The Herder notes from
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) lectured on philosophy at the university at Königsberg for forty-one years, from the winter semester of 1755-56 until the summer semester of 1796. He eventually assumed the professorship of logic and metaphysics – the academic senate officially installed him on 2 May 1770, near the beginning of the summer semester – but for the previous fifteen years he had served as an unsalaried Privatdozent or lecturer, and in the summer of 1762, he was midway through this first career when an almost eighteen-year-old Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) arrived in Königsberg, where he studied for two years before leaving for Riga on 22 November 1764 to assume a teaching post at the cathedral school.
Kant invited Herder to attend his lectures for free, which Herder did – all of them and sometimes more than once – and he took extensive notes over the course of two years. The largest set of notes came from the metaphysics lectures, followed by physical geography and moral philosophy, with just a few pages of notes on logic, and slightly longer sets on physics and mathematics (although with these there is some question as to whether they came from Kant’s lectures, and so we have collected them with other Varia on this website). These are the earliest notes we have from Kant’s lectures and the only notes before 1770.
Previous transcriptions of some of these notes were published by Menzer (1911; fragments from the Physical Geography and Metaphysics notes), Irmscher (1964; all that was available to him at the time on Logic, Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, and Moral Philosophy), and by Lehmann in the following volumes of the Academy edition of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften: 24 (1966; Logic), 27 (1974; Moral Philosophy), 28 (1968, 1970; Metaphysics), and 29 (1980; Mathematics, Physics). Because of Herder’s importance in the history of ideas, and because these are the only notes we have from Kant’s lectures as a Privatdocent, we have collected all of Herder’s notes from Kant’s lectures into a single volume, thus departing from the practice of the other volumes of Abtheilung IV, where the lecture notes are ordered by discipline.
This website provides an improved transcription of Herder’s notes on metaphysics, moral philosophy, logic, physics, and mathematics, and the first transcription of his notes from Kant’s physical geography lectures.
Using this Website
To access the Herder notes, click on one of the sets here – Metaphysics [MP], Moral Philosophy [MO], Physical Geography [PG], Logic [LO], Varia [VA] – or in the links above. The Bibliography and Name Index can be accessed from any page. Clicking on their titles (in the windows to the right) expands them to the main window. We include them on this opening page to facilitate searches using your browser search function. A final page contains Excerpts of source material used by Kant in his lectures (other than the official textbooks used).
Each set of notes has its own introductory page with information for that transcription.
Herder’s Studies in Königsberg [top]
Herder was born and spent his childhood and early education in Mohrungen (now: Morąg, Poland), a large town of about 1800 inhabitants lying inland and equidistant from the port cities of Danzig (now: Gdańsk, Poland) to the north-west and Königsberg (now: Kaliningrad, Russia) to the north-east, roughly 120 kilometers distant. Königsberg was one of the larger German-speaking cities, with about fifty-thousand inhabitants when Herder arrived in the summer of 1762.
Kant had been teaching as a Privatdozent for seven years, offering lectures possibly every semester on logic, metaphysics, and mathematics, and often on theoretical physics, physical geography, and moral philosophy. Herder’s stay in Königsberg overlapped with six semesters at the university, arriving in the middle of the summer semester 1762 and leaving near the middle of the winter semester 1764-65. His very first lecture notes are dated from that first partial semester: 21 August 1762.
Herder claims to have attended all of Kant’s courses offered and we appear to have notes from each of these: physical geography, logic, mathematics, metaphysics, moral philosophy, and physics (see Table 1) – but the records of Kant’s teaching schedule during Herder’s student years are not entirely firm. In the table, an ‘x’ indicates that the course likely took place, and with the last two semesters we also have information on the time and day (the default lecture days were Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, although in 1764 the metaphysics lectures were held every Wednesday and Saturday from 10 to noon).
Entering the university
A new student arriving at the university would sit for an entrance exam administered by the dean of the philosophy faculty, as well as register with the dean of one of the higher faculties (theology, law, or medicine). With papers in hand showing he had passed the exam and was properly registered with a higher faculty, the student would then present himself to the rector of the university to be matriculated as an “academic citizen” of the university itself. Johann Christoph Bohl, the second full professor of medicine, 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).
So Herder registered with Friedrich Samuel Bock, the dean of the theology faculty, on August 7 (Saturday), passed the entrance exam on Monday with Christoph Langhansen, the dean of the philosophy faculty, and matriculated into the university with Bohl on Tuesday, 10 August 1762. His was the only entry for that day: “Herder Joh. Godfr., Mohrungen-Boruss.” (‘Borussia’ is the Latin name for Prussia).
Herder recounted this adventure in a letter of 22 September 1770 to Caroline Flachsland, the woman he would marry three years later:
“Due to a thousand prejudices, my parents didn’t want me to pursue an education. A hypocrite, through whose example hypocrites became for me the worst of all people, and who mixed himself into the affairs of my family, infinitely increased this difficulty. Dazed, ignorant, I had to follow blindly: I went to Königsberg with a Russian surgeon, a friend of my parents, in order to cure my eye. Fortunately he was quickly called to Petersburg, made me the most enticing offers, and I – went off and matriculated. Ignorant and unknown as I was, without my parents’ permission and against the will of him to whom I was entrusted; indeed, with neither money nor prospect, after just three weeks I entered the academy. And I have not regretted it yet.” (Herder Briefe, 1: 228-30).
Teaching at the Collegium Fridericianum
Financially impoverished yet capable students such as Herder, especially those with the proper theological orientation, could often find employment at the Collegium Fridericianum, the pietist gymnasium on the Berg-Platz in the Löbenicht district. Either through Johann Georg Hamann or the bookseller and publisher Johann Jakob Kanter – both of whom he met not long after arriving in Königsberg – Herder secured a position at the Fridericianum, which in Herder’s day served as a model Latin school for all of Prussia, having been started sixty years earlier as a private home school and then receiving a royal privilege. Kant had studied there from ages 8 to 16 as a day student, but there were also quarters to lodge between forty and fifty boys – and these boys needed supervisors, called Inspicienten. This was Herder’s first position at the school, bringing with it free room and board, the room being shared with two boys whose studies, prayers, and general demeanor he supervised.
The success of this school (and the other four Latin schools in Königsberg) was predicated on the cheap labor of theology students at the university who formed much of the teaching staff. Although initially hired as an Inspicient, Herder was teaching the very next semester (1762-63): first arithmetic (Rechenunterricht) to elementary students in the German school, and then he was promoted to teaching Greek, French, Hebrew, and mathematics to students in the third class (1763), and in 1763-64 Latin to the second class students, and history and philosophy to the first class. So while Herder was attending classes and taking notes at the university he was also preparing and writing notes as a teacher at this local high school.
In the end, Herder grew dissatisfied with teaching at the Fridericianum, secured a teaching position at the Cathedral School in Riga, and left Königsberg on 22 November 1764, after some delays caused by the great fire of November 11.
Coursework at the university
In 1762 there were six full professors in the theology faculty (two of whom also held chairs in philosophy) and one associate professor; the law faculty consisted of four full professors and four associate professors; and medicine had five full professors. Student enrollment at that time was about 325.
Apart from hearing all of Kant’s lectures, Herder is claimed to have heard dogmatics with T. C. Lilienthal, church history with D. H. Arnoldt, philology with G. D. Kypke, physics with J. G. Teske,  mathematics and physics with F. J. Buck, and possibly also New Testament with C. Langhansen and F. S. Bock
Some of this information comes from Herder himself. In a letter from early 1768, Herder offered a brief account of his university coursework: “philosophy according to its parts with Magister Kant, philology with Professor Kypke, theology in its various fields with Doctor Lilienthal and Arnold [sic].” About thirty-five years later, Herder spoke of his student days with Karl August Böttiger, who then recounted it in his journal:
“In Königsberg there was at that time such a deplorable dryness and barbarity among the teachers. Langhansen, the senior court chaplain, was the most boring wind-bag and polemicist, and wholly unpalatable to Herder. A certain Bock was professor of ancient languages, a pitiful fellow, who analyzed the New Testament and at which Herder could last only an hour. Otherwise this Bock is a known author in several fields. Kypke was also a professor of theology then, but lived far out in the suburbs where he sold carrots and onions from his garden and gave quite unpalatable lectures on Genesis. A certain Buck lectured on mathematics, but always only according to Wolff’s Anfangsgründen, and never more than that, although Herder nevertheless attended with great diligence, likewise with his physics, that he delivered quite clumsily. In part the professors had to give such school-level lectures because the students were wholly unprepared. The Albertinum was there for the Poles, where the most deplorable hazing reigned, with the young fellows waiting on the older ones, and these students populated the entire university. And from this was the university populated. Kant shone from the lectern, a god to all. The Livland and Curland students attended only his lectures, as they pursued only fashionable studies. But he spoke a lot of confusing things as well. Herder could make use of his lectures only by noting the main points in the classroom, and then setting out and re-working what he had heard in his own way once back home.” (Böttiger 1998, 125)
Around the time this reminiscence was recorded, Herder wrote the following encomium to Kant:
“I had the good fortune to know a philosopher who was also my teacher. He was in his best years, and possessed the cheerful vivacity of youth which, I believe, has accompanied him even into old age. His open, thoughtful brow was the seat of undisturbed cheerfulness and joy; language rich in thought flowed from his lips; jokes, wit, and good humor were at his command; and his instructive lectures were the most entertaining conversation. In the same spirit with which he investigated Leibniz, Wolf, Baumgarten, Crusius, and Hume, and traced the laws of Kepler, Newton, and the physicists generally, he also examined the writings of Rousseau then appearing, namely his Émile and his Heloise. He appreciated every physical discovery that came to his notice and always returned to an impartial knowledge of nature and the moral worth of man. The well-spring of his lectures was the history of people, of nations, and of nature, as well as natural science, mathematics, and his own experience. To nothing worth knowing was he indifferent. No cabal, no sect, no prejudice, no ambition for fame, had the least influence over him compared with the development and clarification of the truth. He encouraged and pleasantly compelled his hearers to think for themselves; despotism was foreign to his mind. This man, whom I mention with the greatest thankfulness and esteem, is Immanuel Kant; his picture stands pleasantly before me.” (Letters on the Advancement of Humanity, #79; Suphan, 17: 404; FHA 7: 424-25)
We also find recollections in Herder’s travel journal from 1769, along with plans for a school modeled after Rousseau: Herder’s future school would involve not mere speculation, but rather “the result of all the empirical sciences, without which it would admittedly be just idle speculation.” It would include psychology (“a rich physics of the soul”), cosmology (“the crown of Newtonian physics”), theology (“the crown of cosmology”), and finally ontology (“the most cultivated science of them all”):
“I readily admit that we do not yet have a philosophy following this method, such that would really teach students, nor especially ontology – that most excellent teacher of great prospects has become a mere web of jargon! Oh, what might be accomplished with a metaphysics in this spirit, to expand its prospects from one concept to another in the spirit of Bacon, what would that be for a work! And a lively instruction in the spirit of Kant, what for heavenly hours!” (Journal of my Travels in the Year 1769 [FHA, 9.2: 49])
Anecdotes from two of Herder’s classmates – Karl Gottlieb Bock and Jakob Friedrich Wilpert – are also available. Bock (1746-1829) matriculated at Königsberg a month after Herder on 27 September 1762, and forty-three years later offered these memories of their student days together:
“Kant offered to let him hear, free of charge, all his lectures on logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy, mathematics, and physical geography. It was here, in the years 1763 and 1764, that I made his acquaintance. We heard Kant’s lectures together which he wrote to me about in a letter of August 11, 1788, on his way to Italy from Nuremberg: ‘I still see you, real as life, sitting at the table at which I also sat. Where has the time gone?’
With strained attentiveness he took in every idea, every word of the great philosopher, and at home ordered his thoughts and expression. He often shared these notes with me, and we would discuss them in an isolated summer house in a seldom-visited public garden by the Alt-Roßgarten church.” (Herder 1846, 133-34; Herder’s letter to Bock is printed in Herder Briefe, 6: 20-22)
Bock goes on to recall an especially lively lecture where Kant was quoting from his favorite poets (Pope and Haller) to illuminate certain points on the nature of time and eternity. Herder was so moved by this that he returned to his room, set Kant’s lecture to verse, and then handed it to Kant the following morning before the lecture began. Kant was so impressed by Herder’s poem that he read it aloud to the class “with fiery praise.” The poem is lost, but if Bock is correct that it “sprang out of Kant’s lecture on time and space like Minerva from Jupiter’s head,” then Herder presumably found poetic inspiration sitting in Kant’s metaphysics lectures – which is at odds with the observation made by Herder’s widow, Caroline:
“He most preferred hearing Kant talk about astronomy, physical geography, and in general about the great laws of nature: here his presentation was splendid. For his metaphysics lectures he had much less taste – even though he felt he understood these better than his later ideas, and even though Kant at that time presented his material in all his youthful rhetoric and in  a much clearer language than the later scholastic jargon. After many of these metaphysical lectures he would hurry outside with some poet or Rousseau, or some such author, so as to free himself of the impressions that agreed so little with his mind.”
Jakob Friedrich Wilpert (1741-1812), later a mayor of Riga, recalled attending with Herder …
“… Kant’s lectures on metaphysics, moral philosophy, and physical geography. We sat at a table; at that time he was shy and quiet, his gait was stooped and quick, his eyes often sick-looking; from his appearances, one could see that he was poor; but his spirit was rich, even then – and when he discussed the lectures of his teachers, it was so thorough and firm, that he commanded respect and affection from his colleagues. We all heard dogmatics together from Dr. Lilienthal; otherwise I didn't have any closer relations with him.” (Herder 1846, 137)
Near the end of his life, in the latter years of a bitter falling out with Kant, Herder offers one last glimpse of his student days in the preface to his Kalligone (1800):
“For more than thirty years I’ve known a youth [viz., Herder himself] who heard all of the lectures, some more than once, of the founder of the critical philosophy himself – and indeed in his early, flourishing years. The youth marveled over the teacher’s dialectical wit, his political as well as scientific acumen, his eloquence, his intelligent memory; he was never at a loss for words; his lectures were meaningful conversations with himself. But the youth soon noticed that, when he set aside the gracefulness of the presentation, he would become wrapped in one of its dialectical webs of words, within which he himself was no longer able to think. He therefore set himself the strict task, after each hour of careful listening, of changing it all into his own words, making no use of pet words or phrases of his teacher, and even diligently to avoid this.” (FHA 8: 651-52)
Provenance of the Notes [top]
A list of the manuscripts transcribed in this volume – 336 pages spread across some 30 manuscripts, depending on how they are collected – is provided as an appendix to this introduction. Their journey from Herder’s hand to us is convoluted and with many pages lost along the way.
Herder’s widow, Caroline, born Maria Caroline Flachsland (1750-1809), died just six years after her husband, and many of those six years were spent putting his papers in order. She had always been intimately engaged with her husband’s writings and now she wrote his biography and carried out the first collecting and arranging of the Nachlaß (two volumes, published posthumously in 1820) along with a first edition of a “collected works” with the Müller brothers – Johannes von Müller (1752-1809) and Johann Georg Müller (1759-1819) – culminating in a 45-volume edition (Tübingen, 1805-20) followed by a 60-volume edition (Stuttgart, 1827-30). Some of Herder’s student notes were likely sorted through at this time. Herder’s sixth child, Emil Ernst Gottfried Herder (1783-1855), also worked with the Nachlaß in editing the six volume Lebensbild (1846) and apparently tore pages from Herder’s notebooks while working through this material (Irmscher 1960, 1-2).
Bernard Suphan (1845-1911) undertook a new 33-volume edition of Herder’s Sämmtliche Werke (Berlin 1877-1913), and while his focus was on the published writings, he also clearly worked through the Nachlaß. The notes were all collected into fascicles or folders with Arabic numerals and the fascicles were then grouped into boxes (Kapseln) with Roman numerals – there are 45 boxes altogether in the Nachlaß Herder at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz [SBPK]. Suphan was likely responsible for this initial ordering (catalogued by Irmscher and Adler in 1979) and was certainly instrumental in arranging the previous purchase of a large part of the Herder Nachlaß in 1870 (Irmscher 1960, 2). All the loose sheets included in the present transcription are collected in Nachlaß Herder XXV, folders 37-46. Apart from a few notes found in notebooks (viz., XX.188 and XXVI.5), there are also notes found in the Nachlaß Kant in the Akademie-Archiv/Berlin, and a set of copies are kept in the same archive with the Nachlaß Adickes.
Rudolph Haym (1821-1901) in preparing his two-volume biography of Herder (published 1880 and 1885), learned of Herder’s lecture notes in the Nachlaß and understood them to come from Kant’s lectures; Haym mentions Herder attending Teske’s physics lectures and Buck’s mathematics lectures (citing Böttiger as his source), and how these paled in comparison to Kant’s lectures (1880, 1: 30). Haym was also aware that Herder first attended Kant’s lectures on 21 August 1762 – so he must have been familiar with the Brown Notebook (Herder-NL XXVI.5), mentioning that it includes notes from that day’s lecture (1880, 1: 30). Haym also mentions seeing a Heft of Herder’s notes from Kant’s physical geography lectures, and that Herder clearly had these lectures in mind while reminiscing in one of his Weimar “Schulreden” about being drawn beyond the borders of his place of birth out into God’s wide world “in which our earth floats” (1880, 1: 33).
F. W. Paul Lehmann (1850-1930), a geographer and professor at a Berlin Gymnasium, provided a closer description of the physical geography notes:
“Among Herder’s papers are notes from the physical geography lectures that Prof. Suphan, the well-known editor of Herder’s works, allowed me to see. Written in pencil and ink, they are sketches of many individual lectures, which are not always easy to read and sometimes difficult to interpret, given the many signs for the most frequently recurring words; many sections agree verbatim with passages from Rink’s second volume, and in the same arrangement. Herder has carefully worked out the first part, which contains the actual physical geography. It was not difficult for me to arrange the descriptions written on quarto sheets and faithfully following the sketch, which is also available for some of the lectures.” (1886, 129)
Paul Menzer (1873-1960) discovered three large groups of Herder’s manuscripts around 1900 while still a Privatdozent in Berlin working with Dilthey. He identified these as notes from Kant’s lectures on metaphysics, moral philosophy, and physical geography (see Dilthey’s 1900 report on the Kant-Ausgabe to the Berlin Academy of Sciences) and (with the help of two others) prepared a handwritten ink copy of most (but not all) of the notes on metaphysics and physical geography, as well as a single page of logic notes – 231 sheets in all. This copy was prepared, in part, as source material for Menzer’s book, Kants Lehre von der Entwicklung in Natur und Geschichte (1911), in which he included passages from the metaphysics and physical geography notes, and in the short preface to that book mentioned that many of these manuscripts had been unknown until he came upon them.
Menzer’s copy of the notes would be irrelevant if we still possessed all the original manuscripts, but many of the original 4° physical geography notes have since gone missing. All of Menzer’s copy is extant (deposited as Nachlaß-Adickes #4 in the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften archive), as are the originals for the copied notes on metaphysics and logic and all of the octavo (8°) physical geography notes – so none of these pages of Menzer’s copy have been transcribed here – but 72 pages of the copy from the 4° physical geography notes contain text for which we lack the original. As a consequence, the 4° notes on physical geography are a patchwork of original and copy, as can be seen in Table 2.
Lengthy excerpts from the metaphysics and physical geography notes were published in Menzer (1911) – see Table 3 – and with these passages Menzer clearly returned to the original manuscripts to improve the transcription (the initial copy is much rougher than the published selections). This and a review of Menzer’s copy against extant originals indicate that the sections of the physical geography transcribing the Menzer copy are more likely to include deviations from the original text.
It was around this time that Menzer also assumed the general editorship of the fourth division of the Academy edition of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften, which is devoted to student notes from Kant’s lectures. This was in 1909 following the death of the previous general editor, Max Heinze, and not long after this Menzer prepared a list of all the known student notes. Herder’s notes on physical geography, metaphysics, and moral philosophy appear on the list, but not those on logic, physics, or mathematics.
Erich Adickes (1866-1928), a philosophy professor at the university in Tübingen and editor of Kant’s Nachlaß for the Academy edition (vols. 14-19, this last volume finished by his assistant, Friedrich Berger), was soon making use of these notes in his Untersuchungen zu Kant’s physischer Geographie (1911) and Kants Ansichten über Geschichte und Bau der Erde (1911), as well as in his two-volume Kant als Naturforscher (1924-25), and he and Menzer (in Halle) were routinely mailing back and forth sheets of both original and copied notes.
Hans Dietrich Irmscher (1929-2009), a Germanist at Cologne working with Gottfried Martin (a philosophy professor at Bonn) published a transcription of all of Herder’s lecture notes available to him in Immanuel Kant. Aus den Vorlesungen der Jahre 1762 bis 1764 (1964); this included all the notes deposited in Tübingen at the time (save for six sheets on physical geography, that he wrote were not worth publishing given the availability of the Holstein-Beck notes that came from about the same time and that were closer to Kant (1964, 12). None of the original notes or copies that Menzer had used in his 1911 publication were available to Irmscher, who assumed they had perished (1964, 9-10), and he re-printed all but one of the passages from the metaphysics notes that Menzer published. Irmscher (1960, 12) also provided a summary list of all of Herder’s notes from Kant’s lectures that he could find: logic (2 sheets), metaphysics (2, 1, and 1 sheet), moral philosophy (4, 15, and 14 sheets), physical geography (6 sheets), and mathematics (8 sheets).
Most recently, Gerhard Lehmann (1900-1987), as editor of the fourth division volumes of the Academy edition following Menzer’s death, published all the extant Herder lecture notes known to him on Logic (1966; AA 24: 3-6, 1099-1102), Moral Philosophy (1974; AA 27: 3-89), and Metaphysics (1968; AA 28: 5-166). A substantial portion of the metaphysics notes was drawn from the Menzer copy, since the original manuscripts were missing, but when those manuscripts were later found Lehmann published a new transcription (1970; AA 28: 843-931), followed by notes on Mathematics (1980; AA 29: 49-66) and Physics (1980; 69-71). This resulted in a sizeable set of the metaphysics notes being transcribed twice in the Academy edition, once by Menzer (in the 1968 partial volume) and once by Lehmann (in the 1970 partial volume). Lehmann retired before publishing the notes on Physical Geography, although he had prepared a transcription.
Material Aspects of the Notes [top]
Kant lectured for 82 semesters and from those semesters about 150 sets of student lecture notes have been cataloged, with over 100 of these still extant, although many only as fragments. Many of the extant notes (all handwritten, of course) were nicely bound by their original owners, often with calligraphically written title pages. The Mrongovius set of notes on metaphysics, for instance, has a title page that reads: “Metaphysic / vorgetragen / vom / Prof. Imanuel Kant. / nachgeschrieben / von / C. C: Mrongovius. / 1783 d. 4. Febr.”
None of the Herder notes look like this. They are not nicely bound together with Kant’s name on a title page, nor do they bear any dates as to their time of composition or when the lectures were heard. Instead they come to us as loose signatures or single sheets, in varying formats, mostly in ink, many in pencil, and some nearly illegible from physical wear or hurried writing – and almost none with a note at the top of the page stating that they come from Kant’s lectures. (This diversity is especially pronounced with the metaphysics notes, as a glance at their differing formats, shown here, will suggest.)
The one exception to this shadowy provenance comes from Herder’s very first day attending Kant’s lectures, where Herder wrote in his notebook: “bey Kant. 1sten mal. d. 21 Aug” followed by two pages of notes from Kant’s metaphysics lectures concerning Baumgarten, §§796-808. All the other notes involve some degree of conjecture, and the provenance of a few of the notes – specifically, the physics and the mathematics notes – are rightly questioned: We are certain they are Herder’s, but less certain they come from Kant’s lectures. It is important to keep in mind that other professors at Königsberg were also lecturing on these same subjects.
Herder’s notes are the earliest student notes that we possess from Kant’s lectures. We have no evidence of previous notes and no indication in the Herder notes that he was drawing from someone else’s set of notes. So unlike many of the other sets of notes from Kant’s lectures, we are not troubled by the possibility of multiple sources (and thus, multiple source lectures) for the notes.
Herder is thought to have attended all of Kant’s lectures, but Kant was not lecturing on everything he ever taught during those two years when Herder was a student. Kant did not begin offering his popular lectures on anthropology until winter 1772-73, and he first lectured on natural law during summer 1767, philosophical encyclopedia the semester after that (winter 1767-68), and natural theology and pedagogy (each of which Kant taught only four times in the 70’s and 80’s) were first given during summer 1774 and winter 1776-77, respectively. The notes we do have from Herder come from Kant’s lectures on metaphysics, moral philosophy, physical geography, and logic, and probably notes on mathematics and theoretical physics. These sets of notes are discussed more fully in their own sections, below.
Of these texts, the metaphysics notes are the longest, and the 4° notes on physical geography are the most polished. The logic notes are scant (about ten pages) with the notes on physics and mathematics a bit longer (each with about fifteen pages).
The tabular summary of the manuscript page counts provided here includes a column labeled “copy” – these are the pages of hand-copied notes prepared of Herder’s physical geography notes around 1900 and for which the originals are missing. The copied notes are written in a much larger hand, resulting in about three pages of copy for every page of original. The copies are not included in the total manuscript page count; including them, assuming they represent about 24 manuscript pages, would result in a new total of 360 manuscript pages.
Order and Format of the Notes [top]
Numbering. All of the manuscripts have been numbered by an archivist in pencil, either by page or by sheet, and these numbers usually but not always follow the proper ordering of the content. When sheets are numbered, we follow the convention of designating the pages ‘r’ (= recto/front) and ‘v’ (= verso/back), with the archivist’s number appearing on the recto side. Usually a manuscript catalog number is also written in pencil on the first page of each manuscript, and we have sub-divided some of these longer manuscripts (based on content or paper format) into groups of one or more signatures. On the website transcription, this catalog number of the manuscript, along with any additional group number or letter assigned by the editors, and the archivist-assigned page or sheet number, is given with each transcribed manuscript page, along with an image of the page transcribed.
Signatures. A signature (German: Lage) is the basic manuscript unit as discussed here and on the website. A signature may consist of a single unfolded sheet of paper (thus with two pages available for text); or a sheet that has been folded once, resulting in two sheets or four pages of text; or any number of folded sheets that have been nested together and arranged so as to be read as a booklet. A few of the signatures in the Herder Nachlaß were sewn together (remains of the threads can still be seen with some of them [Ont/Cos-C2] and the holes in the fold are visible in other multi-sheet signatures).
Paper and Format. These notes are written on both quarto (4°) and octavo (8°) format sheets. A quarto (4°) sheet is where the original printer’s sheet (as it comes from the paper mill) is folded twice, resulting in four sheets (or eight pages of text). The size of printer’s sheets varied from mill to mill, but in this collection are approximately 31 x 42 centimeters, resulting in quarto (4°) sheets of 15.5 x 21 centimeters. Octavo (8°) sheets are folded a third time, resulting in eight sheets (or sixteen pages) of 10.5 x 15.5 centimeters.
Of the 336 manuscript pages transcribed here, 225 are on 8° sheets and 111 are on 4° sheets. In addition to these, 72 pages are copies prepared by later scholars, where the original manuscript has since been lost.
Because the 4° pages are roughly twice as large as the 8°, one might think that they would contain roughly twice as much text, but because of the wide margin found with most of the 4° notes and the less frequent use of abbreviations, the amount of text per page is roughly comparable to that of the 8° pages (about 350-400 words per page).
Writing the Notes [top]
Ink vs Pencil. All but four of the 111 quarto pages are in ink. Of the 225 octavo pages, 155 are in ink and 70 in pencil. A few signatures are mixed, written with both pencil and ink: RP/NT 763-844 of the metaphysics notes and the 8° Asia notes from physical geography. Shown here as an example of the differing appearance of ink and pencil: ‘Vernunft’.
One might expect notes written in pencil to stem directly from the classroom, with notes in ink to have been written at home as clean copies, and this is certainly true of Ont 180-239 (pencil) and Ont/Cos 1-450 (ink); the latter also has wide margins, fewer abbreviations, and ornate headings – all marks of notes prepared at home from an earlier draft. But there are many 8° notes written in ink that are otherwise just like those written in pencil: hastily written, heavily abbreviated, and without margins.
One might expect notes written in pencil to stem directly from the classroom, with notes in ink to have been written at home as clean copies, and this is certainly true of Ont 180-239 (pencil) and Ont/Cos 1-450 (ink); the latter also has wide margins, fewer abbreviations, and ornate headings – all marks of notes prepared at home from an earlier draft. But there are many 8° notes written in ink that are otherwise just like those written in pencil: hastily written, heavily abbreviated, and without margins. Compare pages from RP/NT 763 (ink) and EP 682 (pencil).
Handwriting. Herder’s notes typically involve a great many abbreviations. The 8° notes have very few sentences free of at least some abbreviations, while many of the sentences in the 4° notes are fully written out. Herder also employs two separate forms of handwriting: a Latin script used for Latin words (and often for proper names), and the default German Kurrentschrift. It is not uncommon to find these handwritings combined in a single word, for instance, with a Latin-stem written in Latin script and the German-ending written in Kurrent. Similarly, it is not uncommon to find the same word written in either script. We have attempted to retain this distinction, displaying the Latin script in a sans-serif font.
Abbreviations and Symbols. Herder used many standard abbreviations – for instance, omitting an ‘-er’ at the end of a word or syllable (normally marked by a short horizontal stroke through the upper- or lower-flag of a preceding consonant, such as the ‘b’ in ‘aber’, the ‘g’ in ‘weniger’, or the ‘z’ in ‘unzergliederlich’), ‘-ie-, ‘-en’, the ‘-eit’ of ‘-heit’ and ‘-keit’, the ‘-ich’ of ‘-lich’ and all of ‘-ung’. A horizontal stroke over an ‘m’ or ‘n’ indicates a doubling of the letter. The mark for ‘und’ is a ‘u’ (usually followed with a period) with a sweeping upward loop for the circle that is usually placed over a ‘u’ to distinguish it from the ‘n’ (we find the same ‘u’ in ‘zu’).
These abbreviations often result in words that are surprisingly reduced, such as ‘Übereinstimmung’ (Über˚.einstimmung) or ‘Aufmerksamkeit’ (˚Aufmerks.amkeit), shown here.
Most abbreviations are used quite consistently, but some words display considerable variation, either written out in full or abbreviated in any of several ways, e.g., ‘denken’ (shown here) might be fully spelled out, or written as ‘denk’ or ‘dk’.
A handful of symbols are also commonly used, for instance, the Greek theta for ‘Gott’ or alchemical symbols for various substances: a circle with a horizontal line drawn through the middle for ‘Salz’ – which, incidentally, is usually written exactly as a theta – or a circle with a dot in the center (meaning either ‘Kreis’ or ‘Sonne’ or ‘Gold’), an equilateral triangle (meaning either ‘Dreieck’ or ‘Feuer’).
A list of these symbols and of Herder’s abbreviations is available – these are the words that, in this transcription, have been expanded without comment (in the print edition) and preceded by an abbreviation-sign (here in the web edition), either ˚ (for German) or ʾ (for Latin). For instance, an ‘f.’ is expanded to ‘˚.auf’, ‘Zt’ becomes ‘˚Zeit’, and ‘v.v.’ becomes ‘ʾvice versa’. A general glossary provides a list of writing samples from the notes, and also collects together samples of Herder’s punctuation signs and the various symbols that he employs.
Revising the Notes. First, some terms. Let Nachschrift t be the generic term for any handwritten material in which the writer of the text is not the source of the text (i.e., the written text stems directly from either someone’s spoken address or another written text) but the original source is the spoken word. Different sorts of Nachschriften related to university lectures are possible:
(a) Mitschrift (the original notes): a Nachschrift written down in the lecture hall. These typically include an abundance of abbreviations and they are often written in pencil.
(b) Reinschrift (a fair copy; häuslichen Ausarbeitungen): a re-written and revised version of a Mitschrift. These normally are more neatly written, with fewer abbreviations and truncated words, and with fewer spelling and grammatical errors. The student (or Hofmeister, with wealthier students) would typically prepare this once back at home after the lecture.
(c) Abschrift (copy): a copy of another written text, often for the purpose of selling it to other students. With such copies, errors noticed by the copyists might be corrected in the text, but the intention here is simply to copy a set of notes, not to clean-up or amplify them (as typifies a Reinschrift) and new errors typical of copies (e.g., doubled words and skipped lines) will be introduced.
Most or all of the 8° Herder notes appear to be Mitschriften and most of the 4° notes are Reinschriften. It is always a possibility that Herder copied out some sections of notes into his Reinschriften from the notes of another student (for instance, if he missed a lecture), but we have not identified any such passages. In the other student notes that we have from Kant’s lectures, a large majority involve Abschriften at some level.
One occasionally finds in the literature the words Urschrift or unmittelbare Niederschrift (original or immediate notes): these refer to the Mitschrift. Occasionally Nachschrift is used in the narrower sense of Mitschrift, but we use it more broadly as indicated above.
Two kinds of revision are seen in Herder’s notes. The first are corrections of miswrites (by crossing out a word or inserting a word above the line or in the margin, and so on) that are likely contemporaneous with writing the original notes, but it is usually impossible to distinguish between contemporaneous revisions and those occurring at some later date, except when Herder uses a different ink with the revision, in particular when he moves between a carbon based ink (which remains black over time) and an iron based ink (which turns a reddish-brown over time). A good example of this is found in the physical geography Physical Geography 8°-History notes, p. 3.
A second kind of revision is where an entirely new draft is written out. Most of Herder’s first drafts to his Reinschriften disappeared long ago, probably not surviving Herder, but we still have a few clear examples of draft revisions. Various passages in the 8° physical geography notes can be located in the second draft 4° notes, for example, and in the metaphysics notes, Ont-180 (1-4) is clearly a first draft of Ont-Cos (B6-C6).
Sources and Influences in the Notes [top]
The explanatory notes offer detailed information on Kant’s literary sources and influences, but a few deserve mention here. Other than with his lectures on physical geography, Kant’s lectures were scaffolded on published textbooks, as required by the Prussian cultural ministry. Those texts warrant our close attention and will be described below with the corresponding set of notes. Kant brought other material into his lectures as well, of course, especially with his physical geography, where we can safely assume that anything he said about orangutans or the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, for instance, came not from direct experience or quiet reflection but from some book or article he read. He makes explicit reference to some sources, while identifying others only by the author’s name or some other clue. We note all identified sources and normally provide brief quotations of the relevant passage for the reader’s convenience, although often foregoing this with more readily available texts (the companion website collects together hundreds of these excerpts).
In identifying these sources we assume that Kant’s working languages were German and Latin. Kant had studied Latin closely in school and he published several writings in Latin (as prescribed for academic disputations). He had also studied Greek (twelve semesters) and French (six semesters) in school. The occasional Greek word or phrase appears in the notes, as they do in his publications, but it is unlikely that he was reading Greek sources. With French, there is good reason to believe that he understood the language, since it was the spoken language in the Andersch home where he served as a Hofmeister for about three years and it would also have been used occasionally in polite society in Königsberg, such as at the Keyserling’s – but it appears that Kant read German translations of French as well as English texts, and he routinely draws on a vast body of work originally published in these two languages. Various close friends of Kant’s were native speakers of French or English, or at least competent translators, and so these friends also were possible sources of these two bodies of literature. When identifying literary sources, our goal has been to provide the German (or occasionally the Latin) edition that Kant would most likely have consulted.
Newton, Wolff and Crusius, Hume and Rousseau
Of the many literary influences on the young Kant, five are especially in evidence in the Herder notes: Newton, Wolff, Crusius, Hume, and Rousseau. One might say, as a first approximation, that Kant’s exposure to Newton and Wolff in the early 1740s as a student in Knutzen’s lectures fundamentally shaped his understanding, respectively, of the physical universe (Newton) and of the nature of philosophical reasoning (Wolff). Crusius published a successful series of philosophy textbooks between 1744 and 1749 during his early years teaching at Leipzig (one each on ethics, metaphysics, logic, and physics), although Kant may not have read them until the mid-1750s after he returned to Königsberg, and here Kant encountered formative criticisms of Wolffian rationalism. Kant’s exposure to Hume and Rousseau also began at this time, eventually transforming central features of Kant’s philosophical outlook: Rousseau brought Kant to reconceive his relationship with other human beings and Hume caused him to reconceive the nature of human cognition. Kant shared their ideas with his students, as suggested by Herder’s letter of 23 September 1766 to Scheffner:
“You can do me no greater favor than to send me little anecdotes about Hume and Rousseau. Having been initiated into the ideas of Rousseau and Hume by Kant, I now read both daily, but otherwise hear nothing of them except what little appears in the newspapers.” (Scheffner 1916-38, 1: 258)
Hume’s importance to Kant during these early years, however, lay in the realm of practical philosophy rather than epistemology and metaphysics. Kant had access to Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, which he owned in German translation as part of a four-volume translation of Hume’s writings, but at the time he was more engaged with his writings on history, political economy, and moral philosophy. Ludwig Borowski, one of Kant’s early biographers who attended Kant’s first lectures as a student, reports that:
“The first of his literary products show how much he had already read by his  twentieth year. In the years when I was his student, Hutcheson and Hume were exceptionally valuable to him, the former in moral philosophy and the latter in his deep philosophical investigations. Hume in particular gave his power of thought a whole new impetus. He recommended these two writers to us for our most careful study. Besides these Kant was always interested in good travel literature. – He knew all of J. J. Rousseau’s works and his Émile kept him from the usual walks for a few days when it first appeared. What should I expand on here? Kant left nothing by good writers untouched and untested if it contributed to the scope of human knowledge. He did not collect a library, as already mentioned, but was sufficiently supplied with reading material by his friends,  and especially by his publishers.” (1804, 169-71)
Contrary to Borowski’s account, however, which was likely colored by later events (and there is no evidence of Kant reading any of these philosophers “by his twentieth year”), we find in the Herder notes an interest only in Hume’s practical philosophy: he appears twice in the metaphysics notes – once in reference to Hutcheson and Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals – but appears four times in the moral philosophy notes and once in the physical geography notes. Rousseau appears in the notes on metaphysics (twice) and moral philosophy (ten times).
Kant’s library included Sulzer’s German translation of Hume’s Vermischte Schriften, 4 vols. (1754-56) and Schreiter’s translation of Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion (1781; original: 1779). Rousseau’s works were being translated quickly into German – First Discourse (1750; German: 1752), Second Discourse (1755; German: 1756), Julie oder die neue Heloise (1761), Aemil (1762) – although Kant’s library contained just one minor text of Rousseau’s. As Borowski mentioned above, Kant read most of his books on loan from friends or unbound from his publisher/bookseller (first Kanter, then Hartknoch, finally Nicolovius).
Kant’s friend Joseph Green seems also to have been a source of information and ideas for Kant regarding both Hume and Rousseau, as can be gathered from local correspondence, e.g., from Scheffner to Herder (16 August 1766):
“Kant, who was at my place last evening, returns your greetings, as does Hartknoch. The Magister is now constantly in England, because Rousseau and Hume are there, of whom his friend Mr. Green  sometimes writes him something.” (Scheffner 1916-38, 1: 255-56)
From Lindner to Scheffner (20 June 1767):
“I have come upon a very fine and wonderfully written English text – Remarks upon Writings and Conduct of J. J. Rousseau. […] The little work has much that is original and deserves a worthy translation. Mr. Green told our Magister Kant, otherwise it would probably not have reached me. Perhaps Herr Hamann will give me an excerpt in Kanter’s newspaper.” (Scheffner 1916-38, 2: 326)
And from Hamann to Herder (17 December 1781):
“I was so strengthened by this deum ex machina that I accompanied him [Georg Berens] to Green’s, where we also met Prof. Kant, who gave me the good news that he had received Hume’s Dialogues and promised to send it to me tomorrow.” (Hamann 1955-79, 4: 358)
Hume’s most notorious influence on Kant was awakening him “from his dogmatic slumbers” (AA 4: 260) – here the slumbering Kant would have been reading Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (the second volume of the Vermischte Schriften) – but Kant did not wake until five years after Herder had left Königsberg. In the notes we find references to passages from Hume’s Essays: Moral and Political (1741), An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Political Discourses (1752), Essays and Treatises (1753) – all available in the four-volume set of translations, as well as passages from The Natural History of Religion (1757) and The History of Great Britain (1754-62).
As for Rousseau, his importance for Kant is suggested in Kant’s own copy of the Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764):
“I feel a complete thirst for knowledge and an eager unrest to go further […]. There was a time when I believed that this alone could constitute the honor of mankind, and I had contempt for the rabble who know nothing. Rousseau brought me around. This blinding superiority disappeared, I learned to honor human beings.” (Ak 20: 43–44)
He viewed Rousseau even as a kind of second Newton:
“Newton saw for the first time order and regularity combined with great simplicity, where before was found disorder and badly paired multiplicity; and since then comets run in geometrical courses.
Rousseau was the first to discover beneath the multiplicity of forms assumed by human beings their deeply buried nature and the hidden law by which providence is justified through his  observations. … After Newton and Rousseau, God is justified and Pope’s proposition is true.” (AA 20: 58–59)
While Hume, Rousseau, and Hutcheson were important early influences for Kant’s practical philosophy and are well represented in the moral philosophy notes, Wolff and Crusius stand out as important influences in Kant’s theoretical philosophy:
“Among the newer philosophical systems, those of Crusius and Wolff are especially notable. Wolff assumes the principles of pure reason and also attempts to prove them, but does not investigate their source. He works mathematically and dogmatically, but not critically. He is thus more of an artist of human reason than an examiner – Crusius, on the other hand, tends toward the mystical, and goes so far as fanaticism. The mystical of Plato consists in the so-called divine intuition, as opposed to his in the intuition of other spirits. Nevertheless he ventures to set-up investigations into the sources of human cognition and so assumed ideas connatas [innate ideas], e.g., everything that becomes and was not previously has a cause, every thing is somewhere and somewhen – are principles that we must assume.” (AA 28: 467)
Von Schön wrote this down in Kant’s metaphysics lectures from the late 1780’s, but Kant placed the same emphasis on these two philosophers twenty years earlier in the lectures Herder attended. Both appear in Herder’s notes about a dozen times, primarily the metaphysics notes, and often together. Crusius was a Pietist and a leading critic of Wolffian rationalism and his texts were often used at Königsberg as an alternative to Wolff until they were banned in a 1775 censure from Berlin. Kant’s student years in Königsberg saw an interesting blend of Wolff and Pietism introduced by Kant’s early mentor J. A. Schultz, and through him Martin Knutzen, but Crusius’s pietism was much more critical of Wolff and he offered objections to Wolff that Kant later adopted, if not always Crusius’s solutions. We see Kant working through this in the Herder notes as well as in significant discussions in his published writings of the time, especially his habilitation thesis (New Elucidation of the First Principles of Metaphysical Cognition, 1755) and the “Third Reflection: On the Nature of Metaphysical Certainty” in his Prize Essay (published in 1764 but written near the end of 1762, not long after Herder’s arrival at the university), but relevant discussions of Crusius are also found in False Subtlety (1762), Negative Magnitudes (1763), and Only Possible Argument (1763).
Christian Wolff was the most pervasive philosophical influence on Kant, either directly or through Wolff’s various followers whose textbooks Kant used in his lectures (Baumeister and Baumgarten in metaphysics, Baumgarten in moral philosophy, G. F. Meier in logic, Achenwall in natural law, J. A. Eberhard in natural theology, and Wolff himself in mathematics) and Kant’s Wolffian correspondents such as Moses Mendelssohn and Johann Heinrich Lambert. Kant clearly admired Wolff – and he made use of Baumgarten’s textbooks for the entirety of his teaching career – but Kant was no follower, and he put Wolff’s claims to the test just as much as he did Crusius’s.
Complete List of the Herder Manuscripts Transcribed [top]
At the Akademie-Archiv in Berlin, Nachlass Kant:
19 (4°): 34 pp. [MP: Ont/Cos 1-450 (B1-D16)]
At the Akademie-Archiv in Berlin, Nachlass Adickes:
At the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nachlass Herder:
XX.188 (8° notebook, pp. 120-24): 4 pp. [MP: Prol]
XX.188 (8° notebook, pp. 110-19): 6 pp. [VA/Physics: D1-D6]
XXV.37 (8°): 4 pp. [LO: XXV.37]
XXV.37a (8°): 2 pp. [LO: XXV.37a]
XXV.38 (8°): 1 p. [MP: EP 589-91]
XXV.39 (8°): 1 p. [MP: RP 742-48 (A1)]
XXV.40 (8°): 2 pp. [MP: RP 742-48 (B1-B2)]
XXV.41 (8°): 1 pp. [MP: NT 844-46 (A1)]
XXV.41a (4°): 8 pp. [MP: Ont/Cos 1-450 (A1-A8)]
XXV.42 (8°): 8 pp. [MO: XXV.42(A)]
XXV.43 (4°): 17 pp. [MO: XXV.43(B)]
XXV.43 (4°): 10 pp. [MO: XXV.43(C)]
XXV.43 (8°): 28 pp. [MO: XXV.43(C)]
XXV.44a (4°): 1 p. [LO: XXV.44a]
XXV.45 (4°): 7 pp. [VA/Mathematics: A1-A7]
XXV.46 (4°): 7 pp. [VA/Mathematics: B1-B7]
XXV.46a (4°): 4 pp. [MP: Ont 180-239]
XXV.46a (8°): 2 pp. [LO: XXV.46a]
XXV.46a (8°): 3 pp. [VA/Physics: A1-A3]
XXV.46a (8°): 4 pp. [VA/Physics: B1-B4]
XXV.46a (8°): 1 p. [VA/Physics: C1]
XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 2 pp. [MP: RP/NT 796-808]
XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 3 p. [VA/Mathematics: C1-C7]
[additional notes of interest, but not stemming from Kant’s lectures]
XX.188 (8° notebook, pp. 2-10, 24-25, 46-47, 179, 187): 15 pp. [VA/XX.188: 2-10, 24-25, 46-47, 179, 187]
XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 5 p. [VA/XXVI.5: 1, 25, 34, 73, 123]
XXVIII.2 (4° notebook): 5 p. [VA/XXVIII.2: 29v-32r, 34r-34v, 37r, 39r, 67r-68v, 70r-71v, 73v, 74r, 84r, 163v-164r]