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

Student Life at the University

“But should not the young, at least, who are entrusted to instruction, be warned about writings of that sort, and be protected from premature acquaintance with such dangerous propositions?”

— Kant, Critique of Pure Reason [A754 / B782]

1. Introduction
2. Matriculation
3. Entrance Exams at the University
4. A Common Order of Studies
5. Student Life
6. Exit Exams, Testimonia, and Letters of Recommendation
7. The Magister Exam

Introduction [top]

Students arriving in Königsberg to study were required to matriculate with the current rector of the university within eight days of their arrival; failure to do so resulted in monetary penalties, such as paying double the matriculation fee, as set forth in a decree of 11 August 1706 by Friedrich I — prior to this, students were allowed a month to register themselves [Erler 1917, 1:lii-liii]. Although becoming an academic citizen brought with it certain privileges — not least was an exemption from military service — there were occasional students whose greater worry was poverty, and these would try to attend lectures without matriculating. One also was supposed to re-matriculate if returning after an absence of more than a year [Arnoldt 1746, i.236]. Entries showing rematriculation (marked by a phrase beginning "repetit...") are fairly common in the Matrikel, although no such entry exists for Kant after his six to eight year absence while working as a private tutor.

Goldbeck [1782, 104-5] noted that, originally, students retained their academic citizen even after completing their studies and were working elsewhere as a candidate or a Hofmeister (by the late 18th century, residency in Königsberg was necessary for citizenship). Privileges included being under the sole jurisdiction of the university. So, for instance, if a student ran afoul of the law, the arresting officer would simply inform the university rector, who would send a Pedel [glossary] to fetch him back for interrogation. The rector then had the right to let the student go free, levy a fine, or incarcerate the student in the university lock-up; cases might also be given over to the academic senate for a decision.

Before matriculating, the prospective student was supposed to register with one of the higher faculties (theology, law, or medicine), and in 1717 an entrance exam was added, to be administered by the dean of the philosophy faculty, unless the student was transferring from another university. Many entries in the Matrikel do not designate a higher faculty (Kant, for instance), and the exam appears to have been a formality, for the most part. After completing the exam, the candidate for matriculation was given a signum depositionis which he presented to the rector, along with a paper indicating registration with one of the faculties. The rector would then enter the student’s name and place of origin — sometimes also the name of his secondary school, or whether he had already studied at another university, or had previously matriculated at Königsberg, as well as the faculty (theology, law, or medicine) with which he was registered. The affair would end with an oath of allegiance to "the true Christian religion" (including a promise of obedience to the rector and academic officers as described by Arnoldt [1746, i.237-8]), although Goldbeck reported in the 1780s that a handshake (stip man) was now all that sealed the matriculation (and indeed, one finds many matriculation entries with the simple stip man.). Matriculation fees were 2 rthl., and another 2 rthl. and a few groschen for the exam (with double fees assessed for nobility) [Goldbeck 1782, 48, 78, 103].

Matriculation [top]

One of Kant’s most famous students, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) [bio], provides us with an example from the early 1760s of a student entering the university. He arrived in Königsberg in the spring or early summer of 1762 with barely enough money to register. According to an 1821 account written by the local historian, Ludwig von Baczko [repr. in Herder 1846, i.140-62], the seventeen year old Herder had found his way to Königsberg with the help of a military surgeon who had taken him under his wing. He became acquainted with the local surgeon (who happened also to be the father of Johann Georg Hamann, the “magus of the north”) and found employment at Kanter’s book shop. After growing restless at the book shop, however, an old school friend of Herder’s who was currently studying at the university, a youth by the name of Emmerich, escorted Herder to the home of the dean of the philosophy faculty, from whom he needed to take an entrance exam. The professor serving as dean that semester was the mathematician and theologian Christoph Langhansen [bio], “a sickly, hypochondriacal man,” who was about to leave his house when Emmerich and Herder appeared at his door. Herder’s shyness and rustic clothing apparently made a poor first impression on the dean, who asked them to return some other time for the exam, and in such a way as to suggest he seriously doubted Herder’s ability to pass. Now in a foul mood, Emmerich escorted his friend to the theology dean (this would have been Friedrich Samuel Bock [bio]), who turned out to be quite pleased with Herder, writing a flattering recommendation that won him a much friendlier reception from Langhansen when he returned (Baczko claims that theology students needed to pass an exam in oriental languages as well, presumably Hebrew, and administered by the dean of theology) [Herder 1846, i.156-57].

