2004, amid the otherwise serious and solemn ways of marking the 200 th anniversary of Kant’s death, a German publisher (Reclam) compiled a book of embarrassing passages whose title translates roughly as How to Enjoy Kant . But there is a very useful side to these writings. They help to answer questions regarding how Kant interpreted his own published writings. One illustration of this comes from a manuscript I am translating, Kant’s course lectures on political philosophy, the “Naturrecht Feyerabend” of 1784. Like most of the surviving course lecture transcripts, this bears the name of the student responsible for taking the notes and rendering them into prose, one Gottlieb Feyerabend. Feyerabend would make a scrivener copy the manuscript for sale to other students. For all Kant’s course lectures, more than a hundred such transcripts of course lectures on almost every conceivable topic survived. In the Feyerabend lecture, as Kant again and again explains to his students the basics of his political philosophy and its foundation in his ethical theory, Kant provides examples of actions in accord with right. Readers of Kant’s published “Doctrine of Right” might expect that these examples would concern the universality of freedom, as opposed to the treatment of people as ends in themselves exemplified in the “Doctrine of Virtue”. But almost none of these examples concerns universality. In almost every
The Philosophers' Magazine /4th quarter 2006
case Kant provides examples of treating fellow citizens as ends in themselves by respecting their property or following contracts. My favorite example of this comes early in the lecture: “I cannot take something from another’s field in order to fertilise [ düngen ] my own with it; for then the other would be a mere means.” To paraphrase (always a translator’s right): “Don’t mess with someone else’s shit without his permission.” Did Kant include this warning because his students formed roving gangs to fence hot manure in the East Prussian countryside? Beginning at the latest in the 1780’s Kant began to give away some of his manuscripts. He gave some to students, some to friends. Imagine Professor Kant saying to you, “Here’s a draft of the Third Antinomy I don’t need anymore. You’re free to take it.” Toward the end of his life his servant was also giving away these manuscripts to visitors as souvenirs. Kant’s personal library was bequeathed to a friend, Johann Friedrich Gensichen, and when Gensichen followed Kant in ceasing to synthesize the manifold of intuition only three years later, these books and a few more manuscripts were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Some of Kant’s books and manuscripts ended up in libraries in Königsberg, Danzig, Dorpat, Berlin, and elsewhere. Others disappeared into attics or, presumably, rubbish heaps. In the later 19 th Century, as Kant resurfaced in German Philosophy, scholars collected and published his correspondence, manuscripts, and lecture transcripts, while also ensuring that Kant’s books would be accessible in massive collected editions. The most ambitious of these, Kants gesammelte Schriften , published in spurts beginning in 1900 and still not quite complete today, was to include every piece of writing that came from Kant’s hand and every transcribed lecture that came from his mouth. Only part of the work was done when tragedy hurt the project with the death of its most talented editor Erich Adickes in 1924. His untrained successor Gerhard Lehman, who claimed at one point he had stored some of the manuscripts under his own bed, ignored some of the arrangements that Adickes had carefully made. The result is a few volumes of questionable reliability, in particular the material Kant was working on in the last productive years of his life. This Opus Postumum , as it has come to be known, began as a work relating the critical thoughts/35
philosophy to empirical physics and evolved into a project reformulating the critical philosophy itself. Luckily the Opus Postumum manuscripts have survived, and a new edition is being prepared to rectify the errors made earlier. The effort in distributing – and thus losing track of – his manuscripts begun by Kant himself has unfortunately continued. After World War II, Danzig became Gdansk, Dorpat became Tartu, Königsberg and Berlin became piles of rubble. Some manuscripts from these libraries survive, such as the Opus Postumum , but many are still unaccounted for. Twenty years ago a concerted effort to locate and catalogue all surviving Kant manuscripts began with the founding of the Kant Archive in Marburg by Reinhard Brandt and Werner Stark. The Marburg Kant Archive now contains photocopies of virtually all known manuscripts. Stark has scoured the libraries of Europe for more. Recently he found something unknown even to the early editors of Kants gesammelte Schriften : Kant’s own copy of an early edition of Alexander Baumgarten’s classic textbook Metaphysica with Kant’s own marginal notes for his lectures from the 1750s. Kants gesammelte Schriften already contains Kant’s important notes in a later edition of Metaphysica . While the earlier notes are mostly simply summaries of the text itself, they might, when published, give some insight into Kant’s earliest views on rationalist metaphysics. Another of Stark’s finds that awaits the light of day is the academic records of the Albertus University in Königsberg. Kant served as Rector and Dean at various points. Of course, not many philosophical insights come via memos from the Dean. But in Kant’s case he was involved in censorship issues and in disputes among the faculties of theology, philosophy, law, and medicine, and these sources might prove insightful in understanding Kant’s own book about academic disputes, The Conflict of the Faculties . All of these notes are useful but cannot, of course, overshadow Kant’s published tomes. If we had to choose between the published work on the one hand and all of his unpublished work – correspondence, lecture notes, essay drafts, book notations – on the other hand, the choice would be obvious. These handwritten sources serve best as a supplement to the Kant we all know and (some of us) love. But as a supplement they excel. We find in his lectures much discussion on topics that Kant
leaves out of his published works. His metaphysics lectures enter into detailed discussion of the nature of the soul; his lectures on rational theology delve into arguments for the existence of God; his lectures on ethics provide assessment of major theories and figures in the history of ethics that are only mentioned in the published works. The marginal notations in Kant’s textbooks mirror these student lecture notes but can reveal Kant’s own specific formulations of arguments. Most important, perhaps, are the drafts of the Critique of Pure Reason stemming from Kant’s “silent decade” before its publication in 1781. Here we can see Kant creating the “Dialectic” of the Critique in stages. First the Antinomy of Pure Reason was to stand alone to represent all the errors of traditional metaphysics; only later did Kant conceive of distinct treatment for errors in rational psychology and theology. We can also learn from his correspondence, finally, that the difficulty we have in comprehending Kant is nothing new. Kant’s friend and Jena professor Christian Gottfried Schütz wrote to him in February 1786 to let Kant know that his work was being studied so earnestly in Jena that two students fought a duel over it. One had insulted the other by saying that it would take him thirty years to understand the Critique of Pure Reason and another thirty before he could say anything about it. As we say in the United States, them’s fightin’ words.
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The Philosophers' Magazine /4th quarter 2006