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

Kant’s Writings
Academy Edition
Kant’s Life


> Introduction
Reliability of the Notes [List: Past Evaluations]
Production of the Notes
Dating the Notes
Lists: [Published Notes] [Unpublished Notes]
Lists: [Composite] [Variant Names] [Menzer 1912] [Locations]

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 While fragments from other disciplines remain unpublished, all but the notes from physical geography have been published in the Academy edition of Kant’s writings, and a large number of translations into English have recently become available in the Cambridge edition of Kant’s works.[see] (A list of published notes can be found here; a combined list of all the known sets of notes can be found here.)

Anthropology 4736336
Encyclopedia 3110
Geography 3632152
Logic 2619176
Mathematics 1110
Metaphysics 1713118
Moral Phil. 2314126
Natural Law 2110
Pedagogy 1111
Physics 3330
Natural Theology 5551
TOTAL: 16412610030
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.[2]

  • They consider topics not discussed in any of the published writings.[3]

  • They provide much of the philosophical context against which these writings were to be understood.[4]

  • They offer a new perspective into Kant’s intellectual development.[5]

  • They round out our understanding of Kant’s life and personality.[6]

  • Finally, they are much more accessible to the non-specialist, as would have been fitting for a classroom presentation.[7]

Before using these notes, however, one needs to consider three nested questions:

  (1) How reliable are the Academy edition transcriptions [see] of the various sets of notes?

  (2) Assuming reliable transcriptions, how reliable are these notes in reflecting what Kant said in the lectures?

  (3) Assuming reliable notes, when did Kant say these things? That is, for any given set of notes (or with compilations, for any given passage in a set of notes) what is the source-lecture?

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 first question is the most straight-forward and can be addressed below; the others require separate pages on the reliability and dating of the notes.

The Academy edition (or translations based on it) is generally one’s only access to these notes (but see the lists of published and still unpublished notes). As regards the reliability of its transcriptions, we need to 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.[8] 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).[9]

Descriptions of the Notes

In a world without limits of time or space, one might expect a more thorough description of each of the manuscripts than is provided in the lists of disciplines above. What is found instead is work-to-date — already too detailed for the tastes and needs of many, but still suffering from important gaps.

Descriptions of the notes are grouped by discipline (Anthropology, Encyclopedia, etc.) and ordered alphabetically within each discipline. Please consult the Composite List for an overview of all the manuscripts, or click on one of the disciplines (above) for a list of the notes in that discipline.

Each manuscript is given an entry with the following kinds of information (when available or appropriate):

  (1) Other names or designations of the manuscript used by previous scholars (knowing this is critical when making use of older literature; these have been collected into a list of Variant Names);

  (2) A physical description and history of the manuscript (what it looks like, where it came from);

  (3) Information on its location (either present, or the last known location — giving the city, the library or archive, and the cataloging signature when appropriate), as well as the location of copies or films that we know about;

  (4) Publication information (transcriptions as well as translations — here the bibliography must be consulted for a full citation);

  (5) Dating (the best guess of current scholarship on when the source lecture occurred); and

  (6) Contents (which topics are covered in the notes, as well as their completeness, and whether the manuscript is ancestrally related to other 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 minor 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] Adickes [1896, 580] writes: [see]

[T]he lectures, and the later in particular, appear to possess a certain value even now, on account of their happy formulation of detached thoughts, and as constituting an easy introduction to the Kantian philosophy.

[3] Glasenapp [1954, xii] offers us an example of this: [see]

For the great number of remarks that Kant made on the Orient, and that are preserved not in his books but rather only in the lecture notes, clearly shows that a comprehensive knowledge of Kant’s life work cannot be won from Kant’s published writings alone, and that our picture of his activity must be necessary incomplete without a close consideration of the notes from his lectures. This is just one factor that can also be of fundamental importance in the assessment of the notes from Kant’s philosophical lectures.

[4] For instance, the names of other philosophers and the titles of books appear in the notes far more frequently than they do in the published writings or letters.

[5] As Dilthey wrote in the preface to vol. 1 of the Academy edition of Kant’s writings: [see]

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; AA 1:xiv]

[6] Heinze [1894, 658] wrote in his study of the metaphysics lectures:

We become better acquainted in the lectures with Kant in his deepest work, in his striving towards something positive, but also in his wobbling, than any view of himself that he offers in his published works. It is not seldom that he airs his heart with some pregnant expression arising from his innermost conviction. Precisely because of this clearer emergence of Kant’s whole personality are the lectures not to be undervalued. [see]

[7] One suggestion of this is found in the memoires of Dirk van Hogendorp, a Dutch soldier and student who attended Kant’s lectures in the early 1780’s:

I do not wish to speak of the philosophical system of this great, splendid man. Few people have grasped it very clearly. [...] But what I can assure you from my own experience, however, is that he developed parts of it with great clarity in his lectures, and that his easily understood expression scarcely required any explanations, that were on occasion asked of him, and which he always gave with the most imaginable helpfulness. [Hogendorp 1887, 15-16] [see]

[8] 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.

[9] For assessments of AA 24 (logic), see Hinske [1989, xxx-xxxvii] and Oberhausen [2000]; of AA 27 (moral philosophy), see Schwaiger [2000]; of AA 28-29 (metaphysics), see Naragon [2000]; of AA 29.1, see Stark [1984c, 1985b].

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 12 Jun 2015
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu