. But Kraus managed to fulfill his wish in another way. He became a member in Kant’s disputatorium, and one day here presented to the great philosopher such deeply thought out objections, asked such sharply formulated questions, and betrayed such a disposition for theory that Kant marveled at the young man and called him over at the end of the hour in order to get to know him better.

Im Anfang des dritten Universitäts- [26] jahre 1773 verlor Kraus seinen bisherigen väterlichen Freund und Unterstützer, den Kirchenrath Buchholz durch den Tod. Seine äußere Lage ward nun weit druuckender, so daß er nicht selten aus Mangel am nöthigen Unterhalt in große Verlegenheit gerieth. Eins aber hielt seinen Muth aufrecht, machte seinen Geist immer von neuem stark und trieb ihn auf seiner Bahn immer weiter und weiter; dies war die persönliche Bekanntschaft mit Kant. Kraus hatte bei diesem alles gehört, was er las, und Kanten war selbst unter der damals so großen Anzahl seiner Zuhörer Krausens ausgezeichnete Aufmerksamkeit, reges Interesse und musterhafter Eifer nicht entgangen. Weil Kraus nie bloß hörte, um gehört zu haben, sondern weil er hörte, um immer neuen Stoff zum Denken und Forschen zu gewinnen, so waren ihm über Kants Lehren allerlei Fragen, Bedenklichkeiten, Zweifel, dunkelheiten und andere Gedanken aufzustoßen, die ihn unruhig und oft fast irre machten. Es war daher längst sein sehnlichster Wunsch gewesen, mit sinem Lehrer persönlich bekant zu werden. Allein sein schüchternes, scheues Wesen hatte es ihn theils nicht wagen lassen, diese [27] Bekanntschaft durch einen Besuch bei Kant einzuleiten, teheils stand damals der academische Lehrer noch in zu schroffer Entfernung von seinem Zuhörer, so daß eine freundschaftliche Mittheilung zwischen dem Professor und den Studenten eine große Seltenheit war. Kraus gelangte indessen doch auf eie andere Weise zur Erfüllung seinse Wunsches. Er wurde Mitglied in Kants Disputatorium und machte hier eines Tags dem großen Philosophen so tief durchdachte Einwürfe, that so scharf gefaßte Fragen, verrieth so viel Anlage zur Speculation, daß Kant über den jungen Mann erstaunt ihn nach der Stunde zu sich rief, um ihn genauer kennen zu lernen.


WS 1773/74
Letter: Kant to Herz (end of 1773) [index] [top]

Kant first lectured on anthropology during the winter semester of 1772/73, at nine in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (the four main lecture days). He had intended to lecture on physics at this time, but not enough students signed up, so he offered anthropology instead. In the following letter to Herz [bio], he is in his second semester teaching this course, which eventually became a mainstay for him, and he taught it every winter semester until his retirement. Like his course on physical geography, which he had been teaching since his second semester at the university (SS 1756), anthropology was understood as a “popular” course, and he offered these courses in alternating semesters alongside his required (and public) lectures on metaphysics and logic.

I have read your review of Platner’s Anthropology. I would not have guessed the reviewer myself but now I am delighted to see the evident progress of his skill. This winter I am giving, for the second time, a lecture course on Anthropologie, a subject that I now intend to make into a proper academic discipline. But my plan is quite unique. I intend to use it to disclose the sources of all the [practical] sciences, the science of morality, of skill, of human intercourse, of the way to educate and govern human beings, and thus of everything that pertains to the practical. I shall seek to discuss phenomena and their laws rather than the foundations of the possibility of human thinking in general. Hence the subtle and, to my view, eternally futile inquiries as to the manner in which bodily organs are connected with thought I omit entirely. I include so many observations of ordinary life that my auditors have constant occasion to compare their ordinary experience with my remarks and thus, from beginning to end, find the lectures entertaining and never dry. In my spare time, I am trying to prepare a preliminary study for the students out of this very pleasant empirical study, an analysis of the nature of skill (prudence) and even wisdom that, along with physical geography and distinct from all other learning, can be called knowledge of the world. [Translation: Zweig 1999, 141]

Ich habe die recension der platnerschen anthropologie gelesen. Ich hätte zwar nicht von selbst auf den recensenten gerathen ietzt aber vergnügt mich der darinn hervorblickende Fortgang seiner Geschicklichkeit.Ich lese in diesem Winter zum zweyten mal ein collegium privatum der Anthropologie welches ich ietzt zu einer ordentlichen academischen disciplin zu machen gedenke. Allein mein Plan ist gantz anders. Die Absicht die ich habe ist durch dieselbe die Qvellen aller Wissenschaften die der Sitten der Geschiklichkeit des Umganges der Methode Menschen zu bilden u. zu regiren mithin alles Praktischen zu eröfnen. Da suche ich alsdenn mehr Phänomena u. ihre Gesetze als die erste Gründe der Möglichkeit der modification der menschlichen Natur überhaupt. Daher die subtile u. in meinen Augen auf ewig vergebliche Untersuchung über die Art wie die organe des Korper mit den Gedanken in Verbindung stehen ganz wegfällt. Ich bin unabläßig so bey der Beobachtung selbst im gemeinen Leben daß meine Zuhörer vom ersten Anfange bis zu Ende niemals eine trokene sondern durch den Anlaß den sie haben unaufhörlich ihre gewöhnliche Erfahrung mit meinen Bemerkungen zu vergleichen iederzeit eine unterhaltende Beschäftigung habe. Ich arbeite in Zwischenzeiten daran, aus dieser in meinen Augen sehr angenehmen Beobachtungslehre eine Vorübung der Geschiklichkeit der Klugheit und selbst der Weisheit vor die academische Iugend zu machen welche nebst der physischen geographie von aller andern Unterweisung unterschieden ist und die Kentnis der Welt heissen kan. [#79; AA 10:145-46; repr. Malter 1990, 126-7]


SS 1774
Kraus [index] [top]

Kraus wohnte damals mit dem jungen Baron [von Schlippenbach] in einem Hause mit Kant, und das Zimmer, worin dieser seine Vorlesungen hielt, stieß an des Barons Wohnzimmer an. Als nun Morgens der Bediente seine Herrn frisirte und Kanten im Nebenzimmer dociren hörte, that er die naive Frage: "warum doch die Herren Studenten alle so weit herkämen, um Kanten zuzuhören und nicht lieber da lernted, wo der Professor gelernt habe? Dem Hören könnten sie doch unmöglich eine so große Kraft zuschreiben!" [Voigt 1819, 29; rprt. in Malter 1990, 130-31]


1776
Kant [index] [top]

Kant jotted down the following self-assessment in a reflection on metaphysics (#4989) dated by Adickes at around 1776:

The method of my delivery has a disadvantageous form. It appears to be scholastic, ponderous, dry, yes, even limited and rather different from the tone of the genius. [AA 18:53]

Die methode meines Vortrages hat eine nachtheilige Gestalt. Sie sieht scholastisch aus, mithin grüblerisch, trocken, ia eingeschränkt und weit vom Tone des genie verschieben.

Compare this to the reflection on logic (#2050), also from around 1776:

There are methods necessary only for teaching, but that in application and in life fall to the side. They are proper for the school. [AA 16:213]

Es giebt Methoden, die nur zur Erlernung nothig sind, aber in der Anwendung und im Leben wegfallen. Die sind schulgerecht.


1776
Mortzfeld [index] [top]

Johann Christoph Mortzfeld, a physician in Königsberg, anonymously published a short biography of Kant’s life in 1802 in which he claimed that ...

Kant was reproached for not examining the students rigorously enough during his turns as Dean. His good naturedness would only let him sense their anxiety — it seemed adequate to him so long as they didn’t appear utterly ignorant. Similarly he did not limit the academic freedom of the students, but instead loved to give them a fair bit of freedom, which still was not to degenerate into unrestraint. He would say that trees flourish best if they are standing in the open when they are growing, and give finer fruit than when their form has been forced through some artifice or hothouse. [1802, 90-92; repr. Malter 1990, 132-33]

Man machte Kant den Vorwurf, daß wenn er in der Tour Decan war, er die jungen Leute, welche von denSchulenkamen nicht strenge genug examinirte. Seine Gutmüthigkeit ließ iihm die Aengstlichkeit dieser nur fühlen, — und es schien ihm hinlänglich zu seyn, wenn sie nicht gänzliche Vernachlässigung verriethen. Ebenmäßig beschränkte er nicht die academische Freiheit studierender Jünglinge, sondern liebte eine anständige ihnen ertheilte Freiheit, welche jedoch nie in Zügellosigkeit ausarten mußte. Er sagte, Bäume, wenn sie im Freyen stehen, und im Wachsthum begriffen sind, gedeihen besser, und tragen einst herrlichere Früchte, als wenn sie durch Künsteleien, Treibhäuser und confiscirte Formen dazu gebracht werden sollen.


1776
Kraus [index] [top]

If he didn’t examine very closely as Dean, it was because the whole business was distasteful to him, as such work to such a mind must be. The rectorate was for him fully lethal, with so many examples of dishonesty with which he became acquainted in that office. He most hated any traits of dishonesty and unethicalness. [Reicke 1860, 46; repr. Malter 1990, 133]

Wenn er als Decan nicht scharf examinirte, so war es, weil ihm das ganze Geschäft höchste zuwider war und einem solchen Geiste bei seinen Arbeiten zuwider sein mußte. Das Rectorat war ihm vollends fatal bei so manchen Exempeln von Unredlichkeit, die er im officio rectorali kennen lernte. Aber Züge von Unredlichkeit und Unsittlichkeit waren ihm äußerst verhaßt.


SS 1777
Moses Mendelssohn’s Visit to Königsberg (18 August 1777) [index] [top]

Karl Vorländer recounts Mendelssohn’s [bio] visit on 18 August 1777, as reported by August Lewald (1793-1871)[1] and from whose memoires the following is quoted. The story is interesting for a number of reasons, not least for the picture it offers of how students could behave in the classroom, as well as the general atmosphere confronting Jews in the university. (See also the introductory comments to the passage below from Kant’s letter to Herz, 20 Aug 1777.)

Mendelssohn, small in stature, with a large hump on his back, with clever and good-natured eyes, so that he “could soften even the rawest heart to sympathy” (Kraus), appeared in Kant’s classroom without Kant’s knowledge and a little before Kant’s own arrival. “Now as he,” recounts August Lewald in his memoirs, “entered Kant’s lecture hall and remained modestly at the door, the students started to click their tongues, whistle, and stamp. Mendelssohn took an empty chair[2] with an icy calm, and explained briefly and civilly that he wished to make Kant’s acquaintance. Only with Kant’s appearance did the noise abate, and soon his lecture drew the auditors to other matters. But at the end of the lecture, when Mendelssohn anxiously made his way through the crowd in order to reach the lectern, the sneering laughter rang out anew. But when the stranger said a few words to Kant, Kant warmly shook his hand and took him by the arm. Like wildfire, the news spread through the rows: “Moses Mendelssohn! The Jewish philosopher from Berlin!”, and the students out of honor formed a path as the two world sages left the lecture hall hand in hand.” [qtd. in Vorländer 1924, i.201-2; see also Richarz 1974, 79-80]


[1] Dietzsch [2003, 167-68] discusses this visit at some length, and notes that Lewald was a nephew to Kant’s student I. A. Euchel [bio].

[2] One wonders what degree of poetic license Lewald takes with this description, but on this point of the empty chair the following should be noted: the enrollment for Kant’s 7 AM logic lectures that semester was 50, while 23 were enrolled in the 8 AM lectures on natural law. Kant’s letter to Herz (below) indicates that Mendelssohn attended both lectures. Kant was likely still renting rooms from the publisher Kanter [more], both living and lecturing there. While we have no evidence of the seating capacity for the room Kant lectured in, an empty chair available for a late arrival to the logic lectures would be surprising.


SS 1777
Letter: Kant to Herz (20 August 1777) [index] [top]

This letter recounts the surprise visit that Kant received from Moses Mendelssohn, who was in Königsberg on business. August 20th fell on a Wednesday, and so Mendelssohn’s visit occurred on August 18 (Monday). On Mondays of that semester Kant was teaching Logic (7-8 AM) and Natural Law (8-9 AM), so these are apparently the lectures Mendelssohn attended. The fact that Mendelssohn had arrived in Königsberg on July 24 (Thursday), and had only now visited Kant, suggests that the recess was already in progress when he had arrived, and that Kant had perhaps already left for the countryside.

Today Herr Mendelssohn, your worthy friend and mine (for so I flatter myself), is departing. To have a man like him in Könïgsberg on a permanent basis, as an intimate acquaintance, a man of such gentle temperament, good spirits, and enlightenment — how that would give my soul the nourishment it has lacked so completely here, a nourishment I miss more and more as I grow older! For as far as bodily nourishment goes, you know I hardly worry about that and I am quite content with my share of earthly goods. I fear I did not manage to take full advantage of my one opportunity to enjoy this rare man, partly because I worried about interfering with his business here. The day before yesterday he honored me by attending two of my lectures, taking potluck, so to speak, since the table was not set for such a distinguished guest. The lecture must have seemed somewhat incoherent to him, since I had to spend most of the hour reviewing what I had said before vacation. The clarity and order of the original lecture were largely absent. Please help me to keep up my friendship with this fine man. [AA 10:211; repr. Malter 1990, 142-3; Walford transl.]

Heute reiset Ihr und, wie ich mir schmeichle, auch mein würdiger Freund Herr Mendelssohn von hier ab. Einen solchen Mann, von so sanfter Gemüthsart, guter Laune und hellem Kopfe in Königsberg zum beständigen und inniglichen Umgange zu haben, würde dieienige Nahrung der Seele seyn, deren ich hier so gänzlich entbehren muß und die ich mit der Zunahme der Iahre vornehmlich vermisse; denn, was die des Körpers betrift, so werden Sie mich deshalb schon kennen, daß ich daran nur zuletzt und ohne Sorge oder Bekümmernis denke und mit meinem Antheil an den Glücksgütern vollig zufrieden bin. Ich habe es indessen nicht so einzurichten gewußt, daß ich von dieser einzigen Gelegenheit, einen so seltenen Mann zu genießen, recht hätte Gebrauch machen können, zum Theil aus Besorgnis ihm etwa in seinen hiesigen Geschäften hinderlich zu werden. Er that mir vorgestern die Ehre zween meiner Vorlesungen beyzuwohnen, a la fortune du pot, wie man sagen könte, indem der Tisch auf einen so ansehnlichen Gast nicht eingerichtet war. Etwas tumultuarisch mu ihm der Vortrag diesmal vorgekommen seyn; indem die durch die ferien abgebrochene praelection zum theil summarisch wiederholt werden muste und dieses auch den größten Theil der Stunden wegnahm; wobey Deutlichkeit und Ordnung des ersten Vortrages großen theils vermißt wird. Ich bitte Sie, mir die Freundschaft dieses würdigen Mannes ferner zu erhalten.


21 Feb 1778
Letter: von Zedlitz to Kant [index] [top]

Karl Abraham Freiherr von Zedlitz (1731-1793)[bio] was the Prussian Minister of Culture and Education in Berlin.

I am now attending a class on physical geography with you, my dear Professor Kant, and the least that I can do is give my thanks for this. As wonderful as this may seem to you, at a distance of some 80 miles, I must really also admit that I am somewhat in the situation of a student who either is sitting too far from the lectern, or else hasn't yet grown accustomed to the professor's pronounciation, for the manuscript of Mr. Philippi[1] that I am presently reading is rather unclear and sometimes also miswritten, and in some places it appears as though he was paying such close attention to your lecture, that he wrote, concerning many really important matters, only those remarks you made by way of clarification — which is just the advantage of one sitting closer to you, and one which I am lacking. Meanwhile, what I can decipher fills me with such a strong desire to know the rest as well. To ask you to publish your lectures might cause you an unpleasantness, but I would think you could not deny my request for help in procuring a copy of a more careful set of notes.... [#127; AA 10:222-23]

Ich höre jetzt ein Kollegium über die physische Geographie bei Ihnen, mein lieber Herr. P. Kant, und das wenigste, was ich tun kann, ist wohl, daß ich Ihnen meinen Dank dafür abstatte. So wunderbar Ihnen dieses bei einer Entfernung von etl. 80 Meilen vorkommen wird, so muß ich auch wirklich gestehen, daß ich in dem Fall eines Studenten bin, der entweder sehr weit vom Katheder sitzt oder der der Aussprache des Professors noch nicht gewohnt ist; denn das Msct. des HE. Philippi, das ich jetzt lese, ist etwas undeutlich u. manchmal auch unrichtig geschrieben, u. er scheint bei manchen Stellen so sehr auf Ihren Vortrag Acht gehabt zu haben, daß er bei vielen wirklich wichtigen Gegenständen nur eben so viel angemerkt hat, daß Sie solche erklärt haben, wie aber — das war eben der Vorteil des nahe sitzenden Zuhörers, den ich nicht habe. Indessen wächst durch das, was ich entziffre, der heißeste Wunsch, auch das übrige zu wissen. Ihnen zuzumuten, daß Sie Ihr Kollegium drucken ließen, das wäre Ihnen vielleicht unangenehm, aber die Bitte, dächt' ich, könnten Sie mir nicht versage, daß Sie mir zu einer Abschrift eines sorgfältiger nachgeschriebenen Vortrags behilflich wären....


[1] Wilhelm Albert Ferdinand Philippi [bio] matriculated at the Albertina on March 25, 1771. See the entry on this set of notes.


28 Feb 1778
Letter: von Zedlitz to Kant [index] [top]

Karl Abraham Freiherr von Zedlitz (1731-1793)[bio], the Prussian Minister of Culture and Education in Berlin, opens this letter offering Kant a position at the university at Halle for a salary of 600 rth.[1] Zedlitz then turns to the matter of Kant's physical geography lecture notes mentioned in his letter of the previous week.

... Meine neuliche Bitte wegen der physischen Geographie bleibt aber dem ungeachtet bei Kräften. Der böse Schreiber macht mir zwar gottlos zu schaffen, wenn er von Kamtschaka redet, ist er mit einmal unter eben dieser Rubrike in der Vorstadt von Astracan. Er hat nichts Unwichtiges neiderschreiben können, aber untereinander hat er es gemischt wie der Kuckuck.

Aber was er mit den Käfern, Kakerlacks genannt, auf der Insel Java will, u. daß diese Käfer die Menschen anfressen, das ist mir wirklich als eine Unrichtigkeit vorkommen, da meines Wissens die Kakerlaks die homines nocturni des Buffons sind, die auch in dem Collegio vorher incidenter einmal beschrieben sind u. von denen gesagt wird, daß sie ein lusus naturae, wie weiße Raben wären, u. inhre Kinder Schwarze würden. Ich freue mich im voraus, das ganze Kollegium noch einmal nach einem korrektern Exemplar [225] durchzustudieren. Nach dem aber, was ich von Astracan u. Kamtschaka angeführt habe, werden Sie merken, daß ich morgen oder übermorgen fertig bin, also bitte ich sehr, sich meiner Begierde gütigst anzunehmen, so wie ich hoffe, daß Sie mir auf den gegenwärtigen Antrag ganz offenherzig u. bald antworten werden. Sie kennen den Königsb. Univ.-Fond u. wissen also, daß ich Ihnen dort zu keiner Verbßrung Hoffnung machen kann, u. in Halle kann ich das immer, wenn Sie auch nur 600 rth. zu Anfang haben. [#129; AA 10:224-25]


[1] Kant's current salary at Königsberg was just a little over 166 rth. A fuller discussion of this teaching offer can be found in the Professors pages.


SS 1778
J. Bernoulli [index] [top]

Johan Bernoulli (1744-1807) traveled through Europe in 1778, including a brief visit to Königsberg (June 29-July 2), which he recorded in his memoires. On the morning of July 1st he visited F. S. Bock and viewed the university library (of which Bock was the librarian), and lunch at Kayserling’s (with Kant in attendance), and then visited the Royal Library (Schloßbibliothek) with Bock, Kant, and a few others.


Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert
(1717-83)

I ate lunch at the Count von Kayserling’s with a scholar whom the Königsberg university honors as one of its greatest adornments, Professor Kant. This famous philosopher is such a lively and pleasant man in conversation, and with such fine manners, that one would not easily suspect him of being a deep thinker, except that his eyes and facial features immediately betray a sharp wit, and the similarity of these with d’Alembert was for me especially striking. This scholar has many followers in Königsberg; and that there are more metaphysicians here, I think, than at other high schools, he may well be contributing much to that. He is now giving a course of lectures to much acclaim,[1] and whose final purpose is to provide his listeners with a correct understanding of human beings, their deeds, and of the variety of events and behaviors, etc., that occur in human life; intermingled with stories and anecdotes of every sort of people and land that add spice to the lectures and make them even more instructive and popular. Of Mr. Kant’s philosophical writings nothing has appeared in print for a long time, although he promised to publish a small book next.[2] [Bernoulli 1779, iii.45-46]

Ich speisete des Mittags bey dem Grafen von Kayserling, mit einem Gelehrten, welchen [46] die königsberger Universität als eine ihrer größten Zierden verehret, dem Herrn Professor Kant. Dieser berühmte Philosoph ist im Umgange ein so lebhafter und artiger Mann, und von so feiner Lebensart, daß man den tiefforschenden Geist nicht so leicht bey ihm vermuthen würde; viel Witz aber verrathen sogleich seine Augen und seine Gesichtszüge, und die Aehnlichkeit derselben mit d’Alembert war mir besonders auffallend. Dieser Gelehrte hat in Königsberg viele Anhänger; und daß hier, wie mich dünkt, mehr Metaphysiker sind, als auf andern hohen Schulen, dazu mag er wohl vieles beytragen. Er las nun ein Collegium, welches grossen Beyfall fand, und zum Endzweck hatte, seinen Zuhörern richtige Begriffe von den Menchsen, ihren Thaten, und von den mannichfaltigen im menschlichen Leben sich ereignenden Vorfällen, Handlungen u.s.w. beyzubringen; untermischte Geschichte und Anekdoten von allerley Leuten und Ländern würzten diese Vorlesungen, und machten sie noch lehrreicher und beliebter. Von Herrn Kants philosophischen Schriften war nun schon lange nichts im Druck erschienen, er versprach aber nächtstens wieder ein Bändchen herauszugeben.


[1] During SS 1778, Kant lectured on logic, physical geography, and natural law, although the course he is describing here would better match Kant’s lectures on anthropology.

[2] The “small book” is presumably Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, which he would publish three years later in 1781.


SS 1778
Letter: von Zedlitz to Kant (1 August 1778) [index] [top]

Karl Abraham Freiherr von Zedlitz (1731-1793)[bio] writes about physical geography and Herz’s [bio] anthropology lectures that he plans to attend that coming fall.

I would be blocking my own light, my dear Professor Kant, if I did not by all means approve the delay of your sending your Physical Geography. The causes that you cite are to my advantage. A while ago I began Bergman’s physical description of the earth, which I am still lingering over, however much I’m irritated by the translator, who does not once take the trouble to convert the unhelpful Swedish measures to our own, and who has such a sloppy style and is often incorrect.

This winter I will be hearing rational anthropology with your former student, Mr. Herz. I’m hoping for much good from this class. Since I have no extra time for listening to wind-bags at school, I am always very careful before I take on such a thing, indeed, often before I even begin to read a book; but Mendelssohn [bio] has vouched for Herz’s talent, and based on his assurance I would undertake anything, especially since I know you respect Herz and are in correspondence with him.

Stretch out your interpretive talents so far so as to give me the means to hold back the students at the university from the vocational courses [in the upper three faculties], and to make them understand that the little bit of law — indeed, even theology and medicine — is infinitely easier and more certain in its application, if the apprentice has more philosophical knowledge; that one is a judge, lawyer, preacher, physician for only a few hours each day, but there are so many more where one is a human being, and in need of other sciences. In sum, you must teach me how to make the students understand this. Printed instructions, laws, rules — all that is worse than the vocational courses themselves.

Ich stünde mir selbst im Lichten, mein Lieber H. P. Kant, wenn ich nicht den Verzug der Übersendung Ihrer phys. Geogr. auf all Weise genehmigen wollte. Die Ursachen, die Sie anführen, gereichen zu meinem Vorteil. Ich habe vor einiger Zeit Bergmans phys. Beschreibung der Erdkugel angefange, die mich noch etwas aufhalten wird, so sehr ich mich auch über den Übersetzer ärgre, der sich nicht einmal die Mühe gegeben, das unbehilfliche Schwedsche Maß auf unseres zu reduzieren u. der einen so schlaudrigen Stil hat u. oft unrichtig ist.

Ich werde diesen Winter bei Ihrem ehemaligen Schüler, dem H. Herz, die Anthropologiam rationalem hören. Ich verspreche mir sehr viel Gutes von dem Collegio. Da ich nicht Zeit übrig habe, bei Stümpern in die Schule zu gehen, so bin ich immer sehr behutsam, ehe ich so was, ja oft ehe ich die Lektüre eines Buches anfange, allein Mendelssohn hat für Herzes Talent gutgesagt, und auf dessen Bürgerschaft unternähme ich wohl wer weiß was, zumal da ich weiß, daß Sie für Herzen Achtung haben u. mit ihm in einer Art von Briefwechsel sind.

Erstreckt sich Ihr heuristisches Talent so weit, so geben Sie mir doch Mittel an die Hand, die Studenten auf Universitäten von den Brot-Collegiis zuruck zu halten u. ihnen begreiflich zu machen, daß das bißchen Richterei, ja selbst Theologie u. Arzneigelahrheit unendlich leichter u. in der Anwendung sichrer wird, wenn der Lehrling mehr philosophische Kenntnis hat, daß man doch nur wenige Stunden des Tages Richter, Advokat, Prediger, Arzt u. in so vielen Mensch ist, wo man noch andre Wissenschaften nötig hat — kurz dies alles sollen Sie mich lehren den Studenten begreiflich zu machen. Gedruckte Anweisung, Leges, Reglements das ist alles noch schlimmer als das Brot-Colleg selbst.


SS 1778
Letter: Kant to Herz (28 August 1778) [index] [top]

Kant’s former student Marcus Herz gave the first lectures on Kant’s philosophy in Berlin; or rather, he gave lectures from notes of Kant’s own lectures, which is something rather different. In a no longer extant letter he asked Kant for notes on logic and metaphysics. Kant responded on 28 August 1778:

I should be very pleased to gratify your wish, especially when the purpose is connected with my own interest. However, it is impossible for me to do so as quickly as you ask. Whatever depends on the diligence and aptitude of my students is invariably difficult, because it is a matter of luck whether one has attentive and capable students during a certain period of time and also because those whom one has recently had disperse themselves and are not easily to be found again. It is seldom possible to persuade one of them to give away his own transcript. But I shall try to attend to it as soon as possible. I may yet find something here or there on the logic course. But metaphysics is a course that I have worked up in the last few years in such a way that I fear it must be difficult even for a discerning head to get precisely the right idea from somebody’s lecture notes. Even though the idea seemed to me intelligible in the lecture, still, since it was taken down by a beginner and deviates greatly both from my formal statements and from ordinary concepts, it will call for someone with a head as good as your own to present it systematically and understandably.