New students must sit for an entrance exam administered by the dean of the philosophy faculty, as well as register with one of the higher faculties (viz., theology, law, or medicine). With papers in hand showing he had passed the exam and was properly registered with one of the faculties, the student would then present himself to the rector of the university to be matriculated as an “academic citizen” of the university itself. Johann Bohl [bio], a professor of medicine to whom Kant was especially close, was serving as rector when Herder arrived and so he would have registered the new student, writing down his name and place of origin, whether he had studied elsewhere or had previously matriculated at Königsberg, his religious affiliation if not Lutheran, and occasionally mentioning the intended area of study, the gymnasium attended, membership in the nobility, or whether all or part of the matriculation fee was waived (the level of detail varies considerably from rector to rector).[1]  Herder’s entry in the matriculation records, the only one for that day, reads simply: “Herder Joh. Godfr., Mohrungen-Boruss.”[2]  So Herder registered with Bock in the theology faculty on August 7 (Saturday), passed the entrance exam with Langhansen two days later in the philosophy faculty (Monday, August 9), and matriculated into the university on Tuesday, August 10.[3]

[1] The rectorship rotated each semester through the four faculties. Bohl had served as rector the previous semester (WS 1761/62) and, as is customary, served the following semester as assistant to the new rector, Johann Georg Bock (the professor of poetry and older brother to the theology professor Friedrich Samuel Bock). But Bock died on July 7, requiring Bohl to finish out the term.

[2] “Boruss.” is an abbreviated Latin form for Prussia. Dobbek [1961, 85] notes that Herder arrived in Königsberg with 3 rthl., 8 gr. in his pocket, and that most of this went to pay the matriculation fee, which Goldbeck [1782, 48] tells us was 2 rthl. (4 rthl. for nobility), half of which went directly into the rector’s pocket.

[3] Haym [1880, 21] errs in claiming that Herder’s entrance exam was given by the dean of theology, and Kühnemann [1912, 15] and Dobbek [1961, 83] in claiming that Herder registered with the theology faculty on August 11. Two official documents (both published in Herder 1846, i.138-39) marking Herder’s transition into the university are stored in Haus II of the Berlin Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SBPK). The first [Herder-Nachlaß XXXVI.14] is a 20.5 x 35.5 cm sheet indicating his registration with the theology faculty. It is a mechanically printed document with spaces for entering the date (August 7), the name of the student, and the dean’s signature (Friedrich Samuel Bock). It is mistakenly cataloged as the “Aufnahmeprufung” (entrance exam) in Irmscher/Adler [1979, 303].
A second document (Herder-Nachlaß XXXVI.15), mistakenly catalogued as Herder’s matriculation paper, shows his passing the entrance exam with the philosophy faculty. This mechanically printed document is a single sheet, 35 x 42 cm, with the date (August 9) and Herder’s name entered in pen. The mark from the wax seal is still visible. Coelestin Kowalewski (the senior professor of law) is listed as the chancellor of the university, Bohl as the rector, and Christoph Langhansen (professor of mathematics, as well as the 2nd professor in the theology faculty) as dean of the philosophy faculty. Incidentally, Langhansen was also the philosophy dean when Kant entered as a student in 1740, and it was Langhansen’s death in 1770 that initiated the chain of events resulting in Kant finally being promoted to full professor of metaphysics and logic.

Entrance Exams at the University [top]

Graf Heinrich Ludwig Adolph Dohna [bio] matriculated at the Albertina in Königsberg on June 15, 1791 (as “Baro de Wundlacken”); he was only fourteen years old. His friend, Graf Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Keyserling, planned to join him at the university and wanted to know what to expect from the entrance exam: “I am especially interested to know what you were examined over when you matriculated. Might I hope for any answer to this letter, then I also hope for detailed information about this.”[1] Dohna’s answer is not available, although we do have an account from Theodore von Schön [bio] of his own entrance into the university:

I entered the university in the fall of 1788. My tutor, Berger[2] (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 language, 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] (afterwards a professor at Mitau).  I later studied Cicero on my own, with pen in hand.

Im Jahre 1788, Michaelis [glossary] 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. [Schön 2006, 63-64]

The secondary schools lacked any regularized sequencing of courses, and the ages of students entering the university varied considerably. Students would also matriculate at any time of the academic year, although they cluster in the week before the beginning of a semester. Similarly, certain advantages to being an “academic citizen,” such as exemption from military service, led some students to enroll at the university long before they expected to actually begin their studies, perhaps waiting a year or more before returning to Königsberg and attend classes.

The Abitur now current in Germany was introduced in 1788, in part to address this lack of standardization in the pre-college preparation [Herrlitz 1973, 41]. Different territories would arrive at their own solutions. For instance, in Württemburg (for which Stuttgart is the political center, Tübingen the academic center), there was instituted a yearly territorial examination which decided those pupils to be admitted into the state-funded cloister schools that, in turn, supplied the scholarship recipients at the Theology Stift at Tübingen [La Vopa 1988, 32-33].

The Legibus Studiorum of 1706 prohibited admission to the university by any student who did not have a “laudable report” from their school; an edict of 1717 added the requirement that students could not be admitted who had not been properly “released”[3] from their school, and also that students pass an entrance exam (consisting of both a written and an oral part) by the dean of the philosophy faculty (unless they had already matriculated at some other university or came with a proper testimony from their school rector or inspector). This restriction came with some unpleasant consequences: students from East Prussian schools unable to pass the exam were sent back to their school, and the rector and inspector of that school were each fined five rthl. [Arnoldt 1746, i.321]. The reforms of October 25, 1735, specified the level of knowledge expected of students arriving at the university:

No one is to be discharged [dimittiret] from the first class [the most advanced class of the Gymnasium] into the university who has not explicated with some competence a somewhat difficult author such as Curtius or the Selected Orations of Cicero and has held a small oration without grammatical errors. He should also understand tolerably well what is said in Latin. In Logic he should understand the most essential parts of the syllogism, and he should also know what is absolutely necessary in geography, history, and epistolography. At the same time he should also be able to explain and analyze at least two of the gospels, such as Matthew and John in Greek and the first thirty chapters of the Book of Moses in Hebrew. [Arnoldt 1746, i.319, appendix #54][4]

Students needed to know enough Latin to be able to understand the lectures and participate in disputations [Erler 1910, lxxx], although by Kant’s day very few students enjoyed this competency, and most lecturing was done in German.

Several contemporary reports of Kant’s examination duties as the philosophy dean have come down to us. Jachmann [bio] relates the following:

As the Dean of the philosophical faculty, he [Kant] was a strict examiner, but he required of the incoming students certainly no more than what one could expect from the then-current state of the schools. I myself had the fortune of being tested by him at my entrance into the university. After several years I forced a hearty smile from him when I told how our good old Rector Daubler [at Jachmann’s old Latin school in the Altstadt district] for his part had had a real fright over our examination, especially since we had learned philosophy in school from a follower of Crusius and a declared enemy of Kant’s, and that the inspector of the school … But Kant himself was too much a philosopher to have examined his students in Crusius’ philosophy or any other. [Jachmann 1912, 136-37; repr. in Malter 1990, 221-22][5]

And C. J. Kraus [bio] recalls that:

If he [Kant] did not examine very rigorously as a dean, it was because he found the entire business exceedingly disagreeable, nor could it be otherwise to a mind with his pursuits.  He disliked the rectorate on account of the many cases of dishonesty with which he, by virtue of the office, became acquainted.  The qualities of dishonesty and immorality were most odious to him. [Reicke 1860, 19; repr. in Malter 1990, 133]

Finally, Mortzfeld 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 that when their form has been forced through some artifice or hothouse. [1802, 90-92; repr. in Malter 1990, 132-33]

Upon passing the exam, the student received the so-called signum depositionis from the dean, which he presented to the rector as proof of having passed the exam, after which he could be matriculated. Erler reports that the exam cost the student 1 rthl., but Goldbeck claims it costs 2 rthl. 1 gr., and that at the end of each semester the money was divided evenly among the eight philosophy professors [Erler 1910, lxxx; Goldbeck 1782, 78; Gause 1996, ii.114].

[1] Qtd. in Kowalewski [1924, 14]. Keyserling matriculated three years later (25 March 1794) in philosophy.

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

[3] The word used is “dimittirt,” the modern equivalent of having “graduated.” Kant was serving as dean of the philosophy faculty during WS 1779-80, and near the end of his term was given such a certificate of release written by Christoph Samuel Domsien, the inspector of the Collegium Fridericianum; because Kant then used the sheet for jotting down some reflections (Refl. 5637, AA 18:268-76), the certificate found its way into the Academy edition (AA 18:269):

“Patre tandem consentiente e Collegio Fridericiano dimittitur Ioannes Ephraim Lietzau, Borussus. Hic, etsi cereus in vitium flecti, monitoribus tamen non semper fuit asper. Ceterum, quae ei, ex praescripto regio illo typis expresso, sunt praestanda, sine dubio praestabit. / Regiom.: di XXII Martii / (L. S.) / C. S. Domsien / Inspect: prim: Col: Frid:”

Adickes notes that Johannes Ephraim Lietzau matriculated at the university on this very same day (22 March 1780).

[4] This regulation is often cited as pertaining to the universities and, in particular, to the requirement of an entrance exam to be administered by the dean of the philosophy faculty.  But the regulation itself is included with those directed at the Gymnasia, and it would appear that this examination duty would fall on the inspector of the Gymnasium.

[5] Jachmann matriculated on 11 April 1783, so at the end of WS 1782/83, when Kant was dean.  Jachmann’s unnamed philosophy teacher at the Altstadt Latin school (“a Crusian and a declared enemy of Kant”) was almost certainly Daniel Weymann [bio] a Pietist follower of Crusius who attacked Leibniz and Wolff in his writings.  He quickly became an opponent of Kant’s ideas and a jealous competitor for his students. Kant and Weymann had a minor skirmish in 1759 over an essay on optimism; see Kant’s letter to Lindner, dated 28 October 1759 [AA 10:18-19, #13]. 
Stephen Wannowski [bio] was rector of the Burgschule, the Latin Reformed school in Königsberg, and he wrote to Kant on 31 March 1786 (#265, AA 10:439) regarding two students who had recently failed Kant’s exam (he served as dean during WS 1785/86 as well) and had been sent back to the Gymnasium; Wannowski was writing to say they had prepared more on their Latin, and were hoping to be re-tested the following day.  On Kant’s behavior as dean with respect to admitting students, see Euler/Dietzsch [1994, 98-100].

A Common Order of Studies [top]

Students were given a copy of the current Lecture Catalog [glossary] when they matriculated, and beginning with SS 1770 they were also given a copy of a booklet prepared by von Fürst in the Berlin ministry that offered a model six-semester course of study for each of the four faculties, “Methodological Instructions for Students in all Four Faculties.”

