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

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Lists: [Published Notes] [Unpublished Notes]
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Descriptions of the Notes (click below):

Kant’s Lectures

> The Student Notes

Anthropology Encyclopedia Geography Logic Mathematics Metaphysics Moral Phil. Nat. Law Pedagogy Physics Nat. Theology

Introduction: The Student Notes

We study Kant’s life as a professor because of his importance as a philosopher, and the main point of contact here are his lecture notes. These notes offer a great wealth of material that spans his teaching career from the Herder notes of the 1760s to the Vigilantius notes of the mid-1790s. While fragments from other disciplines remain unpublished, all but the notes from physical geography have been published in the Academy edition of Kant’s writings, and a growing number of translations into English are becoming available in the Cambridge edition of Kant’s works.

SUMMARY OF MANUSCRIPTS AVAILABLE[1]
DISCIPLINE Total
Mss
Total
available
Total
published
English
transl.
Anthropology 4634336
Encyclopedia 3110
Geography 3627152
Logic 2619176
Mathematics 1110
Metaphysics 1712118
Moral Phil. 2313126
Natural Law 2110
Pedagogy 1111
Physics 3330
Natural Theology 5551
TOTAL: 16311710030
Available student notes (i.e., extant manuscripts or copied text), are indicated chronologically and by discipline in the overview table of lectures found on the introductory page to “Kant’s Lectures.” Student notes that are firmly dated are indicated with an ‘N’, otherwise with an ‘Ñ’.

These notes are useful for several reasons:

  •They clarify or develop points made in his major published writings.

  •They consider topics not discussed in any of the published writings.

  •They provide much of the philosophical context against which these writings were to be understood.

  •They offer a new perspective into Kant’s intellectual development.[2]


Before we can use these notes, however, we need to consider two questions regarding their reliability: How accurately do these notes convey what Kant actually said in his classroom? And: How reliable are the published transcriptions of the handwritten notes? If we cannot trust the Academy edition transcription of the notes, for instance, or if we are not sure how accurately these notes reflect what Kant said in the classroom or in what semester he said them, then we are hard pressed to make much use of the notes at all.

The most basic question for users of Kant’s lecture notes concerns the reliability of the Academy edition, which is generally one’s only access short of inspecting the original manuscripts themselves (but see the lists of published and still unpublished notes). As regards reliability, we must distinguish between those volumes prepared by the late editor, Gerhard Lehmann (namely, vols. 24, 27, 28, and 29) and the more recent work by Reinhard Brandt and Werner Stark.[3] The latter is a model of careful and well considered scholarship; the former is more problematic. The Academy volumes prepared by Lehmann are reliable insofar as they do not grossly misrepresent what can be found in the manuscripts, and reading these volumes will provide a rough sense of what is actually in the notes. Unfortunately, there are so many errors in transcription and presentation that a detailed use of the notes is often problematic — see the discussions of the individual sets of notes (here the metaphysics notes have received the most detailed treatment).

Determining how closely a set of notes might actually reflect what Kant said in the classroom is not especially straight-forward, and will generally require a comparison with his published writings, his correspondence, and his own scattered remarks written in his textbooks (the Reflexionen), as well as checking consistency with other, and independent, sets of notes (i.e., notes that don't share a common textual source). All of this will also require some determination of the semester in which the notes originated and determining how closely the notes stand to that semester. These matters are discussed generally in the pages on dating the notes and how they were produced. Specifics are considered in the descriptions of the individual sets of notes.

In the overview tables of the various sets of notes, a publication of a set of notes is listed as a “fragment” whenever it includes only a portion of the available manuscript; it makes no claims as to the extent of the manuscript itself (some manuscripts appear to cover the semester material quite thoroughly; others are quite brief) or of the available text (in the case of reprints and translations).


[1] A few caveats regarding this table: First, the numbers are generous, and include fragments and selections as well as complete manuscripts. Second, if a manuscript is presented as a set of variant readings to a second manuscript, then it is included in the number of published manuscripts. Consult the individual descriptions ordered under the different disciplines for a closer account of both of these points. Third, the Göttingen Academy of Sciences is currently preparing a volume of lecture notes on physical geography — volume 26 of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften, and the last of the originally planned volumes in this century-long endeavor — thus the relatively low number of published geography notes. Fourth, there is no guarantee that all of these manuscripts are numerically distinct; among those lost, there is the possibility that two or more references are to one and the same manuscript. For instance, in surveying the more than forty anthropology manuscripts, Brandt and Stark [1997, cxxxii] note that there is reason to suspect that an-Fernow, an-Reicke 2, and an-Reimarus are either closely identical in content or even a single manuscript (similarly with an-Reinhold and an-Starke 2). Finally, Vollmer, who illicitly published a version of Kant’s physical geography notes, also claims to have possessed multiple sets of notes from other subjects. I include all three sets of physical geography notes that he mentioned (since they may all well have contributed to the publication), but count only one manuscript in his possession for logic (instead of the five he claims) and one for moral philosophy (instead of four).

[2] As Dilthey wrote in the preface to vol. 1 of the Academy edition of Kant’s writings: “From the time when Herder was [Kant’s] most ardent student, until the last years of [Kant’s] academic career, the lecture notebooks accompany the development of the critical philosophy” [1902; Ak. 1:xiv].

[3] Vol. 25, devoted to the anthropology lectures, was published in 1998; part one of vol. 26, on the physical geography notes, was published in July 2009, and part two of that volume is in preparation.

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