When I have finished my handbook on that part of philosophy on which I am still working indefatigably, which I think will be soon, then every transcription of that sort will also become fully comprehensible, through the clarity of the overall plan. In the meantime I shall make an effort to find a serviceable set of lecture notes for your purposes. Herr Kraus [bio] has been in Elking for several weeks but will return shortly, and I shall speak to him about it. Why don't you start with the logic? While that is progressing, the materials for the remaining work will be gathered. Although this is supposed to be a task for the winter, it may be possible to gather the supplies before the summer is over, thus allowing you time for preparation. [AA 10: 240-41; transl. Zweig 1999, 168-69]

Ihrem Verlangen, vornemlich bey einer Absicht, die mit meinem eigenen Interesse in Verbindung steht, zu willfahren, kan mir nicht [241] anders als sehr angenehm seyn. So geschwinde aber, als Sie es fodern, kan dieses unmöglich geschehen. Alles, was auf den Fleiß und die Geschiklichkeit meiner Zuhörer ankömmt, ist iederzeit mißlich, weil es ein Glück ist, in einem gewissen Zeitlaufe aufmerksame und fähige Zuhörer zu haben und weil auch die, so man vor kurzem gehabt hat, sich verstieben und nicht leicht wieder aufzufinden seyn. Seine eigene Nachschrift wegzugeben, dazu kan man selten einen bereden. Ich werde aber zusehen es so bald als möglich auszuwirken. Von der Logik möchte sich noch hie oder da etwas ausführliches finden. Aber Metaphysik ist ein Collegium, was ich seit den letztern Iahren so bearbeitet habe, daß ich besorge, es möchte auch einem scharfsinnigen Kopfe schwer werden, aus dem Nachgeschriebenen die Idee praecise herauszubekommen, die im Vortrage zwar meinem Bedüncken nach verständlich war, aber, da sie von einem Anfänger aufgefaßt worden und von meinen Vormaligen und den gemein angenommenen Begriffen sehr abweicht, einen so guten Kopf als den Ihrigen erfodern würde, systematisch und begreiflich darzustellen.

Wenn ich mein Handbuch über diesen Theil der Weltweisheit, als woran ich noch unermüdet arbeite, fertig habe, welches ich ietzt bald im Stande zu seyn glaube, so wird eine iede dergleichen Nachschrift, durch die Deutlichkeit des Planes, auch völlig verständlich werden. Ich werde mich indeß bemühen, so gut als es sich thun läßt, eine Ihren Absichten dienliche Abschrift aufzufinden. HE. Kraus ist seit einigen Wochen in Elbing, wird aber in kurzem zurückkommen und ich werde ihn darüber besprechen. Fangen Sie immer nur die Logik an. Binnen dem Fortgange derselben werden die materialien zu dem übrigen schon gesammelt seyn. Wiewohl, da dieses eine Beschäftigunrg Winters werden soll, so kan dieser Vorrath vielleicht noch vor Ablauf des Sommers herbeygeschaffet werden und ihnen Zeit zur Vorbereitung geben. [AA 10: 240-41]


WS 1778/79
Edict: von Zedlitz (16 October 1778) [index] [top]

Karl Abraham Freiherr von Zedlitz (1731-1793)[bio], as the Prussian Minister of Culture and Education in Berlin, sent an edict to the university of Königsberg, in part concerning the use (or lack) of textbooks:

Prof. Christiani [lecturing] on General Practical Philosophy, in which he should be acquainted with [the textbooks of] Feder and Wolff; Prof. Buck on Experimental Physics, and also a special course on Theoretical Physics, on which he is surely familiar with Erxleben’s text. Dr. Pisansky on Latin Style, on which Heineccius and others have written quite well. All of these are reading from their own notes. The worst textbook is certainly better than none, and professors may, if they possess so much wisdom, improve upon their authors to the extent that they can, but the reading from notes must simply be stopped. From this we nevertheless make exception of Professor Kant and his course on Physical Geography, for which no appropriate textbook is yet available.


WS 1778/79
Letter: Kant to Herz (20 October 1778) [index] [top]

To be of service to my upright and indefatigable capable friend, in a matter that will reflect back some approbation on myself as well, is always pleasant and important to me. However, there are many difficulties in carrying out the commission you gave me. Those of my students who are most capable of grasping everything are just the ones who bother least to take explicit and verbatim notes; rather, they write down only the main points, which they can think over afterwards. Those who are most thorough in note-taking are seldom capable of distinguishing the important from the unimportant. They pile a mass of misunderstood stuff under what they may possibly have grasped correctly. Besides, I have almost no private acquaintance with my auditors, and it is difficult for me even to find out which ones might have accomplished something useful. My discussion of empirical psychology is now briefer, since I lecture on anthropology.[1] But since I make improvements or extensions of my lectures from year to year, especially in the systematic and, if I may say, architectonic form and ordering of what belongs within the scope of a science, my students cannot very easily help themselves by copying from each other.
However, I do not abandon the hope of gratifying your wish, especially if Herr Kraus [bio] helps me. He will arrive in Berlin toward the end of November. He is one of my favorite and most capable students. Please have patience until then. Especially I beg you to do me the favor of announcing to His Excellency, Herr von Zedlitz [bio], through his secretary, Herr Biester [bio], that the aforementioned Herr Kraus will deliver the requested transcript.[2]
[AA 10: 242-43; transl. Zweig 1999, 170]

Meinem rechtschaffenen und mit seinem Talente so unverdrossen thätigen Freunde vornemlich in einem Geschäfte woraus etwas von dem dadurch erworbenen Beyfall auf mich zurück fließt, zu Diensten zu seyn ist mir iederzeit angenehm und wichtig. Indessen hat die Bewirkung dessen was Sie mir auftragen viel Schwierigkeit. Dieienige von meinen Zuhöreren die am meisten Fahigkeit besitzen alles wohl zu fassen sind gerade die so am wenigsten ausführlich u. dictatenmäßig nachschreiben sondern sich nur Hauptpunkte notiren welchen sie hernach nachdenken. Die so im Nachschreiben weitläuftig sind haben selten Urtheilskraft das wichtige vom unwichtigen zu unterscheiden und häufen eine Menge misverstandenes Zeug unter das was sie etwa richtig auffassen möchten. Uberdem habe ich mit meinen Auditoren fast gar keine Privatbekantschaft und es ist mir schweer auch nur die aufzufinden die hierinn etwas taugliches geleistet haben möchten. Empirische Psychologie fasse ich ietzo kürzer nachdem ich Anthropologie lese. Allein da von Iahr zu Iahr mein Vortrag einige Verbesserung oder auch Erweiterung erhält vornemlich in der systematischen und wenn ich sagen soll Architektonischen Form und Anordnung dessen was in den Umfang einer Wissenschaft gehöret so können die Zuhörer sich nicht so leicht damit daß einer dem andern nachschreibt helfen.
Ich gebe indessen die Hofnung Ihnen zu willfahren noch nicht auf, vornemlich wenn Herr Kraus mir dazu behülflich ist der gegen Ende des NovemberMonaths zu Berlin eintreffen wird und ein von mir geliebter und geschickter Zuhörer ist. Bisdahin bitte also Gedult zu haben.
Vornemlich bitte mir die Gefälligkeit zu erzeigen und durch den Secretair HEn Biester Ihro Exc: dem HE: v. Zedlitz melden zu lassen daß durch eben gedachten HEn Kraus die verlangte Abschrift an dieselbe überbracht werden soll. [AA 10: 242]


[1] This is noticeable in the metaphysics lecture notes. The empirical psychology in the Herder 4 notes (1762-64) comprises about 30% of the whole, in the an-Pölitz 1 (mid-'70s) about 19%, in the Mrongovius 2 (1782/83) about 15%, in the an-Pölitz 3.2 (c.1790/91) about 9%, and Dohna-Wundlacken 4 (1792/93) 10%.

[2] This set of notes appears to be the an-Friedländer 4.3 notes on anthropology; cf. Stark [2011b, 101].


WS 1778/79
Letter: Herz to Kant (24 November 1778, #143) [index] [top]

I am enjoying a degree of happiness this winter to which I never aspired even in my dreams. Today, for the twentieth time, I am lecturing on your philosophical teachings to an applause that exceeds all my expectations. The number of people in my audience increases daily, having already grown to over thirty, all of them people of high status or profession. Professors of medicine, preachers, lawyers, government administrators, and so on, of whom our worthy minister [Zedlitz] is the leading one; he is always the first to arrive and the last to leave, and has yet to miss a single session, just like all of the others. It seems to me, my dear teacher, that this course is in many ways one of the most remarkable happenings, and not a day passes that I do not reflect on the impossibility of ever repaying you, through any act of mine, the tenth part of the happiness I enjoy in a single hour, which I owe to you and to you alone!

I have now completed half of the logic and hope to be finished with the other half by January. I have several very complete notebooks of your lectures on logic, and to these I owe my audience’s applause; here and there your fruitful ideas led me to other views that appeal to my listeners. But you are the foundation for it all.

It will all depend on you whether I can carry off the metaphysics course. I don’t have even an incomplete copy of your lectures, and certainly the whole business wil be virtually impossible for me without them. To build up the course from scratch, all alone, is not within my powers, nor have I the time, since most of my time is taken up with my practical work.

I beg you again, therefore, to send me, with the earliest mail, at least some incomplete notebooks, if the complete ones are not to be had. Diversity, I think, will compensate for incompleteness, since each set of notes will have noticed something different. I beg you especially for an ontology and a cosmology. [ … ] [AA 10:244-45; Zweig 1999, 171-2; translation slightly ammended]

Ich genieße diesen Winter eine Glückseligkeit, zu welcher meine Phantasie nie in ihren Wünschen hatte versteigen können. Ich verkündige heute bereits zun zwanzigsten mahl ofentlich Ihre philosophische Lehren mit einem Beyfall, der über alle meine Erwartung gehet. Die Anzahl meiner Zuhörer nimt täglich zu, sie ist schon bis auf einige u. dreyßig herangewachsen, lauter Leute vom Stande und Gelahrte von Profeßion. Profeßores der Medizin, Prediger Geheimräthe, Bergräthe, u. s. w. unter denen unser würdiger Minister das Haupt ist; er ist imer der erste auf meiner Stube u. der letzte der hinweg gehet, und hat bisher, so wie keiner von den übrigen noch nie eine Stunde versäumt. Ich muß es gestehen mein theurster Lehrer, daß dieses Collegium von vielen Seiten betrachtet, eine der merkwürdigsten Erscheinungen ist; und es vergehet kein Tag, wo ich nicht darüber nachdenke, wie unmöglich es ist, daß ich durch alle meine Handlungen in der Welt, den zehnten Theil der Glückseligkeit Ihnen vergelten könnte, die ich durch Sie, bloß u. allein durch Sie, in einer einzigen Stunde genieße!

Ich habe nun die helfte der Logic zurückgelegt, u. denke bis Januarius mit der andern Helfte zu Ende zu kommen. Ich besitze einige sehr vollkommene Heften Ihrer logischen Vorlesungen, u. diesen habe ich den Beyfall zu danken; nur hier u. da haben mich Ihre so fruchtbarn Ideen, auf Aussichten geführt, die meinen Zuhörern gefallen. Der Grund zu allen liegt in Ihnen.

Es wird nunmehr lediglich von Ihnen abhängen, ob ich mich in der Metaphisick werde erhalten könen. Ich besitze auch nicht einmahl unvollständige Abschriften von Ihren Vorlesungen; u. gleichwohl wird mir das ganze Geschäfft ohne diese fast unmöglich werden. Von Grund auf, so ganz ungerichtet, allein zu bauen, dazu habe ich weder Kräfte, noch Zeit davon der größte Theil von meinen praktischen Geschäfften mir entrissen wird.

Ich bitte also nochmahls, mir mit erster Post, wenn es nun mit den sehr vollständigen Heften schon noch einigen Anstand haben muß, wenigstens einige unvollständigen zu schicken. Die Verschiedenheit, denke ich, wird die Unvollständigkeit einigermaßen ersetzen; indem jeder doch Etwas anders sich merkt. Vorzüglich bitte ich vor der Hand um eine Ontologie u. Cosmologie. [AA 10:244-45]


WS 1778/79
Letter: Kant to Herz (15 December 1778) [index] [top]

I have not forgotten your instructions, although at the same time I won’t be able to immediately satisfy them. For it was almost impossible to locate a set of notes from my course on philosophical encyclopedia [see], and I haven’t had time to look through it or change any of it. I'm sending it to you nevertheless since you might be able to find or prize out something in it that might make easier a systematic concept of the pure cognitions of the understanding, insofar as they actually arise in us from a single principle. Mr. Kraus [bio], to whom I gave this manuscript, has promised to locate one, maybe two sets of notes on the metaphysics lectures [see] during his trip, and to give them to you. Since he's moved on to other sciences, after having started with my lectures, he won’t be attending your lectures, which I also find advisable, since this sort of material would only cause conflict.

I warmly recommend him for your friendship as a clear thinking and hopeful young man. The cause of my inability to produce detailed notes is that, since 1770, I have lectured on logic and metaphysics only publicly, where I get to know far fewer of my students, when I don’t lose track of them altogether. At the same I especially would like to procure for you the “prolegomena” and “ontology” of my metaphysics, following my new lectures, in which the nature of this knowing or reasoning is explained far better than before, and much has gone into the announcement I’m now working on. [AA 10: 245-46; repr. Malter 1990, 151-52]

Ich bin Ihres Auftrages nicht uneingedenk gewesen ob ich gleich nicht sogleich demselben ein Gnüge thun können. Denn kaum ist es mir möglich gewesen eine Nachschrift von einem collegio der philos: Encyclop: aufzutreiben aber ohne Zeit zu haben es durchzusehen oder was daran zu änderen. Ich überschicke es gleichwohl weil darinn vielleicht etwas gefunden oder daraus errathen werden kan was einen systematischen Begrif der reinen Verstandeserkentnisse so fern sie wirklich aus einem princip in uns entspringen erleichtern könte. HE. Kraus dem ich dieses mitgegeben habe hat mir versprochen eine, vielleicht auch zwey Abschriften des Metaph: Collegii auf seiner Reise aufzutreiben und Ihnen abzugeben. Da er sich seit seinem Anfange in meinen Stunden nachdem auf andere Wissenschaften gelegt hat so wird er sich mit Ihren Vorlesungen gar nicht befassen welches ich auch am rathsamsten finde weil dergleichen in Materien von dieser Art nur einen Schauplatz von Streitigkeiten eröfnen würde.

Ich empfehle ihn als einen wohldenkenden und hofnungsvollen iungen Mann Ihrer Freundschaft auf das inständigste. Die Ursache weswegen ich mit Herbeyschaffung ausführlicher Abschriften nicht glücklich gewesen bin ist diese weil ich seit 1770 Logic u. Metaph: nur publice gelesen habe wo ich sehr wenige meiner auditoren kenne die sich auch bald ohne daß man sie auffinden kan verliehren. Gleichwohl wünschete ich vornemlich Prolegomena der Metaph: u. die Ontologie nach meinem neuen Vortrage Ihnen verschaffen zu kennen in welchem die Natur dieses Wissens oder Vernünftelns weit besser wie sonst aus einander gesetzt ist und manches eingeflossen an dessen Bekanntmachung ich ietzt arbeite.


WS 1778/79
Letter: Kant to Herz (January 1779) [index] [top]

[...] How I wish I had a better manuscript to give you than the one Herr Kraus [bio] will deliver to you. If I could have foreseen this last winter I would have made some arrangements with my auditors. Now you will get very little out of these paltry notes, which your genius can nevertheless turn to advantage. When you have no further use for them, Herr Toussaint who is now staying in Berlin will ask for them to return them shortly before Easter. [AA 10: 247; transl. Zweig 1999, 1774]

Wie gerne wünschete ich, daß ich mit etwas besserem als das Manuscript ist, was Ihnen HE. Kraus einhändigen wird, dienen könte. Hätte ich dergleichen im Winter voriges Iahres voraus sehen können, so würde darüber bey meinen Auditoren einige Anstalt getroffen haben. Ietzt wird es Blutwenig seyn was Sie aus diesen armseligen Papieren herausfinden können das gleichwohl ihr genie wuchernd machen kan. Wen sie Ihnen nichts weiter nutzen so wird HE Toussaint, der sich itzt in Berlin aufhält, solche sich von Ihnen ausbitten, um sie kurz vor Ostern zurück zu bringen. [AA 10: 247]

1780s

1780s
Rink [index] [top]

Friedrich Theodore Rink (1770-1811)[bio] summarizes his contact with Kant as follows [1805, 120]: “I was his student from 1786 until 1789. After returning from my travels to Holland and Germany, I was his dinner guest, usually twice per week, in the years 1792 and 1793, as I also was after my return from Curland, from 1795 to 1801.”

His oral presentation itself was simple and unforced. The physical geography was animated by the more general interest in the subject-matter and through his narrative talent, and the anthropology by the many fine observations sprinkled throughout the lectures that he found either in own experiences or from his readings, borrowing especially from the best English novelists. One never left these lectures without learning something and enjoying oneself. The same was true of his logic and metaphysics lectures, at least for those able to follow him, but most of his students would have needed more interest, regardless of their diligence, to rise to the demands of those lectures. And it can’t be denied that already in the 1780s his delivery would from time to time lose some of its liveliness, such that one might have thought he was falling asleep, this opinion strengthened seeing him suddenly collect together his apparently drained energy. This notwithstanding, he remained up to the end a very conscientious teacher, and I can’t recall a single time, other than the usual vacations, that he did not hold class. [Rink 1805, 46-47; repr. Malter 1990, 157-8]

Sin mündlicher Vortrag selbst war simpel und ungesucht. In der physischen Geographie ward er durch das allgemeinere Interesse des Gegenstandes, und durch sein Erzähler-Talent, in der Anthropologie aber durch seine eingestreuten feinen Beobachtungen, die er aus seiner eignen Erfahrung oder aus der Lectüre, wie z. B. nahmentlich der besten englischen Romanenschreiber, entlehnt hatte, belebt. Nie verließ man unbelehrt und ohne angenehme Unterhaltung diese Vorlesungen. Dasselbe galt für den, welcher ihm zu folgen im Stande war, auch von seiner Logik und Metaphysik, aber der größere Theil seiner Zuhörer mag dennoch wohl, bey allem Fleiße, diesen Stunden für sein Bedürfniß ein größeres Interesse gewünscht haben. Und, zu leugnen ist es nicht, schon in den Jahren achtzig des letztvergangenen Jahrhunderts, verlor sein Vortrag zuweilen an Lebhaftigkeit in der Art, daß man hätte glauben mögen, er werde einschlummern; in welcher Meynung man bestärkt werden mußte, wenn man in seiner Körperbewegung dann mit einem Mahl ein plötzliches Zusammennehmen seiner abgespannt scheinenden Kräfte wahrnahm. Desungeachtet blieb er bis in die späteste Zeit ein sehr gewissenhafter Lehrer, und ich bin nicht im Stande, mir ein einziges Mahl den Fall in das Gedächtniß zurückzurufen, daß er, die gewöhnlichen Ferien ausgenommen, auch nur eine Stunde hätte ausfallen lassen.

SS 1782
C. F. Puttlich [index] [top]

Christian Friedrich Puttlich (1763-1836)[bio] was 19 years of age upon his matriculation at the university (23 March 1782), and kept a journal during his years there, including entries for the first days of his classes.

15th April [Monday] went to the first class in logic with Herr Professor Kant about 6:30 in the morning.

16th April [Tuesday]. In the morning I asked Herr Professor Kant to hear the course on physical geography for free and I received it also.

17th April [Wednesday]. I should have heard the physical geography class from 8 until 10 o’clock.

20th April [Saturday]. This morning Herr Professor Kant did not yet repeat the logic, but rather he lectured only on physical geography from 8 until 10. (Warda 1905, 275; repr. Malter 1990, 186)

The logic class on Monday began at 7 AM; this was the first day of classes that semester. As was his custom, Kant would not begin his repetitorium until Saturday following the first week of classes (April 27). Puttlich also confirms the last date for Physical Geography as Sept. 21.


WS 1782/83
C. F. Puttlich [index] [top]

21 September. Professor Kant concluded physical geography.
14 October. Professor Kant began metaphysics, 7-8.
15 October. I went around 9 with Nicolovius to Professor Kant. I asked to take the course for free and Nicolovius pränumierte and subscribed.
16 October. Professor Kant began anthropology. [Warda 1905, 275; repr. Malter 1990, 190]

21. September. Der HE. Professor Kant schloß die physisiche Geographie.
14. October. Der HE. Professor Kant fing von 7-8 die Metaphysik an.
15. October. Ich ging um 9 mit dem HE. Nicolovius zum HE. Prof. Kant. Ich bat mir das Kollegium frey aus u. HE. Nicolovius pränumirirte u. subskribirte.
16. October. Der HE. Professor Kant find die Anthropologie an.


SS 1783
C. F. Puttlich [index] [top]

7 May. This morning at 8 o’clock I went to Prof. Kant, who was beginning his lectures on physical geography. But I decided that I wouldn't repeat it this semester since there was too little time. [Warda 1905, 276; repr. Malter 1990, 239]

7. Mai. Morgens um 8 Uhr ging ich zu HE. Prof. Kant der die physische Geographie zu lesen anfing. Entschloß mich aber zugleich wegen Kürze der Zeit nicht dies Sommerhalbe Jahr zu wiederholen.


WS 1783/84
Letter: Hamann to Herder (26 October 1783) [index] [top]

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788).

[Kant] is now lecturing on philosophical theology to an amazing throng of auditors. [Ziesemer/Henkel 1955-79, v.87; Malter 1990, 240]


1783-93
R. B. Jachmann [index] [top]

Reinhold Bernhard Jachmann (1767-1843)[bio] matriculated at the university on 11 April 1783, became Kant’s amanuensis in 1784, received his Magister degree in 1787, and was serving as a pastor in Marienburg in 1794. (Not to be confused with his older brother, Johann Benjamin, who had also worked as Kant’s amanuensis, and later became a physican.) 

Jachmann’s biography of Kant, published in 1804, primarily describes the years 1783-93, when he would have been in Königsberg, and is arranged in the form of letters, each covering a different aspect of Kant’s life. The fourth letter is devoted to Kant’s lectures, and is translated in its entirety.

Fourth Letter

The characteristics of the Kantian spirit that I sketched in the previous letters gives me occasion to acquaint you with how Kant attended to his teaching duties at the university. As a lecturer, and in the first years of his professorship, Kant held lectures for several hours of the day, and also gave tutorials [Privatissima] to various men of standing, such as the Herzog of Holstein-Beck.[1] Later, he lectured only two hours each day: other than the public lectures on logic, metaphysics and, when it was his turn, pedagogy, he also lectured privately on physics, natural law, moral philosophy, rational theology, anthropology, and physical geography. In the last years he limited himself just to the public lectures and to anthropology and physical geography. For these lessons he chose the early hours of seven to nine, four times in the week,[2] and twice weekly from eight until ten, because on Saturdays he held a Repetition from seven to eight.

Kant was a model of punctuality in all of his lectures. I can’t recall a single instance in the nine years I attended his lectures that he cancelled a class period or even missed a quarter hour. His delivery was entirely free, and in many hours he made no use of a notebook at all, but instead was guided by notes written in the margins of his textbook. He would often bring only a small piece of paper into the lecture on which he had jotted down his thoughts in small, abbreviated writing. For logic he used Meier, for metaphysics he used Baumgarten; but he used these books for little more than ordering the topics, and they occasionally gave him an opportunity to demonstrate the illicitness of their claims. He once intended to use Schultz’s Commentary on his Critique of Pure Reason as a textbook, but never carried out this plan. For his other lectures he prepared special notebooks; except for physics which he based on Erxleben.[3]

His presentations were always perfectly suited to the subject, only it wasn’t memorized, but rather a constantly re-thought outpouring of his mind. Logic was the easiest to grasp of his philosophy lectures; yet it was never his intention merely to recite a logic to his listeners, but rather to teach them to think.

The metaphysics course was also illuminating and pleasant, considering the difficulty of the subject for the beginning thinker. Kant was especially artful in arranging and defining metaphysical concepts, whereby he would attempt to think through the subject in front of his students, just as though he were beginning himself — gradually adding new limiting concepts, little by little improving the explanations already considered, and finally reaching the finished concept which he had thoroughly exhausted and illuminated from all sides — thus acquainting the closely attentive student not just with the subject, but also with methodical thinking. Whoever did not understand this way of his would take his first explanation as the correct and fully exhaustive one, and so would not follow him very closely after that, thus collecting mere half-truths — just as several sets of student notes have convinced me. With these metaphysical speculations it would often happen that Kant’s mental powers would pull him away, pursuing some concept too far and losing sight of the subject in his digression — at which point he would usually interrupt himself with the expression “in sum, gentlemen” and return to the topic at hand.[4] This made his lectures more difficult. Kant also knew quite well that his philosophy lessons were not easy for the beginner, and thus would openly ask the students to prepare themselves first with Professor Pörschke’s lectures.

But above all, you should have heard his moral philosophy! Here Kant was not just a speculative philosopher, but also an impassioned speaker pulling at one’s heart and feelings, while at the same time satisfying the understanding. Yes, it offered a heavenly delight to hear this pure and sublime theory of virtue coming with such powerful and philosophical eloquence from the mouth of its creator. Ah, how often did he move us to tears, how often did he powerfully shake our hearts, how often did he lift our souls and our feelings from the chains of self-seeking eudaimonism to the high self-consciousness of pure freedom of the will, to the unconditioned obedience to the law of reason — to the high feeling of disinterested fulfillment of one’s duty! The immortal sage appeared to us then to be inspired with a divine power — and he also inspired us, so that we listened to him amazed. His students certainly could not leave an hour of his moral theory without being improved.

In his lectures on rational theology, he wanted primarily to contribute to a rational enlightenment in religious matters — so he most enjoyed giving his course when many of the students were in theology. One semester there were so few students for this lecture that he wanted to cancel it, but when he learned that the assembled students were almost all in theology, he lectured anyway, even though for much less pay. He harbored the hope that precisely this course, in which he spoke so convincingly and with such illumination, would spread the clear light of rational religious conviction over his entire fatherland — and he did not deceive himself here, for many apostles went out and taught the gospel of the kingdom of reason.

His lectures on anthropology and physical geography were easier, and the most attractive of his courses. They were also the best attended. Here one saw the deep thinker wander about in the sensible world, illuminating human beings and nature with the torch of his original reason. His perceptive observations, bearing the marks of a deep acquaintance with human beings and nature, occurred in lectures clothed both in wit and geniality, such that every student was charmed. It was a joy to see how these boys would delight in the new prospects of human beings and nature opened up to them — and next to them would sit such learned and intelligent business men, such as the Privy Councilor Morgenbesser and others, who also found a complete nourishment for their souls.

In these lectures Kant was all things to all people, and these were perhaps the most useful for everyday life.

His lecture room, especially at the beginning of the semester, could not hold all the auditors for his public lectures, and quite a few would have to occupy an adjoining room or the hallway. Because his voice was so soft, the greatest silence reigned in his lecture room just so that one could hear him at all. Kant sat somewhat elevated behind a small desk over which he could look out. During the lecture he would usually find someone sitting near the front, and he would look at him in the eye, reading from his face whether he was being understood or not. But then the smallest detail could disturb him; if it was contrary to some natural or traditional order then it would also interrupt the order of his ideas as well. In one hour I was especially struck by his distractedness, and at noon Kant assured me that his thoughts were constantly interrupted because a student sitting right in front of him had a button missing from his coat. His eyes and his thoughts would be involuntarily drawn to this absence, and this is what had so distracted him. He also remarked that it was more or less this way with everyone and that, for example, if the row of teeth in someone’s mouth was interrupted by a missing tooth, one always looked at this gap. He also made this remark several times in his anthropology.[5]

He was just as distracted by any student sitting up front with the conspicuous exterior of the so-called genius, e.g., with hair hanging loose over his forehead and neck, which was unusual back then, and an exposed neck and open collar, the figure of a future incorrigible.

The greatest advantage Kant enjoyed as a professor was a level of respect and honor from his auditors and all members of the university, such as seldom happens to a teacher. The saying that a prophet is not honored in his own land certainly did not apply to him. He was almost deified by his auditors, and they took every opportunity to prove this to him. But he was also a true friend to the students. He enjoyed the open, liberal, tasteful nature and behavior by which the members of the university distinguished themselves from other social ranks, and he disapproved of one student, the son of a merchant, who disowned these externalities of students and dressed himself like a store clerk. Similarly, he took a lively interest in everything concerning the moral refinement and cultivation of the students. He approved of the establishment of what at that time were certainly quite tasteful academic concerts and balls to such an extent that he once actually decided to attend one himself. He was also uncommonly interested in any affair of honor through which the students might distinguish themselves, e.g., the parade at the coronation, and he not only had them explain in great detail their arrangements, but after the parade at the coronation of the king he even visited one of the students in his guard uniform that he might see it for himself.

Above all else he was delighted by any diligence and good manners displayed by students. In his Repetitions, giving proof of one’s diligence and attentiveness was the surest way for a student to win his favor. But he expressed his displeasure quite openly, even in the lecture hall, if during the repetition-hour a student was unable to give an answer.

He was a strict examiner in his role as dean of the Philosophy Faculty, but he certainly required nothing more of the entering student than could be expected, given the condition of the schools at that time. I had the fortune to be examined by him when I entered the university, and after several years I forced a good-natured smile from him when I recounted how Daubler, our good old rector, was really quite anxious about the examination, especially because we had studied philosophy at the school from a follower of Crusius and a declared enemy of Kant,[6] and that the inspector of the school, out of worry that we might not pass the examinations and because of the demand, took the trouble to hold yet another logic course for us. But Kant was too much the philosopher to examine a student in either Crusius’ philosophy or anyone else’s.

He conducted the office of university rector with dignity, but not with a heavy-hand. The students seemed to avoid coarser misdemeanors out of respect for the great man, and as for himself, he handled forgivable mistakes with fatherly mildness. [Jachmann 1804, 26-38; 1912, 131-37; repr. Malter 1990, 217-22]


[1] Friedrich Karl Ludwig, Herzog von Holstein-Beck (1757-1816), heard Kant’s physical geography privatissimum in WS 1772/73 [Adickes 1911, 18].

[2] It is misleading to say that Kant chose to teach at these times. He was in fact required by law to offer his public lectures at this hour and on these days. Before he was a professor, he never taught before 8 AM. He once remarked that he needed to hire a servant to wake him each morning, as he had difficulty rising so early.

[3] Johann Christian Polykarp Erxleben, Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre [Gottingen 1772].

[4] See Borowski’s description of this same behavior [1912, 86; repr. Malter 1990, 26].

[5] Anthropologie [AA 7:132].

[6] Jachmann attended the Altstadt School in Königsberg. He matriculated at the university on April 11, 1783, so his years at Altstadt would have been the 4-6 previous years. The Crusian philosophy teacher was almost certainly Daniel Weymann (1732-1795), an early enemy of Kant’s who lectured alongside him since the 1750s. Weymann had been singled out (along with Wlochatius) by the government in a ban on teaching Crusius handed down in 1775. His last announced lectures at the university for SS 1780. He had been the conrector (1762), prorector (1774), and finally the rector (1785) of the Altstadt School.


Fifteenth Letter

In general he really liked his snuff, but did not think it appropriate to bring a snuff-box with him to lecture; and so he also did not enjoy seeing any student sitting nearby who, through the frequent use of his own tobacco, would arouse his own appetite. In his study, he never kept a handkerchief next to him, but rather on a chair across the room, so that he would occasionally be required to get up. [Jachmann 1912, 193-94]

Überhaupt liebte er den Schnupftobak sehr, hielt es aber nicht für schicklich, in seine Vorlesungen eine Dose mitzunehmen; daher er es denn auch nicht gerne sah, wenn seine nahe vor ihm sitzenden Zuhörer durch den öfteren Gebrauch des Tobaks seinen Appetit darnach erregten. Das Schnupftuch hatte er in seiner Studierstube nie bei sich, sondern auf einem entfernten Stuhle liegen, um dadurch bisweilen zum Aufstehen genötigt zu werden.


SS 1785
C. F. Puttlich [index] [top]

13 April. Went around 7:30 to Prof. Kant in order to hear again the lectures on physical geography [which began today]. I also spoke with Nicolovius and Fleischer there. The lecture room was quite full of students. [Warda 1905, 279; repr. Malter 1990, 262]

30 April. The repeaters and the students listening for free had to sign-in with Kant today, so that the repeaters would not be able to attend the lectures another time. Those wanting to repeat it a second time are denied. Nor did anyone complain of this. I repeated it for the first time, since I hadn’t heard it for two years.[1] [Warda 1905, 280]

17. September. Kant concluded the lectures on physical geography today. He went rather quickly at the end, and seemed to lecture quite carelessly. [Warda 1905, 282; repr. Malter 1990, 268]

13. April. .... ging um 7 1/2 Uhr zu Herrn Prof. Kant, um die Vorlesungen in der Physischen Geographie zum erstenmahl zu wiederholden. Ich sprach da auch den Nikolovius u. den Fleischer. Der Hörsaal war sehr voll Zuhörer.

30. April. Bey Kant mußten sich die Repetenten u. die Gratuiti zur physischen Geographie unterzeichnen, damit die Repetenten nicht noch einmal wiederholen sollten. Denen die sie zum 2ten mahl nun wiederholen wollten, wurde es versagt. Es meldete sich auch keiner davon. Ich wiederholte sie nun auch zum erstenmal, da ich sie seit 2 Jahren nicht gehört. Kant machte diese Einrichtung um der Zuhörer willen, die die physische Geographie nun zum erstenmal hörten. Kant hatte seine Stuben gar nicht ausmöbliert, nur Rousseaus Bildniß hing über seinem Schreibpult. Das was er heute von dem Gewässer u. dem Kontinent unsrer Erde sagte, was mir größtenteils aus Bergmanns physikalischer Weltbreschreibung bekannt, die er sehr benutzte.

17. September. Kant schloß heute die Vorlesungen über die physische Geographie. Er eilte sehr am Ende u. schien mit großer Nachlässigkeit zu lesen.


[1] Puttlich last heard the physical geography lectures in SS 1783.


Easter 1786
F. T. Rink [index] [top]

Friedrich Theodor Rink (1770-1811)[bio] was a close associate of Kant in his later years, and author of an 1805 biography, from which comes the following description of the ceremony beginning Kant's first term as rector of the university. This same incident is recounted in Hamann’s letter to F. H. Jacobi of 23 April 1786 [repr. Malter 1990, 297] — thus, written the very day of the event. We learn there that the student was a disturbed medical student. The outgoing rector should have been Johann Christoph Bohlius [bio], the professor of medicine, but since he had died during his rectorate, the prorector — Holtzhauer [bio], a professor of law — finished out his term (the prorector is always the rector from the previous semester). The speech that Kant gave at this event was not preserved.

It also just so happened that Kant’s rectorate, from Easter to Michaelmas 1786, was one of the noisiest, and began as such almost immediately. As the outgoing Prorector, the late Doctor and Professor Holtzhauer, gave his retirement speech, and Kant had just begun his inaugural speech, a former student who was out of his mind quickly pushed his way through the audience, put himself next to Kant on the higher lectern of the large academic lecture hall, pulled out a paper and, just as he was beginning to announce his lectures, was removed from the premises by a superior number of hands. [Rink 1805, 49-50; repr. Malter 1990, 298]

Uebrigens traf es sich zufällig, daß sein Rectorat, von Ostern bis Michaelis 1786 eines der Geräuschvollesten war; und so kündigte es sich gewissermaßen gleich anfänglich an, indem, als der abgehende damahlige Prorector, der verstorbne Doctor und Professor Holzhauer, sine Abdankungsrede gehalten, und Kant seine Antrittsrede eben angefangen hatte, sich ein ehemahliger Studirender, der aber seines Verstandes nich mächtig war, schnell zwischen den Zuhörern durchdrängte, sich neben den letztern, auf dem obern Catheder des größern academischen Hörsaales hinstellte, ein Papier hervorzug, und in dem Augenblicke seine Vorlesungen ankündigte, als er auch schon wieder durch eine überlegnere Zahl von Händen, von dieser nicht für ihn bestimmten Stelle entfernt ward.


1786
Rink [index] [top]

Friedrich Theodor Rink (1770-1811)[bio] was a close associate of Kant in his later years, and author of an 1805 biography, from which comes the following:

Rink (1805, 40-43; repr. Malter 1990, 288-90)


March 1786
Letter: J. G. Hamann to F. H. Jacobi (March 1786) [index] [top]

Kant kein Herkules, sondern ein wahrer Jünger des Prometheus, welcher aber gegenwärtig in seinen Vorlesungen der Offenbarung ein Haufen Douceurs sagt. Maske! Maske! eine sehr wahre Weißagung im Munde Mendelssohns, wie er selbst der Aethiopier, der Sie als einen Berliner beurtheilt, aber durch Ihre eigene Schuld und Politik.


March 1786
Letter: J. G. Hamann to F. H. Jacobi (before 25 March 1786) [index] [top]

Kant wird zum ersten mal Rector Magnificus, und der Actus geschieht am Sonntage Quasimodogeniti, den Tag nach seinem Geburtstage. Bey seiner Wahl sind viele Schwierigkeiten gewesen, die Kraus durch eine meisterhafte Deduction erläutert und gehoben, welche ich ohne sein Wißen zu lesen bekommen. Kant hat sich auf eine sehr edle philosophische Art dabey betragen, die seinem guten Character, den ihm niemand absprechen kann, Ehren macht. Er arbeitet jetzt an einer neuen Auflage seiner Kritik...


May 1786
Letter: J. G. Hamann to F. H. Jacobi (4 May 1786) [index] [top]

I went to Kant’s around 6 o’clock [in the morning] with my Michel. One has to look for a place to sit an hour before he starts to lecture, at least in the first month at the beginning of the semester, so great is his popularity. [Ziesemer/Henkel, vi.380; repr. Malter 1990, 300]

Gieng schon um 6 Uhr mit meinem Michel aus, der zu Kant eine Stunde früher, als er liest, einen Platz sich aussuchen muß wenigstens die ersten Monathe beym Anfang eines Semester so gewaltig ist sein Zulauf.

Kant would have begun his logic lectures that Monday.


September 1788
Theodor von Schön (1773-1856) [index] [top]

Heinrich Theodor von Schön [bio] matriculated at Königsberg on 25 October 1788 as a law student, and attended at least Kant’s anthropology and metaphysics lectures, as we have his student notes from these classes. The following comes from an autobiographical sketch.

I entered the university in the fall of 1788. My tutor, Berger[1] (later the pastor in Liebstadt) brought me to Königsberg. Prof. Kraus [bio] (Professor of Practical Philosophy, later famous as an economist) was the Dean [of the Philosophy Faculty]. He asked me about history, mathematics, and requested that I translate from Latin into German. After that he gave me the “Faculty Document” [the signum depositionis] and said to me: If you want to be a farmer, then you have enough knowledge for the university. But if you want to lead a scientific life, then you need languages, and since of the old languages you know only Latin, then you need to study this more thoroughly. That was so important to me that I joined a society that very semester that read Latin authors under the instruction of Cruse [bio] (later a professor at Mitau). I later studied Cicero on my own, with pen in hand.
After I finished matriculating with the Rector[2], my tutor brought me to Kant. As a student, my father had attended a privatissima with Kant,[3] and since then had maintained a connection so that they would talk whenever my father came to Königsberg, and send greetings whenever there was an opportunity. At the request of my father, my tutor asked Kant to decide which lectures I should attend. At that time, the first year for all students was devoted to general education, the the “bread studies”[4] beginning in full only after three semesters. Kant said: In order to become acquainted with the range of the areas of science, I should attend “General Encyclopedia” with Prof. Kraus; in mathematics I needed to determine my own level; I should attend “Logic” with Prof. Pörschke [bio] in order to prepare for Kant’s logic lectures, and also attend Kant’s anthropology lectures. I attended the lectures regularly, read the textbook material before it was presented in class, but I was far from being a study-grind; quite to the contrary, I always had time left over. In the first years I lived in the house of Reformed preacher Andersch,[5] and this without prescriptions or rules — this family life, and especially the occasional tossed-off remarks, did me well.

Im Jahre 1788, Michaelis wurde ich Student. Mein Hauslehrer Berger (nachher Pfarrer in Liebstadt) brachte mich nach Königsberg. Prof. Kraus (Profeßor der praktischen Philosophie später als Staatswirth berühmt) war [64] Dekan. Er fragte, Geschichte, Matematik, u. verlangte, daß ich aus dem Deutschen in's Lateinische übersetze. Darauf gab er mir das Fakultätsdokument, u. sagte mir: Wollen Sie künftig Landwirth seyn, so haben Sie zureichende Kenntniß für die Universität. Wollen Sie aber ein Wissenschaftliches Leben führen, so müßen Sie die Sprache u. da Sie von den alten Sprachen, nur die Lateinische kennen, diese gründlicher studiren. Das war mir so wichtig, daß ich noch in diesem Halbjahre, einer Gesellschaft beitrat, welch[e] unter Annleitung des nachherigen profeßor Cruse in Mitau, Lateinische Autoren las. Später studirte ich Cicero für mich mit der Feder in der Hand.
Nachdem die Matrikel vom Rector gelöset war, brachte mich mein Lehrer zu Kant. Mein Vater hatte als Student ein Privatissimum bey Kant gehört, [65] u. seit der Zeit waren sie in dem Verhältniß geblieben, daß, wenn mein Vater nach Königsberg kam, sie sich sprachen, u. wenn Gelegenheit zum Gruß war, sie sich grüßen ließen. Mein Lehrer bat, auf Auftrag meines Vaters Kant, die Vorlesungen zu bestimmen, welche ich hören sollte. Damals war bey allen Studenten, das erste Studienjahr nur der Allg. Bildung gewidmet, die Brodstudien fingen vollständig erst, nach 1 1/2 Jahren an. Kant sagte: Um den Umfang des wissenschaftlichen Gebiets kennen zu lernen, sollte ich Allg. Enzyklopädie bey Prof. Kraus hören, in den Elementen der Mathematik müßte ich mich festsetzen: bei Prof. Pörschke möchte ich Logik, als Vorbereitung zu seiner Vorlesung über Logik, und bei ihm Anthropologie hören. Ich besuchte regelmäßig die Vorlesungen, las vorher im Compendio das, was vorkommen würde, aber von einem eigentlich Studio war noch nicht die [66] Rede: Im Gegentheile hatte ich immer Zeit übrig. Im ersten Jahre lebte ich im Hause des reformirten Hauptprediger Andersch, ohne Vorschriften oder Regeln zu geben, wirkte dies Familienleben und besonders die einzelnen, hingeworfenen Bemerkungen wohlthätig auf mich. [von Schön 2006, 63-66]


[1] Friedrich Anton Berger (1760-1825).

[2] Johann Ernst Schulz (1742-1806), the 2nd professor of theology [bio].

[3] Johann Theodor von Schön matriculated at the university on 25 May 1761, and so would have been studying at the same time as Herder.

[4] These would be courses in one of the three “higher faculties”: theology, medicine, or law.

[5] Ernst Daniel Andersch (1731-1802) was the oldest son of Daniel Andersch (1701-1771), in whose home Kant lived for a few years as a tutor to the three youngest children: PaulBenjain, Timotheus, and Christian Eberhard [more]. Ernst Daniel had been living in Königsberg since 1753, and since 1763 was the preacher of the German-Reformed congregation in Königsbeg..

1790s

January 1791
Schulz, J. C. F. [index] [top]

Joachim Christian Friedrich Schulz (1762-1798)[bio] was a popular author of his day, publishing an astonishing quantity of novels, translations, and travelogues. Born in Magdeburg, his travels took him to Paris, northern Italy, Vienna, Dresden, Weimar, Berlin, Warsaw, Königsberg, and Mitau. He published important accounts of revolutionary Paris and of the political maneuverings in Warsaw leading up to the second partitioning of Poland. 

In the obituary of Schulz published in Schlichtegroll [Nekrolog auf das Jahr 1797 (Gotha, 1801), vol. 2, pp. 115-44], we find on pp. 126-30 a long passage where the author quotes from an account of Schulz’s travel from Berlin to Mitau to assume his teaching post at the Academia Petrina. The letter is claimed to have been from early 1791, and another source claims he began teaching in January, so the descriptions in the letter apparently stem from January 1791. The trip to Mitau brought him first to Königsberg, a six day journey from Berlin that required traveling by night as well (Schulz found some of this territory quite unsettling — thick forests infested with hungry wolves and questionable people). The passage is written in the form of a letter, and it may well have been an actual letter, although he often published travel literature using this format; the obituary leaves unclear whether this passage comes from personal correspondence or from some published work. While in Königsberg, Schulz visited Kant, Hippel [bio], and Kraus [bio], among others, and offers the following account:

Kant, the matador of heads here and elsewhere, drew my greatest attention, as you might well imagine, and I am happy to be able to assure you that my expectations of him as a person were exceeded. His exterior presents the image of a good, honest watchmaker, who has retired. A small, flat wig with a very small, three-cornered toupee, that stands out like the small gable of a little house, with three curls set in a triangle, and a flat hair-bag that is too large for the little wig, covers this great head. In spite of his age, his eyes are still quite lively. His color is somewhat of a forced red, and his nose somewhat artificially blue-red with little copper dots. The hair sticking out in back from under the wig is a milky white, likewise his narrow eyebrows. He is small from nature, withered, hunched, with his head bent forward. He mumbles through his teeth when he speaks. But what he says is thought out. I have never met a man who could speak about so much, and with such precision, and be able to say something new. Thus he speaks about matters of poetry as about philosophy, over politics as about economics, with the craftsman as with the scholar — it is all the same for him. This is why he is so sought after in society here, or rather used to be sought, for he has lately drawn back a bit, as he is beginning to feel his age. But he is still generally treasured and popular, and this circumstance is all the more praiseworthy for him since he is a native of Königsberg and, according to the rule, should be treated indifferently as a prophet in his own land, especially since one knows that he is the son of very poor parents, and had been able to study only with the financial help of an honorable shoemaker. Other than that, he lives in his small house on a side street. Outwardly and inwardly he displays the highest philosophical frugality, and there is no sign of painted walls, of busts, and the like. He is not married, and lives out his quiet life with an old man-servant and a female cook who is just as old. His coat is of a light brown color [von heller Karmelitfarbe], with very small mother-of-pearl buttons that button all the way down. His boots, from which he does not part, are so-called lace-up boots, with flaps that he pulls up over his knees. There you have him, in the flesh. I spent the largest part of my stay here with him, and it was very pleasant and informative. The entire turn of his mind is to electrify others, even in casual conversation. One cannot talk to him about the least thing without him pointing out some new side or view of the matter. He is one of the people I would like to have sit for a portrait of honesty, were I ever to have one painted. I could find not the slightest trace of pretension within him, but instead he seemed wholly unaware of a great many of his advantages and characteristics.

The privy councillor von Hippel [bio] betrays what he is almost from the first glance: an homme habile.  He started out quite small, and after this beginning, became quite large. He combines three very profitable positions in one person and maintains, after the local fashion, a good house, is a splendid host, and a fine man. He is tall and has strong, masculine features that betray a certain firmness and steadfastness, but also an openness — which however, everything considered, is not so open, for which reason it is all the more effective. He also is not married, and he gets by, etc.

Professor Kraus [bio] is a very excellent mind, but known only here and in the literature at Jena. For the latter he writes splendid reviews, which you have certainly already seen in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, in the area of statistics. He also seems to have little sense of his good mind, studies himself hypochondriacally and studies everything, like Kant, and is also nearly as learned and entertaining. He is a sworn enemy of all affectation and puffery.

Kant, der Matador der hiesigen und vieler andern Köpfe, zog, wie Sie denken können, meine größeste Aufmerksamkeit auf sich, und ich freue mich, Ihnen versichern zu können, daß meine Erwartungen von ihm als Mensch [127] übertroffen worden sind. Sein Aeußeres giebt den Anblick eines guten, ehrlichen Uhrmachers, der sich zur Ruhe gesetzt hat. Eine kleine kahle Perücke mit einem ganz kleinen dreyeckigten Toupet, das wie der kleine Giebel an einem kleinen Hause aussteht, mit drey Lokken in einen Triangle gestellt, und einem platten, aber größern Haarbeutel, als er eigentlich zu der kleinen Perücke paßt, bedeckt diesen großen Kopf. Seine Augen sind, seines Alters ungeachtet, noch ziemlich munter. Seine Farbe ist etwas gezwungen roth, und seine Nase etwas künstlich blauroth, mit kleinen Kupferpünktchen. Sein Haar, das unter der Perücke hinten heraussteht, ist schloßenweis, und eben so seine dünnen Augenbraunen. Von Natur ist er klein, dürr, gekrümmt, mit vorgesenktem Halse. Beym Sprechen nüsselt er über die Zähne. Aber was er spricht, ist gedacht. Mir ist nie ein Mann vorgekommen, der so über Alles sprechen und mit so viel Präcision und so neu sprechen könnte. So spricht er über Gegenstände der Dichtkunst, wie über Philosophie, über Politik, wie über Oekonomie, mit dem Handwerker wie mit dem Gelehrten, alles ist ihm gleich. Daher kommt es, daß er von [128] den hiesigen Societäten sehr gesucht wird, oder vielmehr gesucht wurde; denn seit einiger Zeit, wo er das Alter immer schwerer zu fühlen anfängt, hat er sich mehr zurückgezogen. Aber er ist immer noch allgemein geschätzt und beliebt, und dieser Umstand ist für ihn um so rühmlicher, als er ein geborner Königsberger ist, und, nach der Regel, als Prophet in seinem Vaterlande gleichgültig behandelt werden sollte, zumal, da man weis, daß er der Sohn sehr armer Aeltern ist, und von einem ehrlichem Schuhmacher so viel bekommen hat, daß er studiren konnte. Uebrigens wohnt er in seinem kleinen Hause in einer abgelegenen Straße. Auswendig und inwendig zeigt sich allerhöchste philosophische Frugalität, und an gemalte Wände, an Büsten u. dgl. ist nicht gedacht. Er ist nicht verheyrathet, und lebt mit einem alten Bedienten und einer eben so alten Köchin sein stilles Leben fort. Sein Leibrock ist von heller Karmelitfarbe, mit ganz kleinen Perlemutterknöpfen, den er bis nach unten zuknöpft. Seine Stiefeln, von denen er sich nicht trennt, sind sogenannte Schnierstiefeln, mit Laschen, die er bis über die Knie heraufzieht. So haben Sie ihn, wie er leibt und lebt. Ich habe [129] den größesten Theil meines hiesigen Aufenthalts bey ihm zugebracht, und sehr angenehm und lehrreich. Die ganze Wendung seines Geistes ist dazu gemacht, andere, selbst im Umgange, zu elektrisiren. Man kann mit ihm nicht über den geringsten Gegenstand sprechen, ohne daß sich nicht daran neue Seiten und Aussichten hervorthäten. Auch ist er einer von den Menschen, die ich zu einem Bilde der Ehrlichkeit sitzen lassen würde, wenn ich sie einmal gemalt haben wollte.  Von Prätension habe ich nicht die mindeste Spur bey ihm gefunden, aber wohl, daß er von einer Menge seiner Vorzüge und Eigenthümlichkeiten gar nichts weis. — Der Geh. Rath v. Hippel verräth, fast auf den ersten Blick, was er ist: einen homme habile. Er hat sehr klein angefangen und ist, nach diesem Anfange, sehr groß geworden. Er verbindet drey sehr einträgliche Stellen in Einer Person, macht ein, nach hiesiger Art, gutes Haus, ist ein splendider Wirth, und ein feiner Mann. Er ist groß und hat starke, männliche Züge, die eine gewisse Festigkeit und Beharrlichkeit, auch eine Offenheit, verrathen, die aber, alles zusammengenommen, so far offen nicht ist, aber darum destoweniger ihrer Wir- [130] kung verfehlt. Er ist auch nicht verheyrathet und behilft sich u. — Der Prof. Krause ist ein sehr ausgezeichneter Kopf, aber nur hier und in der Literatur zu Jena bekannt. Denn für diese macht er die trefflichen Recensionen, die Sie gewiß zuweilen im Fache der Statistik in der A. L. Zeit. ausgezeichnet haben werden. Auch er scheint von seinem guten Kopfe wenig zu wissen, studirt sich hypochondrish und studirt Alles, wie Kant, ist auch fast eben so lehrreich und unterhaltend. Er ist ein geschworner Feind all Ziererey und Windbeuteley.

SS 1791
Fichte [index] [top]

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814)[bio] visited Kant’s lecture on Monday, 4 July 1791, and made the following entry into his diary about Kant, who was 67 at the time.

He seems sleepy to me. [Fichte, Gesamtausgabe, vol. II.1, p. 415; repr. in Malter 1990, 372]

Er schien mir schläfrig.

In a letter to Wenzel composed at the same time, Fichte wrote that ...

I will probably stay in Königsberg until Michaelmas, studying Kantian philosophy, doing whatever I can to free up my mind, which had been for so long in servitude. I still don't know whether Kant will help me much, which was the main reason for coming to Königsberg. His lectures are not as useful as his writings. His weak body is worn out from lodging so great a mind. Kant is already very frail, and his memory is starting to leave him. [...]

Ich werde wahrscheinlich bis Michaelis in Königsberg bleiben, Kantische Philosophie studiren, alles anwenden, um meinem Geiste, der nun wieder so lange dienstbar war, einen neuen freien Schwung zu geben. Ob Kant, in Rüksicht auf welchen ich vorzüglich nach Königsberg ging, mir viel helfen werde, weiß ich noch nicht. Seine Collegia sind nich so brauchbar, als seine Schriften. Sein schwächlicher Körper ist es müde einen so großen Geist zu beherbergen. Kant is schon sehr hinfällig, u. das gedächtniß fängt an ihn zu verlaßen. Bei Gelegenheit der Kantischen Philosophie, in der ich mich immer inniger weide — ich erwarte sie auch noch da. Ihr unverdorbenes Herz bedarf einer Moral, (versteht sich einer wißenschaftlichen, denn daß Sie eine für's Leben haben, wer könnte daran zweifeln.) u. ich bin von Ihrer Consequenz überzeugt, daß sie Ihnen über kurz oder lang (sicher bestimmen) wird, daß Sie nach Ihren jezigen Prinzipien keine haben können. [qtd. in Malter 1990, 375]


WS 1791/92
Quarrelling over Seats in Kant’s Classroom: The Lehmann/Pfeifer Incident [index] [top]

In the first protocol, dated December 9, 1791, Kant’s amanuensis, the student Johann Heinrich Immanuel Lehmann [bio], brought suit against the student Pfeifer for instigating a disturbance in Kant’s auditorium: “Yesterday [Thursday, December 8, 1791] morning, before 7 o’clock and before Kant came into the auditorium to hold his lecture on metaphysics, various students had already gathered. The arrangement of this auditorium is just like many others, with some tables intended for those students who wish to take notes, while students who do not want to write must be content with benches without tables. Prof. Kant had often given me the task, as his amanuensis, to let only those students sit at the tables who really took notes, and direct the others to the remaining places.” Two students, Johannes Pfeifer (matriculated in the theology faculty on September 29, 1789) and a student named Hermes (possibly Karl Daniel Ernst Hermes, who matriculated April 13, 1791 in the law faculty) began arguing over a seat in the auditorium. Lehmann vainly attempted to bring them to order. “I went upstairs to Prof. Kant, reported the incident to him, and was instructed to make my complaint about this in the Officio Rect. [presumably: the office of the university rector] ... Prof. Kant then came to give the lecture. Before he began, he said that such an incident had never occurred before in his auditorium, and that if any of the students had a quarrel then they must settle it in the street, otherwise he would not hold any more lectures. After this admonishment Prof. Kant began his lecture.”

Lehmann filed the suit “in part and primarily in the name of Professor Kant, from whom I have been expressly authorized in this matter.”

In Pfeifer’s inquiry protocol, the accused [Pfeifer] contested Lehmann’s claim that he was filing suit on instructions from Kant, and that Kant had expressly assured him that the matter did not concern him. Lehmann then submitted the following handwritten “Declaration” from Kant:

That the theology student Joh. Heinr. Imman. Lehman the 8th Dec. after 7 o’clock in the morning reported to me: The student Pfeifer had injured him verbally and physically and thus caused in my auditorium ill-mannered quarreling; of which I indicated to all the gathered students my displeasure as soon as I entered into this same auditorium, and asked them to remember to not bring about such behavior in my auditorium, but rather to settle elsewhere any quarrels they might have among themselves. I witness herewith at his [Lehmann’s] request. Königsberg, the 13th of December 1791. I. Kant.”

Witnesses were then examined and a judgment made: Pfeifer was given a two-week jail sentence, and it was emphasized that it was especially severe because it concerned the amanuensis of Prof. Kant. Pfeifer appealed the judgment and petitioned the King on March 3, 1792. He contested the claim that Kant had requested that Lehmann bring suit against him: “I went to Prof. Kant and asked him whether he had asked Lehmann to bring suit against me. He answered most politely: ‘I have nothing at all to do with the matter; I believe that Lehmann brought suit against you. I was not present at the conflict, and I also will not mix myself into it. You need to settle this matter with Lehmann by yourself.’ I asked his forgiveness, if I had caused any disturbance in his auditorium. He said that he was not at all bothered, and gladly forgave me. The testimony that Prof. Kant gave at Lehmann’s request merely shows that Lehmann had come to him and that Kant had then admonished the students to be quiet. But Lehmann said in his complaint that Prof. Kant said: one should settle one’s quarrels in the street, or else he would not hold any more lectures. Professor Kant did not say this.” But since his appeal was rejected, Pfeifer made a plea for clemency. As a result of this an inquiry was made of the university by Berlin as to Pfeifer’s moral conduct. Kant and other professors signed an opinion favorable to Pfeifer. As a result of this, Pfeifer was granted a monetary penalty; and upon a renewed petition the entire process against him was struck down. [Paleikat 1920, 415-17; repr. Malter 1990, 379-81; see also Hans Koeppen, “Eine studentische Auseinandersetzung im Horsaal Kants” in Preußenband, 10 (1972): 9-11; and Stark 1994a, 104-5]


WS 1791
Letter: Kant to Reinhold (21 September 1791) [index] [top]

Karl Leonard Reinhold (1757-1823)[bio] belonged to Kant's earliest supporters.

[...] Since about two years ago my health has undergone a drastic change. Without any actual illness (other than a cold that lasted three weeks) or any visible cause, I have lost my accustomed appetite, and although my physical strength and sensations have not diminished, my disposition for mental exertion and even for lecturing have suffered greatly. I can devote only two or three uninterrupted hours in the morning to intellectual work, for I am then overcome with drowsiness (regardless of how much sleep I have had the night before), and I am forced to work at intervals, which slows up my work. [...] [#487, AA 11:288; Zweig transl.]

Seit etwa zwei Jahren hat sich mit meiner Gesundheit, ohne sichtbare Ursache und ohne wirkliche Krankheit (wenn ich einen etwa 3 Wochen dauernden Schnupfen ausnehme), eine plötzliche Revolution zugetragen, welche meine Appetite in Ansehung des gewohnten täglichen Genusses schnell umstimmte, wobei zwar meine körperlichen Kräfte und Empfindungen nichts litten, allein die Disposition zu Kopfarbeiten, selbst zu Lesung meiner Kollegien, eine große Veränderung erlitt. Nur zwei bis drei Stunden vormittags kann ich zu den ersteren anhaltend anwenden, da sie dann durch eine Schläfrigkeit (unerachtet des besten gehabten Nachtschlafs) unterbrochen wird und ich genötigt werde, nur mit Intervallen zu arbeiten, mit denen die Arbeit schlect fortrückt, [...]


Early 1790s
Hippel [index] [top]

Theodore Gottlieb von Hippel (1775-1843) was a nephew to Kant’s friend by the same name [bio], after whom he was named. Like his uncle, he was born in Gerdauen, and then was sent to Königsberg to attend the Burgschule, and later the university. In later life he became a well-known Prussian statesman. While still a child at the Burgschule, however, he met the future-author E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), a fellow pupil one year his junior, and who was being raised in the home of his grandmother, in Königsberg, with an uncle serving as an (unfortunate) father figure. Hippel and Hoffmann became close friends, although their ways parted somewhat at the university (Hippel matriculated on 14 Mar 1791, Hoffmann a year later on 27 Mar 1792). They both appear to have attended some of Kant’s lectures (at this time, Kant was offering just five subjects: Logic and Physical Geography during the summer semesters, and Metaphysics and Anthropology during the winter semesters. During WS 1793/94, he also offered (for the last time) a set of lectures on the Metaphysics of Morals (for which we have a set of notes, from Vigilantius). The following excerpt was written by Hippel in 1822, on the occasion of Hoffmann’s death.

Hoffmann’s early student years were unremarkable. Since he entered the university later than the friend, their earlier plans of living together were given up. Nor did they meet later on in the lectures. Their class schedules differed from one another just as much as the spirits of their uncles, who had arranged them.

In this case, Hoffmann viewed the study of law entirely in the spirit of his uncle: simply as a means to quickly earn a living and get out of his grandmother’s house. His soul belonged to the arts. Anything not directly related to this end or with his practical studies did not concern him. He took the straightest path to his goal. Kant’s lectures therefore left him cold, which he openly admitted that he didn’t understand, however much the custom of the day demanded that everyone graduating from the school [the Burgschule] was to begin their studies with Kant’s courses on logic, metaphysics, and ethics — undigested and misunderstood, one can imagine. The most understandable of his lectures, Anthropology and Physical Geography, were the least attended. [Müller 1912, 18]

Die erste Studentenzeit Hoffmanns bietet nichts Merkwürdiges dar. Da er die Universität später als der Freund bezog, hörte das Beysammenleben, dessen wir oben gedacht in der Schule auf. Auch trafen sie späterhin in den Vorlesungen nicht zusammen. Ihr Studienplan divergirte eben so von einander, wie die Geister der beyden Oheime, von denen derselbe angeordnet war.

Hoffmann betrachtete, für diesen Fall ganz im Geiste seines Oheims, das Studium der Jurisprudenz nur als das Mittel, bald Brot zu erwerben und bald aus dem großmütterlichen Hause zu kommen. Seine Seele gehörte den Künsten. Was mit diesen, oder mit der Brodwissenschaft nicht in unmittelbarer Beziehung stand, berührte ihn nicht. Geradesten Weges ging er auf sein Ziel los. Ihm blieben daher auch die Kantschen Vorlesungen fremd, die er nicht zu verstehen unverhohlen zugab, wiewohl die Sitte seiner Zeit es forderte, daß jeder aus der Schule eben Entlassene seinen Kursus mit Logic, Metaphysik und Moralphilosophie bey Kant anfangen mußte — wie unverdaut und unverstanden, ist leicht zu erachten —. Die verständlichsten seiner Vorlesungen, Anthropologie und physische Geographie, wurden am wenigsten besucht.


SS 1793
Thibaut [index] [top]

Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut (1772-1840)[bio] eventually became a professor of law at Kiel, Jena, and lastly Heidelberg. He matriculated at Königsberg on 31 May 1793.

Several times I heard him begin his lectures by saying: I lecture not for geniuses, as they will by their own nature chart their own course; nor for the stupid, as it isn’t worth the trouble; but rather for those who stand in between, who want to be educated for their future careers.... [Repr. Malter 1990, 398]

Mehrmals hörte ich ihn bei dem Anfange seiner Vorlesungen den Zuhörern sagen: ich lese nicht für die Genies, denn diese brechen sich nach ihrer Natur selbst die Bahn; nicht für die Dummen, denn sie sind nicht der Mühe werth; aber für die, welche in der Mitte stehen, und für ihren künftigen Beruf gebildet seyn wollen.


After October 12, 1794
Kant to Friedrich Wilhelm II [index] [top]

In a letter to his king, Friedrich Wilhelm II, in response to a censoring by Wollner, the Cultural Minister, Kant remarks upon the content of his teaching as regards religion:

As for the first complaint against me, that I have misused my philosophy to disparage Christianity, my conscientious self-vindication is as follows:
1. As an educator of the youth, that is, in my academic lectures, I have never been guilty of this sort of thing. Aside from the testimony of my auditors, to which I appeal, this is sufficiently demonstrated by the fact that my pure and merely philosophical instruction has conformed to A. G. Baumgarten’s textbooks, in which the subject of Christianity does not even occur, nor can it occur. It is impossible to accuse me of overstepping the limits of a philosophical investigation of religion in my teaching.
[...][#178, AA 11: 527-28; Zweig tr.]

Was das Erste, nämlich die gegen mich erhobene Anklage eines Mißbrauchs meiner Philosophie durch Abwürdigung des Christenthums betrifft, so ist meine gewissenhafte Verantwortung folgende:
1. Das ich mir als Lehrer der Jugend, mithin in akademischen Vorlesungen dergleichen nie habe zu Schulden kommen lassen, welches außer dem Zeugniß meiner Zuhörer, worauf ich mich berufe, auch die Beschaffenheit derselben als reiner blos philosophischer Unterweisung nach A. G. Baumgarten's Handbüchern, in denen der Titel vom Christenthum gar nicht vorkommt, noch vorkommen kann, hinreichen beweist. Daß ich in der vorliegenden Wissenschaft die Grenzen einer philosophischen Religionsuntersuchung überschritten habe, ist ein Vorwurf, der mir am wenigsten wird gemacht werden können.


WS 1794/95
C. F. Reusch [index] [top]

Christian Friedrich Reusch (1778-1848)[bio] was the son of Karl Daniel Reusch [bio], Kant’s colleague and the professor of physics. He began his studies at Königsberg with WS 1793/94, and so could have heard the logic lectures during SS 1794 and the metaphysics lectures in WS 1794/95 (Kant didn’t lecture on metaphysics the previous winter semester, lecturing instead on moral philosophy). He may well have attended the physical geography lectures in SS 1795, as it would have been for this set of lectures that he would have needed to pay Kant an honorarium of 4 rthl. (which Kant refused, since Reusch’s father was a professor), and it is immediately after this anecdote that Reusch notes that Kant taught just one more semester (WS 1795/96 was Kant’s last full semester of lecturing; he quit in the middle of SS 1796).

When I came to the university at Michaelmas 1793, Kant was already in his 70th year, his voice was weak, and he would get himself tangled up in his lectures and become unclear. Meanwhile, in two semesters I attended his lectures on logic [SS 1794] and metaphysics [WS 1794/95], winter and summer from 7-8 mornings, physical geography from 8-10 o’clock Wednesdays and Saturdays. To a young man of 15-16 years under those circumstances, not much of his philosophical lectures could be put into a context that made them understandable; what I grasped was an occasional illuminating point or spark in the soul. I don’t believe that it went any better at that time with the older students.[1] In contrast, his physical geography lectures were quite understandable, even highly intellectually stimulating and entertaining. During his lecture, when his expression was serious and deep thoughts were floating about his brow, he would hold the gaze of this one student who always insisted on sitting on a bench directly in front of him, and he appeared to make the same use of this student as, when he was in his study, he would use the Löbenicht church tower, gazing at that fixed point while in deep reflection.[2] This fellow had long since fallen asleep and was wholly imobile. He was a simple, uneducated person for whom the presentation was so beyond his comprehension that it could have done nothing else but bore him, which he announced with a long yawn. This so disrupted Kant’s train of thought that he hotly said: “If one is unable to refrain from yawning, then good manners requires one to hold one’s hand in front of one’s mouth.” For the remainder of the term, the amanuensis[3] arranged for the student to sit elsewhere.

When I visited him at the end of the private lecture[4], following the proper custom of the time, in order to thank him for the permission to visit his lecture and to give him the honorarium of four thalern, he refused it with the saying: clericus clericum non decimat.”[5] [Reusch 1848, 6-7; repr. Malter 1990, 400-2]

Als ich zu Michael 1793 zur Universität kam, war Kant schon im 70sten Jahre, seine Stimme schwach und er verwickelte sich im Vortrage und wurde undeutlich. Inzwischen besuchte ich in zwei Semestern seine Vorlesungen über Logik, Metaphysik, Winter und Sommer von 7-8 Uhr Morgens, physische Geographie von 8-10 Uhr Mittwochs und Sonnabends. Einem jungen Menschen von 15-16 Jarhen konnte unter solchen Umständen von seinen philosophischen Vorträgen nur wenig im Zusammenhange verständlich werden; was ich faßte, war ein leuchtender Punkt oder Blitz in die Seele. Ich glaube, daß es damals auch ältern Studirenden nicht besser ging. Dagegen war sein geographisch-physikalischer Vortrag wohl verständlich, ja höchst geistreich und unterhaltend. Wenn bei jenen sein Blick ernst war und seine Stirn tiefes Denken umschwebte, faßte er einen seiner Zuhörer fest ins Auge, der seinen Platz jederzeit auf einer Bank unmittelbar vor ihm behauptete, und ihm denselben Dienst zu leisten schein, als von seinem Zimmer aus der vorleigenede löbenichtsche Kirchturm, den er bei tiefem Nachdenken ebenfalls als festen punkt im Auge hielt. Jener längst entschlafene Commilitone war von gleich starer Unbeweglichkeit, ein sehr einfältiger, ungebildeter Mensch, dem solche seine Horizont übersteigende Vorträge nichts als lange Weile machen konnten. Er gab diese durch ein langes Gähnen kund, welches Kant außer Fassung brachte, indem er heftig sagte: wenn man sich des Gähnens nicht enthalten könne, erfordere es es die gute Sitte, die Hand vor den Mund zu halten. Für die [7] Folge, glaube ich, wurden auf Veranlassung des Amanuensis die Plätze getauscht.

Als ich nach damaligem guten Brauche nach der beendigten Privatvorlesung zu ihm ging, um für die Erlaubniß zum Besuche derselben zu danken und ihm das Honorar von vier Thalern zu überreichen, lente er es ab, mit dem Spruche: clericus clericum non decimat.


[1] One of the “older students” attending the same metaphysics class as Reusch would have been Johann Friedrich Vigilantius (1757-1823)[bio], from whom we have several important sets of lecture notes.

[2] Kant's habit of gazing at the Löbenicht Church steeple, which he could see from his study window, was recounted in Wasianski [1804, 29-30] (see). This could be the source of Reusch's comment, although the habit might have been well-enough known that Reusch learned of it independently of Wasianski.

[3] Kant's amanuensis at that time would have been J. H. I. Lehmann [bio].

[4] Presumably this was the physical geography lectures of SS 1795.

[5] That is, Kant refused to let Reusch pay for the course because his father was a professor at the university.


SS 1795
Letter: Purgstall to Kalmann (30 April 1795) [index] [top]

Wenzel Johann Gottfried von Purgstall (1773-1812), an Austrian nobleman, visited Kant in the spring of 1795, and offers this account of his lectures from that semester in a letter of 30 April 1795 to Wilhelm Joseph Kalmann (1758-1842), a close acquaintance of Karl Leonhard Reinhold [bio].

During the summer semester of 1795, which had begun just two weeks earlier on Monday, April 20th, Kant lectured on logic from 7-8 in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (to a class of 50 auditors) and physical geography on Wednesday and Saturday (probably from 8-10 in the morning; 33 auditors were listed for this course). Kant also offered a practicum for the logic students every Saturday morning from 7-8 (fifteen were enrolled for this).


Engraving by J. H. Lips, based on a Vernet (1792)

His face and person looks most like the picture at the front of the Repertorium of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung[1] and that hangs in Reinhold’s room. Only he has, around his mouth and his light blue eyes, something mobile, fine, friendly, that is missing in the hard engraving. He walks bent over, his hair-bag always falls forward because he is a little crooked, and this results in his always making this maneuvre to push it back. [...]

He lectures publicly on logic each day at 7:00 a.m. and twice a week privately on physical geography. Obviously I am missing none of his classes. His presentation is entirely in the tone of ordinary speech and, if you will, not very beautiful. Imagine a little old man who sits there bent over, wearing a brown coat with yellow buttons, not to forget the wig and hair-bag; imagine also that this little man occasionally brings forth his hands from the buttoned coat where they were folded, and makes a small movement with them in front of his face, as one does when one wants to make something fully comprehensible — imagine all this and you will be seeing him to a hair. Even though he does not look all that great, even though his voice is unclear yet, if I may say so, everything that his delivery lacks in form is richly replaced by the excellence of the content.

One never leaves his auditorium without bringing home some elucidating hint into his writings, and it is as though one arrived at the easiest and shortest way to understanding many difficult sentences in the Critiques of Pure and Practical Reason, from which the other gentlemen, I mean his interpreters — but here I am not thinking of Reinhold exactly — remain standing with a great deal of talk about the difficulty, and make such a quantity of preparations, while he simply enters directly into the subject and talks about it, so that it appears that he would never dream that the materials could be so hard, and that he is wholly convinced that anyone is able to understand it.

Once one has come so far as to understand his voice, then it is not so difficult to understand his thoughts. He spoke last about space and time, and it was as though I had never understood anyone as I understand him; and now he is in that part of his Logic where he needs to discuss cognition. This gives him the opportunity to discuss their perfection, and to discuss logical, aesthetic, and other sorts of cognitions. He then discussed the main concepts, I believe, of the beautiful out of the Critique of Judgment, and this so easily and understandable and entertainingly as can hardly be imagined. From this alone one can well imagine how interesting it would be to hear his entire course, for then one would be easily made acquainted with all his ideas. [...]

Kant is reading from an old Logic, by Meyer [bio], if I’m not mistaken. He always brings the book along. It looks so old and soiled, I believe that he has brought it daily to class with him for forty years. All the blank leaves are covered with writing in a small hand, and besides, many of the printed pages have leaves pasted on them, and lines are frequently crossed out, so that, as you might imagine, scarcely anything of Meyer’s Logic is left. Not one of his auditors brings the book, and they merely write down what he says. But he does not seem to notice this, and faithfully follows his author from chapter to chapter, and corrects everything, or rather rewords everything, but so innocently that it is clear he makes little of his discoveries. [Hugelmann 1879, 608-10; repr. Malter 1990, 418-21]

Sein Gesicht und seine Person sieht dem Bilde, was vor dem Repertorium d. A. L. Z. ist und was in Reinholds Stube hängt, am Aehnlichsten. Nur hat er etwas Bewegliches, Feines, Freundliches um den Mund und um seine hellen blauen Augen, was man im harten Kupferstiche vermisst. Er geht schon gebückt, sein Haarbeutel fällt ihm immer hervor, weil er etwas schief ist, und dies macht, dass er immer ein Manöver mit ihm vorzuhnehmen hat, um ihn zurückzuschieben. [...]

Er liest Logik publice, täglich Morgens um 7 Uhr, und zweimal die Woche privat physische Geographie. Es versteht sich, dass ich bei keinem dieser Collegien fehle. Sein Vortrag ist ganz im Tone des gewöhnlichen Sprechens und, wenn Sie wollen, nicht eben schön. Stellen Sie sich ein altes, kleines Männchen vor, das gekrümmt im braunen Rocke mit gelben Knöpfen, eine Perrücke und den Haarbeutel nicht zu vergessen — dasitzt, denken Sie noch, dass dieses Männchen zuweilen seine Hände aus dem zugeknöpften Rocke, wo sie verschränkt stecken, hervornimmt und eine kleine Bewegung vor's Gesicht macht, wie wenn man Einem so etwas recht begreiflich machen will, stellen Sie sich dies vor und Sie sehen ihn auf ein Haar. Obschon dies nun nicht eben schön aussieht, obschon seine Stimme nicht hell klingt, so ist doch Alles, was seinem Vortrage, wenn ich mich so ausdrücken darf, an Form fehlt, reichlich durch die Vortrefflichkeit des Stoffes am selben ersetzt.

Man verlässt gewiss nie sein Auditorium, ohne manchen erläuternden Wink über seine Schriften mit nach Hause zu nehmen, und es ist Einem, als käme man so leicht und auf dem kürzesten Wege zum Verstehen manches schwierigen Satzes der Kritik d. r. u. p.V., vor welchem die anderen Herren, ich meine seine Ausleger — nun denke ich aber nicht eben zunächst an R. mit grossem Geplauder über die Schwierigkeit stehen bleiben, eine Menge Zurüstungen und Vorbereitungen machen, indessen er selbst ganz gerade darauf zugehet, einfach davon und darüber spricht, so dass man es ihm dabei ansieht, er träume nicht davon, dass die Sache so schwer sein soll, und sei gewiss überzeugt, dass ihn nun Jeder verstanden haben könne. Wenn man einmal dahin gekommen ist, seine Stimme zu verstehen, so wird es Einem nicht schwer, seinen Gedanken zu folgen. Letzt sprach er über Raum und Zeit und mir war, als hätte ich Keinen noch so verstanden als ihn, und nun ist er eben dabei die Logik, wo er von der Erkenntnis reden muss. Dies gibt ihm Gelegenheit, über die Vollkommenheit derselben, über logische, ästhetische u.s.w. Manches zu sagen, und da trägt er denn die Hauptbegriffe, glaube ich, über das Schöne aus der K. d. Uthk. so leicht und verständlich und so unterhaltend vor, als Sie es sich nicht denken können. Aus dieser Rücksicht allein müsste es doch äusserst interessant sein, einen ganzen Curs bei ihm zu hören, weil man mit allen seinen Ideen leicht bekannt wird. [...]

Kant liest über eine alte Logik, von Meyer, wenn ich nicht irre. Immer bringt er das Buch mit in die Stunde. Es sieht so alt und abgeschmutz aus, ich glaube, er bringt es schon 40 Jahre täglich in's Collegium; alle Blätter sind klein von seiner Hand beschrieben und noch dazu sind viele gedruckte Seiten mit Papier verklebt und viele Zeilen ausgestrichen, so dass, wie sich dies verstehet, von Meyer's Logic beinahe nichts mehr übrig ist. Von seinen Zuhörern hat kein einziger das Buch mit und man schreibt blos ihm nach. Er aber scheint dies gar nicht zu bemerken und folgt mit grosser Treue seinem Autor von Capitel zu Capitel und dann berichtigt er oder sagt vielmehr alles anders, aber mit der grössten Unschuld, dass man es ihm ansehen kann, er thue sich nichts zu Gute auf seine Erfindungen.


[1] Malter [1990, 422] claims this is an engraving by Townley (prepared in 1789 and copied from the 1784 painting by Loewe), but elsewhere [1990, 81] he claims that the engraving in the Repertorium is by J. H. Lips, from an original by Vernet (from 1792), printed in Jena in 1793.  The engraving appearing in the Repertorium is indeed by Lips.



Letter: Lichtenberg to his brother Ludwig Christian (18 February 1799) [index] [top]

Lehmann [1969, 67] quotes the following passage from Lichtenberg’s correspondence:

Er hat lange über philosophische Systeme Vorlesungen gehalten, dadurch sind ihm eine Menge von Dingen freilich geläufig geworden, die es unzähligen Menschen, selbst von Geiste, nicht sind, wenigstens nicht zu dem Grade. Daher spricht er oft undeutlich, ehe man mit ihm bekannt wird .... Aber Kant gibt sich auch nicht für den Erfinder von allem aus, er verbindet nur, was große Männer längst einzeln gesagt und gedacht haben, und NB. zeigt er, warum man so denken und sprechen müsse.

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 29 Oct 2014
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu