|KANT IN THE CLASSROOM Materials to aid the study of Kant’s lectures|
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)
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.
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. 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 nearly eight years of study at the Collegium Fridericianum, Kant graduated at the end of the summer term, 1740, and promptly matriculated at the Albertus University in Königsberg on Saturday, September 24, 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 claimed (in 1782) 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, and that one wasn’t looking to earn a living with it. He reminded Wlömer and me, among other ideas, of the common life and intercourse. Wlömer, Kant, and I decided to attend in the next semester the lectures of Consistory Advisor Dr. Schultz, the pastor of the Altstadt church. We did it, and didn’t skip a single hour, took diligent notes, repeated the material at home, and always did so well on the exams that this worthy man often gave us that, at the conclusion of the last class session, he asked the three of us to stay behind, and he asked us our names, what languages we knew, the courses we were taking, and our intentions at the university. Kant said he wanted to be a physician. [Heilsberg, qtd. in Reicke 1860, 50]
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 1912, 17; 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 Kaplan 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 counselor 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]
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]
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 (logic and metaphysics, 1727), J. A. Gregorovius Sr. (practical philosophy, 1726), C. Kowalewski (rhetoric and history, 1735), J. G. Bock (poetry, 1733), J. Behm (Greek, 1721), J. B. Hahn, Sr. (oriental languages, 1715), C. Langhansen (mathematics, 1719), and J. G. Teske (physics, 1729), as well two full professors occupying temporary chairs created for them: G. F. Casseburg (antiquity, 1740) and Cölestin Flottwell (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 (poetry, 1715), K. A. Christiani (practical philosophy, 1735), J. F. Danovius (rhetoric, 1736), C. H. Gütther (Greek, 1722), M. Knutzen (logic and metaphysics, 1734), G. D. Kypke (oriental languages, 1746), K. G. Marquardt (mathematics, 1730), C. C. Neufeldt (literary history, 1724), K. H. Rappolt (physics, 1731), and J. J. Rau (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.
In his memorial address for Kant, 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.
 The only textbook found in Kant’s library that stems from his student years was Marquardt’s book on astronomy.
Kant’s Classes [top]
We know that Kant studied in the natural sciences (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, 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].
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].
 Emil Arnoldt attempts to reconstruct Kant’s class schedule in Kants Jugend [pp. 121-27]. 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]; still more thorough is a discussion in Stark [Introduction to Kant’s Physical Geography, forthcoming].
Kant Leaves the University [top]
While still a student Kant wrote and began publishing his first essay for the public eye: Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces (Königsberg: Martin Eberhard Dorn, 1747). Kant chose to publish this essay in German, even though he could easily have written it in Latin, and he needed just such a Latin treatise to receive his Magister degree. He instead left Königsberg and the university, possibly as late as August 1748, without receiving a degree. Why he left is unclear. He may not have gotten on well with certain professors, such as Martin Knutzen, or finances may have forced him to seek a paying job; or he may have hoped to seek his fortunes outside of academia — perhaps all of these contributed to his leaving.
On the first point, Kuehn has has pointed out that Kant’s relationship to Knutzen was not nearly as straight-forward and friendly as earlier biographers had suggested. Given that Knutzen never mentions Kant as one of his students (favoring instead Kant’s older contemporary, Friedrich Johann Buck) and that Kant never mentions Knutzen in his writings, much less dedicate any of his writings to Knutzen’s memory, it is indeed difficult to discern a mentoring relationship between them [Kuehn 2000, 88-89].
In any event, Kant left the university and entered into a brief career as a private tutor or Hofmeister, eventually working with three different families (see the discussion of the Hofmeister).
 Lessing, four years Kant’s junior, published a brief review of this book in July 1751: “Kant undertook the difficult business of educating the world. He estimated the living forces, without first estimating his own.” (“Kant unternimmt ein schwer Geschäfte, / der Welt zum Unterricht. / Er schätztet die lebend’gen Kräfte, / nur seine schätzt er nicht”; quoted in Ak. 13: 1, originally published in the Berlinischen Zeitung). Kurd Lasswitz, in his Introduction to the Academy edition reprint [Ak. 1: 521-2], reports that Kant’s essay was presented to the dean of the philosophy faculty (during SS 1746, Johann Adam Gregorovius, Senior), who entered it into the records: “Censurae Decani scripta sunt oblata sequentia: … . (b) Immanuel Kandt Stud: plen: Tit: Gedancken von der wahren Schätzung der lebendigen Kräffte etc.” As required by law, all printed matter published in Königsberg required prior censoring by the appropriate faculty of the university. Kant began to print this book at his own expense, with the help of a relative, the shoemaker Richter [Borowski 1912, 23-24]. Printing was completed in 1749; Kant’s preface and dedication to Johann Christoph Bohl (a professor medicine at Königsberg) was inserted in 1747.
 According to Waschkies [1987, 28, 56-57]. 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. Kant is traditionally thought to have left Königsberg late 1746 or early 1747, released from any worry over his father, and with his younger siblings living in the home of his relative Richter [Vorländer 1924, i.61-65].
Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester College)
Last modified: 1 Jul 2010
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