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Kant’s Lectures by discipline

The course topics over which Kant is reported as having lectured are listed here, along with information on how often they were taught and when, the textbooks used (much of this was drawn from Stark [1993, 321-29]), and other relevant or useful information about the lectures.

Practicals: Disputatorium, Examinatorium, Repetitorium [top]

How often taught & when

First semester: WS 1757/58, if not sooner. Last semester: SS 1795. Total: possibly as many as 50 semesters [see Arnoldt 1908-9, v.340-43]. In the announcement of his courses for SS 1758, Kant wrote:

In an hour each Wednesday and Saturday, I will polemically examine the principles discussed in the previous days, which in my opinion is one of the best means for arriving at a thorough understanding. [AA 2:25]

In einer Mittwochs- und Sonnabendsstunde werde ich die in den vorigen Tagen abgehandelte Sätze polemisch betrachten, welches meiner Meinung nach eins der vorzüglichsten Mittel ist zu gründlichen Einsichten zu gelangen.

A Practical was announced but failed to meet on three different occasions: 1771 (both Repetitorium and Disputatorium, Wednesday/Saturday) because of time conflicts, and 1773 (Disputatorium and Examinatorium, Wednesday/Saturday) and 1779/80 (only the Disputatorium failed; he still held a Repetitorium) for lack of students. See also a brief description of patterns on the introductory page to Kant’s Lectures.

These “practicals” were variously called repetitorium, examinatorium, disputatorium, or some combination, but appear to refer to roughly the same thing, namely, a scheduled event in which students had the opportunity to articulate their understanding of material presented in the lectures and where they could ask the professor questions.[more]

Borowski reports that he heard Kant lecture on theoretical physics in 1756, and that Kant also held disputations from the beginning of the semester [Reicke 1860, 32; repr. Malter 1990, 43]. The records show that Kant was offering Practicals every Wednesday and Saturday (one hour each day) through SS 83, after which he offered them for only an hour each Saturday. What happened on these two days may have differed — for instance, the Lecture Catalog entry for SS 1761 included the explanation that the two hours on Wednesday and Saturday would be spent partly in repetition (where Kant asks the students questions), and partly to solve any puzzles on the part of the students (where they are allowed to ask Kant questions), and in 1771/72, the Wednesday hour was devoted to the Disputatorium, and the Saturday hour to the Examinatorium [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.235]. In WS 1779/80, Kant announced both a Repetitorium (meeting Wednesday and Saturday) and a Disputatorium, but the latter was canceled for lack of students.

Kant may well have offered a Practical of some kind every semester, but we have evidence in announcements or lecture catalogs only for 1757/58, 1758, 1761, and then for every semester from 1771 through 1795, except for 1794. Prior to WS 1783/84, these were listed as occurring every Wednesday and Saturday from 7-8 AM (or else no time was given). Beginning with 1783/84, they were held for only one hour, and always on Saturday (7-8), with the exceptions of 1783/84 and 1786/87, when it was held on Wednesday (7-8) because his one-hour course on Pedagogy was held on Saturday morning. The beginning- and end-dates, when given, are always a Saturday.[1] These appear to have always been given publicly (i.e., free of charge). For instance, SS 1761 reads: “The remaining hours on Wednesday and Saturday will be devoted partly to Repetitions and partly to the answering of questions, and indeed gratis” [Arnoldt, 1908-9, v.193]. Kant announced a private “Examinatorium and Disputatorium” in 1770/71, but it isn’t clear whether this took place; and in 1771/72 he announced a private Repetitorium, but instead gave publicly a Disputatorium on Wednesday and Examinatorium on Saturday. After 1770, the Repetitoria are always linked with Kant’s main public lectures (viz., Logic and Metaphysics), although they are listed as separate offerings in the catalog, with their own beginning- and end-dates and student enrollment figures.

There has been some dispute over whether these Practicals were conducted in German or Latin; the government, at different times, asked that more Latin be used in university instruction, and Kant conceded that Practicals were the easiest place to do this since students were less apt to become utterly lost by virtue of not understanding the language well. On this question, see Schöndörffer’s discussion in Arnoldt [1908-9, v.259-62].

[1] The one exception is 1777/78, where Arnoldt reports Kant beginning on October 16, a Thursday; but this is surely a miswrite (either in the records, or by Arnoldt).

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

Disputatorium: 1757/58, 1758, 1761.

Disputatorium & Repetitorium: 1771, 1776/77, 1780/81.

Disputatorium & Examinatorium: 1771/72-1772/73, 1773/74.

Examinatorium & Repetitorium: 1774.

Examinatorium: 1774/75, 1775, 1783, 1787/88 through 1793/94, 1794/95, 1795.

Repetitorium: 1775/76, 1776, 1777 through 1780, 1781 through 1782/83, 1783/84 through 1787.

Anthropology [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

First semester: WS 1772/73, and every winter semester thereafter. Last semester: WS 1795/96. Total: 24 semesters. Taught on MTThF for the first two or three years, then on Wednesday and Saturday for two hours each beginning at least by WS 1775/76 (the days and dates are not reported for the previous winter semester).

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

If a title was given, it was always “Anthropology on Baumgarten’s Empirical Psychology” (i.e., §§504-699 of Baumgarten’s Metaphysics). In 1794/95, “dictata” was listed (i.e., Kant reading from his notes), but then the next year — 1795/96 — which was Kant’s last semester to teach the Anthropology, we again find: “ad Baumgartenii Psychol. empiric.”

Textbooks [Outline of Textbooks]

• Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Metaphysica, pars III (“Psychologia,” §§504-699), 4th ed. (Halle: 1757). Reprinted at AA 15: 3-54. See the discussion at Metaphysics, below, for a fuller description of this textbook.

Kant’s anthropology was based in part on the empirical psychology section of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica. The texts of the lecture-notes show that, after the mid-1770’s, only the first part of the course follows Baumgarten. The second part (called "Charakteristik" in the 1798 Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Kant’s own published version of this material), shares some features with Kant’s 1764 essay on The Beautiful and the Sublime [Stark 1993, 321; Schubert 1857, 54].

History and Nature of the Course

Kant describes his new course on anthropology in an undated letter to Herz from December 1773 [AA 10:143-46, #79; transl. Zweig 1999, 139-41]:

This winter I am giving for the second time a private course of lectures on anthropology, which I am thinking of making into a standard academic discipline. Only my plan is different than usual. I intend to use it to disclose the sources of all the practical sciences, the science of morality, of skill, of human intercourse, of the way to educate and govern human beings, and thus of everything that pertains to the practical I shall seek to discuss phenomena and their laws rather than the foundations of the possibility of human thinking in general. Hence the subtle and, to my view, eternally futile inquiries as to the manner in which bodily organs are connected with thought I omit entirely. I include so many observations of ordinary life that my auditors have constant occasion to compare their ordinary experience with my remarks and thus, from beginning to end, find the lectures entertaining and never dry. In my spare time, I am trying to prepare a preliminary study for the students out of this very pleasant empirical study, an analysis of the nature of skill (prudence) and even wisdom that, along with physical geography and distinct from all other learning, can be called knowledge of the world. [AA 10:145-46; Zweig transl.]

Ich lese in diesem Winter zum zweyten mal ein collegium privatum der Anthropologie welches ich ietzt zu einer ordentlichen academischen disciplin zu machen gedenke. Allein mein Plan ist gantz anders. Die Absicht die ich habe ist durch dieselbe die Quellen aller Wissenschaften die der Sitten der Geschicklichkeit des Umganges der Methode Menschen zu bilden u. zu regiren mithin alles Praktischen zu eröfnen. Da suche ich alsdenn mehr Phänomena u. ihre Gesetze als die erste Gründe der Möglichkeit der modification der menschlichen Natur überhaupt. Daher die subtile u. in meinen Augen auf ewig vergebliche Untersuchung über die Art wie de organe des Korper mit den Gedanken in Verbindung stehen ganz wegfällt. Ich bin unabläßig so bey Beobachtung selbst im gemeinen Leben daß meine [146] Zuhörer vom ersten Anfange bis zu Ende niemals eine trokene sondern durch den Anlaß den sie haben unaufhörlich ihre gewöhnliche Erfahrung mit meinen Bemerkungen zu vergleichen iederzeit eine unterhaltended Beschäftigung habe. Ich arbeite in Zwischenzeiten daran, aus dieser in meinen Augen sehr angenehmen Beobachtungslehre eine Vorübung der Geschiklichkeit der Klugheit und selbst der Weisheit vor die academische Jugend zu machen welche nebst der physischen geographie von aller andern Unterweisung unterschieden ist und die Kentnis der Welt heissen kan.

The first part of the anthropology lectures is based on part of the “empirical psychology” section of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica (§§504-699), and so we can think of the anthropology lectures as having migrated, in part, from the metaphysics lectures. While Kant continued to lecture on empirical psychology in the metaphysics lectures, his “discussion of empirical psychology [in his metaphysics lectures] is now briefer, since I lecture on anthropology,” as he noted in a 20 October 1778 letter to Marcus Herz [AA 10:242; transl. Zweig 1999, 170].[1] Menzer also suggests that Kant’s new epistemological insights of 1769 inclined him to remove the anthropological elements from his metaphysics course [1911, 150]; and see also Adickes [1911a, 396] and Menzer [1911, 149-50].

More controversially, Erdmann has argued that the anthropology lectures arose out of Kant’s physical geography lectures — essentially, that the material grew to such proportions that Kant needed a new venue for it [1882, 48]. This was minutely disputed by Arnoldt [1908-9, iv.346-73; see his essay #3: “Kants Vorlesungen über physische Geographie und ihr Verhältnis zu seinen anthropologischen Vorlesungen”], and Arnoldt’s arguments seemed decisive. Hinske [1992, 15], in his reprint of the Erdmann Reflexionen volumes, recounted the dispute with Arnoldt and sided with Arnoldt’s claim that “this ‘developmental-historical’ derivation of Kant’s course on anthropology from his course on physical geography, and of the physical geography course from his anthropological interests, is the product of an arbitrary invention and hasty conclusions” [1908-9, iv.346-73 — specific page??] noting also that “there is not a single ‘anthropological observation’ present in Kant’s ‘Plan and Announcement of a Series of Lectures on Physical Geography’ from 1757” [1908-9, iv.371].

After preparing the Academy volume of anthropology lectures, Brandt/Stark [1997, AA 25: xxiii-xxiv] also viewed the lectures as an outgrowth of the metaphysics lectures, noting that this was Kant's own account and that there was little overlap of material between the physical geography lectures and the anthropology lectures — contra Erdmann’s claim. More recently, however, Stark has argued that the absence of the discussion of Europe in the physical geography notes stemming from after 1772/73, which previously had belonged in the ethnographical “Part Three” of the notes discussing Asia, Africa, Europe, and America, is best explained by that material migrating into the newly created course on anthropology.[2] There is a close similarity between the second part of the anthropology lectures (“Anthropologische Charakteristik”) and the third part of the Holstein-Beck (1757) notes on physical geography (“the four parts of the world”):

It was not called “European ethnology” but under various headings, together with the “Physiognomy” and the difference between man and woman, it forms the second part of the Anthropology, ultimately (1798) called “Characteristics.” Indeed, in the middle of the 1770s, the first pages of the “Kaehler MS” and the “Messina MS”—that is of all the representatives of the B-Type—contain a detailed exposition of the relationship between “Anthropology” and “Physical Geography.” [2011a, 79]

Of course, if we look beyond Kant’s lectures for material, another obvious source is Kant’s own Observations on the Beautiful and Sublime (1766) [writings], where his discussion on the differences in character between the sexes, the races, and the nations in the 3rd and 4th sections of that book is carried over into the 2nd part of the anthropology lectures.

A connection has also been drawn between Kant’s lectures on anthropology and his pedagogy lectures. Otto Buek, the editor of the pedagogy lectures for the Cassirer edition of Kant’s collected writings (1912-18) notes that at the end of the section on character in lecture notes on anthropology from 1780-81, one finds a section on pedagogy absent from Kant’s published Anthropology (1798). Erdmann found in this an anticipation of Rink’s published notes on pedagogy. Buek is referring to the Pohl notes that bear the date 1780/81, but that actually stem from the 1775/76 lectures. This material at the end of the Pohl notes (see, for instance, the very end of Friedländer 4.3, AA 25:722-8) does not appear in any other of the anthropology notes; nor does it appear in Kant’s pedagogy lectures as published by Rink (1803). Kant first lectured on pedagogy in 1776/77; the course was first taught in the philosophy faculty in 1774/75.

[1] A content comparison of the extant notes from the metaphysics lectures bears this out somewhat. Empirical psychology comprises a large percentage of the Herder (1762-64) notes, less so of the an-Pölitz 1 (early 70s) notes, considerably less of notes from the 1780's, but then increases in two of the sets of notes from the 1790s (an-Königsberg 5, Vigilantius) (see).

[2] In the Academy Edition volumes, the notes on physical geography are divided into four basic types (A, B, C, D, as well as those notes that are compilations (labelled 'X'), and the essential feature of the B-type is the absence of this discussion of European people in the ethnography section. Our best preserved sets of notes of this type are the Kaehler and the an-Werner, both dated to 1774. The Hesse notes stem from the SS 1770 lectures and still include the section on Europe, so the relationship with the anthropology lectures is rather compelling.

Encyclopedia [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

Taught 1767/68, 1768/69, 1769, 1770, 1770/71, 1771/72, 1775, 1777/78, 1779/80, 1781/82. Total: 10 semesters.[1] Taught on MTThF, except for 1770 when Kant apparently lectured on Wednesday and Saturday as well (for a total of six hours; cf. Arnoldt 1908-9, v.221). During the last three offerings it formed part of a four-semester cycle: philosophical encyclopedia, natural law, moral philosophy, and physics.

In 1768, Kant announced that he intended to teach either Physics or the Encyclopedia; he taught the former. Announced for 1785/86 and 1787, but taught Natural Theology instead.[2] Twice taught as privatissima: 1768/69 and 1770 [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.221, 337].

[1] Stark [1993, 321] claims Kant taught this course nine times.

[2] Kraus lectured this semester on “Encyclopaediam universam ad Sulzer Kurzer Begriff aller Wissenschaften” to 49 students, with a Repetitorium.

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1767/68: “Encyclopaediam philosophiae universae cum succincta historia philosophica secundum Compendium Feders Grundriß der philos. Wissenschaften uno semestri pertractandum proposuit” (Encylopedia, the whole of philosophy, with a succinct history of philosophy, using Feder’s Outline) [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.215].
1769: “Encyclopaedia philosophiae universae.”
1770/71: “Encycl. Philos. universae una cum succincti historia philosophica emensus est.”
1777/78: “Encyclopaediam Philosophiae in Federi compendium privatim. h. VIII-IX. dabit.”
1779/80: “Encyclopaediam totius Philosophiae privatim h. VIII-IX. in Federi compendium instituendam offert.”
1781/82: “Encyclopaediam totius Philosophiae privatim h. VIII-IX. dieb. solitis secundum Federum offert.”
1785/86: “Encyclopaediam totius Philosophiae ad Federum h. VIII.”
1787: “Encyclopaediam philosophiae universae ad Federum h. VIII.”


• Johann Georg Heinrich Feder, Grundriß der Philosophischen Wissenschaften nebst der nöthigen Geschichte, zum Gebrauch seiner Zuhörer (Coburg: Findeisen, 1767), 368pp. 2nd ed.: 1769.

Kant’s copy of the textbook is not extant.

Kant used Feder in 1767/68, 1768/69, 1769, 1770/71, 1775, 1777/78, 1779/80, and 1781/82. Max Wundt reports that “Feder’s Outline had appeared in 1767 and because of its comfortable layout enjoyed a fair distribution.... In its first part it offered an “Introduction to Philosophical History” which was the merest sketch that contained little more than the names of philosophers, and no doubt offered Kant only the foundation for his discussion” [1924, 162].[1]

Johann Feder [bio] taught at Göttingen as a full professor from 1768-97. His text was divided into three sections: (1) Introduction to the history of philosophy (13-47), (2) a sketch of the most distinguished parts of philosophy (47-341) that includes chapters on the word 'philosophy', logic, metaphysics, physics, practical philosopy (with separate appendices covering the history of each of these disciplines), and (3) an "essay on the philosophical knowledge of books," which is actually a bibliography of important books in the above-mentioned disciplines (342-68). Professor Buck [bio] also lectured on Feder's textbook; for instance, he is listed using it in a course on the history of philosophy, which he taught nearly every summer semester: 1777, 1778, 1779, 1781, 1782, 1783.[2]

[1] Two questions: (1) what happened for the two courses that didn’t have Feder’s textbook mentioned? (2) Why did Kant stop teaching the course? Enrollment figures looked OK. Did this have anything to do with the unfavorable Garve/Feder review of his Critique of Pure Reason? Could he have used another textbook?

[2] The entry in the Vorlesungsverzeichnis for summer semester 1777 reads: “Historiam Philosophicam ad Federum h. II-III. dd. L. M. I. V. privatim tractabit. / D. Buck.” Wlochatius offered a course on “Encyclopaediam Logices et Metaphysices” using a text by Feder during 1781 and 1781/82, although this could have been Feder’s Logik und Metaphysik im Grundrisse (1769); in 1782/83 Wlochatius offers a course entitled “Encyclopaediam philosophiae” using Feder.

History and Nature of the Course

This course is comparable to an "Introduction to Philosophy" course for that day, although the logic lectures were generally considered to be a "first course" in philosophy, and both courses include abbreviated histories of the discipline.

Compare this outline with Kant’s historical sketch in the Critique of Pure Reason, and see Refl. ##221-57. Wundt notes that Kant picked-up more detailed information on the history of philosophy from a study of Jakob Brucker’s Historia critica philosophiae, whose 2nd edition appeared in 1766/67, and which Kant mentions in the KdrV. See also Vaihinger, Kommentar, ii.117n; Kuehn [1983]; and Kant’s Letter to Herz [5 Dec 1778].

Physical Geography [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

First semester: SS 1756 or WS 1756/57, but probably the latter (i.e., Kant’s third semester of lectures), since Kant makes no mention of offering this new course in his lecture announcement for SS 1756 (even though the content of the accompanying essay would have been included in his Physical Geography lectures). He taught a total of 49 semesters: 1756 or 1756/57, 1757, 1757/58, 1758, 1759, 1759/60, 1761, 1761/62, 1763/64, 1764, 1765 and every semester up through 1770, and then 1771, 1771/72, 1772 and every SS thereafter ending with 1796 (Kant’s last semester to teach), as well as a privatissima in 1772/73. Taught on MTThF up through 1774 (except for 1770 and 1771/72), and then on Wednesday and Saturday (for two hours each day) beginning with 1775. This course alternated semesters with Anthropology.

Entry in the minutes for 1761 suggests that Kant may have lectured on physical geography for six hours weekly [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.193-4].

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1767/68: “Geographiam physicam.”
1771: “Historiam Naturalem velut peregrinando percurrett sub titulo Geographiae physicae praecipue memorabilia trium naturae regnorum expositurus” — the first time it was announced in the Lecture Catalog [Arnoldt 1908-9, iv.427].

Textbooks [Outline of Course]

This is the only class where Kant lectured from his own notes (the so-called “Diktattext”; see the outline). On this point we find a 1778 edict from the Minister in Berlin, von Zedlitz [bio], indicating that many of the professors at Königsberg are lecturing from their own notes, rather than from a textbook, mentioning several professors by name:

Prof. Christiani [bio] [lecturing] on General Practical Philosophy, in which he should be acquainted with [the textbooks of] Feder and Wolff; Prof. Buck [bio] on Experimental Physics, and also a special course on Theoretical Physics, on which he is surely familiar with Erxleben’s text. Dr. Pisansky [bio] on Latin Style, on which Heineccius and others have written quite well. All of these are reading from their own notes. The worst textbook is certainly better than none, and professors may, if they possess so much wisdom, improve upon their authors to the extent that they can, but the reading from notes must simply be stopped. From this we nevertheless make exception of Professor Kant and his course on Physical Geography, for which no appropriate textbook is yet available. (16 October 1778)

Von Zedlitz was a great admirer of Kant and of his physical geography lectures. He had read through a set of notes from the lectures (presumably the Philippi 2), and wrote to Kant for a better set (see his letter of [21 Feb 1778]).

History and Nature of the Course

Kant discussed his intentions for Physical Geography more closely than with any other subject on which he lectured, doing this primarily in the brief “lecture announcements” that he published in the first two decades of his teaching career (three of the seven accompanying essays were devoted to topics related to physical geography).

In his course announcement for SS 1757 [writings], Kant wrote that:

Physical geography considers only the natural constitution of the globe and what is on it: the seas, the solid land, the mountains, the rivers, the wind-currents, human beings, animals, plants and minerals. But all this not with that completeness and philosophical accuracy in its details that is the business of physics and natural science, but with the reasonable curiousity of a traveller, who seeks out everywhere the strange, the unusual, and the beautiful, comparing his gathered observations and reflects on their organization. […] The reports serving the purpose [of developing a physical geography] are scattered throughout many and extensive works, and there still is lacking a textbook by means of which this science could be made more suitable for the academy. Therefore I resolved, at the very beginning of my teaching career to lecture on this science in special lectures following a summary sketch. This I have done in a semester-long course [presumably SS 1756] to the satisfaction of my students. Since then I have considerably expanded my outline. I have borrowed from all sources, searched through the inventories, and apart from what is contained in the works of Varenius, Buffon, and Lulofs regarding the general foundations of physical geography, I have gone through the most thorough descriptions of specific lands by skilled travelers, the Allgemeine Historie aller Reisen, the Göttingische Sammlung neuer Reisen, the Hamburgische Magazin and Leipziger Magazin, the writings of the academies of sciences of Paris and Stockholm, among other materials —from all of this I have taken what is relevant to the purpose, and made a system. I offer here a brief sketch of it. One can judge whether it is permissible to be ignorant of these things, without having to abandon the title of scholar. [AA 2: 3-4]

Die physische Geographie erwägt bloß die Naturbeschaffenheit der Erdkugel und, was auf ihr befindlich ist: die Meere, das feste Land, die Gebirge, Flüsse, den Luftkreis, den Menschen, die Thiere, Pflanzen und Mineralien. Alles dieses aber nicht mit derjenigen Vollständigkeit und philosophischen Genauheit in den Theilen, welche ein Geschäfte der Physik und Naturgeschichte ist, sondern mit der vernünftigen Neubegierde eines Reisenden, der allenthalben das Merkwürdige, das Sonderbare und Schöne aufsucht, seine gesammelte Beobachtungen vergleicht und seinen Plan überdenkt. […] Die Nachrichten, die hiezu dienen, sind in vielen und großen Werken zerstreuet, und es fehlt noch an einem Lehrbuche, vermittelst dessen diese Wissenschaft zum akademischen Gebrauche geschickt gemacht werden könnte. Daher faßte ich gleich zu Anfange meiner akademischen Lehrstunden den Entschluß, diese Wissenschaft in besondern Vorlesungen nach Anleitung eines summarischen Entwurfes vorzutragen. Dieses habe ich in einem halbjährigen Collegio zur Genugthuung meiner Herren Zuhörer geleistet. Seitdem habe ich meinen Plan ansehnlich erweitert. Ich habe aus allen Quellen geschöpft, allen Vorrath aufgesucht und außer demjenigen, was die Werke des Varenius, Buffon und Lulofs von den allgemeinen Gründen der physischen Geographie enthalten, die gründlichsten Beschreibungen besonderer Länder von geschickten Reisenden, die allgemeine Historie aller Reisen, die Göttingische Sammlung neuer Reisen, das Hamburgische und Leipziger Magazin, die Schriften der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Paris und Stockholm u. a. m. durchgegangen und aus allem, was zu diesem Zweck gehörte, ein System gemacht. Ich liefere hier hievon einen kurzen Entwurf. Man wird urtheilen können, ob es, ohne dem Namen eines Gelehrten Abbruch zu thun, erlaubt sei, in diesen Dingen unwissend zu sein.

In his course announcement for SS 1758 [writings]:

“Last semester [WS 1757/58] I lectured on physical geography from my own composition, and think I will lecture on this useful and pleasant science again, with various amplifications” [AA 2:25].

Ich habe in dem verwichenen halben Jahre die physische Geographie nach meinen eigenen Aufsätzen vorgelesen und gedenke diese nützliche und angenehme Wissenschaft aufs neue mit verschiedenen Erweiterungen vorzutragen.

From an initial purpose of increasing his student’s general acquaintance with physical geography, Kant moved (in his announcement of 1765 [writings]) to viewing the course as a preparation for philosophy in general, encouraging the students away from vague, general concepts to clearer abstractions by means of concrete examples:

4. Physical Geography. As I recognized at the outset of my academic duties that there existed a great neglect of our students, primarily in that they early learned to rationalize without possessing sufficient historical knowledge which could take the place of experience, I conceived the idea of making a history of the present condition of the earth, or geography in the broadest sense, into an acceptable and facile abstract of that which could prepare them for practical reason and could serve to clear the air for the further broadening of the knowledge herein contained. I called such a discipline, made up of those parts upon which my sights at that time were primarily set, physical geography. Since that time I have gradually broadened this outline and I now propose to pull those sections dealing with physical geography more closely together in order to gain time to further broaden those lectures which deal with the other segments of geography which are even more generally useful. This discipline will then become a physical, moral, and political geography. [AA 2:312; Bolin transl.]

4. Physische Geographie. Als ich gleich zu Anfange meiner akademischen Unterweisung erkannte, daß eine große Vernachlässigung der studirenden Jugend vornehmlich darin bestehe, daß sie frühe vernünfteln lernt, ohne gnugsame historische Kenntnisse, welche die Stelle der Erfahrenheit vertreten können, zu besitzen: so faßte ich den Anschlag, die Historie von dem jetzigen Zustande der Erde oder die Geographie im weitesten Verstande zu einem angenehmen und leichten Inbegriff desjenigen zu machen, was sie zu einer praktischen Vernunft vorbereiten und dienen könnte, die Lust rege zu machen, die darin angefangene Kenntnisse immer mehr auszubreiten. Ich nannte eine solche Disciplin von demjenigen Theile, worauf damals mein vornehmstes Augenmerk gerichtet war: physische Geographie. Seitdem habe ich diesen Entwurf allmählig erweitert, und jetzt gedenke ich, indem ich diejenige Abtheilung mehr zusammenziehe, welche auf die physische Merkwürdigkeiten der Erde geht, Zeit zu gewinnen, um den Vortrag über die andern Theile derselben, die noch gemeinnütziger sind, weiter auszubreiten. Diese Disciplin wird also eine physische, moralische und politische Geographie sein [...].

Finally, ten years later in the 1775 Announcement [writings], Kant viewed anthropology (on which he had begun lecturing in WS 1772/73) and physical geography as complementary disciplines, with an emphasis on the pragmatic, and with the express purpose of bridging the gap between school and life:

The physical geography announced here belongs to an idea that I hold to be a useful academic instruction and which I can call a preliminary exercise in the knowledge of the world. This knowledge of the world serves to provide what is pragmatic to all other acquired sciences and skills, so that they are useful not merely for school, but in life, and is where the accomplished apprentice is introduced to his vocation’s stage, namely, in the world. A two-fold field lies here before him, for which he needs a preliminary outline so that he can arrange within it, and according to rules, all his future experiences: namely, of nature and of human beings. Both parts, however, must be considered cosmologically, namely, not with a regard for single noteworthy objects that they contain (physics and empirical psychology), but rather with regard to the relationship to the whole in which they are found, and within which each takes its place. The first subject I call physical geography and have determined it to the summer summer, the second, anthropology, which I have ready for the winter. The remaining lectures for this semester have already been publicly announced in the appropriate place. [AA 2:443]

Die physische Geographie, die ich hiedurch ankündige, gehört zu einer Idee, welche ich mir von einem nützlichen akademischen Unterricht mache, den ich die Vorübung in der Kenntniß der Welt nennen kann. Diese Weltkenntniß ist es, welche dazu dient, allen sonst erworbenen Wissenschaften und Geschicklichkeiten das Pragmatische zu verschaffen, dadurch sie nicht bloß für die Schule, sondern für das Leben brauchbar werden, und wodurch der fertig gewordene Lehrling auf den Schauplatz seiner Bestimmung, nämlich in die Welt, eingeführt wird. Hier liegt ein zwiefaches Feld vor ihm, wovon er einen vorläufigen Abriß nöthig hat, um alle künftige Erfahrungen darin nach Regeln ordnen zu können: nämlich die Natur und der Mensch. Seine Stücke aber müssen darin kosmologisch erwogen werden, nämlich nicht nach demjenigen, was ihre Gegenstände im einzelnen Merkwürdiges enthalten (Physik und empirische Seelenlehre), sondern was ihr Verhältniß im Ganzen, worin sie stehen und darin ein jeder selbst seine Stelle einnimmt, uns anzumerken giebt. Die erstere Unterweisung nenne ich physische Geographie und habe sie zur Sommervorlesung bestimmt, die zweite Anthropologie, die ich für den Winter aufbehalte. Die übrige Vorlesungen dieses halben Jahres sind schon gehöriges Orts öffentlichangezeigt worden. [AA 2:443]

Just as he had published a version of his anthropology course, Kant appears to have had plans to publish a book on physical geography during the 1790s (see a 1794 report by Friedrich Lupin [qtd. in Malter 1990, 410-12]). But by the time Kant wrote the preface to his Anthropology (1798) [writings], he noted that he was too old to publish a similar manual for the physical geography lectures, and that he was the only person capable of reading the manuscript (that he had been using in the classroom as his textbook)[AA 7:122]. This manuscript is the so-called “Diktat-Text” — no longer extant, but still available in what is believed to be a direct copy (in the form of the an-Holstein-Beck geography notes).

Kant’s colleague, K. L. Pörschke [bio], lectured on physical geography in the same hours as Kant normally did (Wednesday and Saturday from 8 to 10) during SS 1797 (presumably to help fill the void made by Kant’s retirement [more]; both had their lectures announced in the catalog this semester [Oberhausen/Pozzo 1999, 654]). Porschke used a text by George Henry Millar, The New and Universal System of Geography (London 1782), translated into German as Entwurf einer physikalischen Erdbeschreibung (Dresden 1788) [Arnoldt 1908-9, iv.432].

Latin Style [top]

How often taught & when

Privatissimum, taught once in 1758. Our only source of this comes from Euler [2000, 132-42].

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

As a privatissimum, it would not have been announced or recorded in any official document. We know of it because of a testimonial that Kant wrote for the student Christoph Schoenaich, who matriculated 2 October 1756 [Erler 1911-12, 463], the son of the deacon at the Cathedral in Königsberg (also named Christoph, born 18 March 1696, died 14 April 1762). The son began as a law student, later turning to theology.


• Cornelius Nepos, De viris illustribus.

Kant read Nepos as a student at the Collegium Fridericianum.

Logic [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

First semester: WS 1755/56. Kant taught this course as many as 56 times (more than any other course): every semester of the 1750s and 1760s except for 1767, and then, with his promotion to full professor of logic and metaphysics, every SS from 1770 to 1796 inclusive.

Arnoldt reports that Kant taught two sections of Logic in 1770 (one public, the other private); this is similar to WS 1771/72, when he presumably taught two sections of Metaphysics. There are two semesters where Kant is recorded as announcing a logic course but taught another course instead: SS 1767 he instead taught an unnamed privatissima, and WS 1771/72 he instead lectured on Philosophical Encyclopedia.

Textbooks[1] [Outline of Textbook]

• Georg Friedrich Meier, Vernunftlehre (Halle: Johann Justinus Gebauer, 11752)(21762). Consists of 630 sections.

• —, Auszug aus der Vernunftlehre (Halle: Johann Justinus Gebauer, 11752)(21760). 1st edition reprinted in Adickes (1914; AA 16), alongside Kant’s Reflections (##1662-3488). Consists of 563 sections. See the concordance in Young [1992].

Kant’s interleaved copy of the Auszug (Halle: 1752) is extant. It was housed in the archive of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (NL-Kant 26); a few pages were lost to damage during World War II. This book was returned to the university library at Tartu (catalog: Ms 92) in November 1995.

Possibly beginning with his very first semester of teaching (1755/56), Kant made use of one or more of Georg Friedrich Meier’s [bio] logic textbooks. Meier was a former student of A. G. Baumgarten’s and a professor of philosophy at Halle. In the preface to Kant’s published lecture notes [1800, vi-vii], Jäsche writes:

Since the year 1765, Professor Kant has based his lectures on logic, without interruption, on Meier’s textbook as a guiding thread (Georg Friedrich Meier’s Excerpts from the Doctrine of Reason, Halle: Gebauer, 1752), for reasons he explained in the program he published by way of announcement of his lectures in the year 1765. [AA 9:3]

Seit dem Jahre 1765 hatte Herr Prof. Kant seinen Vorlesung über die Logik ununterbrochen [vii] das Meiersche Lehrbuch (George Friedrich Meiers Auszug aus der Vernunftlehre, Halle bey Gebauer 1752) als Leitfaden zum Grunde gelegt; aus Gründen, worüber Er sich in einem zu Ankündigung seiner Vorlesungen im Jahr 1765 von Ihm herausgegebenen Programm erklärte.

This is a rather odd claim since we know Kant was using Meier well before 1765. It appears that Jäsche inferred this from Kant's published lecture announcement. Borowski claimed in 1804 that Kant lectured on logic from Baumeister originally, later turning to Meier [Reicke 1860, 32; repr. Malter 1990, 43]:

Logic first from Baumester, then from Meier, metaphysics – Baumeister, then Baumgarten, theoretical Physics – from Eberhard's theory of nature

Logik anfänglich über Baumester, dann über Meier, Metaphysik — Baumeister, dann Baumgarten, theoret. Physik — über Eberhard’s Naturlehre [Reicke 1860, 32]

But in his biographical sketch of Kant written some 12 years earlier, Borowski claimed that Kant used Meier in his logic lectures, with no mention of Baumeister, even though he noted in this same passage that Kant made early use of Baumeister’s metaphysics textbook in his metaphysics lectures [1804, 33]. It wouldn’t have been surprising for Kant to have used Baumeister’s popular textbook, as it was widely used by other instructors at Königsberg (Watson, Christiani, and both of the Kypke’s), but already in Kant’s lecture announcement for his second semester (SS 1756) we find him using Meier [full text] [AA 1:503]. Ten years later, in another lecture announcement (WS 1765/66) Kant explains his preference for Meier:

I shall be lecturing on logic of the first type [namely, on logic as “a critique and canon of sound understanding,” as opposed to “a critique and canon of the whole of philosophy”]. I shall base my lectures on Meier’s handbook, for he has, I think, kept his eye focused on the limits of the intentions which we have just now mentioned. And he also stimulates us to an understanding, not only of the cultivation of reason in its more refined and learned form, but also of the development of the ordinary understanding, which is nonetheless active and sound. The former serves the life of contemplation, while the latter serves the life of action and society. [full text] [AA 2:310-11; Walford transl.]

Ich werde die Logik von der ersten Art vortragen und zwar nach dem Handbuche des Hrn. Prof. Meier, weil dieser die Grenzen der jetzt gedachten [311] Absichten wohl vor Augen hat und zugleich Anlaß giebt, neben der Cultur der feineren und gelehrten Vernunft die Bildung des zwar gemeinen, aber thätigen und gesunden Verstandes zu begreifen, jene für das betrachtende, diese für das thätige und bürgerliche Leben. Wobei zugleich die sehr nahe Verwandtschaft der Materien Anlaß giebt, bei der Kritik der Vernunft einige Blicke auf die Kritik des Geschmacks, d. i. die ästhetik, zu werfen, davon die Regeln der einen jederzeit dazu dienen, die der andern zu erläutern, und ihre Abstechung ein Mittel ist, beide besser zu begreifen.

Near the end of his career, we find a student reporting Kant's continued use of Meier:

Kant is reading from an old Logic, by Meier, if I’m not mistaken. He always brings the book along. It looks so old and soiled, I believe that he has brought it daily to class with him for forty years. All the blank leaves are covered with writing in a small hand, and besides, many of the printed pages have leaves pasted on them, and lines are frequently crossed out, so that, as you might imagine, scarcely anything of Meyer’s Logic is left. Not one of his auditors brings the book, and they merely write down what he says. But he does not seem to notice this, and faithfully follows his author from chapter to chapter, and corrects everything, or rather rewords everything, but so innocently that it is clear he makes little of his discoveries. [Purgstall, writing in 1795 [full text]]

Kant liest über eine alte Logik, von Meyer, wenn ich nicht irre. Immer bringt er das Buch mit in die Stunde. Es sieht so alt und abgeschmutz aus, ich glaube, er bringt es schon 40 Jahre täglich in's Collegium; alle Blätter sind klein von seiner Hand beschrieben und noch dazu sind viele gedruckte Seiten mit Papier verklebt und viele Zeilen ausgestrichen, so dass, wie sich dies verstehet, von Meyer's Logic beinahe nichts mehr übrig ist. Von seinen Zuhörern hat kein einziger das Buch mit und man schreibt blos ihm nach. Er aber scheint dies gar nicht zu bemerken und folgt mit grosser Treue seinem Autor von Capitel zu Capitel und dann berichtigt er oder sagt vielmehr alles anders, aber mit der grössten Unschuld, dass man es ihm ansehen kann, er thue sich nichts zu Gute auf seine Erfindungen.

Conrad [1994, 66-68] suggests that Kant always used a Meier textbook, beginning with the larger Vernunftlehre but then soon changing to the smaller Auszug, at least as early as SS 1757, Kant’s fourth semester teaching the course, where Meier’s “short introduction” is specified in Kant’s lecture announcement)[AA 2:10]. Conrad offers various reasons why Kant would do this. First, a new teacher would more likely choose a detailed text full of examples, and then after gaining some experience, switch to a briefer textbook. Second, Meier’s Auszug was likely better suited to the abilities of Kant’s students, since it explained the Latin terms used. Third, the much shorter Auszug (155 pp.) cost half as much as the Vernunftlehre (two volumes, 842 pp.) — nine vs eighteen Gulden [currency]. The Vernunftlehre would have cost three and one-half months of the pay Kant received for his work as a sub-librarian [1994, 68-69].

Other comments on logic texts can be found in the student notes:


Among the moderns, Leibniz and Wolff are to be noted. The logic of Wolffius [Philosophia rationalis sive logica (Frankfurt 1728; 3rd ed: 1740)] is the best to be found. It was subsequently condensed by Baumgarten [Acroasis logica in Chr. Wolff (Halle 1761)], and he was again extended by Meier. After them, Reusch [Systema logicum (Jena 1734)] and Knutzen [Elementa philosophiae rationalis seu logicae, 1747] wrote logics. Reusch is a philosopher at Jena. At just this time the Récherches de la vérité came out. The logic of Crusius [Weg zur Gewißheit und Zuverlässigkeit der menschlichen Erkenntnis (Leipzig 1747)] is crammed full of things that are drawn from other sciences, and it contains metaphysical and theological principles. Lambert wrote an organon of pure reason [Neues Organon (Leipzig 1764)]. It is remarkable that one cannot give a precise definition of a science even when it has come almost to its perfection. [AA 24:796-97; transl. Young 1992, 257-58]

Unter den Neuern ist Leibnitz und Wolff zu bemerken. Wolffii Logic ist die beßte, die man antrifft. Sie wurde hernach vom Baumgarten concentrirt, und dieser wurde vom Meyer wieder extendirt. Nach ihnen haben Reusch und Knutzen Logiken geschrieben. Reusch is Jenaischer Philosoph. Um eben diese Zeit kamen in Frankreich Récherches de la vérité heraus. Die Logic des Crusius ist voller Dinge gepfropft, die aus andern Wissenschaften gezogen sind, und enthält metaphysische und theologische Grundsätze. Lambert hat ein Organon der reinen Vernunft geschrieben. Es ist merkwürdig, daß man von einer Wissenschaft, wenn sie gleich fast zu ihrer Vollkommenheit gekommen ist, keine praecise definition geben kann.

an-Pölitz 3.1

Among the moderns are two who consider the entirety of general logic, namely, Leibniz and Wolff, and the general logic of the latter is the best we have. [AA 24:509]

Unter den Neueren sind zwei, die die allgemeine Logik im ganzen betrachten, nämlich Leibniz und Wolff, und des letzteren allgemeine logik ist die beste, die man hat.]


The universal logic of Wolff is the best we have. Some have combined it with the Aristotelian logic, like Reusch, for example. Baumgarten, a man who has much merit here, concentrated the Wolffian logic, and Meier then commented again on Baumgarten. Crusius also belongs to the modern logicians, but he did not consider how things stand with logic. For his logic contains metaphysical principles and so to this extent oversteps the limits of this science; besides, it puts forth a criterion of truth that cannot be a criterion, and hence to this extent gives free reign to all sorts of fantastic notions. [AA 9:21, transl. Young 1992, 535]

Die allgemeine Logik von Wolff ist die beste, welche man hat. Einige haben sie mit der Aristotelischen verbunden, wie z. B. Reusch. Baumgarten, ein Mann, der hierin viel Verdienst hat, concetirte die Wolffische Logick, und Meier commentirte dann wieder über Baumgarten. Zu den neuern Logikern gehört auch Crusius, der aber nicht bedachte, was es mit der Logik für eine Bewandtniß habe. Denn seine Logik enthält metaphysische Grundsätze und überschreitet also in so fern die Grenzen dieser Wissenschaft; überdies stellet sie ein Kriterium der Wahrheit auf, das kein Kriterium sein kann, und läßt also in so fern allen Schwärmereien freien Lauf.

In a letter from Kiesewetter [bio] to Kant (3 July 1791) recounting his year attending Kant’s lectures (1788-89) and discussing his own publication of a logic textbook along Kantian lines, he reminded Kant that he had said he was not happy with the Meyer text that he’d been using (#475, AA 11:267).

[1] See L. H. Jakob’s [bio] letter to Kant (28 July 1787, #301) and Kant’s reply [Zweig 1999, 262-63] for a discussion of logic texts.

History and Nature of the Course

The “Methodological Instructions for Students in all Four Faculties,” prepared by the Berlin ministry for education for use at Königsberg and issued beginning with SS 1770 to all matriculating students, suggested which courses should be taken during a six semester schedule of courses. It also discussed certain courses in some detail, including Logic, which was to be taken in the first semester if possible:

Logic. This involves not only philosophizing over human cognition, over its deficiency, limits, and perfections, but instruction in scholarly thinking and studying is also given. If a student learns such a logic at the very beginning, then he will know how best he must learn each science to which he applies himself. [Qtd. in Stark 1995, 56]

Mathematics (and mechanical science) [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

First semester: WS 1755/56. Kant appears to have taught mathematics at least fifteen of his first seventeen semesters at the university, excepting only WS 1758/59 (a semester for which we have no records at all) and 1762 (for which only logic and metaphysics are recorded). The final semester (WS 1763/64) was a privatissima course of lectures for General Meyer and his officers. Kant is listed as having lectured on mechanics for 1759/60 and 1761 (the “mechanics” course is equivalent to an “applied mathematics” course, and is likely based on parts 5-7 of Wolff’s Auszug).

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1755/56: Mathematik.
1756: Theory of Winds [writings] — “I will continue to give instruction in mathematics” [“Ich fahre fort in der Mathematik Anleitung zu geben,” AA 1:503].
1756/57: Mathematik.
1757: West Winds [writings] — “In mathematics, the old course will be continued and a new course begun.” [“In der Mathematik werden die alten Vorlesungen fortgesetzt und neue angefangen,” AA 2:10].
1757/58: Mathematik.
1758: Motion and Rest [writings] — “Mathematics will begin with Wolff’s Auszug.” [“Die mathematik wird über Wolffens Auszug angefangen werden,” AA 2:25].
1758/59: [no university records]
1759: “Mathematica varia.”
1759/60: Optimism [writings] — “On pure mathematics, which I am starting, I shall lecture at a special hour; but on mechanical sciences I shall lecture at a separate time. Both of these courses will be based on Wolff. The distribution of the hours will be announced separately. As is already known, I shall complete each of these courses in one semester. Should this, however, prove insufficient, I shall make up what is outstanding in a few hours at the beginning of the following semester.” [“...die reine Mathematik, die ich anfange, in einer besondern, die mechanische Wissenschaften aber in einer andern Stunde, beide nach Wolffen vortragen. Die Eintheilung der Stunden wird besonders bekannt gemacht. Man weiß schon, daß ich jede dieser Wissenschaften in einem halben Jahre zu Ende bringe und, wenn dieses zu kurz ist, den Rest in einigen Stunden des folgenden nachhole.” [AA 2:35].
1760: Mathematik.
1760/61: “reine Mathematik.”
1761: “...IX-X Mechanicam, Hydrostaticam, Hydraulicam, Aerometriam, ...III-IV Arithmeticam, Geometriam.”
1761/62: “ ...Arithmetices, Geometriae et Trigonometriae.”
1762: No record for mathematics; likely an incomplete record.
1762/63: Mathematik.
1763: Mathematik.


• Christian Wolff, Anfangsgründe aller mathematischen Wissenschaften, 4 parts (Frankfurt/Leipzig, 1710).

The contents of the four parts of the 1750 edition of Wolff’s Anfangsgründe are as follows:

Erster Theil, Welcher Einen Unterricht von der Mathematischen Lehr=Art die Rechenkunst, Geometrie, Trigonometrie und Bau-Kunst in sich enthält. Zu mehrerem Aufnehmen der Mathematick so wohl auf hohen als niedrigen Schulen aufgesetzet worden.

Anderer Theil, Welcher die Artillerie Fortification, Mechanick, Hydrostatick, Aerometrie und Hydraulick in sich enthält, Und zu mehrerem Aufnehmen der Mathematick so wohl auf hohen, als niedrigen Schulen aufgesetzt worden.

Dritter Theil, Welcher die Optick, Catoptrick und Dioptrick, die Perspectiv, die spärische Trigonometrie, Astronomie, Chronologie, Geographie und Gnonomick in sich enthält, Und zu mehrerem Aufnehmen der Mathematick so wohl auf hohen, als niedrigen Schulen aufgesetzt worden.

Letzter Theil, Welcher so wohl die gemeine Algebra, als die Differential- und Integral-Rechnung, und einen Anhang von den vornehmsten Mathematischen Schriften in sich begreiffet Und zu mehrerem Aufnehmen der Mathematick so wohl auf hohen, als niedrigen Schulen aufgesetzet worden.

• 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 from the 1737 6th edition):
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).

Wolff’s Auszug was used at the Collegium Fridericianum when Kant was a student, and he likely studied it while at the university as well. Kant’s library contained both the four-volume Anfangsgründe (1750) and the abbreviated Auszug (1749; an unnumbered edition, it appears to be the 10th), although both of these copies have since been lost [Warda 1922, 40; Martin 1967, 59].[1] We have evidence that he lectured from the Auszug during several semesters, and he may well have always used it — common sense certainly speaks against using a four-volume text that would have been prohibitively expensive for nearly every student. Borowski’s report of Kant’s first semester: “on mathematics, following Wolff” [Borowski 1804, 33]. From the lecture announcement for SS 1758: “mathematics will begin with Wolff’s Auszug” [AA 2:25]. Irmscher reports that the Herder notes (WS 1762/63 or SS 1763) appear to follow the Auszug [Irmscher 1964, 17; see also Stuckenberg 1882, 68; Lehmann 1980, 659; Waschkies 1987, 156-59].

[1] For the relevant lecture catalogs, see Oberhausen/Pozzo [1999, 257-69]. Our only lecture notes from Kant’s mathematics lectures come from Herder (mid-1760s), and it’s possible that these notes stem from another professor’s lectures. The full professor of mathematics during Herder’s student years, Christoph Langhansen, was offering public lectures on arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and astronomy in a two-semester sequence at this time, and Herder’s poverty would speak in favor of his attending these public lectures; but we have no positive evidence for this, and Kant was presumably allowing Herder to attend his classes for free. Karl Christiani, the full professor of practical philosophy and Langhansen’s son-in-law, was also offering occasional private courses on mathematics at the time.

History and Nature of the Course

Gottfried Martin suggests that Kant offered a two-semester sequence of mathematics courses, with arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry (the first three parts of Wolff’s Auszug) normally taught during the winter semester, and mechanics, hydrostatics, aerometry, and hydraulics (the next four parts of Wolff’s textbook) normally taught during the summer semester. Of the fourteen semesters for which we have records, three indicate Kant offering two courses of mathematics lectures (1757, 1759/60, and 1761), and four give some indication of the content of the course: 1759/60 (one of the courses is on “pure” mathematics, the other on the “mechanical sciences”), 1760/61 (“pure”), 1761 (one course is on “mechanics, hydrostatics, hydraulics, aerometry,” the other on “arithemetic, geometry, and trigonomety”), 1761/62 (“arithemetic, geometry, and trigonomety”) [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.177-96]. Martin offers a reconstructed schedule of this sequence [1967, 61], but an unspoken assumption of this reconstruction appears to have been that Kant always finished his lectures each semester, and so did not need to continue them into the following semester. We know, however, that failing to cover the requisite material in the allotted time was a common problem at the university, leading to several complaints from both the Königsberg and Berlin ministries.[1] Christoph Langhansen, the full professor of mathematics, was required by statute to complete each year public lectures on arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and astronomy, yet he would routinely fall behind — for instance, getting through part of the geometry one semester, and then finishing it off and beginning trigonometry the next, and taking three or four semesters to complete the work of two.

Kant himself noted in his lecture announcement for WS 1759/60 that:

On pure mathematics, which I am starting, I shall lecture at a special hour; but on mechanical sciences I shall lecture at a separate time. Both of these courses will be based on Wolff. The distribution of the hours will be announced separately. As is already known, I shall complete each of these courses in one semester. Should this, however, prove insufficient, I shall make up what is outstanding in a few hours at the beginning of the following semester. [AA 2:35; Walford transl.]

[...] die reine Mathematik, die ich anfange, in einer besondern, die mechanische Wissenschaften aber in einer andern Stunde, beide nach Wolffen vortragen. Die Eintheilung der Stunden wird besonders bekannt gemacht. Man weiß schon, daß ich jede dieser Wissenschaften in einem halben Jahre zu Ende bringe und, wenn dieses zu kurz ist, den Rest in einigen Stunden des folgenden nachhole.

Records for SS 1766 indicate that Kant was teaching two sections each of metaphysics and ethics; these two additional sections were the tail-end of the previous semester’s lectures (and so, presumably, were completed sometime during that second semester) [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.207-8]. This makes rather plausible the assumption that, in the three semesters where Kant doubled-up his mathematics courses (teaching both pure and mechanical the same semester), he was simply finishing lectures from the previous semester. Such an assumption allows a straight-forward sequence of pure mathematics (arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry) every winter semester, and mechanical science (mechanics, hydrostatics, aerometry, and hydraulics) every summer semester, which Kant would have completed eight times (ending with SS 1763).

Kant was also giving private instructions to the local military officers. Rink wrote that:

[...] General von Meyer [Karl Friedrich von Meyer (1708-1775), chief of the Dragonerregiment], a clear-thinking man, liked it when the officers of his regiment sought to educate themselves in mathematics through Kant’s Privatunterricht” [1805, 32; Malter 1990, 30].

[...] Generals von Meyer, eines helldenkenden Mannes, der es gerne sah, wenn die Officiere seines Regiments sich durch Kant's Privatunterricht, nahmentlich in der Mathematik, auszubilden suchten.

While this “private instruction” might be referring to private lectures at the university, it is probably referring to privatissima, given at the special request of the officers. Stephen Wannowski [bio] remarked (in Wald’s questionaire prepared in 1804) that Kant “had instructed many Russian officers privatim in mathematics during the Seven Year’s War” [Reicke 1860, 40]. Some of this instruction appears to have been one-on-one; Wannowski singled out a Pole, Mr. von Orsetti from Maniewo, as a favorite student of Kant’s, who lived on his estate during the summer, but spent winters in Königsberg where Kant gave him private lessons, “especially in the mathematical sciences” [Ibid.].[2]

It is remarkable that Kant taught a course on mathematics every (or 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. We have no data on the attendance of this course. Was there some change in the teaching staff that might have caused this?[3] There has also been discussion that Kant’s knowledge of mathematics was wholly inadequate, almost school-level in its quality [Waschkies 1987; Brandt 1999b, 294]. To this it should be noted, however, that the older books in Kant’s personal library were predominantly on mathematics and physics.[4]

[1] The edicts quoted in Arnoldt are dated April 14 and May 3, 1768 [1908-9, v.217]. Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel [bio], who studied at the university in the late 1750s, also complained of this problem (Ibid., v.182). In the announcement of his lectures for WS 1759/60 (his Optimism essay [writings]), Kant writes: “As is already known, I shall complete each of these courses in one semester. Should this, however, prove insufficient, I shall make up what is outstanding in a few hours at the beginning of the following semester.” In this same announcement, he says that he will be starting a set of lectures on pure mathematics, and also offering lectures on mechanical science (which would presumably be the second semester of the two-semester math sequence) at a different time.

[2] Goldbeck (1782, 253) reports that “for about the last 18 years” Prussian officers were allowed to study mathematics, free of charge, at the university in Königsberg; typically they would be assigned to the garrison there for the three years needed for the course of study, “geometry and other parts of mathematics, divided into engineering and the military science.” This program may have started after Kant had concluded his last course in mathematics (1763/64), but in any event his lectures here were described as privatissima (which suggests the officers were footing the bill).

[3] Buck was Associate Professor of Mathematics from 1753-59, becoming in 1759 the Full Professor of Logic and Metaphysics. Johansen was an Associate Professor of Mathematics during 1752, although he may have died before ever finishing a semester. Reccard (1735-1798) turned down a math professorship in the mid-60s (this was presumably the chair that Langhansen gave up, on account of illness). Johann Schultz, later a close friend of Kant’s and a gifted mathematician, had been studying theology and mathematics, and would have left the university about this time.

[4] We have a list of Kant’s books as compiled by the auction catalog of Professor Gensichen’s [bio] estate, who had inherited Kant’s library (this list was published in Warda [1922]). In 1804, when asked by Prof. Wald [bio] about Kant’s library — how many volumes and which disciplines were represented — Gensichen replied:

Counting all the little brochures, of which there are quite a few, about 500 volumes. Among the older books, more are on mathematics and physics than on philosophy. Of the newer books, of course, the most have a philosophical content, and a significant quantity of those are occasioned by the Kantian philosophy. But Kant probably had not bought any of these; rather most, if not all, were sent to him by their authors. I would thus say that mathematics and physics (not to exclude chemistry) are the disciplines from which Kant primarily stocked his library. [Reicke 1860, 56]

Alle kleine Brochuren, deren sehr viele sind, mitgerechnet, circa 500 Bände. Unter den ältern Büchern finde ich mehr mathematische und physische, als philosophische. Von den neuern sind freylich die meisten philosophischen Inhalts, und besonders ist deren, die durch die Kantische Philosophie veranlaßt sind, eine beträchtliche Menge. K. hat aber wahrscheinlich kein einziges davon selbst angekauft, sondern, wenn nicht alle, doch die meisten von ihren Verfassern zugesandt erhalten. Ich möchte also fast Mathematik u. Physik (Chemie nicht ausgeschlossen) für die Fächer erklären, aus welchen Kant seine Bibliothek vorzüglich hat versorgen wollen.


Wald posed to Prof. Schultz [bio] the question: “Did Kant lecture on any subjects other than logic, metaphysics, physical geography, anthropology, and physics?” Schultz answered: “As Magister also Mathematics, especially Fortification” [Reicke 1860, 37]. To the same question, Stephan Wannowski [bio] answered that Kant “was especially interested in fortification, and military architecture and pyrotechnics in general” [full text] [Reicke 1860, 40]. An anonymous biographical sketch of Kant appearing three days after his death also noted that “Already as a Magister he was keeping himself out of dire poverty by teaching several Privatissima, even on fortification to young officers.” [full text]

This would have been a course given separately to members of the Russian military during their occupation [glossary] of Königsberg (1758-63), and Kant would likely have used the relevant section from Wolff’s Auszug (see the table of contents, above), the textbook he used in his other mathematics lectures [Stark 1993, 322; see also Vorländer 1924, i.89]. He may well also have touched on this subject in his courses on mechanical science. Malter quotes an anonymous source from the late 1750s: “Already as a Magister he worked from necessity through several privatissima which he read to young officers on fortification” [1990, 41].

Lehmann lists privatissima courses on fortification, military architecture, pyrotechnics — all during the Russian occupation [1969, 75]. Arnoldt notes fortification and pyrotechnics [1908-9, v.343], and Stuckenberg also mentions the fortification and pyrotechnics lectures [1882, 68-69], quoting an account in Neue Preussische Provinz Blatter [1854, 206].

Martin argues that the various claims that Kant offered courses on pyrotechnics rest on a misunderstanding. The source was a passage in Schubert’s biography of Kant, in which he wrote that Kant ...

... began a series of academic courses about mathematics and physics in the winter semester of 1755, the former based on Wolff, the latter based on Eberhard’s Naturlehre, and he even discussed theories of fortification and pyrotechnics with sympathetic interest. [1842, 35]

As Martin points out, Schubert need be claiming no more than that these subjects were discussed in the course of Kant’s other lectures [1985, xxii] — although we have additional reasons to believe that the topic of fortification may have enjoyed its own set of lectures (see above).

Metaphysics [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

First semester: WS 1755/56, and taught every semester of his years as a lecturer with the possible exception of 1763, 1765, and 1769. Beginning with 1770/71 Kant taught metaphysics every WS except 1793/94 (when Kant taught a course on the metaphysics of morals instead), as well as one last time privately during SS 1771, and privatissima during WS 1771/72. Total: 53.

The records indicate that Kant taught two sections of Metaphysics in 1771/72 — one public, the other privatissima, as well as a private section during SS 1770. This is similar to what the records indicate for Logic (SS 1770). It might seem unlikely that a professor could attract paying students for a course of lectures when they could receive the same thing for free, yet we find Buck [bio] doing this routinely (this is the only semester that Kant is alleged to have done this). The public lectures were seen as offerings for the poor, and so were avoided (if possible) by wealthier students; what is more, the private lectures normally attracted fewer students, and therefore were more comfortable to attend. It is true that Kant wrote in a letter to Herz (15 December 1778) that he has “taught Logic and Metaphysics since 1770 only publicly” [AA 10:246; repr. Malter 1990, 152], but even if Kant meant 1770 precisely, rather than as a roundabout reference to the beginning of his professorship, this memory of eight years should not be allowed to override Kant’s own written statement in the faculty records that, for instance, his course on metaphysics for SS 1771 (which would have been privately taught) was “held and completed” [Olsztyn XXVIII, I, 200, p. 319].

Arnoldt also indicates that Kant lectured for 6-8 hours per week on metaphysics during 1766/67 [1908-9, v.208] — the extra hours might have been devoted to repetitoria (for two extra hours), or perhaps he was finishing up the metaphysics lectures from the previous semester as well (for four extra hours).

Textbooks [Outline of Textbook]

• Friedrich Christian Baumeister, Institutiones metaphysicae, ontologiam, cosmologiam, psychologiam, theologiam denique naturalem complexae, methodo Wolfii adornatae (Wittenberg and Zerbst, 1738). 11738 (638pp), 21739 (638pp), 1743 (638pp), 1749 (638pp), 1754 (638pp), etc.

• Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Metaphysica, ed. IV (Halle: 1757). All editions: 11739 (292pp), 21743 (363pp), 31750 (387pp), 41757 (432pp), 51763 (432pp), 61768 (432pp), 71779 (432pp). Reprint of 7th edition: Hildesheim, Olms, 1963. Reprint of 4th ed. at AA 15:3-54 (Empirical Psychology) and AA 17:5-226.

Kant’s copy of the 4th edition (1757) of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica was originally in Dorpat/Tartu, brought there by Jäsche [bio] in 1802 when he began teaching as a full professor in philosophy (he gave his books to Karl Morgenstern [bio], who in turn left his books to the university library, at which point they entered the collections there). In 1895 it was loaned to the Berlin Academy of Sciences for the purposes of the Academy edition of Kant’s writings, and Erich Adickes transcribed and published Kant’s many notes in volumes 15, 17-18 of the Academy edition between 1911 and 1928. This volume then stayed in Berlin during World War II (presumably in the Academy of Sciences archive). In 1957 it was then “unofficially removed” by Gerhard Lehmann and deposited in the Göttingen University Library as belonging to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences archive [Niedersächsischen Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (Dep. der AdW./ 1714-1762, Frankfurt/Oder; Verzeichniß 509: “Auflage 1768”)]. The notes in the Library’s catalog (Verzeichnis) of the “Deposita” of the Academy of Sciences indicates that the book was finally returned to the university library of Dorpat/Tartu (catalog: Ms 93) in 1995. Erdmann [1882, 5-7] provides a description of Kant’s copy, including a list of the many missing pages [pdf].

Kant’s copy of the 3rd edition (1750) of Baumgarten, discovered by Werner Stark in 2000, is housed in the academy library in Gdansk, Poland (Biblioteka Gdanska Polskiej Akademii Nauk, catalog: Fa 25989 /3). This had been brought to Gdansk/Danzig by Theodor Rink [bio], another of Kant’s students and, like Jäsche, also an editor of some of Kant’s later materials: the Physical Geography (1802), On Education (1803), and Conflict of the Faculties (1804). Rink had also left Königsberg in the summer of 1801, taking with him various Kantiana and settling in Danzig. His books were auctioned after his death (17 April 1811) and part of these were purchased by the Danzig Stadtbibliothek, among which was Kant’s 3rd edition copy of Baumgarten. Unlike the 4th edition copy, however, this edition seems not to have served as a text-book. While interleaved like the other book, the marginalia are fewer and more critical; most of the notes appear to have been written before Kant began his teaching career in 1755, although a few appear to stem from the 1760s. In any event, the gap in the annotations on metaphysics from the years 1753-1763 that Adickes had noted, and that led him to conjecture the existence of an earlier edition of the Baumgarten Metaphysica that Kant used, is not at all filled by this volume. Because Kant was using the Baumgarten text for two or three semesters before the 4th edition was available, there must be some additional copy of 3rd edition yet to be found.[1] (Similarly, Kant’s copy of Baumeister, of which there has never been any mention in the literature, is possibly still waiting to be discovered.) Kant’s notes written in his copy of the 3rd edition are availablel in Gawlick/Kreimendahl/Stark (2019).

Kant’s published announcement for his SS 1756 lectures — his second semester of teaching — claims that he will be using Baumgarten’s textbook, adding that ...

... the difficulties of the darkness that appears to surround this most useful and foundational of all textbooks of its kind will be lifted, if I do not flatter myself too much, through the carefulness of the lecture and detailed written elucidations. I believe that it is more than wholly certain that the worth of a thing must be determined not by its ease of use, but by its usefulness, and that, as a clever author expressed it, stubble is easily found above without trouble, but whoever looks for pearls must enter the depths. [full text] [AA 1:503]

... Die Schwierigkeiten der Dunkelheit, die dieses nützlichste und gründlichste unter allen Handbüchern seiner Art zu umgeben scheinen, werden, wo ich mich nicht zu sehr schmeichle, durch die Sorgfalt des Vortrags und ausführliche schriftliche Erläuterungen gehoben werden. Mich dünkt, es sei mehr als allzu gewiß, daß nicht die Leichtigkeit, sondern die Nützlichkeit den Werth einer Sache bestimmen müsse, und daß, wie ein sinnreicher Schriftsteller sich ausdrückt, die Stoppeln ohne Mühe oben fließend gefunden werden, wer aber Perlen suchen will, in die Tiefe herabsteigen müsse.

Kant’s defense of his choice suggests that Baumgarten was not commonly used at Königsberg, but this is not a straight-forward thing to verify. The records of textbook use for this time are even less complete than the records of courses; the published lecture catalogs (such as those reprinted in Oberhausen/Pozzo [1999] — see a list of metaphysics offerings for 1755-1770) only sporadically indicate the textbook used — and prior to 1770 only the entries for the full and associate professors were included — but here we do find that J. D. Kypke [bio], the full professor of logic and metaphysics during the 1750’s, was using Baumeister’s text in his metaphysics lectures, as was J. F. Werner [bio], an associate, then later full professor of rhetoric and history, who appears to have offered a private course on metaphysics once during this period (in SS 1756).[2]

An associate professor of poetry, M. F. Watson [bio], offered a private metaphysics course each semester during Kant‘s first few years of teaching and is listed as using Baumgarten during SS 1756 (the same semester that Kant also chose Baumgarten), and then is listed as teaching from Baumeister for WS 1757/58 — we lack a record of Kant’s textbook for that semester, but Kant had noted that he would use Baumeister for the previous semester (SS 1757) and both he and Watson are listed as using Baumeister the following semester (SS 1758).

Finally, F. J. Buck [bio], who was an associate professor of mathematics during Kant's early years, was also teaching a private course on metaphysics each semester, although the textbook is never mentioned in the records (in the mid-60's he used some text of Knutzen’s years, by 1769 Crusius’s Entwurf der nothwendigen Vernunft-Wahrheiten [1745]). So in sum, we find Kant's peers using both Baumeister and Baumgarten during his early years as a Privatdozent.

In an announcement the following year (SS 1757) Kant is back using Baumeister:

Logic will follow Meier’s short introduction, and Metaphysics will follow Baumeister’s instruction. In the past semester, at the request of several gentlemen, I made this change with the more thorough, but also more difficult Baumgarten. One will now have the freedom to choose whichever text promises more advantages. [full text] [AA 2:10][3]

Die Logik wird nach der Meierischen kurzen Einleitung und die Metaphysik nach der Anweisung des Baumeisters gelesen. Ich habe im verwichenen halben Jahre auf Verlangen einiger Herren diesen Wechsel mit dem zwar gründlichern, aber schwereren Baumgarten zu ihrer Befriedigung angestellt. Man wird indessen die Freiheit der Wahl haben, von welchem von beiden man sich größere Vortheile versprechen wird.

And Kant’s announcement for SS 1758 simply notes that he intends to use Baumeister, with no mention of Baumgarten [full text] [AA 2:25].

An anonymous biography of Kant that appeared immediately after his death offered this account:

He was lecturing on Baumeister’s metaphysics when Baumgarten’s appeared,[4] and over which he would rather have lectured. He thought it necessary first to ask his auditors; and on the paper he circulated, one of his auditors (now an estimable man in public office) quite singularly indicated his preference for Baumgarten. The teacher did not know this auditor personally, and so asked him to introduce himself in the next hour. This he did, and Kant assured him that he would gladly tutor him privately whenever he encountered difficulties. [full text][5]

Er las über Baumeisters Metaphysik, als eben die Baumgartensche erschien, über die er lieber gelesen hätte. Indessen fand er nöthig, erst sein Auditorium darüber zu befragen. Auf dem Zettel, den er deshalb cirkuliren ließ, hatte sich Einer von seinen damaligen Zuhörern (jetzt ein würdiger Mann in einem öffentlichen Amte,) ganz besonders angelegentlich für Baumgarten erklärt. Der Lehrer kannte diesen Zuhörer persönlich nicht, bat diesen daher in der nuachsten Stunde, sich ihm zu erkennen zu geben. Der that dies, und Kant versicherte ihn, daß er bei Zweifeln und Bedenklichkeiten ihn gerne noch privatim belehren würde.

Kant eventually settled on Baumgarten; in October of 1759 he announced, without any qualifications, that he was reading Metaphysics according to Baumgarten [full text] [AA 2:35]. See also Stuckenberg [1882, 68]. On the Baumeister text, see Metaphysik Herder [AA 28:14], where while commenting on Baumgarten, §21, Kant presumably mentioned Baumeister:

§21. Baumeister, that awful interpreter of Wolff, describes an insufficient ground as no ground at all.

§21. Baumeister, der elende Ausleger Wolffs erklärt einen unzureichenden Grund vor gar keinen.”[6]

[1] A reasonable question here is why a relatively impoverished young lecturer would have owned two copies of the same edition. One explanation is that the copy housed in Gdansk is missing four pages in the middle when it was bound. Once Kant noticed this, he would have had good reason to seek out another copy.

[2] The Baumeister text also followed Wolff, arranging the material in the same order as we find in Baumgarten, viz., Ontology, Cosmology, Psychology (empirical, rational), and Natural Theology.

[3] Borowski’s report of Kant’s first semester of lectures includes: “on Metaphysics at first following Baumeister, then with the more thorough, but also more difficult Baumgarten” [1804, 33]. But this wording is so similar to that in the lecture announcement that one suspects Borowski was relying on this, rather than on his own memory.

[4] This would perhaps have been in 1757, when Baumgarten’s 4th edition appeared.

[5] Qtd. in Arnoldt [1908-9, v.274-75], repr. in Malter [1990, 41-42].

[6] See the note from Kant’s last years (Lose Blatt L1):

“From my oldest interleaved Baumgarten philosophy textbook, when Herder was my auditor. Space, time, and force. Long before the Critique [AA 17:257]

“Von meinem ältesten mit Papier durchschossenen Baumgartenschen Handbuch der Philosophie da Herder mein Zuhörer war. Raum, Zeit und Kraft. Lange vor der Kritik”.

The lecture catalog lists “Feder” as his textbook for 1770/71, but this was almost certainly a miswrite; Buck began using Feder’s Logik und Metaphysik im Grundriß (Göttingen 1769) in WS 1770/71 for a private course on logic and metaphysics. See also Schöndörffer’s discussion [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.273n-5n].

R. B. Jachmann [bio] claims in his biography that Kant once planned to use Johann Schultz’s [bio] Erläuterungen (1784), as his metaphysics textbook, but that he never followed through with this [1804, 28].

Kant mentioned in a letter to Mendelssohn (16 August 1783) that was hoping to write his own metaphysics textbook:

I still hope to work out, eventually, a textbook for metaphysics, according to the critical principles I mentioned; it will have all the brevity of a handbook and be useful for academic lectures. It hope to finish it sometime or other, perhaps in the distant future. [AA 10:346; transl. Zweig 1999, 203]

Vor dieser Zeit dencke ich indessen doch ein Lehrbuch der Metaphysik nach obigen critischen Grundsätzen und zwar mit aller Kürze eines Handbuchs, zum Behuf academischer Vorlesungen, nach und nach auszuarbeiten und in einer nicht zu bestimmenden, vielleicht ziemlich entferneten Zeit, fertig zu schaffen.

Kant may also be referring to this handbook in a letter to Johann Bering (7 April 1786):

... almost any insightful person would be able to construct a system of metaphysics in conformity with my theory, I am therefore putting off my own composition of such a system for a while longer, in order to gain time for my system of practical philosophy.... [AA 10:441; transl. Zweig 1999, 249]

Weil nun, wenn mir diese Arbeit, wie ich sie mir jetzt entwerfe, gelingt, es beinahe in jedes Einsehenden Vermögen stehen wird, ein System der Metaphysik darnach zu entwerfen, so werde ich darum die eigene Bearbeitung der letzteren etwas weiter hinaussetzen, um für das System der practischen Weltweisheit Zeit zu gewinnen....

History and Nature of the Course

We read in Kant’s announcement for the SS 1756 lectures:

I will lecture on metaphysics with the textbook of Prof. Baumgarten. The difficulties of the darkness that appears to surround this most useful and foundational of all textbooks of its kind will be raised, if I do not flatter myself too much, through the carefulness of the lecture and detailed written explanations. I believe that it is more than wholly certain that the worth of a thing must be determined not by its ease of use, but by its usefulness, and that, as a clever author expressed it, stubble is easily found above without trouble, but whoever looks for pearls must enter the depths. [full text] [AA 1:503]

Ich werde die Metaphysik über das Handbuch des Herrn Prof. Baumgarten vortragen. Die Schwierigkeiten der Dunkelheit, die dieses nützlichste und gründlichste unter allen Handbüchern seiner Art zu umgeben scheinen, werden, wo ich mich nicht zu sehr schmeichle, durch die Sorgfalt des Vortrags und ausführliche schriftliche Erläuterungen gehoben werden. Mich dünkt, es sei mehr als allzu gewiß, daß nicht die Leichtigkeit, sondern die Nützlichkeit den Werth einer Sache bestimmen müsse, und daß, wie ein sinnreicher Schriftsteller sich ausdrückt, die Stoppeln ohne Mühe oben fließend gefunden werden, wer aber Perlen suchen will, in die Tiefe herabsteigen müsse.

And then in the more detailed announcement for the lectures of WS 1765-66, Kant argued that metaphysics requires the synthetic method (as opposed to the analytic method of mathematics), and that he hopes to work up a book to this effect shortly (this would later result in the Critique of Pure Reason; but that until that time, he could...

by applying gentle pressure, induce A. G. Baumgarten, the author of the text book on which this course will be based - and that book has been chosen chiefly for the richness of its contents and the precision of its method - to follow the same path. Accordingly, after a brief introduction, I shall begin with empirical psychology, which is really the metaphysical science of man based on experience. For in what concerns the term 'soul', it is not yet permitted in this section to assert that man has a soul. The second part of the course will discuss corporeal 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 in order to complete the treatment. In the first of these sciences (to which, on account of the analogy, there is added empirical zoology, that is to say, the consideration of animals) we shall examine all the organic phenomena• which present themselves to our senses. In the second of these sciences we shall consider everything which is inorganic in general. Since everything in the world can be subsumed under these two classes, 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. The advantage of this procedure is this: it is the already experienced student who is introduced to the most difficult of all philosophical investigations. But there is another advantage as well: in every reflection, the abstract is considered in the form of a concrete instance, furnished by the preceding disciplines, so that everything is presented with the greatest distinctness. I shall not have to anticipate my own argument; in other words, I shall not have to introduce anything by way of elucidation which ought only to be adduced at a later stage - an error which is both common and unavoidable in the synthetic method of presenting things. 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.

In Herder’s metaphysics notes, near the beginning of the section on Natural Theology, Herder writes (and presumably Kant said): “Metaphysics contains (1) anthropology, (2) physics, (3) ontology (primarily; but wider than it is now), (4) origin of all things: God and the World: thus theology — the last real ground, and it is the highest metaphysics since it considers real grounds” (AA 28:911); thus, begin with anthropology or empirical psychology, then move to physics, then ontology, and finally theology (so: from the living to the dead, to being itself, then rational psychology, and the science of God and the world.

Kant’s former student Marcus Herz gave the first lectures on Kant’s philosophy in Berlin; or rather, he gave lectures from notes of Kant’s own lectures, which is something rather different. In a no longer extant letter he asked Kant for notes on logic and metaphysics. Kant responded on 28 August 1778:

[...] metaphysics is a course that I have worked up in the last few years in such a way that I fear it must be difficult even for a discerning head to get precisely the right idea from somebody’s lecture notes. Even though the idea seemed to me intelligible in the lecture, still, since it was taken down by a beginner and deviates greatly both from my formal statements and from ordinary concepts, it will call for someone with a head as good as your own to present it systematically and understandably. [full text] [AA 10:241; transl. Zweig 1999, 168-69]

Aber Metaphysik ist ein Collegium, was ich seit den letztern Jahren so bearbeitet habe, daß ich besorge, es möchte auch einem scharfsinnigen Kopfe schwer werden, aus dem Nachgeschriebenen die Idee praecise herauszubekommen, die im Vortrage zwar meinem Bedüncken nach verständlich war, aber, da sie von einem Anfänger aufgefaßt worden und von meinen Vormaligen und den gemein angenommenen Begriffen sehr abweicht, einen so guten Kopf als den Ihrigen erfodern würde, systematisch und begreiflich darzustellen.

And then in a second letter to Herz (20 October 1778) Kant wrote that:

Those of my students who are most capable of grasping everything are just the ones who bother least to take explicit and verbatim notes; rather, they write down only the main points, which they can think over afterwards. Those who are most thorough in note-taking are seldom capable of distinguishing the important from the unimportant. They pile a mass of misunderstood stuff alongside what they may possibly have grasped correctly. […] My discussion of empirical psychology is shorter, now that I am lecturing on anthropology. But since I make yearly changes to my lectures, especially in the systematic and, if I may say, architectonic form and ordering of what belongs within the scope of a science, my students cannot very easily help themselves by copying someone’s notes. [full text] [AA 10:242]

Dieienige von meinen Zuhöreren die am meisten Fahigkeit besitzen alles wohl zu fassen sind gerade die so am wenigsten ausführlich u. dictatenmäßig nachschreiben sondern sich nur Hauptpunkte notiren welchen sie hernach nachdenken. Die so im Nachschreiben weitläuftig sind haben selten Urtheilskraft das wichtige vom unwichtigen zu unterscheiden und häufen eine Menge misverstandenes Zeug unter das was sie etwa richtig auffassen möchten. […] Empirische Psychologie fasse ich ietzo kürzer nachdem ich Anthropologie lese. Allein da von Jahr zu Jahr mein Vortrag einige Verbesserung oder auch Erweiterung erhält vornemlich in der systematischen und wenn ich sagen soll Architektonischen gehöret so können die Zuhörer sich nicht so leicht damit daß einer dem andern nachschreibt helfen.

Kant then notes that his student (and later colleague) Kraus [bio] will be bringing a requested manuscript to Minister Zedlitz.

Herz’s enthusiastic letter to Kant of 24 November 1778 speaks of the great success of his course of logic lectures, which follow notes from Kant’s own lectures, and that Zedlitz and many other Berlin luminaries are in attendance. He hopes to offer a course of lectures on metaphysics, but for this he is still lacking notes from Kant’s lectures:

I don’t even have complete copies of your lectures [...] I beg you again, therefore, to send me, with the earliest mail, at least some incomplete notebooks, if the complete ones are not to be had. Diversity, I think, will compensate for incompleteness, since each set of notes will have noticed something different. I beg you especially for an ontology and a cosmology. [full text] [AA 10:244; transl. Zweig 1999, 172]

Ich besitze auch nicht einmahl unvollständige Abschriften von Ihren Vorlesungen [...] Ich bitte also nochmahls, mir mit erster Post, wenn es nun mit den sehr vollständigen Heften schon noch einigen Anstand haben muß, wenigstens einige unvollständigen zu schicken. Die Verschiedenheit, denke ich, wird die Unvollständigkeit einigermaßen ersetzen; indem jeder doch Etwas anders sich merkt. Vorzüglich bitte ich vor der Hand um eine Ontologie u. Cosmologie.

In a letter of 15 December 1778 Kant reports to Herz that he is sending several sets of lecture notes with Kraus to Berlin to deliver to Herz: a set on Philosophical Encyclopedia that Kant is supplying, and “one, perhaps two copies of the Metaphysics course” that Kraus promised to drum-up (Kraus was at that time still a student of 25; he would return to Königsberg as Full Prof. of Practical Philosophy three years later). Kant had hoped to show Herz recent examples of the Prolegomena and Ontology sections of his Metaphysics, where he does a much better job of describing the nature of knowledge [AA 10:246]. A few weeks later in January 1779, however, Kant writes to Herz apologizing for the poor manuscript that is being delivered to him, by way of Kraus. Kant also asks that Herz return the set of notes to Toussaint when he is done with them, and Toussaint will return them to Königsberg when he travels there at Easter [AA 10:247; transl. Zweig 1999, 173].

Mineralogy [top]

A course on Mineralogy was apparently offered once during WS 1770/71, meeting on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9-11 AM.[1] The subject-matter of such a class would have overlapped with Kant’s lectures on Physical Geography, and former appears to have served as a substitute for the latter, insofar as he did not offer Physical Geography this semester.

How often taught & when

Taught once in 1770/71.

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1770/71: “Mineralogiam universam exhibendo ipsa fossilium exemplaria docuit” (Senate minutes; “General Mineralogy, with an exhibition of fossils”); Lecture Catalog: “Collegium Mineralogicum, ipsa naturae exemplaria ob oculos positurus ex Gazophylacio Mineral. secundum Wallerii ordinem disposito offert P. Kant privatim.” [Oberhausen/Pozzo 1999, 311]


• Johann Gottschalk Wallérius, Mineralogy, Oder Mineralreich, von Ihm eingeteilt und beschrieben. Ins Deutsche übersetz von Johann Daniel Denso. Zweyte verbesserte und vermehrte Auglage (Berlin: 1763).

Wallérius (1709-1785, Uppsala) was a Swedish chemist and metallurgist, and brother to the Wolffian theologian Nils Wallérius; his textbook was originally published in Swedish in 1747.[2] The various offerings of this course in the early 1770s were no doubt prompted by a 21 January 1770 edict from Berlin that “from henceforth at that university, mineralogy be taught not merely from an historical and practical perspective, but also as it pertains to mining statutes” [Warda 1901 85n; and see Schöndörffer’s comments in Arnoldt 1908-9, 230-31]. The university’s response to Berlin noted a dearth of mines in the area and a corresponding lack of opportunity for their study.

Kant’s interest in this subject may have been increased by his inspection of the famous Natural Museum developed by Adolf Saturgus (1685-1739). Kant borrowed materials from this collection for his lectures, and may well have lectured in the rooms available at the museum:

In 1766 Kant received the position of sub-inspector with the Royal Library, and also took over the care of the beautiful curiousity cabinet of the Commerce Councillor Saturgus, which gave him occasion to study mineralogy. He gave up both positions after a year, however. [Jachmann 1804, 13; see also Rink 1805, 33]

Im Jahre 1766 erhielt [Kant] die zweite Inspektorstelle bei der königlichen Schloßbibliothek, er überham auch die Aufsicht über das schöne Naturalien- und Kunstkabinett des Kommerzienrat Saturgus, welches ihm zum Studium der Mineralogie Veranlassung gab. Beide Stellen gab er aber nach einen Jarhen weider auf.

An anonymous description of this collection, written by Samuel Bock [bio], can be found in the Königsbergschen Gelehrten und Politischen Zeitungen (May 28-June 4, 1764), and the collection is also briefly described by Pisanski [1886, 559-60] and Johann Bernoulli [1779, 3: 66-68], who visited this attraction during his European travels in 1778, accompanied by Professors Kant, Bock (Bernoulli wrote ‘Bode’), and others.

Jachmann is likely mistaken in his claim that Kant oversaw this collection. He is the only source to do so; neither Pisanski nor Bernoulli suggest that Kant was in any way connected, although Bernoulli noted that Bock had overseen the cabinet for many years, and was responsible for its current arrangement.

[1] Cf. Arnoldt [1908-9, 5: 231], Eitel [1924], Lehmann [1980; 29: 651]; see also Brandt [1999, 309-10]. Gause [1996, 2: 255] claims that Karl Gottfried Hagen, who began lecturing at Königsberg in 1775 (becoming a full professor of medicine in 1788, and a close associate of Kant’s), was the first to offer a course on mineralogy; but even if this were intended in the sense of a regular course offering, it would seem to be mistaken, as Gottfried Thiesen, a professor of medicine, offered this course eight times in the first half of the 1770s, beginning with 1770, using a text by Johhann Friedrich Henkel (1679-1744), Unterricht von der Mineralogie und Chymia metallurgica (Dresden 1746), as cited in Oberhausen/Pozzo [1999]. A half-century earlier, Christian Friedrich Rast (1686-1741), also of the medical faculty, offered a course on mineralogy for the 1720-21 [Oberhausen/Pozzo 1999, 7].

[2] See his entry in Svenskt biografiskt handlexikon (1906), 2: 689-90.

Moral Philosophy [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

Taught 28 times: 1756/57, 1757/58, 1759, 1759/60, 1761/61, 1761/62, 1763/64, 1764/65, 1765/66, 1766, 1766/67, 1767/68, 1768/69, 1770, 1771, 1771/72, 1773/74, 1774/75, 1775/76, 1776/77, 1777[1], 1778/79, 1780/81, 1782/83, 1784/85, 1786/87, 1788/89, 1793/94. From 1777/78 to 1786/87, this course was part of a four-semester cycle: philosophical encyclopedia, natural law, moral philosophy, and physics.

This course was announced but not taught on five semesters:[2] 1769/70, 1773 (8-9), 1783/84, 1787/88, and was replaced with Physics in 1769/70 and 1787/88, and with Natural Theology in 1783/84. On the other hand, Kant taught moral philosophy in place of a failed course five times: 1766/67, 1767/68, 1768/69, 1771, and 1771/72.

[1] Whether this course actually took place is contested; the evidence for and against is summarized in a note to the Lectures by Semester table.

[2] In 1769/70, the only course listed in the printed Lecture Catalog was Christiani’s required public lectures on "universal moral philosophy" (based on Thümmig). In 1773, the Lecture Catalog listed, along with Kant’s failed course, offerings in moral philosophy by Buck (using Feder) and Wlochatius (using Crusius), and a course on natural law by Christiani (using Thümmig). In 1783/84, Kant’s was the only course on moral philosophy being offered, although Buck was offering a course on “Natural Law and Ethics” and Kraus a course on Natural Law. In 1787/88, no courses for moral philosophy were listed (including any by Kant).

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1756/57: Ethik.
1757/58: Moral-Philosophie.
1759/60: Ethik über Baumgarten.
1760/61: Praktische Philosophie.
1761/62: Philosophiae practicae.
1763/64: Ethik und Moral nach Baumeister. (This reference to Baumeister is likely an error.)
1764/65: Allgemeine praktische Philosophie und Ethik nach Baumgarten.
1765/66: Allgemeine praktische Weltweisheit und Tugendlehre, beide nach Baumgarten (Announcement).
1766/67: Philoso. practic: univers: im gleichen Ethica nach Baumgarten in 6 Stunden wöchentlich.
1767/68: Allg. prakt. Phil. und Ethik. This formula — practical philosophy plus ethics — is followed from now on, with the following exceptions:
1782/83: Moralphilosophie “über Baumgarten Ethika.”; in the Catalog: “Philosophiam moralem h. VIII-IX dieb. consu privatim proponet P. K.”
1788/89: “Philosophiam moralem ad Baumgartenium h. VIII” in the Lecture Catalog, but in the report to Berlin: “Philosophiam practicam universalem una cum Ethica.”
1793/94: “Metaphysik der Sitten oder Allgemeine praktische Philosophie samt Ethik nach Baumgarten.”

Textbooks [Outline of Textbooks]

• Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Initia philosophiae practicae primae acroamatice (Halle: Carl Hermann Hemmerde, 1760). This and Kant’s marginalia (Refl. ##6456-6576, 7203-7312) are printed at AA 19:7-269, 282-309 (Berlin, 1934). Schneewind provides the table of contents of both the Initia and the Ethica philosophica at the end of his introduction to Heath/Schneewind [1997, xxiii-xxv].

• Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Ethica philosophica (Halle: Carl Hermann Hemmerde, 1740). 2nd ed.: 1751; 3rd ed.: 1763. Kant may have used both the 2nd and 3rd editions,[1] and these (as corrected by Lehmann) are reprinted at AA 27:732-1028 [1975]; see also the photomechanical reprint: Olms, 1969.

• Friedrich Christian Baumeister. Baumeister was reported in Arnoldt [1908-9, v.196] for WS 1763/64, but is likely an error; Kant had already been using Baumgarten at least as early as WS 1759/60.

None of Kant’s copies of the ethics texts are available; his copy of the Initia philosophiae practicae primae was housed in the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Königsberg (catalog: F 131), but was presumably destroyed during the bombing in 1945; the text and Kant’s marginalia (“reflections”) were reprinted at AA 19:7-269, 282-309 (1934). This copy was not interleaved with blank sheets (like Kant’s copy of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica and Meier’s Auszug), although there were some otherwise loose sheets inserted, perhaps glued, into the volume, and they are marked with a ‘Pr’ (by Adickes?) as stemming from Kant’s copy of the Initia.[2]

The Ethica philosophica is a broader and more important text [Lehmann 1979; AA 27:1040; Arnoldt 1908-9, v. 201]. Direct evidence of Kant’s copy has not been recorded, although it was supposed that he made use of both the 2nd and 3rd editions, and these are reprinted at AA 27:737-869 and 27:873-1028, respectively.

A course in moral philosophy was first announced for WS 1756/57. It is unclear when Kant began to use both Baumgarten texts. Our first textual evidence is Kant’s 1759 essay on Optimism that served as a lecture announcement for winter semester 1759-60 (Kant would lecture on “die Metaphysik über Baumgarten, über eben denselben auch die Ethik...”) and, they are both used in Herder’s notes (written sometime between summer 1762 and November 1764). At one point in these notes by Herder we find a reference to the Baumgarten textbook (see AA 27: 82: “Sectio II. p. 236”) that fits only with the 1740 1st edition – so at least Herder was making use of that 1740 edition, if not Kant also. The course description for 1764/65 suggests both texts. The lecture announcement for 1765/66 reads: “For now I will lecture on general practical wisdom and virtue theory, both following Baumgarten” [AA 2:311].

[1] In Herder’s notes from Kant’s moral philosophy lectures (presumably from winter 1763-64 and/or winter 1764-65), in which references to the Baumgarten text are routine (normally as §-numbers, sometimes section-numbers), we find this: “Sectio 11. p. 236.” (AA 27: 82). Whether looking for “Section 2” or “Section 11”, this fits with neither the 1751 nor the 1763 editions, but in the 1740 edition we find on p. 236 “Section 2” (Officia virtvosi et vitiosi), beginning with §426. So, at the very least, Herder was using the 1740 1st edition.

[2] These are the reflections indicated with a primed-Roman numeral: Refl. 6589-6596 [AA 19:97-101], 6641-43 [19:122-23], 6791-6804 [19:162-67], 6883-6917 [19:191-206], 7206-7219 [19:284-89].

Natural Law [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

Kant taught a course on natural law 12 times: 1767, 1769, 1772/23, 1774, 1775, 1777, 1778, 1780, 1782, 1784, 1786, and 1788 (1789/90 was announced, but Arnoldt is certain this was an error [1908-9, v.336]; in any event, the table of completed lectures is missing for this semester). From 1777/78 to 1786/87, this course was part of a four-semester cycle: philosophical encyclopedia, natural law, moral philosophy, and physics.

Announced for 1766/67,[1] 1767/68, 1768/69, and 1771, but in each of these semesters Kant lectured on Moral Philosophy instead. Announced for 1770/71, but Philosophical Encyclopedia was taught instead. Announced for 1776 and 1779, but not taught “for lack of auditors.”

[1] The philosophy faculty minutes from 1766/67 (as entered by the dean, Johann Teske) lists Kant lecturing on Natural Law, along with Logic and Physical Geography; but the Senate Minutes (as entered by Kant’s own hand) do not include Natural Law [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.208-9].

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

The catalog always listed “Jus Naturae” (or “Juris naturae”), and usually mentioned Achenwall’s textbook. No text is mentioned for 1774.


• Gottfried Achenwall, Jus naturae in usum auditorum, Bks. 2-4, 5th edition (Göttingen: Victor Bossiegel, 1763; 11750, 21753).

Reprinted in part, with Kant’s marginalia, at AA 19: 325-442 (Refl. ##7323-7520; most, but not quite all, of the additional “Reflections on Law” were also written in Kant’s copy of Achenwall).

Kant’s copy (only the 2nd part; not interleaved) belonged to the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Königsberg (catalog: F140), and was lost during World War II, presumably destroyed.

Achenwall [bio] taught at Göttingen, and collaborated with Johann Stephan Pütter [bio] on the first two editions of their Natural Law. See their biographies in the list of professors for Göttingen. The 3rd edition was the work of Achenwall alone.

The Feyerabend notes [AA 27:1319-94] from SS 1784 are the only extant student notes from Kant’s natural law lectures.

Pedagogy [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

Taught four semesters: 1776/77, 1780, 1783/84,[1] 1786/87.[2] No hour or day is given for the first two semesters, although the beginning- and end-dates are Wednesday. The latter two semesters were taught on Saturday (7-8). It is possible that the course met for two hours during the first two semesters, although it is more probable that this course was always just one hour. Other than the one-hour repetitoria that met on Saturday mornings, this was Kant’s only class that did not meet four-hours each week.[3]

This course was required by the government, and was taught publicly (although I have found no evidence that the professors were paid more to teach this). It involved rather less preparation than a normal course of lectures, meeting a bit less than one-fourth the hours of the other public lectures.

[1] Müller [1928, 20] reports that Schwarz [1915, 51] has determined that Kant used Bock’s textbook this semester, that 70 auditors attended, and that the course ran from October 22 (1783) to April 25 (1784) — Arnoldt does not list the dates. Schwarz might have the other facts right, but the closing date that he gives cannot be right since it occurs two weeks after Easter (thus, the Sunday just before the beginning of classes for the following summer semester).

[2] Weisskopf [1970, 98] claims that this last was moved forward because Kant served as Rector in SS 1786; but this makes little sense, as his proper turn would have come up again in 1787 (only seven professors appeared to be participating in the rotation). Pedagogy was also listed in the Lecture Catalog for 1790/91, but this was almost certainly a mistake. Vorländer reports that “Kant announced the course twice more in the 1780s, but they did not take place because the course was thereafter given over to the founder of the pedagogy seminar, Professor Wald” [1924, 1: 227]. Samuel Gottlieb Wald [bio], however, didn’t move to Königsberg until 1787, when he was hired to teach Greek. The records show that the course did indeed take place in 1783/84 and 1786/87 [Müller 1928, 19].

[3] SS 1780, the catalog entry reads: “Paedagogicum ad compendium D. Bock horis et dd. determinandis praecepto regio publice habebit P. Kant.” WS 1783/84: “Collegium paedagogicum VII-VIII matut d. Sat. publice instituet P.Kant.” WS 1786/87: “Paedagogices praecepta ad Bockium d. Sabb. h. VII publice dabit K.”

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1776/77: “Collegium praedeutico-practicum publice habebit P.K.” Kant’s own entry in the minutes of the Faculty Senate reads: “Scholastico-practicum über Basedows Methodenbuch”.
1780: “Paedagogicum ad compendium D. Bock horis et dd. determinandis praecepto Regio publice habebit P. Kant.”
1783/84: “Collegium paedagogicum VII-VIII matut. d. Sat. publice instituet P. K.”
1786/87: “Paedagogices praecepta ad Bockium d. Sabb. h. VII publice dabit K.”


• Johann Bernhard Basedow, Das Methodenbuch für Väter und Mütter der Familien und Völker (Bremen & Altona: Cramer, 11770), 666p. 21772, 31773 (Dessau, and also Leipzig: Fritsch), 384pp. Reprint of 1st edition: Topos Verlag, 1979.[1]

• Friedrich Samuel Bock [bio], Lehrbuch der Erziehungskunst zum Gebrauch für christliche Eltern und künftige Jugendlehrer (Königsberg, 1780).

Kant’s copies of these textbooks are lost, without trace or record of any of Kant’s markings in the books, or even which edition he might have used. The Basedow text is mentioned in the Gensichen [bio] catalog (the list of Kant’s books acquired by Gensichen and later auctioned, as detailed in Warda [1922]), but we don’t know which edition of Basedow Kant may have used (they differ in form as well as content) — see Weisskopf [1970, 119-70].

Kant used Basedow in WS 1776/77, but changed to the recently published text by Bock in SS 1780. There is no indication in the Lecture Catalog as to his textbook for 1783/84, and he is listed as using Bock again in 1786/87. Vorländer [1924, i.227] suggests that Kant was required by government decree to use Bock’s text (he quotes “determinandis praecepto Regio” from the Lecture Catalog), but this phrase more likely refers to the course itself.

Kant is also listed as teaching this course publicly on Wednesdays (7-8) during WS 1790/91, both in the Lecture Catalog as well as in the records sent to Berlin [Arnoldt 1908-9, v.314, and Schöndörffer’s appended note]. It is highly unlikely, however, that Kant taught the course in WS 1790/91, since the requirement to offer the course was dropped that semester, and even if Kant had wanted to lecture on Pedagogy, he would then have likely done so privately.

[1] A Latin translation, prepared by Mangelsdorff [bio], was also published in Dessau, 1774.

History and Nature of the Course

Kant’s interest in pedagogical matters reaches back to his earliest years. The stories of his tutoring fellow students while still at the university have been recounted in various biographies, and his experiences at the Collegium Fridericianum certainly influenced his understanding of what methods work and don't work; on this, see especially Klemme [1994, 42-60]. After Kant left Königsberg sometime after August 1748, he began a six-year stint as a Hofmeister, living in the homes of different families and tutoring their sons. [more] A few years later, in 1759, as a busy lecturer at the university, Kant expressed interest in writing a book on physics for children. He had hoped to pursue this project with Hamann, and seems to have dropped the project only because Hamann was disinclined.[1] Rousseau’s Emile appeared in 1762, which Kant read closely. Kant’s “Lecture Announcement for 1765-66” – unlike the six other pamphlets that he published, which typically involved a brief essay on a subject related to one of his courses, followed by a brief list of the lectures on offer that semester – was given over to a discussion of his “teaching philosophy” (AA 2: 305-8), followed by a discussion of how he approaches the teaching of metaphysics, logic, ethics, and physical geography (AA 2: 308-13). See also Kant’s two open letters written in support of Basedow’s Philanthropinum [writings], an experimental school founded in 1770.[2] There are also reports of how he devoted time to the children of his friend Motherby, much to the enjoyment of the children [Jachmann 1804, 51-52]. It is perhaps surprising, given this interest, that Kant had not chosen to lecture on pedagogy prior to the government requirement for such.[3] An extended discussion on education occurs once in the anthropology lectures, namely, from WS 1775/76 — one year before Kant gave his first set of mandated lectures on Pedagogy (see the final pages of an-Friedländer 4.3 and those manuscripts related to it; cf. AA 25: 722-28). Remarks on education are scattered throughout Kant’s anthropology notes, but nowhere else in a stand-alone section like in the Friedländer notes, nor does this material appear in the Pedagogy lectures as edited by Rink [bio], and the general structure of the discussion is similar to that found in Basedow [1774, 1775].

Kant’s lectures on education have proved to be exceptionally popular, having been translated into more languages than any of his other notes.[4] And yet we are lacking even a hint of any student notes. All that exists is the book that Rink edited and published, presumably based on a collection of Kant’s own scattered notes; it is unclear whether Rink included all of this, and how he decided on an arrangement. We can deduce that Kant, in his old age, merely allowed Rink to pursue this publishing project (Rink never says that Kant asked him to do it, and Rink surely would have mentioned this had the facts permitted it). It is also unknown whether Rink had ever heard the lectures; if he had, it would have been WS 1786/87, the last semester that Kant lectured on pedagogy.

The pedagogy lectures belonged to the general efforts in Prussia during the 1770s and 80s to improve the level of education.[5] The universities were encouraged to strengthen their entrance exams; professors were to resume the use of Latin in the classrooms; students were to be given more opportunities to test their knowledge, such as in Repetitoria and Disputatoria; professors were discouraged from using textbooks that were either too easy, or were poorly executed. And the universities themselves were to give suggestions for improving the quality of primary and secondary education. The university at Königsberg (specifically, the Senate and the Faculties) suggested that a special course on pedagogy be offered for would-be teachers. This resulted in a government decree of 13 June 1774 that this proposed pedagogy course be offered publicly (thus, without cost to the students) by the professors of the philosophy faculty, beginning with the next semester, and continued every semester thereafter. The eight professors in the philosophy faculty were supposed to rotate teaching this course, and Kant’s turn came around four times before the requirement was dropped in WS 1790/91. It appears, however, that only seven professors participated in the rotation, since Kant’s turn came around every seventh semester. On 14 December 1790, Minister Woellner granted permission for Prof. Wald to develop a “Pedagogy Seminar” for future teachers, and that this seminar should be connected with the Collegium Fridericianum. This appears to have brought an end to the required rotation.

[1] See Weisskopf [1970, 75-83], Beiser [1987, 32-33], and Kuehn [2001, 121-22].

[2] On Kant’s relations to Basedow and the Philanthropinum, see Weisskopf [1970, 55-75] and Kant’s letters to Basedow (19 June 1776, #110 [AA 10:194-95]), Crichton (29 July 1778, #136 [AA 10:234-35]), and Wolke (28 March 1776, #109 [AA 10:191; transl. Zweig 1999, 156-58]); and 4 August 1778, #138 [AA 10:236-39]). The letters are reprinted together at AA 2:447-52.

[3] The first courses on pedagogy at Königsberg were given by Kant’s friend Lindner in WS 1765/66; later Bock lectured on pedagogy in SS 1769, and Pisanski gave lectures in WS 1770/71 and 1771/72 [Schwarz 1915, 48].

[4] The literature surrounding Kant’s theory of education is also remarkable; see the extensive literature review in Weisskopf [1970].

[5] The establishment of this course arose from complaints over the deficient level of education of students coming to the university. See the writing of the Prussian government to the University Senate and to the Königsberg Consistory (December 1773) found at the GStA [XX.HA. EM 139g, Nr. 14. fol. 33ff.] The government exhorted the university to have stricter entrance exams. The opinion of the Consistory (28 March 1774) and the judgments of the four faculties (May 1774) pointed to an improvement in the schools. The issue was settled with a governmental decree of June 13, 1774: “[...] that the proposed course on education [Collegium Scholastico-Practicum] be offered by one of the professors from the philosophy faculty, held publicly, to be added to the “Catalog of Lectures” for the next semester, and to be repeated continuously each semester” [Ibid., fol. 54]. In this way the level of education of future teachers will be raised, and through that the students entering the university.

Physics [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

Taught 21 times, primarily in the first decade, and beginning with his first semester of teaching: 1755/56, 1756, 1756/57, 1757, 1757/58, 1758, 1759, 1760, 1761, 1761/62, 1763, 1764/65, 1766/67, 1768, 1769/70, 1776, 1779, 1781, 1783, 1785, 1787/88.[1] It appears to have always met four times a week on MTThF. From 1777/78 to 1786/87, this course was part of a four-semester cycle: philosophical encyclopedia, natural law, moral philosophy, and physics.

1766, 1767: the course was announced, but not taught. Announced for 1771/72, but Moral Philosophy taught instead. Announced for 1772/73,[2] but failed for lack of sudents, and Anthropology was taught instead (this was Kant’s first semester to teach Anthropology).

Listed for six hours/week for 1766/67 (this may have included two hours of repetitoria).

[1] Stark claims he didn’t begin lecturing on physics until 1756/57 [1993, 328].

[2] Kant announced he would teach theoretical physics using Erxleben from 9-10. Reusch was offering a public course on theoretical physics (no text listed) from 3-4. Reusch began teaching as a full professor of physics that year.

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

1755/56: Physics.
1756: “Naturwissenschaft über Eberhards erste Gründe der Naturlehre” (Course Announcement, AA 1: 502-3).
1756/57: Physics
1757: “Naturwissenschaft” following Eberhard (Course Announcement, AA 2: 9-10).
1757/58: Physics.
1758: “Naturwissenschaft” following Eberhard (Course Announcement, AA 2: 25).
1758/59: [no records]
1759 Physics, following Eberhard.
1760: Physics
1761: Theoretical Physics.
1761/62: “Physico-mathematicum” (Arnoldt equates this with “Theoretical Physics”).
1762: [incomplete records?]
1763: Physics
1764/65: Theoretical Physics, following Eberhard.
1766/67: Theoretical Natural Science, following Eberhard.
1768: Theoretical Physics, following Eberhard.
1769/70: Theoretical Physics, following Eberhard.
1772/73: Theoretical Physics, following Erxleben [failed].
1776: Theoretical Physics, following Erxleben.
1779: Theoretical Physics, following Erxleben.
1781: Theoretical Physics, following Erxleben.
1783: Theoretical Physics, following Erxleben.
1785: Theoretical Physics, following Karsten.
1787/88: “Physicam theoreticam ad Erxlebenii a Lichtenbertio editum.”[1]

[1] Reusch was lecturing this same semester, from 3-4, on Experimental Physics, following Karsten.


• Johann Peter Eberhard, Erste Gründe der Naturlehre (Erfurt/Leipzig, 1753). [Outline of Textbook]
Used at least in 50s-early 60s. Not listed in Warda [1922].

• Johann Christian Polykarp Erxleben, Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1772), 648pp. 21777 (632pp). 31784, with additions by C. G. Lichtenberg (xlvii, 727pp). Kant owned the 1772 ed. according to Warda [1922, 34].

• Wenceslaus Johann Gustav Karsten, Anleitung zur gemeinnützlichen Kenntniß der Natur, besonders für angehende Aerzte, Cameralisten und Oeconomen (Halle, 1783). [Outline of Textbook]
Reprinted at AA 29:171-590 [1980]. Not listed in Warda [1922].

Kant’s copies of all three of these books are lost;[1] Erxleben (1st edition) is the only one of the three appearing on the Warda list.

Eberhard: Kant used the Eberhard [bio] text in his earliest physics lectures, as noted in his lecture announcements for SS 56 [AA 1:502-3], SS 57 [AA 2:9], and SS 58 [AA 2:25]). I have found no evidence of anyone else using Eberhard’s text before Kant. The Lecture Catalog shows Teske [bio], the full professor of physics from 1729 to 1772, using texts by Wolff and Knutzen (although the text was often not listed) until SS 1768, when he adopts the Eberhard text and uses thereafter, as does his successor, Carl Daniel Reusch [bio].

Erxleben: Kant used Erxleben (1772) for 1776, 1779, 1781, 1783, and then the revised Erxleben text (1784) was used in WS 1787/88. Kant is the only professor listed as using the Erxleben text, other than Porschke in WS 1791/92.[2]

Karsten: Kant used Karsten for SS 1785, a text also used by Reusch in his lectures. [Borowski 1804, 33; Reicke 1860, 32; Arnoldt 1908-9, v.242; Lehmann 1980; 29: 650-54; Stark 1993, 328]

[1] Kant’s copy of Eberhard appears to have been interleaved. In the Nachlaß is Kant’s remark:

Show Herder the interleaved Foundations of Natural Science from my course. [qtd. by Adickes in AA 17:257]

Dem Herrn Herder die durchschossen Anfangsgr der Naturwissenschaft aus meinen Colleg’s zeigen.

As Stark [1993, 328] notes, this must be referring to Eberhard rather than Erxleben, since the latter’s text had not yet been published when Herder was a student.

[2] Kant also intended to use Erxleben for WS 1772/73 [Oberhausen/Pozzo 1999, 340].

History and Nature of the Course

Borowski: “I myself heard his Theoretical Physics in the year 1756. He also initially held Disputatorien. He also read ethics [presumably WS 56/57 is intended]” [qtd. in Reicke 1860, 32, repr. Malter, 42-43]. Martin thinks that this was clearly a two-semester sequence:

The structure of the course in physics is clear. Kant gave a two-semester course: physics in the first semester (1761/62), entitled collegium physico-mathematicum, theoretical physics in the second semester, based on Eberhard. After 1761, the course called physics was given up and only one in theoretical physics was still being given.... [1985, xxi]

Natural Theology [top] [lecture notes]

How often taught & when

Taught four times: 1774, 1783/84, 1785/86, 1787.[1] Kant never announced this course in the Lecture Catalog. During WS 1783/84 it was taught instead of Moral Philosophy; during WS 1785/86 and SS 1787 it was taught instead of Encyclopedia, giving it the appearance of a fall-back course in case some other course failed for lack of students.

[1] For 1783/84, see Hamann’s letter to Herder (22 October 1783); for 1785/86, see Hamann’s letter to Jacobi (15 March 1786), and Arnoldt’s discussion of this [1908-9, v.284]. Beyer claims that Kant lectured in 1786/87 rather than the previous winter semester [1937, 229].

Course title appearing in the Lecture Catalog or Course Announcements

While not announced in the Lecture Catalog, the five sets of student notes of which we have information offer a range of titles: “Rational Theology” (an-Coing, Mrongovius), “Philosophische Religionslehre” (an-Pölitz), “Vernunft Theologie” (Magath), and “Collegium naturale Theologicum” (Volckmann).


• Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Metaphysica, Part IV (“Theologia Naturalis,” §§800-1000), ed. IV (Halle: 1757). Reprinted at AA 17: 157-206. See under Metaphysics, above, for a fuller description of this textbook.

• Johann August Eberhard, Vorbereitung zur natürlichen Theologie zum Gebrauch akademischer Vorlesungen (Halle, 1781). Reprinted at AA 18:491-606, along with Kant’s marginalia (Refl. ##6206-6310). Kant’s copy was housed in the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek at Königsberg (catalog: F 12 4°), and was presumably destroyed during the bombing of 1945.

• Christoph Meiners, Historia doctrinae de uno vero Deo (1780).

Kant first used Baumgarten alone, then in combination with Eberhard [bio]. Meiners’s work is commented on in a brief appendix to the an-Pölitz 2 notes. Wood notes that the introductory section of an-Pölitz 2 refers mainly to Eberhard, but as a whole reads as a running commentary on §§815-982 of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica. Eberhard is the Wolffian philosopher who claimed that Kant’s philosophy introduced nothing new of value, to which Kant responded with his Discovery (1790).

History and Nature of the Course

Kant preferred theology students for this course. Once he had such a small number of students that he wanted to cancel the course, but when he discovered that nearly all of the students were in theology, he changed his mind. Jachmann wrote:

His lectures on rational theology were intended to contribute to a rational enlightenment in religious matters — so he most enjoyed giving his course when many of the students were in theology. One semester there were so few students for this lecture that he wanted to cancel it, but when he learned that the assembled students were almost all in theology, he lectured anyway, even though for much less pay. He harbored the hope that precisely this course, in which he spoke so convincingly and with such illumination, would spread the clear light of rational religious conviction over his entire fatherland — and he did not deceive himself here, for many apostles went out and taught the gospel of the kingdom of reason. [1804, 31-32]

Durch seine Vorlesungen über rationale Theologie wollte er vorzüglich zu einer vernünftigen Aufklärung in Sachen der Religion beitragen; daher las er dies Kollegium am liebsten, wenn viele Theologen seine Zuhörer waren. In einem Halbjahr fanden sich nur so wenige Zuhörer für diese Vorlesung, daß er sie schon aufgeben wollte; als er aber erfuhr, daß die versammelten Zuhörer fast alle Theologen wären, so las er sie doch gegen ein geringes Honorar. Er hegte die Hoffnung, daß gerade aus diesem Kollegio, in welchem er so lichtvoll und überzeugend sprach, sich das helle Licht vernünftiger Religion, überzeugungen über sein ganzes Vaterland verbreiten würde, und er täuschte sich nicht; denn viele Apostel gingen von dannen und lehrten das Evangelium vom Reiche der Vemunft.

Other Courses possibly offered by Kant [top]

Kant held a privatissimum on Latin style [Römischen Stil] in 1758; see Euler [2000, 132-42].

Stuckenberg [1882, 71] writes: “In 1759 he published a short article on optimism, having previously lectured on the subject.” Was this part of a course on ethics, perhaps, or physical geography? Stuckenberg goes on to note that Kant published in 1763 “a brochure on ‘The only possible proof of the existence of God’ [writings], having previously delivered a course of lectures on ‘Criticism on the proofs of the divine existence.’ It is also probable that he lectured on ‘The Emotion of the Beautiful and the Sublime’, on which subject a small volume [writings] by him appeared in 1764” [1882, 72]. Schubert also believed that Kant had lectured on his Obervations on the Beautiful and Sublime [AA 17: 258n] Borowski (likely Stuckenberg’s source for the above) writes: “Before he published The Only Possible Proof of God’s Existence [1763] he lectured on a critique of the proof for God’s existence — one semester” [Reicke 1860, 32].

On the question of whether Kant ever lectured on fortification, pyrotechnics, or mechanical sciences, see the section above concerning his mathematics lectures.