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Herder’s Notes

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How to Interpret the Transcription

Manuscripts: The manuscripts are arranged into groups: two sets each of notes on physics and math, and then additional notes from three of Herder’s notebooks. These groups are accessed by clicking on the red-links in the light yellow window at the top of the page (e.g., [XX.188]).

Explanatory Notes / Textual Notes: 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 to the: [ Physics Notes ] [ Mathematics Notes ] [ Notebooks ] [ List of Manuscripts ]

Introduction to the Physics Notes [⟼ Physics]

Herder’s notes on Physics consist of 15 8° pages of text from three different groups of loose sheets and from his “Blauen Studienbuch”. During Herder’s student years Kant offered physics in summer 1763 and winter 1764-65 (from 8-9 every MTThF during the latter semester).[1]

Kant lectured on theoretical physics twenty-one times, beginning with his very first semester (winter 1755-56) and every semester the first three years, then about once every two years, the last in winter 1787-88. This course occasionally failed for lack of students – for instance, Kant taught his Anthropology course for the first time in winter 1772-73 to replace a failed physics offering.

While Kant made use of several different physics textbooks over his teaching career, in the 50’s and 60’s he lectured from Johann Peter Eberhard’s Erste Gründe der Naturlehre (Erfurt and Leipzig, 1753; 2nd edition: 1759), as suggested by his lecture announcements in the 1750’s, such as for summer 1756 (included with his essay on the “Theory of Winds”):[2]

The space which I have determined for these brief observations limits their further development. I will conclude them by informing those gentlemen who have shown me the honor of placing some trust in my small essay that I propose to explain natural science with Dr. Eberhard’s Erste Gründe der Naturlehre. My intention is to omit nothing that is expected of a foundational insight into the important ancient and recent discoveries, and especially to prove in clear and complete examples the infinite advantage that the latter have received by way of the fortunate application of geometry. (AA 1: 502-3)

Three sets of notes from Kant’s physics lectures are extant: the nearly complete Mrongovius (dated 1785; AA 29: 97-169), the large Friedländer fragment (dated 1776; AA 28: 75-91), and the much smaller Herder fragments published in Irmscher (1964, 56-64) and AA 28: 158-66 (published with Herder’s notes on metaphysics — here, Physics D1-D6), as well as AA 29: 69-71 (published as notes on physics – here, Physics A1-A2), as well as a few untranscribed notes from XXV.46a (Physics A3, B1-B4, C1). These would come from either summer 1763 or the first half of winter 1764-65, if they indeed come from Kant’s lectures at all, but there is no direct evidence of this and it remains a possibility that these notes may well stem from someone else’s lectures (although they definitely read like Herder’s other lecture notes, so presumably they stem from some course of lectures – as opposed to being simply Herder’s reading notes).

Lacking direct evidence, what circumstantial evidence do we have for pinning these notes to Kant’s lectures? There are three testimonials to consider, as well as the textbook Kant was using and the degree to which the notes’ content fits with that textbook.

First the testimonials:

(1) Herder (Kalligone, FHA 8: 651-52): Herder “heard all of the lectures, some more than once.” [alle seine Vorlesungen hindurch, mehrere wiederholt, hörte]

(2) Herder (Letters on the Advancement of Humanity, FHA 7: 424-25): “The wellspring of [Kant’s] lectures was the history of men, of nations, and of nature, as well as natural science, mathematics, and his own experience.” [Menschen- Völker- Naturgeschichte, Naturlehre, Mathematik und Erfahrung, waren die Quellen, aus denen er seinen Vortrag und Umgange belebte]

(3) Caroline Herder (1830, 68): “He most preferred hearing Kant talk about astronomy, physical geography, and in general about the great laws of nature.” [Er habe Kant am liebsten reden gehört über Astronomie, physische Geographie, überhaupt über die großen Gesetze der Natur]

(4) Kant (AA 17: 257, lines 35-36): “Show Mr. Herder the interleaved Introduction to Natural Science from my course.” [Dem Herrn Herder die durchschossene Anfansgr der Naturwissenschaft aus meinen Colleg’s zeigen.] – from Loses Blatt L18 (as reported by Adickes).

As to Caroline Herder’s comments it should be noted that astronomy is discussed in both the physics (Eberhard) and the mathematics (Wolff) textbook. The first comment, if taken literally, is definitive, but the other three are merely suggestive. Kant’s physical geography lectures involved a fair bit of discussion that would count as “natural science”, although “the great laws of nature” receive less attention there. To complicate matters, however, we also have testimony of Herder attending the physics lectures of Teske (Herder 1846, 127) as well as Buck, the latter “with great diligence” (Böttiger 1998, 125), so the notes can’t be ascribed to Kant’s lectures simply by default.

The notes (specifically: A1-A3, B1-B4, and D1-D6) make clear reference to Johann Peter Eberhard’s Erste Gründe der Naturlehre – this favors ascribing the notes to Kant’s lectures to the extent that we can determine that Kant used the Eberhard text and no one else did – and our best evidence suggests that this was precisely the case, although all evidence is circumstantial.

Kant was most likely using Eberhard’s text for his 1763 lectures since he used it in the late 1750’s (as shown by his three published course announcements for the summer semesters of 1756, 1757, and 1758) and other records show him using it for the winter semesters of 1764-65, 1766-67, summer 1768, and winter 1769-70, after which he changed to the Erxleben text for winter 1772-73.

Was anyone else using the Eberhard text during Herder’s student years? The relevant professors would be Johann Gottfried Teske (1704-1772), the Professor of Physics from 1729 to 1772, and Friedrich Johann Buck (1722-1786), the Professor of Metaphysics and Logic from 1759 to 1769, and who regularly offered private lectures on physics.[3] Unfortunately, the official Lecture Catalog (Oberhausen/Pozzo 1999) often failed to list the textbook, and we find none listed for Buck’s courses on theoretical or experimental physics until summer 1766, when he is using texts by Wolff and Knutzen.[4] Teske routinely offered courses on physics, both public and private, but the first mention of his textbooks is with summer 1766, and here we see him teaching Theoretical Physics from Wolff and Experimental Physics using Wolff and Nollet, with similar records until summer 1768 when we find him using Eberhard’s text, which he then continues to use for the remainder of his teaching career.

So the available evidence suggests that neither Buck nor Teske used Eberhard in their lectures during Herder’s student years. That leaves Kant. And given the many references in Herder’s notes to Eberhard’s text, this is a good indication that the notes do indeed stem from Kant’s lectures.

There is, however, one last peculiarity to consider: four pages of these notes (B1-B4) are included in an 8° signature that otherwise consists of notes from Kant’s lectures on physical geography (specifically: a 20 page signature with pp. 1-14 consisting of the first part of physical geography and pp. 15-18 consisting of physics notes, with pp. 19-20 blank). As far as we know, Kant did not lecture on physical geography and physics during the same semester during this period, whereas both Teske and Buck did offer physics lectures during the two semesters when Kant was lecturing on physical geography (Buck was lecturing only on Experimental Physics, but Eberhard is also occasionally listed as a text used in Experimental Physics courses). These four pages of notes could still stem from Kant’s latter physics offering (in the first few months of winter 1764-65, before Herder left for Riga) – but speaking against that hypothesis is that these notes come from chapters 7 and 8 of Eberhard (on electricity and magnetism), which would more likely fall near the end of the semester, not the beginning.

Outline of the Textbook

Johann Peter Eberhard, Erste Gründe der Naturlehre. Dritte stark vermehrte und verbesserte Auflage. Halle im Magdeburchischen in der Rengerschen Buchhandlung, 1767. (1st edition: 1753; 2nd edition: 1759.) Digitized copy available at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen (with marginalia) [online]

Vorrede (unpag., 12 p.)

Erinnerung wegen der dritten Auflage (unpag., 10 p.)

Inhalt der Naturlehre (unpag., 10 p.)

Einleitung (pp. 1-14)

Theil 1: die algemeine Eigenschaften der Körper

Cap. 1: die Ausdehnung (§§1-23)

Cap. 2: die Undurchdringlichkeit (§§24-38)

Cap. 3: die Bewegung (§§39-89)

Cap. 4: die anziehende Kraft (§§90-127)

Theil 2: die besondere Eigenschaften der Körper (§128)

Cap. 1: die flüssige Körper überhaupt (§§129-63)

Cap. 2: die Schwere derer flüßigen Körper (§§164-222)

Cap. 3: die Luft (§§223-318)

Cap. 4: Feuer und Licht (§§319-81)

Cap. 5: die Eigenschaften der Lichtstrahlen (§§382-434)

Cap. 6: die Kälte (§§435-53)

Cap. 7: die elektrische Materie (§§454-503)

Cap. 8: die magnetische Materie (§§504-37)

Cap. 9: das Wasser (§§538-50)

Cap. 10: die festen, elastischen und spröden Körpern (§§551-66)

Cap. 11: die Auflösung und Niederschlagung (§§567-84)

Cap. 12: die Begebenheiten in der Luft (§§585-617)

Cap. 13: die Erde (§§618-43)

Cap. 14: das Weltgebäude (§§644-55)

Nacherinnerungen (pp. 747-48)

Verzeichnis derer bekandtesten physikalischen Schriften (unpag., 10 p.)

Register derer vornehmsten Sachen und Autoren (unpag., 10 p.)

Engravings on fold-out leaves (14 leaves)

Introduction to the Mathematics Notes [⟼ Mathematics] [top]

Herder’s notes on mathematics consist of seventeen 4° pages of text – fourteen pages from two signatures and three pages from Herder’s “brown” study book (although these latter three pages are perhaps more likely Herder’s notes for his own teaching efforts, as discussed in the General Introduction). If Herder’s notes come from Kant’s lectures, they would stem from either winter 1762-63 or summer 1763. They would also be the only notes we have from Kant’s mathematics lectures.[5]

The text at A1-A3 almost certainly is based on A. G. Kästner’s 20 pp. “Vorerinnerung” that begins his Anfangsgründe der Arithmetik (1758). The text at A4-A7 is based on Christian Wolff’s Auszug aus den Anfangsgründe aller mathematischen Wissenschaften, zu bequemerem Gebrauche der Anfänger, auf Begehren verfertiget (1717, etc.).

A1 and B1 are roughly the same (thus: based on Kästner). A3 and B2 are also roughly the same, tracking Wolff’s Auszug, paragraphs 1-12 of the “Rechen-Kunst” section (up through subtraction), although the B-signature does not give paragraph numbers. While A then proceeds with the various axioms presented in Wolff, B discusses fractions (bottom of B2-B3), square and cube numbers (bottom B3-B4), proportions of magnitudes (B5), and then preliminary remarks on geometry (B6-B7).

The content of the A- and B-signatures clearly comes from the very beginning of the semester. There is enough overlap between them to suggest that they came from two separate semesters and too many differences for them to be considered as separate drafts of the same set of notes. Nor should either signature be viewed as anything more than a fragment; they are both far too short and incomplete to be representative of an entire semester of lectures. Finally, it is quite possible that one or both are Herder’s preparatory notes for his own teaching

The records indicate that Kant lectured on mathematics at least fifteen of his first seventeen semesters at the university, and he appears to have always lectured from one of Christian Wolff’s two widely-used mathematics textbooks: Anfangsgründe aller mathematischen Wissenschaften, 4 parts (Frankfurt/Leipzig, 1710)[6] and its summary version: Auszug aus den Anfangsgründe aller mathematischen Wissenschaften, zu bequemerem Gebrauche der Anfänger, auf Begehren verfertiget (Halle: 1717). Both texts enjoyed many editions.[7]

It is remarkable that Kant taught a course on mathematics nearly every semester for the first eight years of his teaching career, and then (as far as we know) never so much as announced another course, much less taught one. His last recorded offering of this course was as a privatissima during winter 1763-64, when Herder was still a student.[8]

Irmscher (1964) was the first to transcribe and discuss these notes and expressed some reservations that the mathematics notes might instead come from F. J. Buck’s lectures, also noting that several passages from the XXV.46 manuscript have the appearance of being later additions, and which Irmscher thought might have been Herder’s prepatory notes for giving his own lectures on mathematics; while these marginal notes do indeed appear to be later additions, there is nothing that suggests they are preparatory notes for his own lectures. So there are three possible sources of these notes to be considered: (1) Herder developed them on his own from various texts (e.g., Wolff and Kästner), or Herder wrote them down in the context of a course of lectures by either (2) Kant, or (3) someone else.

As with all of Herder’s notes that bear the appearance of lecture notes, there is a default assumption that they stem from Kant who was, by all accounts, the professor whom Herder valued most. We know that Kant lectured on mathematics during Herder’s student years and that Herder was attending Kant’s courses free of charge — presumably all of them – and some of the testimony is especially supportive of Herder having attended Kant’s mathematics lectures. There are four relevant testimonials (the first three were already mentioned above in the discussion of the physics lectures):

(1) Herder (Kalligone, FHA 8: 651-52): Herder “heard all of the lectures, some more than once.”

(2) Herder (Letters on the Advancement of Humanity, FHA 7: 424-25): “The wellspring of [Kant’s] lectures was the history of men, of nations, and of nature, as well as natural science, mathematics, and his own experience.”

(3) Caroline Herder (1830, 68-69): “He most preferred hearing Kant talk about astronomy, physical geography, and in general about the great laws of nature.”

(4) Karl Gottlieb Bock, in recounting Kant’s lectures that Herder attended, lists “logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy, mathematics, physical geography” (Herder 1846, 133-3).

The specific mention of mathematics and astronomy in these lists of subjects is striking (astronomy was a subject discussed in both the physics and the mathematics textbooks used by Kant).

We also know that Herder studied with other professors, including possibly Langhansen but certainly Buck and specifically his mathematics lectures. Herder attended the lectures of Friedrich Johann Buck (1722-1786), the Professor of Metaphysics and Logic from 1759 to 1769, “with great diligence” (Böttiger 1998, 125), and Buck routinely offered private lectures on mathematics.[9] Herder, who had very little money, would also have had the opportunity to attend without cost the public mathematics lectures of Christoph Langhansen (1691-1770) who, apart from being a Professor of Theology since 1725, was also the Professor of Mathematics (1719-65). Langhansen’s public lectures alternated each semester between arithmetic/geometry and trigonometry/astronomy. He had also served as Rector when Herder matriculated at the university in August 1762.

The two 7 pp. group of notes make clear references to Wolff, as well as to Kästner’s Anfangsgründe der Arithmetik (1758),[10] although neither of these texts help establish the source lecture since no one is shown in the Lecture Catalog as using Kästner at the time.[11] We do know, however, that Kant was using Wolff in his lectures, and we also know that he was already engaged with Kästner’s work (see, for instance, his 1763 essay on “Negative Magnitudes” where he praises Kästner).[12]

Martin (1967) has argued that Kant taught this course as a two-semester sequence with arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry (the first three parts of Wolff’s Auszug 1717) during the winter semester, and mechanics, hydrostatics, aerometry, and hydraulics (the next four parts of Wolff’s textbook) during the summer semester.

Outline of the Textbook

Christian Wolff, Auszug aus den Anfangsgründe aller mathematischen Wissenschaften, Zu bequemerem Gebrauche der Anfänger, Auf Begehren verfertiget (Halle: 1717).

The Auszug consists of nineteen parts; page numbers are from the 6th edition (1737):
arithmetic (pp. 11-64),
geometry (pp. 65-168, with illustrations),
trigonometry (pp. 169-86, with illustrations),
mechanics (pp. 187-237, with illustrations),
hydrostatics (pp. 238-59),
aerometry (pp. 260-77, with illustrations),
hydraulics (pp. 278-95, with illustrations),
optics (pp. 296-317),
catoptrics (pp. 318-30),
dioptrics (pp. 331-52, with illustrations),
perspective (pp. 353-66, with illustrations),
astronomy (pp. 367-482, with illustrations),
geography (pp. 483-503),
chronology (pp. 504-31, including a perpetual calendar),
gnomonics (pp. 532-47, with illustrations),
artillery (pp. 548-64, with illustrations),
fortification (pp. 565-611, with illustrations),
architecture (pp. 612-91, with illustrations), and
algebra (pp. 692-734).

Introduction to the Notebooks [top]

XX.188: The so-called Blaues Studienbuch (Blue Notebook) is an octavo volume (10 x 17 cm.; ribbed paper), 230 pp., with a pale blue cover. Many sheets have come loose from the binding, including the paper covers (on the label on the front cover, written by Rudolf Reicke in black ink: “(Ausrisse wieder hineingelegt!) / R.”). The inner title-page reads, in Herder’s hand: “Ascetische Sachen.” (On the blue cover, but not in Herder’s hand: “Eigene Poesien und Excerpta.”) Many pages are blank, and others include various drawings and doodles. The ink varies from light to dark brown, and finely written. The pagination in pencil was added later. During and after WW II the notebook was housed in the Tübingen depot.

XXVI.5: The so-called Braunes Studienbuch (Brown Notebook) is a quarto volume (17.5 x 20 cm), 70 sheets, with a brown cover. It is paginated (apparently by Herder) as I-IV (with I as the title-page) and then 1-137 (the inside back cover is p. 137). The text is all in ink (dark brown or black, on one page red), with pencilled markings by a later user. On the title-page (p. I): “Beiträge / fürs / Gedächtniß. / 1761. / 1762ff.” Haym believes the notebook was begun when Herder was still in Mohrungen and then continued while at the university (1880, i.21).

XXVIII.2: The so-called Studienbuch O (Notebook “O”) is an octavo volume (10 x 15.5 cm.), 164 sheets, with a gray-green cover. Written on the cover by an unknown hand: “Excerpta mit verschiedenen Bemerkungen”. Text is in brown and black ink. Sheets have been numbered in pencil by a librarian in the upper-right corners, and so pages here are indicated as ‘1r’, ‘1v’, ‘2r’, etc. Some sheets are missing, others are added. Most entries appear to be written while Herder was in Riga (Irmscher/Adler 1979, 241); a book mentioned on 163v was published in 1765.

List of Manuscripts [top]

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

XX.188 (8°): 6 pp. [VA/Physics: D1-D6]

Text: ink. Printed at Irmscher [1964, 56-64] and AA 28: 158-66.

XXV.45 (4°): 7 pp. [VA/Mathematics: A1-A7]

Text: ink. Printed at Irmscher [1964, 17-28] and AA 29: 49-58.

XXV.46 (4°): 7 pp. [VA/Mathematics: B1-B7]

Text: ink. Printed at Irmscher [1964, 29-39] and AA 29: 59-66.

XXV.46a (8°): 3 pp. [VA/Physics: A1-A3]

Text: ink. A1-A2 printed at AA 29: 69-71. A3: no previous transcription.

XXV.46a (8°): 4 pp. [VA/Physics: B1-B4]

Text: ink. No previous transcription.

XXV.46a (8°): 1 p. [VA/Physics: C1]

Text: ink. No previous transcription.

XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 3 p. [VA/Mathematics: C1-C7]

Text: ink. Pp. 9-10, 21 of the notebook. No previous transcription.