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

Kant’s Writings
Academy Edition
Kant’s Life


> Students


Königsberg Schools
> Kant’s Career [classes at the Coll. Frid.]
Student Life at the University
Student Finances
Composition of the Student Population
The Hofmeister

Kant’s Lectures
The Student Notes

Kant’s Career as a Student

“Kant...used to say that terror and apprehension would overcome him whenever he thought back on the slavery of his youth...”

— T. G. von Hippel [bio] (qtd. in Malter 1990, 95)

1. Kant in School
2. Kant at the University
3. Kant’s Professors
4. Was Knutzen Kant’s Mentor?
5. Kant’s Classes
6. Kant Leaves the University

Much has already been written about Kant’s career as a student, most extensively in Vorländer [1924, i.22-62], Kuehn [2001a, 45-95], and Kuehn [2001b]. The following discussion is more brief.

Kant in School [top]

Kant received his first taste of student life at a German school in his neighborhood, near the St George hospital, where a single teacher gave instruction on reading, writing, arithmetic, and Christianity [Jachmann 1804, 6; Klemme 1994, 34].

Collegium Fridericianum

Children hoping to attend the university would eventually need to study at one of the three city schools or else the Collegium Fridericianum — a Pietist Latin school that Kant entered as an eight-year-old at Easter 1732, and where he was allowed to study free of charge [Borowski 1804, 27]. Kant’s course of studies included Latin and theology for all seventeen of his semesters there, as well as Greek for at least ten semesters and Hebrew for at least eight, French for at least six, handwriting for eleven (at one point he fell back a level), singing for six, geography for at least four, history for at least three, antiquities for five, poetry for four, arithmetic for nine, mathematics for two, and philosophy beginning in his next to last year (see the table of Kant's classes). Borowski prepared a list of the instructors teaching at the school while Kant was a student, along with the courses available in the upper classes, and a few lists of fellow students. Johann Friedrich Heydenreich, a Latin instructor, was singled out as Kant’s favorite teacher. Wannowski prepared a partial listing of Kant’s class rank during his stay at the Collegium; for instance, he began in the 5th Latin class, moving to the 4th at Easter semester of 1733 [Reicke 1860, 43-47; Zippel 1898, 110].

The Collegium could house about 50 of its students, and the rest were day students. In the years Kant was attending there were fifteen to twenty boarders along with about 150 other Latin students and 250 German students, all cared for by about two dozen teachers [Goldbeck 1782, 211, 224; Klemme 1994, 21].

Kant at the University [top]

After eight and one-half years of study at the Collegium Fridericianum, Kant graduated at the end of the summer term, 1740, and promptly matriculated at the local university — the Academia Albertina — on Saturday, 24 September 1740, at the age of sixteen, as one of ten students entering from the Collegium Fridericianum. Kant’s entry in the Matrikel reads: “Kandt Eman., Regiomonte-Pruss., manu stip.” [Erler 1911/12, 385]. The manu stip. indicates the matriculant concluded the oath with a handshake. Of the nine other matriculants from the Collegium Fridericianum that day, three came from Pomerania (one of whom had their matriculation fee waived), three were from Königsberg, and three from elsewhere in Prussia.

Goldbeck [1782, 78] claimed that all students at the university belong to one of the higher faculties “without exception” — a requirement likely stemming from the 1735 ordinance on education [Arnoldt 1746, app. 54, p. 329] — although Johann Bernhard Hahn (the full professor of oriental languages), who was rector when Kant matriculated, failed to note in which faculty Kant enrolled. Kant's fellow-student Heilsberg suggested (in 1804) that he was intending to study medicine. There were also claims that he intended to study theology, although these appear to be spurious. Kant’s early biographer Borowski claimed that Kant was enrolled as a theology student, even though Kant struck out those very lines from the biography when given to him for review; Borowski printed them in a footnote all the same “since they were true.” Heilsberg claimed in his 1804 response to Wald that “Kant was never a theology student,” explaining that the notion that he was came from his attending various theology lectures, which he attended on the belief that it was important to learn from all the disciplines; and in any event, when asked by Professor Schultz, the theology professor whose lectures they were attending, what his professional intentions were, Kant answered that he wanted someday to be a physician:

One must seek to learn from all sciences, excluding none, not even theology, even though one wasn’t looking to earn a living with it. Wlömer, Kant, and I decided to attend in the next semester the public lectures of Consistory Advisor Dr. Schultz, the pastor of the Altstadt church, and one still remembered fondly. We did it, didn’t skip a single hour, took notes diligently, repeated the material at home, and always did so well on the exams that this worthy man often held that, at the conclusion of the last class session, he asked the three of us to stay behind, asking us our names, what languages we knew, the courses we were taking, and our intentions with our studies. Kant said he wanted to be a physician. [Heilsberg, qtd. in Reicke 1860, 50]

Man müsse suchen von allen Wissenschaften Kenntnisse zu nehmen, keine auszuschließen, auch von der Theologie, wenn man dabey auch nicht sein Brodt suchte. Wir Wlömer, Kant und ich entschlossen daher im nachsten halben jahr, die öffentliche Lese Stunden, des noch im bestem Andenken stehenden Consistorial Rath Dr. Schultz, und Recht Pfarrer der Altstadt zu besuchen. Es geschah; wir versäumten keine Stunde, schrieben fleißig nach, wiederholten die Vorträge zu hause, und bestanden beym Examen, welches der würdige Mann oft anstellte unter der Menge von Zuhörern, so gut, daß es beym Schluß der letzten Lese Stunde, uns dreien befahl noch zurückzubleiben; frug uns nach unsern Nahmen, Sprachen Kenntnisse, Collegien Lehrern und Absichten beym studieren, Kant sagte, ein Medicus werden zu wollen.

Favoring Heilsberg’s claim is Kant’s close relationship with Johann Christoph Bohl [bio], a full professor of medicine at Königsberg since 1741 and the person to whom Kant dedicated his first book (the Living Forces essay [writings] finished in 1747). Vorländer notes that Kant identified himself in 1748 (so, at the very end of his student years at the university) as a studiosus philosophiae [Gause 1996, ii.151n; Goldbeck 1782, 78; Borowski 1804, 31; Reicke 1860, 49-50; Vorländer 1924, i.51].

Kant did at least well enough in his studies that he was in demand as an informal tutor among his fellow students, helping his friends gratis and others for a small fee. His friend and fellow student, C. F. Heilsberg [bio], later wrote:

My first acquaintance at the university was the student Wlömer, my countryman and relative, who died several years ago as a privy counselor of finance and Justitiarius in the General Directorate.

He was a trusted friend of Kant’s, lived with him for a while in a room, and recommended me to him so that he promised me his assistance, gave me books on the newer philosophy, and helped me with the lectures by Professors Ammon, Knutzen, and Teske, at least the hardest parts; all of this was done out of friendship.

In the meantime he tutored several students for a small fee, which each gave to him readily. Among these was my relative, the student Laudien, the only and very well-off son of the chaplain Laudien from Tilsit, who helped him out not only in emergencies, but also at their tutorial meetings, he would pay for the refreshments of coffee and white bread. The current Minister of War, Kallenberg in Ragnit, gave Kant free lodging and considerable support when Wlömer left for Berlin. From the late Dr. Trummer, whom he also instructed, he received much help, but more still from his relative, the manufacturer Richter, who paid the costs for the magister degree. [Heilsberg, qtd. in Reicke 1860, 48; rpt. Malter 1990, 18-19]

Mein erster Bekannter auf der Academie war Studiosus Wlömer, mein Landsmann und Verwandter, welcher vor einigen Jahren als Geheimer Finanz Rath und Justitiarius beym General Directorio starb.

Dieser war ein vertrauter Fruend von Kant, wohnte mit ihm viele Zeiten in einer Stube, und empfal mich demselben dermaassen, daß Kant mir seinen Beystand versprach; mir Bücher gab, die die neuere Philosophie betraffen, und alle collegia, die ich bei denen Professoren Ammon, Knutzen und Teske hörte, wenigstens die schwerste Stellen, mit mir wiederhohlte; Alles geschah aus Freundschaft.

Indessen unterrichtete er mehrere Studenten für eine billige Belohnung, die ein jeder aus freiem Willen gab. Unter andern befand sich mein Verwandter, des Studiosus Laudien, der einzige sehr bemittelte Sohn des Kaplan Laudien aus Tilsit, der ihn nicht nur in Nothfällen unterstützte sondern auch bei Zusammenkünften zum Unterricht von den Erfrischungen, so stets in Kaffee und weiß Brodt bestanden, die Kosten trug. Der jetzige Krieges Rath Kallenberg in Ragnit, gab ihm, da Wlömer nach Berlin ging, eine freie Wohnung und ansehnliche Unterstützung; Vom seeligen Dr. Trummer, den er auch unterrichtete, hatte er viele Beyhülfe, noch mehr von dem ihm verwandten Fabricanten Richter, der die Kosten der Magister Würde trug.

Kant’s student years were marked by poverty, and so it is striking that Kant did not take a teaching position at his old Latin school to help pay his way through college, such as Herder would do thirty years later. Similarly, no evidence has been found to suggest that Kant ever applied for any of the stipendia available to poorer students [Warda 1901]. It is likely that life at the Collegium was far too stifling for Kant, as were the various conditions attached to such stipends (on which see Student Finances). He might have lived at home with his parents, but if he did this at first, he eventually came to live with other students (Wlömer, Kallenberg). Heilsberg’s account does suggest that, apart from his tutoring, Kant was also able to make some money with billiards and cards:

His only recreation was playing billiards, a game in which Wlömer and I were his constant companions. We had nearly perfected our game, and rarely returned home without some winnings. I paid my French teacher altogether from this income. As a consequence, persons refused to play with us, and we abandoned this source of income, and chose instead L’Hombre, which Kant played well. [Reicke 1860, 49; rpt. Malter 1990, 19]

Das Billiard Spiel war seine eintzige Erholung; Wlömer und ich, waren dabey stets seine Begleiter. Wir hatten die Geschicklichkeit in diesem Spiel beynahe aufs höchste gebracht, giengen selten ohne Gewinn nach Hause; ich habe den frantzösischen Sprachmeister gantz von dieser Einnahme bezalt; Weil aber in der Folge Niemand mehr mit uns spielen wolte; so gaben wir diesen Erwerbs Artickel gantz auf, und wählten das l'ombre Spiel welches Kant gut spielte.

Kant’s Professors [top]

There were normally eight full professors in the philosophy faculty at Königsberg at this time and a fluctuating number of associate professors and lecturers (see a list and a timeline of these professors). The eight permanent positions were in logic and metaphysics, practical philosophy, rhetoric and history, poetry, Greek, oriental languages, mathematics, and physics. During the years that Kant was a student (1740-48, following Waschkies, who argues that Kant remained in Königsberg until August of 1748 [1987, 28]), these full professors were (with the date they began the professorship) J. D. Kypke [bio] (logic and metaphysics, 1727), J. A. Gregorovius Sr. [bio] (practical philosophy, 1726), C. Kowalewski [bio] (rhetoric and history, 1735), J. G. Bock [bio] (poetry, 1733), J. Behm [bio] (Greek, 1721), J. B. Hahn, Sr. [bio] (oriental languages, 1715), C. Langhansen [bio] (mathematics, 1719), and J. G. Teske [bio] (physics, 1729), as well two full professors occupying temporary chairs created for them: G. B. Casseburg [bio] (antiquity, 1740) and Cölestin Flottwell [bio] (German rhetoric, 1743).

Individuals teaching during Kant’s student years as associate professors in the philosophy faculty (some of whom were also full professors in another discipline): T. Burckhard [bio] (poetry, 1715), K. A. Christiani [bio] (practical philosophy, 1735), J. F. Danovius [bio] (rhetoric, 1736), C. H. Gütther [bio] (Greek, 1722), M. Knutzen [bio] (logic and metaphysics, 1734), G. D. Kypke [bio] (oriental languages, 1746), K. G. Marquardt [bio] (mathematics, 1730),[1] C. C. Neufeldt [bio] (literary history, 1724), K. H. Rappolt [bio] (physics, 1731), and J. J. Rau [bio] (oriental languages, 1736).

Finally, as many as twenty lecturers may have been actively offering courses in the philosophy faculty during Kant’s years as a student; some of these are listed with a discipline, but most are not. Because the lecturers were not included in the Lecture Catalog during this period, there is little certainty as to who was offering courses, much less which courses: C. F. Ammon (mathematics, died 1742), F. S. Bock (from 1743), F. J. Buck (from 1743), C. Colberg (from 1720?), J. C. Grube (from 1741), J. B. Hahn, Jr. (from 1744), A. Halter (from 1744), D. Heiligendoerffer (from 1734), E. Hoyer (from 1735), F. C. Jester (from 1730), A. Johann (from 1741), E. F. Kesselring (1740-43), J. B. Kuhn (from 1735), M. Lilenthal (from 1711), T. C. Lilienthal (from 1740), J. Meckelburg (from 1723), C. F. Melhorn, J. W. Milo (from 1745), J. D. Schaermacher (from 1724), and J. C. Wichert (from 1738). Most of these individuals were probably not teaching, or not teaching for long, at the university, and with a few it isn’t clear if they were even alive during Kant’s student years. The most significant in this list is Ammon (mathematics), for whom there is testimony of Kant attending his lectures. Bock was really a school friend of Kant’s, and Buck was only two years Kant’s senior, and engaged in a rivalry that would last well into their years as fellow professors.[2]

Apart from the professors and lecturers in the philosophy faculty, there were also professors in theology and medicine that were of some importance to Kant, and should be mentioned here (there was also some overlap between the philosophy and theology faculties, with the same person holding professorships in each). When Kant entered the university in 1740, the full professors of theology were (in order of their professorial rank): (1) J. J. Quandt [bio], (2) C. Langhansen [bio] (also Prof. of Mathematics), (3) F. A Schultz [bio], (4) J. H. Lysius [bio], (5) J. D. Kypke [bio] (also Prof. of Logic and Metaphysics), (6) D. L. Salthenius [bio], and (7) D. H. Arnoldt [bio]. In the medical faculty, C. L Charisius [bio], who had been the 2nd Professor, died in 1641, shifting everyone up one position, at which time we had the following line-up: (1) M. P. Hartmann [bio], (2) J. C. Bohl [bio], (3) C. D. Meltzer [bio], (4) C. G. Büttner [bio], (5) G. Thiesen [bio]. In the medical faculty, there was clearly a close connection with Bohl, to whom Kant dedicated his first publication, the book on Living Forces [writings]

[1] The only textbook found in Kant’s library that stems from his student years was Marquardt’s book on astronomy.

[2] In his memorial address for Kant given in 1804, Wald notes that the philosophy and theology professors teaching when Kant was a student were Hahn, Behm, Teske, Kowalewski, Gregorovius, Langhansen, Knutzen, Christiani, Quandt, Arnoldt, and Schultz [Reicke 1860, 6] — Wald’s list omits mention of four full professors in the philosophy faculty (Kypke, Bock, Flotwell, and Casseburg), and includes Knutzen, an associate professor.

Was Knutzen Kant’s Mentor? [top]

Ludwig Borowski [bio], one of Kant’s early biographers, emphasized a strong relationship between Knutzen [bio] and Kant:

As mentioned, Kant entered the university here in 1740. Martin Knutzen, who had become quite well known by way of several well-regarded writings, was just at the beginning of his academic career, and was the teacher with whom Kant felt most connected. He attended all his courses on philosophy and mathematics without interruption. [...] But Knutzen meant the most to him of all the teachers. He marked-out the path for him and many others by which one can become an independent thinker. — It is too bad that this Knutzen, through the unfairness of the fates, did not receive a better share in his homeland. He died in 1756 as an associate professor of philosophy — although universally honored and loved by the large circle of his students who, like Kant, had him to thank for the larger portion of their philosophical and mathematical knowledge. [1804, 28, 29]

Kant kam, wie gesagt, 1740 auf die hiesige Universität. Martin Knutzen, durch mehrere zu seiner Zeit wohl aufgenommenen Schriften rühmlichst bekannt, ward gleich am Anfang der akademischen Laufbahn der Lehrer, an welchen sich Kant ganz besonders anschloß. Seinem Unterricht in Philosophie und Mathematik wohnte er unausgesetzt bei. [...] Aber sein Knutzen galt ihm doch vor allen Lehrern am meisten. Dieser zeichnete ihm und mehreren andern die Bahn vor, auf der sie dereinst Selbtsdenker werden könnten. — Schade, daß dieser Knutzen durch Ungerechtigkeit des Schicksals in seinem Vaterlande kein glücklicheres Los fand. Er starb 1756 als außerordentlicher Professor der Philosophie — obgleich allgemein verehrt und geliebt von dem großen Kreise seiner Schüler, die, sowie Kant, ihm den größten Teil ihrer philosophischen und mathematischen Kenntnisse verdankten.

And elsewhere:

So the memory of his former teacher Heydenreich, and of his university teachers Knutzen and Teske was always very sacred. [...] Who and what gave our Kant, shortly after his admission into the university, this unexpected direction? — Knutzen and Teske, already mentioned several times above, were the men who brought this about. Their philosophical, physical and mathematical lectures, which were really excellent for awakening genius and were very entertaining, greatly attracted Kant. Knutzen, a wise examiner of minds, found in Kant splendid talents, and encouraged him in private conversations, eventually loaning him works by Newton and, as Kant had a taste for this, everything that he requested from his well-stocked library. So he was inspired to studies in which he soon overtook even his teacher. Knutzen lived to see the young tree that he planted and delicately attended, bear fruit that must have astounded him: for four years after admission to the university, Kant already began work on his estimation of living forces. [1804, 152, 163-64]

So war ihm auch das Andenken seines früheren Lehrers Heydenreich und dann der Universitätslehrer Knutzen und Teske immer sehr heilig. [...] Wer und was gab denn unserem Kant bald nach seinem Eintritt in die Universität diese unerwartete Richtung? — Knutzen und Teske, deren oben schon mehrmals gedacht ist, waren die Männer, die dieses bewirkten. Ihre philosophischen, physischen, mathematischen Vorlesungen, die wirklich vortrefflich, für das Genie weckend und sehr unterhaltend waren, zogen Kant sehr an. Knutzen, ein weiser Prüfer der Köpfe, fand in ihm vortreffliche Anlagen, ermunterte ihn in Privatunterredungen, — lieh ihm in der Folge besonders Newtons Werke und, da Kant Geschmack daran fand, alles, was er aus seiner herrlichen, reich ausgestatteten Bibliothek ir- [164] gend verlangte. So ward er zu dem Studium angeregt, in welchem er sehr bald selbst seine Lehrer übertraf. Knutzen erlebte es noch, daß der junge Baum, den er gepflanzt und zärtlich gewartet hatte, Früchte, die in Erstaunen setzen mußten, trug: denn 4 Jahre nach dem Eintritt in die Universität fing unser Kant schon an, das Werk von der Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte zu bearbeiten.

And in his answer to Wald’s question as to whom Kant valued the most among his teachers at the university:

Professor Martin Knutzen, who also was very worthy, also Professor of Physics Teske. He dedicated his first work, on the estimation of living forces, to Professor of Medicine Dr. Bohlius. [Reicke 1860, 31]

Dem Prof. Martin Knutzen, der es auch sehr werth war, auch den Prof. der Physik Teske. Dem Prof. Medicina Dr. Bohlius hat er sein erstes Werk, damit er auftrat "von der Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte" zugeeigenet.

But Borowski was not alone in this assessment. Jachmann [bio] also noted that...

The professor of philosophy who probably had the most influence on cultivating his intellect at that time was Knutzen, a man who had acquired a tremendous reputation at the university both as a teacher and as an author. [1804, 10]

Der Professor der Philosophie, welcher wahrscheinlich auf seine Geistesbildung den meisten Einfluß gehabt hat, war damals Knutzen, ein Mann, der sich als Lehrer und als Schriftsteller einen großen Ruf auf der Universität erworben hatte.

Finally, Kraus [bio] claimed that, in response to a comment by Wald that Kant had tutored students on “the lectures of Professors Ammon, Knutzen und Teske”:

He had a low opinion of Teske, and rightly so. The only teacher who could have stimulated his genius, was Knutzen. Ammon must have been an amateur, given the mathematical writing of his that I've seen. [Reicke 1860, 7]

Von Teske hatte er eine geringe Meinung und mit Recht. Der einzige Lehrer, der auf sein Genie wirken konnte, war Knutzen. Ammon muß nach einer mathematischen Schrift, die ich von ihm gesehen habe, ein Stümper gewesen sein.

And to Wald’s discussion of Kant’s master’s thesis (On Fire [writings]), Kraus noted that...

What unlocked Kant’s genius under Knutzen, and led him to the original ideas he expressed in his splendid Natural History of the Heavens, was the comet of 1744, about which Knutzen had published a text.[1] [Reicke 1860, 7]

Was Kant's Genie unter Knutzen aufschloß und ihn auf die in seiner herrlichen Naturgeschichte des Himmels dargelegten originalen Ideen brachte, war der Komet von 1744, über welchen Knutzen eine Schrift herausgab.

As Kuehn [2000, 88-89] has pointed out, however, there are reasons to be puzzled by these accounts and that suggest Kant got on less well with Knutzen than is commonly thought. For instance, Knutzen never mentions Kant as one of his students (favoring instead Kant’s older contemporary, Friedrich Johann Buck [bio]); nor does Kant mention Knutzen in any of his writings,[2] much less dedicate any of them to Knutzen’s memory. One would think that a close mentoring relationship would have left more traces.

[1] The book was Rational Thoughts on the Comets, in which is Examined and Represented Their Nature and Their Character as well as the Causes of Their Motion, and at the Same Time Given a Short Description of the Noteworthy Comet of This Year [Vernünftige Gedanken von den Cometen, darinnen die Natur und Beschaffenheit nebst der Art und den Ursachen ihrer Bewegung untersuchet und vorgestellet, auch zugleich eine kurze Beschreibung von dem merkwürdigen Cometen des jetztlauffenden Jahres mitgetheilet wird] (Frankfurt am Main/Leipzig, 1744).

Knutzen correctly predicted the 1744 arrival of a comet (although it turned out not to be the comet he thought it was — in other words, he just got lucky) in a newspaper article published seven years earlier: “Anmerkungen über den A(nno) 1736 vergeblich erwarteten Cometen” (Königsberger Intelligenz-Blätter, 15th and 16th issues, 1737); cf. Waschkies [1987, 80].

[2] Knutzen fails to make an appearance even in Kant’s Nachlaß — the only mention is in a letter where Kant is petitioning for Knutzen’s vacant professorship.

Kant’s Classes [top]

Jachmann reports that “whatever course schedule Kant followed at the university has remained unknown to his friends” [1804, 10]. We know that Kant studied in the natural sciences[1] (likely attending J. G. Teske’s [bio] physics lectures), geography, mathematics (possibly with C. F. Ammon [bio]), metaphysics and logic (with Martin Knutzen [bio]), theology (with F. A. Schultz [bio]). J. D. Kypke [bio] was the full professor of logic and metaphysics at the time, and so would have been offering free lectures on those subjects (logic in the winter semesters, metaphysics in the summer — opposite the pattern that Kant would later assume). Kypke was teaching from Baumeister’s Institutiones philosophiae rationalis methodo wolffiana conscriptae [Principles of Rational Philosophy, Composed in Accordance with the Wolffian Method] (Wittenberg 1738) in his logic lectures, but also from Rabe’s [bio] Aristotelian text. (See also the discussion of Kant’s textbooks.) Kuehn suggests that Kant’s love of Pope may well have come from his interactions with the physicist Rappolt [bio], who had spent time in England and often lectured on English and English culture [2001, 76-7]. We know from Heilsberg’s reminiscences that Kant heard lectures from Ammon, Knutzen, Teske, and Schultz [Reicke 1860, 48; see also Gause 1974, 19 and 1996, ii.151]. Teske was the first in Königsberg to discuss and give demonstrations on electricity in his lectures on experimental physics, and this likely shaped Kant’s own views, resulting in his Magister thesis De igne (1755) [writings].[2]

A dancing master as well as a fencing master were offering instruction at the university when Kant was a student — but we can assume the frugal and impoverished Kant would have forsaken such lessons, as they would have cost what for him would have amounted to a small fortune. Goldbeck claims that a full professor of Italian and French was added in 1715, and an associate professor of French in 1716 [Goldbeck 1782, 29; Gause 1996, ii.113n].

If Borowski [1804, 29] is correct in claiming that Kant attended all of Knutzen’s courses on philosophy and mathematics “without interruption,” then his schedule would have included the following from Knutzen:

1st semester: mathematics (4 hrs), philosophy (4 hrs), logic (1 hr), and disputation exercises.

2nd semester: logic (4 hrs), mathematics, possibly on algebra (4 hrs), and disputation exercises.

3rd semester: (Knutzen offered courses already taken by Kant — which Kant would have been free to re-take, of course)

4th semester: practical philosophy (4 hrs).

The above comes from the lecture catalog, as reported by Arnoldt [1881, 619], and who doubted that Kant would have attended any other of Knutzen’s courses.

[1] Immediately following the quote given above, Jachmann wrote that:

This much is certain, that Kant primarily studied humanities at the university and none of the positive sciences; he especially busied himself with mathematics, philosophy, and the Latin classics. [1804, 11]

So viel ist gewiß, daß Kant auf der Universität vorzüglich Humaniora studirte und sich keiner positiven Wissenschaften widmete, besonders hat er sich mit der Mathematik, Philosophie and den lateinischen Klassikern beschäftigt.

But Borowski [1804, 28] and Heilsberg [Reicke 1860, 48] both recall Kant taking courses with Teske, and this would have been experimental physics.

[2] Emil Arnoldt [1881, 616-23] assembles what little we have of Kant’s class schedule. A good discussion of Kant’s professors and the philosophical climate at Königsberg when Kant entered as a student is offered by Oberhausen and Pozzo [1999, xvii-xxiv] and by Kuehn [2001, 73-86].

Kant Leaves the University [top]

Kant appears to have left Königsberg and the university some time in late summer or fall of 1748.

A few of Kant’s earliest biographers — Mortzfeld [text], Jachmann [text], and Rink [text] — claimed that Kant spent nine years away from Königsberg before returning there to teach. They likely arrived at this from the dates 1746 (the year Kant’s father died) and 1755 (the year Kant received his Magister degree and habilitation at the university) — although Rink’s claim that Kant left “after about three years of study at the university” would have him leaving in late 1743 or early 1744. It is apparent that the influential early biography by Schubert — who wrote that Kant was tutoring “for not less than nine years” [1842, 31] considered the father’s death as decisive, since it deprived Kant of all financial support.[1]  Kant’s father was already destitute, however, after the disabling stroke that he suffered a year and a half earlier. So the death of Kant’s father likely no no significance for Kant’s finances, although his reasons for the move were primarily financial. Arnoldt suggests [1881, 656] it was precipitated more by changes among Kant’s circle of friends with whom he was living, and with whom he had been exchanging tutorial sessions for room and board.

Waschkies [1987, 25-27] collected together evidence for a late departure date:

(1) When Wlömer left for Berlin, Kant was able to live for free with Chrisoph Bernhard Kallenberg [as mentioned above, in Heilsberg’s account]; but Kallenberg did not matriculate until 2 May 1746.

(2) Arnold had already pointed out that Kant’s dedication to Bohlius in his Living Forces [writings] is dated “Königsberg, den 22. April, 1747”.

(3) Johann Christoph Berens, from Riga, first made Kant’s acquaintance in Königsberg, but Berens did not matriculate at the university until 10 Aug 1748.

So Kant would seem to have still been in Königsberg until at least the second week of August 1748.

It is worth noting here also that Kant left the university without taking a degree. Most students left without ever receiving a degree because their ambitions lie somewhere outside the university; degrees were for those wishing to teach at the university. Viewed from the perspective of Kant’s long career as a philosophy professor, we are struck that he also left as one not intending to return. While still in Königsberg, and perhaps while still attending classes, Kant wrote and began publishing his first essay for the public eye: Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces [writings]. Kant chose to write this in German, although he could easily have written it in Latin, and he needed just such a Latin treatise to receive his Magister degree (a necessary condition for eventually finding a teaching position in philosophy at a university).

In any event, Kant left the university and entered into a brief career as a private tutor or Hofmeister, eventually working with two or three different families (see the discussion of the Hofmeister).

[1] Kant’s father died on 24 March 1746, the result of a stroke suffered a year and a half earlier, and was buried on March 30 without ceremony and at public expense. Vorländer, drawing on Haagen [1911], notes that Kant would not have left Königsberg before the middle of 1747 (since the family where he first served as a Hofmeister still had their previous Hofmeister)[1924, i.61-62]. Kant’s younger siblings had already entered the care of their uncle Richter.

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 13 Oct 2013
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu