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

Kant’s Writings
Academy Edition
Kant’s Life


Describing the Notes
Production of the Notes
Dating the Notes
Lists: [Published Notes] [Unpublished Notes]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

Past Evaluations of the Notes

[This is the rudimentary beginning of a collection...]

Karl Rosenkranz (1805-1879)

Rosenkranz, in the “Preface” of his edition of Kant’s collected writings, had the following to say of those lecture notes published after Kant’s death:

Thus there remain excluded: (1) the detailed description of Kant’s on physical geography put out by Vollmer, (2) the lectures on the philosophical doctrine of religion edited by Pölitz first in 1817 and then again in 1831, (3) the lectures on metaphysics edited by the same in 1821, (4) the philosophical anthropology edited by Friedrich Christian Starke in 1831 from handwritten lecture notes. We do not deny the worth of these writings; especially the lectures on metaphysics appear to give us a quite accurate picture of Kant’s lecturing. But these writings still essentially contain nothing which does not appear in the other writings, or they betray visible traces of foreign matter which, through a deficient comprehension of the heard lecture and a presumed completion through later interpolation, were mixed in. The great mass of facts which distinguishes the Vollmer and the Rink Geographies; the more milk [check?] form in which the philosophy of religion lectures present the main thoughts of the Religion within the Bounds of Pure Reason; the frequent falling back to definitions from the Wolffian school, and the naive liveliness of the tone, by which the lectures on metaphysics differ from the Critique of Pure Reason; the trusting popularity and entrance of many, on the average, world-known [translation?] examples and rules, which differ the Menschenkunde from the Anthropology; — all of that does not appear adequate to us to justify the special admission of these lecture notebooks into a collected edition. [Immanuel Kant’s sämtliche Werke. Ed. von Karl Rosenkranz und Friedr. Wilh. Schubert, Leipzig 1838, vol. 1, Preface, p. x-xi]

Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911)

The Berlin Academy concluded, in opposition to all past collected editions of Kant’s works, to also publish the lectures in a critical edition. Wilhelm Dilthey says in the preface to this edition:

The edition arranged by the Royal Prussian Academy of the Sciences includes under the title “Kant’s Collected Writings” the entire intellectual legacy: the writings, the correspondence, the handwritten remains, and from the lectures the epitiome of what can serve for the understanding of his life work. [1902; AA 1:v]

Die von der Königlich Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften veranstaltete Ausgabe umfaßt unter dem Title: “Kants gesammelte Schriften” dessen ganze geistige Hinterlassenschaft: die Werke, den Briefwechsel, den handschriftlichen Nachlaß und von den Vorlesungen den Inbegriff dessen, was der Erkenntniß seines Lebenswerks dienen kann.

The misgivings that might be raised against this kind of source he summarized as follows:

The most important among them is the uncertainty of this kind of transmission; never can such a notebook be seen as an authentic document of Kant’s spoken word. It can also never be inferred, according to the pedagogical aims of lectures about which he himself quite emphatically stated, that he completely expressed his own attained standpoint in the flow of the development of discussed thinkers in his lectures. But these difficulties are not reason to exclude the use of these notes. [1902; AA 1:xiii-xiv]

Das wichtigste unter ihnen ist die Unsicherheit dieser Art von Überlieferung; nirgend kann ein solches Heft als eine authentische Urkunde über das von Kant gesprochene Wort angesehen werden. Es kann auch nach der pädagogischen Abzweckung von Vorlesungen, über welche er sich selbst sehr nachdrücklich ausgesprochen hat, niemals geschlossen werden, daß der im Fluß der Entwicklung begriffene Denker in seinen Vorlesungen seinen erreichten Standpunkt ganz zum Ausdruck gebracht habe. Diese Schwierigkeiten können aber nicht bestimmen, diese Nachschriften von der [xiv] Benutzung auszuschließen.

Nonetheless, the lectures are important for at least three reasons:

They serve the edition by adding the material in the lectures to the context of his system otherwise provided by Kant’s published writings. [...] At the same time this division [of the lectures] offers an essential enrichment of the material for the developmental history of Kant. From the time that Herder was his attentive auditor, until the last years of his academic activity, the notes from his lectures accompany the cultivation of the critical philosophy. [...] Finally one can attain through this long series of lectures an intuitive picture of Kant’s teaching activity, his lectures, and the pedagogical side of his influence on the circle of his auditors. [1902; AA 1:xiv]

Sie dienen der Aufgabe, durch das in den Vorlesungen Erhaltene die Druckschriften Kants zum Zusammenhang seines Systems zu ergänzen. [...] Zugleich bietet diese Abtheilung eine wesentliche Bereicherung das Materials für die Entwicklungsgeschichte Kants. Von den Zeiten, wo Herder sein eifriger Zuhörer war, bis zu den letzten Jahren seiner akademischen Thätigkeit begleiten die Hefte der Vorlesungen die Ausbildung der kritischen Philosophie. [...] Endlich läßt sich durch diese lange Reihe der Vorlesungen ein anschauliches Bild von Kants Lehrthätigkeit, seinem Vortrage und der pädagogischen Seite seiner Einwirkung auf den Kreis seiner Zuhörer gewinnen.

Jakob Sonderling (1878-1964)

In his comparison of an-Jäsche (as published in Jäsche [1800]) with the textbook used in Kant's logic lectures (Meier [1760]), Sonderling wrote:

On the other hand, however, it must not be forgotten that, even in the critical period, Kant held a variety of positions in the lectures that were superceded by the critical writings; that he led, to a certain extent, a double life in his teaching activity and in his writing. [Sonderling 1903, 6f.]

Anderseits aber darf nicht vergessen werden, daß Kant auch in den Vorlesungen der kritischen Zeit noch vielfach Anschauungen vertrat, die in den kritischen Schriften überwunden sind, da er in Lehrtätigkeit und Schriftsellerei gewissermaßen ein Doppelleben führte.

Max Wundt (1879-1963)

Wundt criticises Paulsen’s [1899] use of the Pölitz metaphysics lectures, raising questions regarding their use in general: How much we can we trust the copyist [Nachschreiber]? Does he give us everything? Does he leave out the more difficult material (it’s easier to understand and write down dogmatic claims rather than methodological points, so the latter are more likely to be under-emphasized); the close connection of the lectures to the Baumgarten text is bound to give them a more dogmatic cast. Wundt feels the same towards the Dohna notes published by Kowalewski: “that the notebooks of a fifteen-year old student could not reveal to us any surprising new insights in Kant’s theory is self-explanatory.”)

And further, with these lectures we are everywhere dependent upon the insight, diligence, and care of the notetaker, unknown quantities of which we do not know how to take into account....  The lectures on metaphysic in particular seem rather carelessly written down.  We never know how far we should trust the notetaker.  Does he offer us everything?  Does he omit the more difficult discussions? Sometimes one almost gets the impression that certain dogmatic doctrines are being offered to us for which, however, the connected critique of Kant’s was omitted as too difficult.  In general, it is easier to follow the description of some definite content than it is its justification.  Because of this the lectures attain without doubt a more dogmatic stamp than was the intention of the lecturer.  But, in addition to that, and despite all our troubles, we cannot determine the time these notes were written — or better, times, for there are certainly several notes produced at different times and then worked together. [1924, 5-6, 9-10]

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 23 Feb 2015
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu