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

Kant’s Writings
Academy Edition
Kant’s Life


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Kant’s Lectures
The Student Notes

Königsberg Schools
Kant’s Career [> classes at the Coll. Frid.]
Student Life at the University
Student Finances
Composition of the Student Population
The Hofmeister

Kant’s Classes at the Collegium Fridericianum

Pietas fundamentum omnium virtutum. [Piety is the foundation of all virtue]

— Motto of the Collegium Fridericianum

Collegium Fridericianum

Kant began attending the Collegium Fridericianum with the semester beginning Easter 1732, having just turned eight. This required that he walk rather further each morning and afternoon than his neighborhood school at St. George’s (the Collegium was about half a kilometer east of the castle, and young Kant would have needed to walk north and east, following the Grüne Brücke onto the Kneiphof island then back over the Schmiedebrücke to Altstadt, all told about a kilometer as the crow flies but rather longer on the winding streets). The school day included a full seven hours of instruction, beginning at 7 AM with an hour of religion (four days on the Lutheran catechism, one day on Bible stories), 8-10 AM was devoted to Latin, as was the 10-11 hour for the younger students (the older students studied Greek in this hour). An hour lunch break and another hour of supervised play was followed by three more hours of classes: 1 PM was handwriting and spelling for younger students, geography or philosophy for older students, 2 PM was arithmetic (for older students: Hebrew), and the last hour was again devoted to Latin.

Kant was among the lucky students living at home, and so each evening could escape the pervasive control of the school; not so for the several dozen boarding students who lived under the constant eye and rigid schedule of the Fridericianum.

There was no natural science, other than what little found its way into the philosophy instruction (of which there was little), nor any study of German (other than spelling; grammar would have been learned in the Latin class). Instruction in Hebrew (2 hrs/week in the 3rd level, 4 hrs/week in 1st and 2nd levels) and in Greek was aimed primarily at Bible translation (no classical Greek was studied). The philosophy instruction would have been given over primarily to logic. Likely of more relevance to Kant’s later philosophical career was the study of Cicero in the context of the Latin class.

Arithmetic was a required subject, but amounted to little more than simple calculating and fractions. Several subjects could also be taken privately on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, including mathematics, and Kant was allowed to pursue this near the end of his career at the Fridericianum. The textbook used was Wolff’s Auszug, perhaps the most widely used text at the time, and the same text from which Kant would later teach at the university. Of the courses listed here, mathematics and French were privately taught; it is unclear whether Kant’s parents had to pay for this or not, as they likely received some financial help with tuition fees.

See the description of the Collegium Fridericianum. For a much fuller account of the school, see Klemme [1994], and for Kant’s experiences as a student, see especially pp. 32-60, as well as Kuehn [2001, 45-52].

The following table arranges the disciplines in columns, with semesters in rows, beginning with summer semester 1732. Students were separated by ability in each discipline, with 1 (prima) being the highest level in that discipline. All of the disciplines shown were required, except for Mathematics and French, which Kant took privately, and these took place on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.[1]


Wald offers a brief account of Kant’s teachers and school experiences in the memorial speech he gave April 23, 1804:[2]

His father, a harness maker, sent him in 1732 to the Collegium Fridericianum, at which time Dr. Franz Albert Schultz [bio] was the director,[3] and Schiffert and Strobel were inspectors. The worship service was led by the subsequent pastor Steinkopf und Dr. Rau. Kant studied here eight years. His teachers were, for Latin: Heydenreich and Fuhrmann; for Greek and Hebrew: Stephan Schultz; for history and in French: Wilden; for geography: Schelz and Rogowski; for mathematics: Siehr, and for logic: Cuchlovius and Hein. Who among these is primarily responsible for waking his genius is unknown. Only this much do I know from the reports of his friends: that he valued Schultz so highly that he wished to to erect a memorial in his honor, and that he thought of Heydenreich with respect, because he would occasionally, during class, share various bits of knowledge and helpful concepts with his pupils. Among his classmates, he primarily valued Ruhnken [bio], who died as a professor at Leyden; Kypke [bio], the local professor of oriental languages who published Observations on the New Testament; and the dear local physician, Dr. Trummer, with whom he used the familiar “du” to the end. He eagerly pursued the ancient languages, learned Hebrew, but primarily competed with Ruhnken in the readings of Latin authors from the best editions available, which Ruhnken, as the more well-to-do, procured. Kant was considered a good stylist back then, and even in later years did not forget the acquaintance he made back in school with the classical authors. He recited the most beautiful passages of Latin poets, orators, and historians, even as an old man. Therefore the Pietism must not have degenerated into such a fanaticism, and the discipline in this school must not have been so horribly strict, as some ungrateful students — and there were far more who were grateful — have from time to time pretended. [Qtd. in Reicke 1860, 5-6]

Sein Vater, ein Riemer, schickte ihn 1732 in das Collegium Fridericianum, dem damals Dr. Franz Albert Schultz als Director, und die Inspectoren Schiffert und Strobel vorstanden. Den Gottesdienst besorgten der nachmalige Pfarrer Steinkopf und Dr. Rau. Kant studirte hier 8 Jahre. Seine Lehrer waren im Lateinischen: Heydenreich und Fuhrmann; im Griechischen und Hebraeischen: Stephan Schultz; in der Geschichte u. im Franzoesischen: Wilden; in der Geographie: Schelz und Rogowski; in der Mathematik: Siehr und in der Logik: Cuchlovius und Hein. Wer unter diesen vorzueglich sein Genie weckte, ist nicht bekannt. Nur soviel weiss ich aus den Nachrichten seiner Freunde, dass er Schultzen so innig hochschaetzte, dass er ihm ein Denkmal der Verehrung zu errichten wuenschte, und dass er Heydenreichs mit Achtung gedachte, weil er gelegentlich bei der Lection mancherlei Kenntnisse und richtige Begriffe seinen Zoeglingen mittheilte. Unter seinen Mitschuelern schaetzte er vorzueglich Ruhnken, der als Professor zu Leyden starb; Kypke, der als hiesiger Professor der morgenlaendischen Sprachen, Observationen ueber das Neue Testament herausgab, und den hiesigen beliebten Arzt Dr. Trummer, mit dem er sich bis ans Ende dutzte. Er trieb mit allem Eifer die alten Sprachen, lernte hebraeisch, vorzueglich aber wetteiferte er mit Ruhnken in der Lectuere lateinischer Schriftsteller nach den damals besten Ausgaben, die Ruhnken, als der wohlhabendste, anschaffte. Kant galt damals fuer einen guten Stilisten und vergass auch in spaetern Jahren der Bekanntschaft nicht, die er auf der Schule mit den Classikern gemacht hatte. Er recitirte die schoensten Stellen lateinischer Dichter, Redner und Geschichtschreiber noch in seinem Greisenalter. Es muss also doch der Pietismus noch nicht in Fanatismus ausgeartet und die Disciplin in dieser Schule nicht so furchtbar strenge gewesen sein, als von einigen undankbaren Schuelern — der dankbaren hatte sie weit mehr — zuweilen vorgespiegelt wurde.

[1] The data for this table come from Zippel [1898, 110], Reicke [1860, 46-7], and Vorländer [1924, 1: 25-43].

[2] A more detailed list of the instructors at the Collegium is provided by a later director of the school, Friedrich August Gotthold, in his account of Kant’s classmate, Johann Cunde [1853, 249-50].

[3] Wald may be the source of this often-repeated claim. Schultz assumed the directorship only in 1733; G. F. Rogall [bio] was the director when Kant first enrolled.