Kant portrait


Herder portrait


Herder’s Notes from Kant’s
Metaphysics Lectures

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How to Interpret the Metaphysics Transcription

Manuscripts: The manuscripts are arranged into thirteen groups according to the part of the Baumgarten text (see below) that they discuss, viz., ‘Prol’ (= Prolegomena), ‘Ont’ (= Ontology), ‘Cos’ (= Cosmology), ‘EP’ (= Empirical Psychology), ‘RP’ (= Rational Psychology), and ‘NT’ (= Natural Theology), followed by the relevant paragraph-numbers. These groups of manuscripts are accessed by clicking on the red-links in the light yellow window at the top of the page (e.g., [Ont/Cos 1-450]).

Multiple signatures within a group are listed as ‘A’, ‘B’, etc. For the purposes of this website, a manuscript page is identified like this: RP/NT 763 (D3) – that is, p. 3 of the 4th signature of a group of manuscripts discussing rational psychology and natural theology, beginning with Baumgarten, §763.

The transcript for a group of manuscript pages – for instance, EP 531 – appears on a single webpage and is divided by manuscript pages, at the top of which is a thumbnail image of that manuscript page and its title. For instance, the title for EP 531 (B2) is “[XXV.46a3(2)] ms B2”, which provides: (1) the Nachlaß file name and/or number (NL-Herder XXV.46a – the ‘3’ is a grouping device used in this website), (2) the page or sheet number written on the manuscript by a librarian (‘2’), and (3) the page number assigned for the transcription (B2). If the manuscript was originally numbered by sheet rather than by page, then an ‘r’ (recto) or ‘v’ (verso) is added to the sheet number to indicate the front or the back of the sheet.

Baumgarten: The transcriptions of Herder’s notes are ordered according to the paragraphs (§§) discussed in Baumgarten’s Metaphysica (§§1-1000), the textbook Kant used in his metaphysics lectures for nearly all of his teaching career. An introduction to and an outline of this work is provided below, and the complete Latin text is available in the light-blue window to the right. Clicking on a paragraph-number in the transcriptions (e.g., §21) opens a pop-up window with the corresponding paragraph in Baumgarten. The Baumgarten text is also always available in the top-right blue window.

Explanatory Notes / Textual Notes: Apart from the blue window with Baumgarten’s Metaphysica, there are two windows with notes: explanatory and textual. The text in those windows on this page explains what you will find in them.

Introduction ] [ Overview of the Metaphysics Lectures ] [ List of Manuscripts ]
Description of the Manuscripts ] [ Dating the Notes ] [ Ordering the Notes ]
Concordance ] [ Baumgarten’s MetaphysicaOutline of the Metaphysica ]


Herder’s notes on Metaphysics consist of 138 manuscript pages (48 4° and 90 8°) and is the largest set of notes from him. Their order of presentation closely follows the structure of the textbook Kant used – Baumgarten’s Metaphysica – and it is most convenient to group the manuscript pages according to this structure. Kant lectured on metaphysics every semester during Herder’s student years except for summer 1763; Herder himself dates some of the notes to his very first semester at the university (summer 1762), and the remainder are most likely from either winter 1763-64 and/or summer 1764 (see the discussion of dating, below).

Overview of the Metaphysics Lectures [top]

Kant lectured on metaphysics a total of fifty-three times, beginning with his first semester of teaching (winter 1755-56) and ending with his last full semester (winter 1795-96). Kant used a textbook by Baumeister[1] for a few semesters early in his career before settling on Baumgarten (1757). Both follow a general four-part outline of Wolffian metaphysics – ontology, cosmology, psychology (empirical and rational), and natural theology – and Kant’s lectures appear to have extended over all four parts, although less systematically over natural theology (where he may also have been rushed, as the notes are not as full here). Kant lectured on metaphysics nearly every semester until he became the Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, after which he lectured only during the required time (7 a.m.) during the winter semesters.

We have nine distinct sets of notes from those many semesters, with the Herder notes being the earliest. The Pölitz 1 group of notes coming next (dated c.1777-80), followed by Mrongovius (1782-83), Volckmann (1784-85), von Schön (c. 1789-91), Pölitz 3.2 (c.1790-91), Königsberg (c. 1791-92), Dohna-Wundlacken (1792-93), and Vigilantius (1794-95).

Kant lectured on metaphysics every semester during Herder’s residency except for summer 1763, and Herder clearly attended at least two of these semesters. He may well have also attended metaphysics lectures from other instructors, but the notes we have are clearly from Kant’s lectures, at least those making routine reference to the Baumgarten text. Other opportunities to hear metaphysics would have been with Friedrich Johann Buck (1722-1786), the Professor of Logic and Metaphysics during Herder’s years, who offered public lectures on metaphysics each winter, but also offerered private courses on metaphysics as well. Textbooks are not usually listed in the Lecture Catalog, but Buck favored texts by Knutzen and Crusius.[2]

List of Manuscripts Transcribed [top]

At the Akademie-Archiv in Berlin, Nachlass Kant:

#19: Three signatures (6, 12, 16 pp.), with sheets numbered continuously. Pages of text: 34 pp.

(1) 34 pp. (4°: 15.5 x 20.5 cm): Text in ink. [Ont/Cos 1-450 (B-D)]

At the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nachlass Johann Gottfried Herder:

XX.188 (8° notebook): 4 pp. Text in ink. [Prol]

XXV.38 (8°): 1 p. Text in ink. [EP 589-91]

XXV.39 (8°): 1 p. Text in ink. [RP 742-48 (A)]

XXV.40 (8°): 2 pp. Text in ink. [RP 742-48 (B)]

XXV.41 (8°): 1 pp. Text in pencil. [NT 844-46 (A)]

XXV.41a (4°): 8 pp. Text in ink. [Ont/Cos 1-450 (A)]

XXV.46a (4°/8°): Fourteen signatures in eight groups. Pages of text: 4 pp. (4°) + 81 pp. (8°).

(1) 4 pp. (4°: 14 x 22.25 cm): Text in pencil. [Ont 180-239]

(2) 16 pp. (8°: 9.5 x 17 cm): Text in pencil. [EP 531-649 (A)]

(3) 8 pp. (8°: 10 x 15.5 cm): Text in pencil. [EP 531-649 (B)]

(4) 8 pp. (8°: 10 x 15.5 cm): Text in pencil. [EP 682-732 (A)]

(5) 4 pp. (8°: 10 x 15.5 cm): Text in pencil. [EP 682-732 (B)]

(6) 16 pp. (8°: 10.5 x 16.5 cm): Text in ink, except the first page, which is pencil. [RP/NT 763-844 (A)]

(7) 1 p. (8°: 11 x 17.5 cm): Text in ink. [RP/NT 763-844 (B)]

(8) 8 pp. (8°: 10.5 x 16.5 cm): Text in ink. [RP/NT 763-844 (C)]

(9) 4 pp. (8°: 10.5 x 16.5 cm): Text in ink, except the top-third of of the first page, which is in pencil. [RP/NT 763-844 (D)]

(10) 4 pp. (8°: 10.5 x 16.5 cm): Text in ink. [RP/NT 763-844 (E)]

(11) 3 pp. (8°): Text in pencil. [NT 844-46 (B1-B3)]

(12) 4 pp. (8°): Text in pencil. [EP 516-48]

(13) 3 pp. (8°): Text in pencil. [EP 593-644]

(14) 2 pp. (8°): Text in ink. [Ont 7-22]

XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 2 pp. Text in ink. [RP/NT 796-808]

Description of the Manuscripts [top]

Herder Metaphysics

The Herder Notes

The Herder metaphysics notes consist of 138 manuscript pages drawn from a collection of loose sheets of papers, sets of folded sheets forming signatures of varying length (some of which had been sewn together at one time), and passages from two bound notebooks (Brown, 4°; Blue, 8°) that also include poems, drafts of essays, and other miscellanea. These notes are grouped into thirteen sets, based on similarity of format and content, and range in length from 1 to 42 pages. Manuscripts are listed in the yellow frame at the top of this window: those in the top row are exclusively or primarily written in ink, while those in the bottom row are in pencil. Each of the thirteen sets is preceded by a brief description of the manuscripts involved.

Format: Of the 138 pages, 48 are on quarto (4°) sheets and 90 on octavo (8°) sheets. Most of the 4° notes belong to the 42 pp. Ont/Cos 1-450 consisting of four signatures (of 8, 6, 12, and 16 pp.) that show evidence of having once been sewn together.[3] These notes are all written in the same light-brown ink with a half-page left-margin – clearly a clean copy prepared at home. While these notes use a great many abbreviations (far more than the 4° notes on Physical Geography) they are considerably less frequent than with the 8° notes on metaphysics. The only other 4° notes are from a notebook of that format (RP/NT 796-808) and a four page signature of pencilled notes (Ont 180-239) that were clearly written in the classroom and that served as the first draft of a portion of the notes found in Ont/Cos 1-450.

The 8° notes consist of three large sets of notes from the psychology/natural theology sections (EP 531-649, EP 682-732, and RP/NT 763-844) and a scattered collection of one to eight page sets.

Ink vs Pencil: All but four of the 48 (4°) pages are in ink. Of the 90 (8°) pages, 42 are in ink and 48 in pencil. One set of notes is mixed: RP/NT 763-844 is predominantly in ink, but A1 and the top one-third of E1 are written in pencil.

Missing Text: We should assume that some of the metaphysics notes have gone missing: (1) we lack discussion from the end of the Cosmology (§§451-500) and the beginning of the Empirical Psychology (§§501-530, although part of this is available in the difficult to read EP 516-48), (2) some material near the end of the Empirical Psychology (§§650-681EP 682 begins with a sentence fragment that clearly belongs to a discussion of Baumgarten, §681, from this earlier signature that has gone missing), and (3) possibly notes from the Natural Theology are missing, although it is more speculative what Kant might have lectured on here.

Apart from these gaps located between the various collections of notes, there are also three gaps within collections: (1) at least one signature is missing from between the A- and B-signatures of Ont/Cos 1-450 (commenting on Baumgarten, §§36-69), (2) at least one sheet, or perhaps a folded sheet of four pages, is missing from the middle of EP 593-644 (commenting on Baumgarten, §§595-640), and (3) at least one sheet or folded sheet is missing between pages D2 and D3 of RP/NT 763 (the text continues to the very bottom-right corner of D2 and ends mid-sentence yet is not continued on D3, which begins with a new sentence).

Finally, we have a four-page signature of notes in pencil that appears to have been written in the classroom (a Mitschrift), and that served as the basis for six pages of Reinschrift written in ink (see the section below on “Overlapping Text”); presumably there were similar Mitschriften for the other thirty-six pages of this Reinschrift but, if so, they have long ago gone missing.

Overlapping Text: There are eight instances where two different passages of notes discuss the same material in Baumgarten. This duplication of text could have any of four causes: (1) Each passage comes from separate semesters; or, both passages came from the same semester, but (2) one passage served as an earlier draft of the other (e.g., a Mitschrift and a Reinschrift), or (3) one passage comes from the end of one hour and the other passage comes from the beginning of the next day, involving a brief repetition of the previous hour or, similar to the previous explanation, (4) one passage comes from the last day before a vacation and the other passage involves a repetition of the previous material when classes resume after the vacation[4] (this would account for a more involved overlap).

A large ‘‘ symbol is inserted into those passages of text for which a parallel passage also exists; clicking on this symbol will load the parallel text into a new window for easy comparison (as will the manuscript links given below).

(1) Baumgarten, §§180-239: Ont 180 (ms 1-4) and Ont/Cos (B6-C6). [mss. comparison] Here the latter is clearly a re-working of the former. [textual comparison]

(2) Baumgarten, §§7, 21-22, 34: Ont 7 (ms 1-2) and Ont/Cos (A7f.). The overlap appears to be inconsequential; the former is an outline of Kant’s 1755 essay New Elucidation, with occasional references to Baumgarten.

(3) Baumgarten, §§531-48: EP 516 (ms 2-4) and EP 531 (A1-A4). [mss. comparison] These passages share a few examples, but otherwise appear to be unrelated, suggesting they stem from different semesters.

(4) Baumgarten, §§589-91: EP 531 (A10) and EP 589 (ms 1). [mss. comparison] Both passages mention Robinson Crusoe and Don Quixote, although the latter is only alluded to in EP 531, and other than sharing a few examples there appears to be nothing in common between these texts, such that either could plausibly be viewed as derived from the other. EP 589 is a single sheet, and its treatment of the material is different than the parallel passage in EP 531. For instance, it makes a point of dividing fictions into intellectual (e.g., abstracting concepts of soul, God, Leibniz’s subtle souls) and sensual (e.g., dreams, castles in the air, Robinson’s island) – a distinction not found in Baumgarten. It also claims that separation is much harder than combination; EP 531 is silent on this, as is Baumgarten. And yet while EP 589 gives no §§-numbers from Baumgarten, it makes use of a term straight out of Baumgarten (‘praescindendo’) while EP 531 instead uses a synonym (‘sejungendo’).

(5) Baumgarten, §§593-644: EP 531 (A10-B8) and EP 593 (ms 1-4). [mss. comparison] No similar sentences or examples.

(6) Baumgarten, §§742-45: RP 742 (A1) and RP 742 (B1-B2). [mss. comparison] No verbatim overlap.

(7) Baumgarten, §§796-808: RP/NT 796 (ms 32-33) and RP/NT 763 (C1-D1). [mss. comparison] The former comes from the notebook where Herder remarks on attending Kant’s classroom for the first time, so the latter passage clearly comes from a later semester (since it includes material that would have been discussed earlier in the semester than what is in the notebook). The notebook passage covers in 3.5 pages what the other covers in 9 pages. The two passages make use of quite different examples, although both mention Semler, the water test (for witches), Faust, and the preacher in Wetterau. Herder appears to have written the notebook notes (RP/NT 796) in the classroom; although there is a wide margin, this margin is filled with notes, and four different passages have been re-ordered with insertion signs.

(8) Baumgarten, §844: RP/NT 763 (E4) and NT 844 (A1). [mss. comparison] No clear connection.

Dating the Notes [top]

As with all of Herder’s notes, these are securely dated to the period 1762-64, although some finer-grained dating is also possible. Herder was in Königsberg during all of four, and parts of two other semesters; Kant is thought to have lectured on metaphysics during five of these: 1762, 1762-63, 1763-64, 1764, and 1764-65. We have notes from at least two different semesters: with certainty from summer 1762 (RP/NT 796-808) and with strong likelihood from either winter 1763-64 or summer 1764 (RP/NT 763-844).

•   At the top of p. 32 of one of Herder’s notebooks (RP/NT 796-808) we find the words: “with Kant the first time, the 21st August, on pneumatology.”[5] This was Kant’s course of lectures on metaphysics, and there would have been about three weeks left in the semester. The notes that follow come from the end of the section on rational psychology in Baumgarten (§§796-99), followed by notes on the Natural Theology section – thus, the very material that one would expect at the end of the semester. Given the order of presentation, the only other notes that might have stemmed from this semester are those on natural theology: NT 844-46.

•   RP/NT 763-844 (C2) mentions a book by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens (1704-1771) that was first published in German translation in 1763: Betrachtungen des Ocellus von Lukanien, über die Welt (Breslau, 1763). This gives us a terminus a quo[6] for that group of notes. This is the same group that includes a page from a signature of notes on physical geography, which would date the notes to either winter 1763/64 or summer 1764 (the two semesters when Kant offered lectures on physical geography as well as metaphysics).

   This group of notes also includes two brief discussions of Emanuel Swedenborg (at A13-14 and C5), some of which goes beyond the popular stories circulating about him at the time and thus suggesting that Kant had already read his Arcana Coelesta [Heavenly Mysteries] – which would date the lecture to sometime after Kant’s 10 August 1763 letter to Charlotte von Knobloch (AA 10: 43) in which he notes that he has not yet read Swedenborg’s books.[7]

EP 682 (A1)

EP 531 (B1)

EP 531 (A1)

•   Meta-markings on EP 531-649 and EP 682-732 suggest that they were grouped together by Herder, which in turn gives some reason to believe that they stemmed from the same semester. "VN. C. VIII." is written at the top of EP 531 (A1), "IX. N.C." at the top of EP 531 (B1), and "N.C. XII." at the top of EP 682 (A1). NT 844-46 also appears to belong to this group of notes; although it bears no corresponding meta-markings, it shares the same paper, format, and handwriting as the other two groups.

•   The Reinschrift of Ont/Cos 1-450 leaves gaps in the notes, possibly to be filled-in during a later semester.

•   Finally, two of the manuscript fragments (EP 516-48 and EP 593-644), which have all the appearance of having been written in the lecture hall, also contain logic notes with them, indicating that Herder was attending Kant’s logic lectures the same semester; but since Kant is listed as teaching logic every semester during Herder’s stay, this does not help us date the notes.

Ordering the Notes [top]

The backbone of these notes consists of three longer groups of manuscripts (for a total of 115 manuscript pages), where there is strong evidence that the text in each of these groups was prepared during the same semester (on the basis of the paper, format, and handwriting): [Ont/Cos 1-450] (42 pp., ink), [EP 531-649 / EP 682-732 / NT 844-46] (40 pp., pencil), and [RP/NT 763-844] (33 pp., ink). The remaining 23 manuscript pages could be attached to this backbone as follows:

[Prol] 4 pp. [AA 28: 155-58] – The text on these four pages from the Blue Notebook is similar to what is often found at the beginning of Kant’s metaphysics lectures, although it is also consistent with introductory material in logic notes (or possibly encyclopedia notes, although Kant was not yet lecturing on this topic).

[Ont/Cos 1-450] 42 pp. [AA 28: 5-53]

[Ont 7-22] 2 pp. [AA 28: 53-55] – outline of New Elucidation.

[Ont 180-239] 4 pp. [AA 28: 843-49] – 1st draft material for a portion of Ont/Cos.

[EP 531-649 / EP 682-732 / NT 844-46] 40 pp. [AA 28: 850-75, 875-86, 137-38, 922-23] – of these pencilled notes, the B-signature of EP 531 shares the same paper format and watermark as the latter two groups, and both signatures of EP 531 as well as the A-signature of EP 682 share the same meta-markings (see above).

[EP 516-48] 4 pp. [AA 28: 924-28]

[EP 589-91 / RP 742-48 (sig. B)] 3 pp. [AA 28: 143-44, 145-48]

[EP 593-644] 3 pp. [AA 28: 928-31]

[RP/NT 763-844] 33 pp. [AA 28: 886-922] – lectures from winter 1763-64 or summer 1764.

[RP 742-48 (sig. A)] 1 p. [AA 28: 144-45]

[RP/NT 796-808] 2 pp. [AA 28: 148-51] – 1st lectures (summer 1762).

There has been speculation that Kant was already following, during Herder’s years in Königsberg, the sequence of topics described in his Announcement for the Wintersemester 1765-66:

“After a brief introduction, I shall begin with empirical psychology, which is really the metaphysical science of man based on experience. […] The second part of the course will discuss corporal nature in general. This part is drawn from the chapters of the Cosmology, which treat of matter and which I shall supplement with a number of written additions. […] I shall then proceed to ontology, the science, namely, which is concerned with the more general properties of all things. The conclusion of this enquiry will contain the distinction between mental and material beings, as also the connection or separation of the two, and therefore rational psychology. […] At the end there will be a reflection on the cause of all things, in other words the science which is concerned with God and the World.” (AA 2:208-9; Walford transl.)

We find this same sequencing mentioned near the beginning of the section on Natural Theology in RP/NT 763 (C5b) where Herder wrote (and presumably Kant said):

“[Natural theology] belongs to metaphysics, since this contains (1) anthropology, (2) physics, (3) ontology (of all things; but more than now), (4) origin of all things: God and the world, therefore theology – the last real ground, and is the highest metaphysics, since it considers the real grounds.”

And in what appear to be “Prolegomena” notes from metaphysics lectures in the Blue Notebook (XX.188, ms 122 [Prol]) we find mention of a “new plan”:

Neuer Plan. 1) Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre; 2) Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Seelenlehre; 3) Metaphysische Anfangsgründe aller Dinge überhaupt: da vom Ursprung der Dinge; 4) Metaphysik überhaupt.”

This would appear to be a sketch of how the topics will be presented that very semester: Metaphysical foundations of (1) the theory of nature (cosmology), (2) the theory of the soul (psychology), (3) of all things in general (ontology), ending with (4) metaphysics in general (theology? – as suggested by the passage quoted above from RP/NT 763-C5b).

Both Irmscher [1964, 51] and Lehmann [1965, 552; 1967, 150; 1972, AA 28: 1350-1] suggest that Kant was already following this new plan, but this claim is ill-supported. as it is not even clear that the text from this notebook stems from Kant’s metaphysics lectures – it could just as easily be Herder’s own preparatory notes for his own future teaching. Furthermore, none of Herder’s notes require that they be read according to this new ordering, and some most definitely appear to follow Baumgarten’s ordering (for instance, at Ont/Cos 1-450 (D2-D3), which clearly moves from ontology to cosmology, and RP/NT763 (C5-C6), which clearly moves from rational psychology to natural theology).

Concordance of the Manuscripts with Irmscher [1964] and the Academy Edition [1968, 1970] [top]

These notes have been previously transcribed and published, with varying degrees of care and completeness.  The first publication was in Menzer [1911], which offered long passages from the Herder notes.[8] These were drawn from an uncorrected handwritten copy[9] that Menzer had prepared of (most of) the Herder notes available to him, although he clearly corrected his transcription of the published passages, which are more accurate than the rest of his copied notes.

The second publication was Irmscher [1964], which reprinted all but one[10] of the passages published in Menzer [1911], as well as Herder’s other notes on metaphysics for which Irmscher had the original, along with the available notes on logic, mathematics, moral philosophy, and physics.

Lehmann [1966, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1980] transcribed and published all the material in Irmscher, as well as notes that came to light after Irmscher’s publication – the metaphysics notes being published in the 1968 and 1970 partial volumes. Lehmann [1968] also included Menzer’s handwritten copy of those notes for which the originals were missing. The missing Herder originals were later found, and Lehmann included a new transcription of those notes [1970]. 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).[11]

In the concordance below, the bracketed page-numbers in the “Irmscher 1964” column correspond to the reprinted text originally published in Menzer [1911], while the bracketed page-numbers in the “Lehmann 1968” column correspond to Lehmann’s transcription of Menzer’s rough-draft copy of the notes. It appears that Lehmann published all of Menzer’s handwritten copy of the metaphysics notes except for those of XXV.41a/NL-Kant 19 (Ont/Cos 1-450), which Lehmann transcribed from the original manuscripts.

Menzer, Paul. Kants Lehre von der Entwicklung in Natur und Geschichte (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1911). Menzer did not specify which manuscripts he used, although they were housed in the Königliche Bibiliothek/Berlin (later the Preußischen Staatsbibliothek; now the Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz or SBPK), and the material that he copied all comes from Nachl. Johann Gottfried Herder XXV.46a. Printed fragments from the metaphysics notes are found on the following pages (Menzer also quoted passages from the Physical Geography notes):

Menzer 1911Irmscher 1964Lehmann 1970Manuscript
101-27828: 89931-90015RP/NT 763 (A15-A16)
107-87428: 89126-39RP/NT 763 (A7)
110-117928: 90020-90113RP/NT 763 (A16-B1)
129-3374-7728: 89138-89523RP/NT 763 (A7-A11)
138-3967-6828: 88431-88528EP 682 (B3-B4)
1495128: 9111-4RP/NT 763 (C5)
319-23--28: 9071-9111RP/NT 763 (C5-C8)

Irmscher, Hans Dietrich, ed. Immanuel Kant. Aus den Vorlesungen der Jahre 1762 bis 1764. Auf Grund der Nachschriften Johann Gottfried Herders (Köln: Kölner-Universitäts-Verlag, 1964), 178 pp. [= Kant-Studien Ergänzungshefte, vol. 88] [list of errata]

Lehmann, Gerhard, ed. Vorlesungen über Metaphysik, vols. 28.1 and 28.2.1 of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften, published by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1968/1970), 1st half: pp. 1-524; 2nd half, pt. 1: 525-987. [select list / complete list of errata]

Irmscher 1964Lehmann 1968Lehmann 1970ManuscriptBaumgarten §§Length
--28: 5-53--XXV.41a / NL-Kant 19[Ont/Cos 1-450]42 pp.
--28: 53-55--XXV.46a/14[Ont 7-22]2 pp.
65-6628: 143-44--XXV.38[EP 589-91]1 p.
69-7028: 144-45--XXV.39[RP 742-48 (A)]1 p.
71-7328: 145-48--XXV.40[RP 742-48 (B)]2 pp.
85-8628: 137-38--XXV.41[NT 844-46 (A)]1 p.
80-8428: 148-51--XXVI.5[RP/NT 796-808]2 pp.
51-5628: 155-58--XX.188[Prol]4 pp.
56-6428: 158-66--XX.188[XX.188][12][5 pp.]
----28: 935-46XX.188[XX.188][12][14 pp.]
----28: 843-49XXV.46a/1[Ont 180-239]4 pp.
..{59-85}28: 850-875XXV.46a/2-3[EP 531-649]24 pp.
{67-68}{88-101}28: 875-86XXV.46a/4-5[EP 682-732]12 pp.
{74-79}{101-37}28: 886-922XXV.46a/6-10[RP/NT 763-844]33 pp.
--{138-40}28: 922-23XXV.46a/11[NT 844-46 (B)]3 pp.
----28: 924-28XXV.46a/12[EP 516-48]4 pp.
--{86-88}28: 928-31XXV.46a/13[EP 593-644]4 pp.

Baumgarten’s Metaphysica [top]

Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten was born 17 July 1714 in Berlin, where his father was a pastor in the local garrison. He died 26 May 1762 in Frankfurt/Oder, where he had been lecturing as a professor of philosophy since the summer semester of 1740, before which he had taught in Halle. He was the fifth of seven sons; an older brother was Siegmund Jacob Baumgarten (1706-1757) under whom Alexander studied Latin and Wolffian philosophy at Halle. He married twice, the second to Justina Elisabeth Albinus, in 1748. In August 1751 he contracted tuberculosis, from which he eventually died eleven years later.

Baumgarten attended Francke’s Latin School at Halle before matriculating at the university there in 1730 as a theology student. He received his Magister in 1735 and began a highly successful lecturing career at Halle, receiving an appointment as an associate professor in 1737 and full professor in 1740. The King, Friedrich Wilhelm I, had initially requested that Baumgarten assume the professorship for Logic and Metaphysics at Frankfurt at the end of the 1739 calendar year, but his students petitioned that he be allowed to remain at Halle altogether and, if not that, then at least until the end of the winter semester. And so it was after Easter 1740 that Baumgarten left for Frankfurt/Oder – just missing by a few months Christian Wolff, who had been called back to Halle by the new king, Friedrich II, arriving in December 1740.[13]

Kant’s assessment of Baumgarten: In the New Elucidation (1755) Kant characterized “the penetrating Baumgarten” (AA 1: 397) as the “chief of the metaphysicians” (AA 1: 408). In his lecture announcement for winter 1765-66, Kant praised Baumgarten’s metaphysics textbook for “the richness of its contents and the precision of its method” (AA 2: 308) and in the announcement for summer 1756 he called it the “most useful and thorough of all textbooks of its kind” (AA 1: 503). In the an-Pölitz 3.1 logic notes (dated c.1780), Kant said of Baumgarten that “Wolff’s logic was distilled by Baumgarten, a man who has contributed much here” (AA 24: 509); and in the an-Starke 1 anthropology notes (dated 1781-82), Baumgarten is characterised as “a man quite rich in material and succinct in its execution” (AA 25: 859).

Near the beginning of his discussion of the ontology section in the Mrongovius notes (winter 1782-83), Kant says that:

The author’s ontology is a hodgepodge, gathered up knowledge which is not a system, but instead rhapsodic – although otherwise he was one of the most acute philosophers. The cause is that one still knew nothing of critique. (AA 29: 785)

Des Autors Ontologie ist ein Farago, aufgesammeltes Wissen, was nicht system, sondern rhapsodistisch ist – obgleich er sonst einer der scharfsinnigsten Philosophen war. Die Ursache ist die, weil man noch nichts von Critic wußte.

But in Mrongovius’s notes from the anthropology lectures (winter 1784-85) we find a more positive assessment of the empirical psychology:

Baumgarten’s empirical psychology is, because of its order, the best guide, and even the order of the materials and chapters will be retained in this anthropology, although many other considerations will enter in, since his book concerns only what is scholastic. (AA 25: 1214)

Baumgartens empirische Psychologie ist wegen ihrer Ordnung der beste Leitfaden und bloß die Ordnung der Materien und Capitel wird in dieser Anthropologie beibehalten werden obgleich viele andre Betrachtungen einlaufen werden indem sein Buch nur aufs scholastische geht.

Kant’s use of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica: Professors at Prussian universities were required to lecture from textbooks, and Kant chose to base his metaphysics lectures on Alexander Baumgarten’s successful and widely used Latin textbook Metaphysica (4th edition: 1757; 1st edition: 1739). Kant used the 4th edition during most of his career (this is the edition reprinted at AA 15: 5-54 and 17: 5–226). Several other popular metaphysics textbooks were available to Kant – he made use of the text by Baumeister mentioned above for a few semesters during his early years of teaching, and Crusius[13] wrote a textbook often used by other professors at Königsberg – but Kant strongly preferred Baumgarten and by 1759 used that exclusively and for the remainder of his forty-one year teaching career.

Nor did Kant use Baumgarten’s textbook only for his metaphysics lectures. Beginning with winter 1772-73, Kant began lecturing on anthropology every winter semester, part of which was based on the Empirical Psychology section of the Metaphysica. Similarly, he used the section on Natural Theology in his lectures on natural theology that he gave four times during the 70’s and 80’s.

Kant also used two of Baumgarten’s other textbooks in his moral philosophy lectures: Initia philosophiae practicae primae acroamatice (Halae Magdeburgicae, 1760) and Ethica philosophica (Halae Magdeburgicae, 1740; 21751, 31763). Kant’s annotations to the Initia are printed at AA 19: 7-91, but his copy was presumably destroyed during WW II; unlike the Metaphysica, it was not interleaved with blank pages. None of Kant’s copies of the Ethica philosophica are known to exist, nor do we know whether he owned more than one or which edition he used (they have identical section-numberings.

Editions of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica: Seven editions were published in the 18th century, all from Carl Hermann Hemmerde in Halle: 11739 (292 pp.), 21743 (363 pp.), 31750 (387 pp.), 41757 (432 pp.), 51763 (432 pp.), 61768 (432 pp.), 71779 (432 pp.).

Baumgarten wrote separate prefaces for the first three editions. A major change to the 4th edition was the introduction of German equivalents to key Latin terms, and this was the last edition to be prepared by Baumgarten. This 4th edition is reprinted in Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften, 15: 5-54 (includes §§504-699) and 17: 5-226 (includes the prefaces to the first three editions, the synopsis, and §§1-503, 700-1000).

Kant owned copies of the 3rd and 4th editions, both of which were interleaved with blank pages, and both of these are still extant: the 3rd edition copy was located only recently in 2000 and is housed in the University Library at Gdansk. Kant’s 4th edition copy, housed in the University Library at Tartu, has long been available. Kant had given it to Gottlob Benjamin Jäsche, an associate of Kant’s and the editor of the 1802 Logic, who brought it with him to Dorpat/Tartu in 1802 when he assumed a full professorship there, and was eventually acquired by the university library, making a detour to Berlin – where Kant’s marginalia were transcribed – and Göttingen, before returning to Tartu in 1995. Kant’s marginalia to his copy of Baumgarten and other Nachlaß relevant to metaphysics are published in vols. 15, 17-18 of the Academy edition.

G. F. Meier (1718-1777), a former student of Baumgarten’s, translated the Metaphysica into German (1763), a task that an early death prevented Baumgarten from doing himself. This involved some abridgement and re-arranging of material, and there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the Latin paragraph-numbers and the German paragraph-numbers.

More recently, a complete translation into German of the 4th edition of the Metaphysica has been prepared by Gawlick and Kreimendahl and published in a Latin/German edition: Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Metaphysica / Metaphysik. Historisch-kritische Ausgabe. Translated, introduced, and edited by Günter Gawlick and Lothar Kreimendahl (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: frommann-holzboog Verlag, 2011), lxxxvii, 634 pp.

More recently still is an English translation: Metaphysics. A Critical Translation with Kant’s Elucidations, Selected Notes, and Related Materials. Translated into English, edited, and with an introduction by Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers (London-New Delhi-New York-Sidney: Bloomsbury, 2013), xiv, 471 pp.

Outline of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica [top]

Prolegomena Metaphysicorum 1-3


Prolegomena 4-6

Caput I: Praedicata entis interna universalia

possibile 7-18

connexum 19-33

ens 34-71

unum 72-77

ordo 78-88

verum 89-93

perfectum 94-100

Caput II: Praedicata entis interna disiunctiva

necessarium et contingens 101-23

mutabile et immutabile 124-34

reale et negativum 135-47

singulare et universale 148-54

totale et partiale 155-64

prima matheseos intensorum principia 165-90

substantia et accidens 191-204

status 205-23

simplex et compositum 224-29

monas 230-45

finitum et infinitum 246-64

Caput III: Praedicata entis relativa

idem et diversum 265-79

simultanea 280-96

successiva 297-306

causa et causatum 307-18

causa efficiens 319-35

utilitas 336-40

reliqua causarum genera 341-46

signum et signatum 347-50


Prolegomena 351-53

Caput I: Notio mundi

notio affirmativa 354-79

notio mundi negativa 380-91

Caput II: Partes universi

partes universi simplices 392-405

prima corporum genesis 406-29

natura corporum 430-35

Caput III: Perfectio universi

mundus optimus 436-47

substantiarum mundanarum commercium 448-65

naturale 466-73

supernaturale 474-81

possibilitas supernaturalium hypothetica 482-500


Prolegomena 501-3

Caput I: Psychologia empirica

existentia animae 504-18

facultas cognoscitiva inferior 519-33

sensus 534-56

phantasia 557-71

perspicacia 572-78

memoria 579-588

facultas fingendi 589-94

praevisio 595-605

iudicium 606-9

praesagitio 610-18

facultas characteristica 619-23

intellectus 624-39

ratio 640-50

indifferentia 651-54

voluptas et taedium 655-62

facultas appetitiva 663-75

facultas appetitiva inferior 676-88

facultas appetitiva superior 689-99

spontaneitas 700-707

arbitrium 708-18

libertas 719-32

commercium animae et corporis 733-39

Caput II: Psychologia rationalis

natura animae humanae 740-60

systemata psychologica 761-69

origo animae humanae 770-75

immortalitas animae humanae 776-81

status post mortem 782-91

animae brutorum 792-95

finit spiritus, extra hominem 796-99

Theologia naturalis

Prolegomena 800-802

Caput I: Conceptus dei

exsistentia dei 803-62

intellectus dei 863-89

voluntas dei 890-925

Caput II: Operationes dei

creatio mundi 926-41

finis creationis 942-49

providentia 950-75

decreta divina 976-81

revelatio 982-1000