... each student should take as early as possible the best courses in the philosophy faculty, especially those most necessary for their main science.  From this he at least will have the advantage of grasping theology, or any other main science, more quickly and easily.  Whoever studies philosophy at the university must primarily have the intention of acquiring that proficiency in thought which is commensurate with the nature of true philosophy: true philosophy is a proficiency to think without prejudice and without attachment to any sect, and to investigate the nature of things. [1]

Each new Lecture Catalog, written in Latin, would be hung on the university notice board (or Schwarze Brett [glossary]) at the beginning of each semester, eight days after the installation of the new rector, and a translation in German would be printed in the Königsbergischen Gelehrten- und Politischen Zeitung shortly thereafter.  The private courses of professors were likely also announced in their public lectures, and of course lecturers and professors could also publish brief essays that included an announcement of their upcoming lectures (such as Kant did at least seven times, all during his years as a lecturer except for the SS 1775 announcement).

The average student entering the university was sixteen years old and would stay an average of two and one-third years in the second-half of the 18th century, and perhaps an average of two years for the century as a whole [Eulenberg 1904, 144; Paulsen 1921, 130].  All students were expected to sit through a set of courses under the philosophical faculty before beginning their proper study of medicine, law, or theology, and the most basic of these courses were logic and metaphysics — the two courses that Kant taught publicly beginning with his rise to full professor in SS 1770.  Nonetheless, we learn from Johann Christoph Mortzfeld, a physician in Königsberg, that …

Even among his students the opinion had spread that his lectures were hard to grasp, for which reason most tended to begin with the lectures on physical geography or philosophical morals.[2]

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.

Theodore von Schön asked Kant for advice when he first arrived at the university:

After I finished matriculating with the Rector[3], my tutor brought me to Kant. As a student, my father had attended a privatissima with Kant,[4] 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”[5] 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, and this without prescriptions or rules — this family life, and especially the occasional tossed-off remarks, did me well.

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. [Schön 2006, 64-66]

In the early 18th century, all theology students at Prussian universities were required by Royal Decree to study for two years in Halle to insure proper indoctrination into Pietism. By 1736, however, the theology faculty at Königsberg had become so thoroughly infested with Pietists that the King exempted their students from this requirement [Gause 1996, ii.122].

[1] The six semester schedules for each faculty are reprinted in Oberhausen/Pozzo [1999, xxix-xxxv]; see also Pozzo [2000c], which offers an English translation of the schedules for all four faculties.  Many questions regarding the interpretation of these schedules still remain.

[2] Mortzfeld [1802, 58-59; repr. in Malter 1990, 32]. This was an anonymously published short biography of Kant’s life.

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

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

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

Student Life [top]

The students at Königsberg were little different from those at other schools: they smoked on the street, drank to excess, disturbed the peace at night, broke out windows, and in general succumbed to every sort of rowdiness. The sons of nobility were allowed to wear swords, which they did, and other students tried to. One popular tradition was the “Petticoat Parade” (Pantoffelparade). This involved lining up in two rows outside the doors of the University Church before the service began and admiring the daughters of the good citizens as they entered the church. Another was the “Deposition” a traditional hazing ceremony of the new students. This, along with dueling and the “Turbieren der Bürger” were forbidden by royal decree in 1717. The 1735 reforms included the forbidding of student “night-music” — evening serenades — and threatened any faculty who accepted such a compliment with a 50 rthl. fine (the rector himself accepted such a serenade at the end of his term in 1738, and even invited the students into his house — for which he was sharply reprimanded by the King).[1]  Borowski notes that students would show their respect for a professor by serenading them with music in the evening, and presenting them with poems [1912, 71; repr. in Malter 1990, 292]. A 9 PM curfew was to keep students off the streets and out of the pubs. Frederick the Great recommended to the magistrate that students not be allowed to gamble, and that innkeepers were not to loan them money [Gause 1996, ii.113-14].

The university had various means for punishing students. It could suspend them (either temporarily or for life), expel them from the city, and even expel them from all of Prussia. There were also monetary penalties levied, as well as imprisonment, either in the Karzer (the college jail; not used much in the late 18th century, according to Goldbeck), and the Kustodie, which was more like a proper jail, and was adjacent to the apartment in the Collegio where the Pedellen lived [Goldbeck 1782, 53-54; see Hubatsch (1966, 12) for a photograph of the Karzer at Königsberg].

The university library consisted of two unheated rooms on the upper-floor of the south wing of the castle between the church and the tower; an endowment from the late Professor David Bläsing (died 1719) allowed the university library to be expanded, and when it reopened in 1724 the students were given free access to the books [Gause 1996, ii.114].  The library was typically staffed by professors moonlighting as librarians (Kant, for instance, was the assistant librarian from 1765 to 1772).  The students must not have spent much time here since its hours were so limited, being open only Wednesday and Saturday, and then only for three hours in the afternoon from 1 to 4.  What is more, it was non-circulating: any use of the books had to occur in the library.  And during the winter of 1772/73 it remained closed altogether because the head librarian — the theology professor Friedrich Samuel Bock — didn’t like to work in the cold rooms [Gause 1996, ii.242].[2]

[1] The unnamed professor would have been either J. D. Kypke or J. J. Quandt.  Borowski wrote that “for as long as I knew Kant, he would most diligently avoid any form of being honored, such as evening serenades by students, the presentation of poems, and the like” [1912, 71].

[2] Gause suggests that the library never opened in the winter [1974, 22].

Exit Exams, Testimonia, and Letters of Recommendation [top]

Most students left the university without graduating in any formal sense.  By the latter third of the 18th century there were official guidelines for courses of study in each of the disciplines (generally three-year courses), and students were expected to complete these and then leave.  Not until 1810 was the Staatsexam, a kind of exit exam still used in German universities, instituted at Königsberg.  By the early 19th century, the philosophical-philological faculty was similar to the theological.  Prior to this, theology graduates would teach in the schools until they found a pastoral position, but now the philosophy/philology graduates, after passing the state exams, were also placed in the schools [Gause 1996, ii.344].[1]

In lieu of an exit exam, students relied on testimonia and letters of recommendation. The testimonia were typically brief written recommendations given directly to the student to use as he wished. These varied in length, in detail, and in language. For instance, Kant wrote a brief Latin testimonial for T. G. Ebel:

An extraordinary young man Theodor William Ebel, I.V.St [?] of Bialla, Prussia, has attended my private and public lectures, as well as my repetitorium. Sworn, Königsberg, the 14th of February, 1788, Immanuel Kant, Ordinary Professor of Logic and Metaphysics.

Virum iuvenem eximium Theodor Guiliem. Ebel Bialla Boruss. I.V.St, collegia mea philosophica tam privata quam publica, et praeterea repetitorium frequentasse, testor. Regiom d 14 Febr. 1788 I Kant. Log et M.P.O.

… and a more personalized testimonial in German for C. J. H. Elsner:

That Mr. Christoph Heinr. Elsner, born in Bartenstein, Prussia; the son of Dr. Elsner, practicing physician in Königsberg; who departed from Berlin to Hamburg, and then to Bordeaux by ship, attended all of his philosophy courses with me, and due to his diligence in acquiring a thorough knowledge performed well on his exams, I attest with this. / Königsberg, the 10th of June 1800. / Immanuel Kant / The Ordinary Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, senior professor of the philosophy faculty and the entire university, member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Imperial [Academy] of St. Petersburg.

Dass Herr Christoph Johann Heinr. Elsner, aus Bartenstein in Preussen gebürtig; Sohn des Herrn Dr. Elsner, practischen Medicus in Königsberg: der von Berlin, über Hamburg nach Bordeaux zu Schiffe abgegangen, bey mir alle seine philosophische Collegia frequentiert und von seinem Fleiss zu Erwerbung gründlicher Kenntnisse die besten Proben gegen, bezeuge hiemit. / Koenigsberg, d. 10. Juny 1800. / Immanuel Kant / Der Logik und Metaph. Professor ordin., der Philos. Facultat u. der ganzen Universität Senior, der Königl. Preuss. Acad. der Wissensch. in Berlin und der Russisch Kayserlichen zu St. Petersburg Mitglied. [Qtd. in Krause 1920, 140]

See also the account of a testimonium written for Johann Christian Edelmann [La Vopa 1988, 92, 97].

Kant’s letter of recommendation for J. H. I. Lehmann [bio] of August 1797:[2]

Mr. Lehmann attended all my courses on Logic, Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, Natural Law,[3] Physics, Anthropology, and Physical Geography not only with unceasing diligence and the best progress (as the examinations which I held proved to me), but has also always been one of those few who have the talent to hold forth (Vortrage) on what they have learned, to make it relevant, and thus to be qualified as a future teacher. Apart from that his social qualities are such that I have invited him more often to lunch, for my own relaxation, than anyone else, and I still invite him as often as I can without disadvantaging his other social affairs. [...] [Reprinted in Malter 1990, 343]

HE. Lehmann hat allen meinen Collegien der Logik, Metaphysik, der Moral, des Naturrechts, Physik, der Anthropologie und physischen Geographie nicht allein mit unausgesetztem Fleis und dem besten Fortgange (wie mir die Examina die ich anstellete es bewiesen) frequentirt sondern ist auch immer einer von den Wenigen gewesen welche auch ihr Talent zum Vortrage dessen, was sie gelernt hatten, an den Tag legten und sich also zu künftigen Lehrern qualificirten. Ueberdem sind seine Umgangseigenschaften so beschaffen daß ich ihn meiner eigenen Erholung wegen am häufigsten an meinen Tisch gezogen habe und noch invitire so oft es nur ohne Nachtheil seiner anderweitigen Geschäfte geschehen kann; [...].

[1] But see Gause [1996, ii.114]: “The King’s desire for order showed itself above all else in the introduction of an exit exam [Abschlußprüfung], the State’s Exam [Staatsexamen]. Up until then, each student had assumed an office or opened a practice when he believed that he had learned enough. From now on the theology and teaching students must be examined by the Theology Faculty, the medical students by the collegium sanitatis, before they could enter a practice.”

[2] Kant also wrote a letter seeking financial aid for Lehmann.

[3] Lehmann matriculated on 23 September 1789, and so began taking classes with the WS 1789/90, and Kant last taught Natural Law the previous year (SS 1788), and Physics the summer before that (WS 87/88), therefore one wonders how Lehmann might have visited these classes.  This shows a certain carelessness that is perhaps a result of Kant’s advancing years.

The Magister Exam [top]

The public examination of candidates for the Magister degree was discontinued in a decree of September 20, 1717 “since they incur unnecessary costs, but especially because they have become occasions where personal conflicts are aired, much to the disquiet of the candidates, and without any proper examination of their erudition”.[1]

[1] “Rescript wegen Abschaffung des öffentlichen Examens bey den Magisterpromotionen, 1717”, reprinted in Arnoldt [1746, ii.80, appendix #57]:

Unsern u. Demnach Uns aus eurem allerunterthänigsten Bericht fürgetragen worden, welcher Gestalt in denen Promotionen das so genannte Examen publicum nicht nur gar zu weitläuftig, und viele beschwerliche Unkosten verursachet, sondern auch in demselben die edle Zeit mit vergeblichen unnützen Fragen mehrentheils hingebracht, oftmals durch acerbe Exagitationes Zanck und immerwehrende Feindschaft erreget wird, und solches bey denen andern Facultäten hiesiger Academie nicht gebräuchlich ist, die Candidati hingegen, welche samtlich es abhorriren, ohnedem ihre Erudition in dem Examine rigorose, und sonst durch erforderte Specimina zur Gnüge an den Tag legen können; als haben Wir in Betrachtung sothaner erheblichen Ursachen, daß gedachtes Examen publicum ceßiren möge, gut befunden, und befehlen euch derowegen hiemit allergnädigst ohne demselben die bevorstehende Magister-Promotion zu bewerkstelligen, hinführo auch in dergleichen solennen Actibus es also zu beobachten.

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 8 Feb 2015
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu