Kant : a Biography

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Cast of Characters Boromski, Ludwig Ernst (1740-1832), one of Kant's first students; he remained friendly with Kant throughout his life. During his later years, Borowski was a high official in the Lutheran Church of Prussia. He was a frequent dinner guest during Kant's last years. He wrote one of the three "official" biographies of Kant, but did not attend his funeral. Baczko, Adolph Franz Joseph von (1756-1823), a student of Kant's during the sev¬ Kraus). Although he lost his eyesight, he was a capable historian. enties (and a friend of A professorship at the University of Königsberg was denied him because he was a Catholic. Beck, Jacob Sigismund (1761-1840), one of Kant's most famous early followers. He studied in Königsberg, where he was as much influenced by Kraus as by Kant. He pub¬ lished between 1793 and 1796 a volume of explanations of Kant's critical philosophy. Early on, he was an orthodox follower of Kant's; in his last book, The Only Possible Point of View from which Critical Philosophy Must Be Judged, Beck went his own way, much to Kant's chagrin. Fichte, Johann Gottlieb (1762-1814), famous idealist philosopher. He came to Königs¬ berg, where he wrote the Critique of All Revelation (1792). Kant used his influence to see that it was published. This work, which appeared anonymously, was first viewed as Kant's own. Kant's revelation of Fichte's authorship made him famous. Later, Fichte went "beyond" Kant. He severely criticized Kantian philosophy and thus drew Kant's ire. Funk, Johann Daniel (1721-1764), a very popular professor of law in Königsberg and a close friend of the young Kant. He led a loose life, and he had a decisive influence on Hippel. Goeschen, Johann Julius (1736-1798), came to Königsberg in 1760, where he soon became a friend of Kant and the Jacobis. He was first the master and then the director of the mint in Königsberg. He and Maria Charlotta Jacobi became lovers and married after she got a divorce. After the marriage Kant remained friendly with Goeschen, even though he never entered their house. Green, Joseph (1727-1786), British merchant in Königsberg and the closest friend of Kant. Hippel is said to have used Green as a model for his Man of the Clock, a char- xi xii Cast of Characters acter who lives by inviolable maxims and strictly by the clock. Later writers transferred these characteristics to Kant. Hamann, Johann Georg (1730-1788), one of Kant's (and Green's) close friends. Born and educated in Königsberg, Hamann was also known as the Magus of the North. He was one the most important Christian thinkers in Germany during the second half of the eighteenth century. Advocating an irrationalistic theory of faith, he opposed the prevailing Enlightenment philosophy. He was the mentor of the literary movement of Sturm und Drang. Herder popularized these ideas after leaving Königsberg in 1764. Herder, Johann Gottfried (1744-1803), one of Kant's students during the early sixties. Influenced as much by Hamann as by Kant, he became one of the most important writers of the Sturm und Drang movement and had an enormous influence on pre-Ro- mantic thinkers in Germany. After Kant reviewed his Ideas anonymously and very crit¬ ically, Herder turned against his teacher. Herz, Markus (1747-1803), one of Kant's most important students, a respondent at the defense of Kant's Inaugural Dissertation and an important correspondent for Kant after moving to Berlin in 1770. Herz became a medical doctor in Berlin, where he gave lectures on Kant's philosophy that influenced important government officials in favor of Kant. Hippel, Theodor Gottlieb (von) (1741—1796), friend of Hamann and Kant who became Königsberg. He wrote many humorous plays and novels. Like Kant and the mayor of Schulz, he went to the Collegium Fridericianum, and he studied at the university during Kant's earliest years as a lecturer there. Hippel and Kant were friends but always kept a "polite" distance. Jachmann, Reinhold Bernhard (1767-1843), closely associated with Kant between 1783 and 1794. As his amanuensis or academic helper, Jachmann knew Kant well dur¬ ing the years in which he published his most famous works. Jachmann and his older brother (Johann Benjamin, 1765-1832) were closely associated with Joseph Green and Robert Motherby. Johann Benjamin, also one of Kant's amanuenses, practiced medi¬ cine in Königsberg after studying in Edinburgh. Reinhold Bernhard Jachmann was one of the three "official" biographers of Kant. Jacobi, Johann Conrad (1718-1774), banker in Königsberg and friend of Hamann and Kant. He was the husband of Maria Charlotta until their divorce in 1768. One of Kant's close friends, he took care of some of Kant's private business, such as the regular pay¬ ments to his poor relatives. Jacobi, Maria Charlotta (1739-1795), called "the Princess," who divorced Johann Conrad Jacobi and married Johann Julius Goeschen. Kant, who was a friend of both Johann Conrad Jacobi and Johann Julius Goeschen, never went to the house of the Göschens after gossiping too much about the events leading up to the divorce. Kanter, Johann Jakob (1738-1786), book dealer and publisher who was close to Kant, Hamann, and Hippel. Kant lived for a while in a building that housed his bookshop. Kanter was the publisher of many of Kant's works. Keyserlingk, Caroline Charlotte Amalie, Countess (1729-1791), Kant's "ideal" of a woman, the wife of Count Heinrich Christian Keyserlingk. Kant was a close friend Cast of Characters xiii of the family with a standing invitation to their table, where he almost always sat at the place of honor beside the countess. Keyserlingk, Heinrich Christian, Count (1727-1787), the husband of Caroline Char¬ lotte Amalie. Kant and the count seem to have shared many political views. Kraus, Christian Jacob (1753-1807), perhaps Kant's most talented student during the seventies. Kraus became his colleague in 1780 and taught moral philosophy. Today he is best known as one of the people who introduced Adam Smith's ideas into Germany. Even though Kraus and Kant were good friends, even sharing a common household at one time, they had a falling out sometime before the third Critique was published. In some ways, Kraus was closer to Hamann than to Kant. Lambert, Johann Heinrich (1728-1777), mathematician and philosopher. Lambert's philosophical correspondence with Kant was an important source of inspiration for the latter. Lampe, Martin (1734-1806), Kant's servant throughout most of his life. He was a retired soldier. Lampe was rather limited in his intelligence, and Kant had constant problems with him. He had to let him go at the very end of his life because he drank so heavily that he neglected his duties as a servant. Mendelssohn, Moses (1729-1786), famous Jewish philosopher who was Kant's literary friend and supporter. Mendelssohn and Herz became friends in Berlin after 1770. Kant thought highly of Mendelssohn, and their correspondence was important to him. Motherby, Robert (1736-1801), English merchant, partner of Green, and Kant's close friend. Kant had a great deal of influence on the education of Motherby's sons. He also had much of his money invested in the firm of Green and Motherby Reinhold, Karl Leonhard (1758-1823), one of the first popularizers of Kant's philoso¬ phy. Though he never met Kant in person, he made Kant a household name. After becoming professor in Jena, he abandoned strict Kantian philosophy for his own phi¬ losophy of representation. Later, as a follower of Fichte he became critical of Kant, but Kant always remained grateful to Reinhold. Scheffner, Johann Georg (1736-1820), a friend of Hippel, Hamann, and Kant. He published risque poems "ä la Grecourt" in 1761. He became secretary in the ministry of war in Königsberg in 1765 and 1766 but retired the next year. Schulz, Johann (1739-1805), a friend of Kant's who studied at the University of Königsberg during Kant's first years as a lecturer. He reviewed Kant's Inaugural Dis¬ sertation and, during the seventies, became court chaplain in Königsberg and lecturer in mathematics. After becoming the first defender of Kant's critical philosophy, he was appointed full professor. Wasianski, Ehregott Andreas Christoph (1775-1831), studied theology at the Uni¬ versity of Königsberg between 1772 and 1780. He took courses from Kant and was his amanuensis. He became a deacon in Königsberg in 1786 and took care of Kant during his last years. He was the executor of Kant's will and the third of the three "official" biographers of Kant. Chronology of Kant's Life and Works 1724 April 22: Immanuel Kant is born. 1732 Fall: Kant begins to attend the Collegium Fridericianum. 1735 Birth of his brother Johann Heinrich (died 1800). 1737 Death of his mother (born 1697). 1740 September 24: Inscribed at the University of Königsberg. Death of Frederick William I; Frederick II (the Great) becomes king of Prussia. 1746 Death of his father (born 1682). 1748-54 Private tutor in Judtschen, Arnsdorf, and Rautenburg. 1749 First book, Thoughts on the True Estimation of the Living Forces (Gedanken von der wahren Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte). 1751 Knutzen dies. 1754 Wolff dies. Two essays, "Whether the Earth Has Changed in Its Revolutions" (Ob die Erde in ihrer Umdrehung... einige Veränderung erlitten habe) and "On the Ques¬ tion whether the Earth is Aging from a Physical Point of View" (Die Frage, ob die Erde veralte, physikalisch erwogen). 1755 General History and Theory of the Heavens (Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels). June 12: Promotion to Magister, with the thesis "On Fire" (De igne). September 27: Acquires permission to lecture at the university with the thesis "A New Exposition of the First Principles of Metaphysics" (Principi- orum primorum cognitionis metaphysicae nova dilucidatio). X V xvi Chronology 1756 January to April: Three essays on the earthquake in Lisbon. April 8: Applies unsuccessfully for Knutzen's position. April 10: Disputation on his Physical Monadology (Metaphysica cum geometria iunctae usus in philosophia naturalis, cuius specimen I. continet monadologiam physicam). April 25: "New Remarks about the Explanation of the Theory of Winds" Neue Anmerkungen zur Erläuterung der Theorie der Winde) (announcement of his lectures for the summer semester). 1757 Easter (announcement of his lectures): "Sketch and Announcement of a Lec¬ ture Course on Physical Geography, with an Appendix whether the Westerly Winds in Our Environs Are So Humid because They Blow over a Large Ocean" (Entwurf und Ankündigung eines Collegii der physischen Geographie, nebst Anhang . . .). 1758 January 22: occupation of Königsberg by the Russians. Summer semester (announcements of his lectures): "A New Doctrine of Motion and Rest" (Neuer Eehrbegriff der Bewegung und Ruhe). December: Applies unsuccessfully for Kypke's position. 1759 Fall (announcement of his lectures): "Essay on Some Views about Optimism" (Versuch einiger Betrachtungen über den Optimismus). 1760 "Thoughts at the Occasion of Mr. Johann Friedrich von Funk's Untimely Death"(Gedanken beidem frühzeitigen Ableben des Herrn Johann Friedrich von Funk). 1762 July: The Russian occupation of Königsberg ends. "The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures" (Die falsche Spitzfind¬ igkeit der vier syllogistischen Figuren erwiesen). Herder becomes Kant's student (until 1764). Rousseau, Emile and Contrat social. 1763 The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God (Der einzig mögliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes). Attempt to Introduce the Concept of Negative Magnitudes into Philosophy (Ver¬ such den Begriff der negativen Größen in die Weltweisheit einzuführen). 1764 Declines professorship of poetry. Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen). "Essay on the Illnesses of the Head" (Versuch über die Krankheiten des Kopfes) in Königsberger Gelehrte und Politische Zeitungen. Review of Silberschlag's Theory of the Fireball that Appeared on July 23, IJ62, in the same paper. Chronology xvii Prize essay for the Berlin Academy: Inquiry Concerning the Distinctness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morality (Untersuchungen über die Deutlich¬ keit der Grundsätze der natürlichen Theologie und der Moral). Lambert, New Organon. 1765 Fall (announcement of his lectures): "Announcement of the Organization of His Lectures in the Winter Semester 1765/66" (Nachricht von der Einrichtung seiner Vorlesungen in dem Winterhalbenjahre von 1765/66). Begins correspondence with Lambert. Application for the position of sublibrarian at the Schloßbibliothek. Leibniz, New Essays on the Human Understanding. 1766 Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Elucidated by Dreams of Metaphysics (Träume eines Geistersehers, erläutert durch Träume der Metaphysik). Begins correspondence with Mendelssohn. (April 1766 to May 1772): Sublibrarian at the Schloßbibliothek. Mendelssohn, Phaedo. 1768 "Concerning the Ultimate Ground of the Differentiation of Directions in Space" (Von dem ersten Grunde des Unterschiedes der Gegenden im Räume). 1769 October: Offer from Erlangen. December: Rejection of the offer from Erlangen. 1770 January: Offer from Jena. March: Application for professorship at the University of Königsberg. March 31: Appointment to professor of logic and metaphysics. Inaugural Dissertation, De mundi sensibilis atque intelligibilis forma etprincipiis, defended on August 21. 1770—81 "Silent years"; origin of the Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft). 1771-88 Karl Abraham von Zedlitz serves as minister of education in Prussia. 1771 Review of Moscati, Of the Essential Difference in the Structure of the Bodies of Humans and Animals. Lambert, Architectonic. 1775 Easter (announcement of his lectures): "Of the DifferentHuman Races" (Von den verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen). Crusius dies. 1776 An essay on the Dessau Philanthropinum (Königsbergische Zeitung). Hume dies. Summer semester: Kant becomes dean of the faculty of philosophy. Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Declaration of Rights. xviii Chronology 1777 Another essay on the Dessau Philanthropinum. Tetens, Essays. Lambert dies. 1778 Declines an offer to become professor in Halle. Voltaire and Rousseau die. Lessing, On the Education of the Human Race. 1779-80 Winter semester: Kant serves as dean. 1780 Becomes permanent member of the university senate (until 1804). 1781 May: Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft). 1782 Announcement of the publication of Lambert's Correspondence. "Information for Medical Doctors" (Nachrichten an Arzte). 1782-83 Winter semester: Kant serves as dean. r 7&3 Prolegomena (Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik, die als Wissen¬ schaft wird auftreten können). Review of Schulze's Attempt at a Guide toward a Moral Doctrine for All Man¬ kind Independent of Differences of Religion. December: Kant buys his own house. Mendelssohn, Jerusalem. 1784 November: "Idea for a Universal History of Mankind" (Idee zu einer allge¬ meinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. December: "Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?'" (Beantwor¬ tung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?). Diderot dies. '785 January and November: Review of Herder's Ideas in Allgemeine Literatur- Zeitung (Jena). March: "Concerning the Volcanoes on the Moon" (Über die Vulkane im Monde) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. April: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten). May: "On the Wrongful Publication of Books" (Von der Unrechtmäßigkeit des Bückernachdrucks) in Berlinische Monats-schrift. November: "On the Definition of the Concept of a Human Race" (Über die Bestinmung des Begriffs einer Menschenrasse) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. Mendelssohn, Morning Hours. 1785-86 Winter semester: Kant serves as dean. Mendelssohn-Jacobi dispute (also knows as the pantheism dispute). Chronology xix 1786 January: "Conjectural Beginning of the Human Race" (Mutmasslicher Anfang des Menschengeschichte) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. Easter: Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Metaphysische Anfangs¬ gründe der Naturwissenschaft). Summer semester: Kant for the first time serves as rector of the university. August: Frederick the Great dies. Review of Hufeland's essay on The Principle of Natural Right (Grundsatz des Naturrechts). "Observations on Jakob's Examination of Mendelssohn's Morning Hours (Bemerkungen zu Jakobs Prüfung der Mendelssohnschen Morgenstunden). October: "What Does 'Orientation in Thinking' Mean?" (Was heißt, sich im Denken orientieren?) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. September: Inauguration of Frederick William II. Kant organizes the uni¬ versity's role in the festivities. December 7: Kant becomes external member of the Berlin Academy of the Sciences. Schmid, Extract from Kant's Critique of Reason. 1786—87 Reinhold's "Letters on the Kantian Philosophy" in Der teutsche Merkur. 1787 Second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason. 1788 Beginning of the year: Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft). January: "On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy" (über den Ge¬ brauch ideologischer Prinzipien in der Philosophie) in Der teutsche Merkur. Summer semester: Kant becomes rector for the second time. Schmid, Lexicon for the Easier Use of the Kantian Writings. Hamann dies. July 9: The Edict on Religion. December 19: New Edict on Religion. 1789 Beginning of the French Revolution. Reinhold, On the Destiny of the Kantian Philosophy until Now and Attempt of a New Theory of the Human Power of Representation. Johann Schulz, Examination of the Kantian Critique of Pure Reason. Toward the end of the year: Kant begins to have difficulties concentrating on intellectual work for extended periods of time. 1790 Critique of Judgment (Kritik der Urteilskraft). Against Eberhard, "On a New Discovery, which Makes All New Critique of Pure Reason Unnecessary Because of an Older One" (Über eine Entdeckung nach der alle neue Kritik der reinen Vernunft durch eine ältere entbehrlich gemacht werden soll). "On Enthusiasm and the Means against It" (Über die Schwärmerei und die Mittel dagegen) in Borowski's Cagliostro. Maimon, Essay on Transcendental Philosophy. xx Chronology 1 179 September "On the Failure of All Attempts at a Theodicee" (über das Midlin- gen aller philosophischen Versuche in der Theodizee) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. Summer semester: Kant serves as dean. 1792 March 5: New and stricter edict concerning obedience to religious customs. April: "Concerning Radical Evil" (Vom radikalen Bösen) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. June 14: Failure to obtain permission to print "Concerning the Battle of the Good against the Evil Principle for Dominion over the Human Being" in Berlinische Monatsschrift. Schulze, Aenesidemus. Fichte, Critique of All Revelation (at first assumed to be Kant's work). France becomes a republic. Easter: Religion within the Boundary of Mere Reason (Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft). September: "On the Old Saw 'That May Be Right in Theory, but It Won't Work in Practice'" (über den Gemeinspruch: Das mag in der Theorie richtig sein, stimmt aber nicht für die Praxis) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. Beck, An Explanatory Extract from the Critical Writings of Kant. Schiller, On Beauty and Dignity. Louis XVI guillotined. 1794 Second edition of Religion within the Boundary of Mere Reason. Spring and summer: Decisive actions against the "neologists" taken by the king. May: "Something on the Influence of the Moon on the Climate" (Etwas vom Einfluß des Mondes auf die Witterung) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. June: "The End of All Things" (Das Ende aller Dinge) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. July: Membership in the Petersburg Academy. October 1: Kant is censored by the king. October 12: Kant's response to the king. Fichte, Grounding of the Entire Doctrine of Science Wissenschaftslehre) Maimon, Attempt at a New Logic. New General Law of the Country (Allgemeines Landrecht) promulgated in Prussia. Robespierre guillotined. 1794-95 Winter semester: Kant's turn to be dean for the seventh time (Kraus stands in for him). '795 On Eternal Peace (Zum ewigen Frieden). Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man and On Naive and Sentimental Poetry. Schelling, On the Ego as the Principle of Philosophy. Correspondence with Schiller. Chronology xxi 1796 Second edition of On Eternal Peace. Appendix to Sömmerring's On the Organ of the Soul (Über das Organ der Seele). May: "On a Newly Raised Noble Tone in Philosophy" (Von einem neuerdings erhobenen vornehmen Ton in der Philosophie) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. July 23: Kant's last lecture. October: "Solution of a Mathematical Dispute Based on a Misunderstand¬ ing" (Ausgleichung eines auf Mißverstand beruhenden mathematischen Streits) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. December: "Announcement of the Soon to Be Completed Tract on Eternal Peace in Philosophy" (Verkündigung des nahen Abschlusses eines Traktats zum ewigen Frieden in der Philosophie) in Berlinische Monatsschrift. Fichte, Foundations of Natural Law. Beck, The Only Possible Point of View. 797 Metaphysical Foundations of the Doctrine of Right (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Rechtslehre). June 14: Königsberg students honor Kant's fiftieth anniversary as an author. MetaphysicalFoundations of the Doctrine of Virtue (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Tugendlehre). "On a Presumed Right to Lie from Philanthropic Motives" (Über ein ver¬ meintes Recht, aus Menschenliebe zu lügen) in Berliner Blätter. November 10: Death of Frederick William II; Frederick William III be¬ comes king. Schelling, Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature. 1798 The Dispute of the Faculties (Der Streit der Fakultäten). Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht). "On Turning Out Books" (Über die Buchmacherei, zwei Briefe an F. Nicolai). Declaration against Schlettwein. Kant's turn to be dean for the eighth time (Mangelsdorfstands in for him). Schelling, Of the Worldsoul. 1799 August: Open declaration against Fichte. Fichte, Appeal to the Public. Herder, Metacritique. 1800 Last publication by Kant himself. September: Kant's Logic, edited by Jäsche. Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism. Herder, Kalligone. 1801 November 14: Last official pronouncement. 1802 Physical Geography (Physische Geographie), edited by Rink. Hegel, The Relation of Skepticism to Philosophy, Faith and Knowledge. Schelling, Giordano Bruno. xxii Chronology 1803 On Pedagogy (Über Pädagogik), edited by Rink. April: Kant's last letter. October: Last illness. Herder dies. 1804 February 12: 11:00 A.M.: Kant dies. February 28: Kant is buried. April 23: Memorial service at the university. May: Prize essay, On the Progress of Metaphysics since Leibniz and Woljf Über die Fortschritte der Metaphysik seit Leibniz und Woljf), edited by Rink (written in 1790). Schelling, "In Memoriam: Kant." Napoleon becomes emperor. Code civil is enacted. Prologue I MMANUE L KANT died on February 12,1804, at 11:00 A.M., less than two months before his eightieth birthday. Though he was still famous, I German thinkers were engaged in trying to get "beyond" his critical phi¬ losophy. He had become almost irrelevant. His last important contribution to the philosophical discussion had been made almost five years earlier. This was the open "Declaration Regarding Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre" of August 7,1799. In it, he had stated clearly his conviction that all the more recent philosophical developments had little to do with his own critical philosophy, that "Fichte's Theory of Science was a totally indefensible sys¬ tem," and that he was very much "opposed to metaphysics as defined by 1 Fichte." Urging philosophers not to go "beyond" his critical philosophy, but to take it seriously not only as his own last word, but also as the final word on metaphysical questions in general, he, in effect, took leave of the philosophical scene. Nothing more, certainly nothing different was to be expected from him. German philosophy, and with it the philosophy of Europe as a whole, was taking a course he could not appreciate. Yet these developments had little to do with the dying man in Königsberg. Some said he had outlived his time, but he no longer took any interest in them. "The great Kant died indeed just like the least important human being, but he died so gently and quietly that those who were with him, noticed 2 nothing but the cessation of his breathing." His death followed the grad¬ ual and prolonged deterioration of his mind and body that had begun in 1799, if not earlier. Kant himself had said in 1799 to some of his friends: 3 "I am old and weak. Consider me as a child." Scheffner had found it nec¬ essary to point out years before Kant's death that everything that had made him the genius that he was had disappeared. He had long been "ent-Kanted" I 2 Kant: A Biography 4 or "de-Kanted." Especially during his last two years, no signs of his once- great mind could be observed. His corpse was so completely dried out that it looked "like a skeleton that one might exhibit." Curiously enough, that is precisely what happened. Kant's corpse became a public sight during the next two weeks. People stood in line to see the corpse until it was buried sixteen days later. The weather was the main problem. It was very cold in Königsberg, and the ground was frozen so hard that it was impossible to dig a grave - as if the earth refused to take what remained of the great man. But then, there was no need to hurry, given the state of the body, as well as the great interest of the citizens of Königsberg in their dead celebrity. The funeral itself was a solemn and grand affair. A large crowd was in attendance. Many citizens of Königsberg, most of whom had known Kant either not very well or not at all, came to see how the famous philosopher was put to rest. The cantata written at the death of Frederick II was adapted for Kant: the greatest Prussian philosopher was honored with music writ¬ ten for the greatest Prussian king. A large procession followed the coffin, and all of the churches in Königsberg rang their bells. This must have appeared fitting to most citizens of Königsberg. Scheffner, Kant's oldest surviving friend, "liked it very much," as did most citizens of Königsberg. Though Königsberg had ceased to be the political capital of Prussia in 1701, it was in the minds of many Königsbergers the intellectual capital of 5 Prussia, if not of the world. Kant had been one of its most important cit¬ izens. He was their "philosopher king," even if the philosophers outside of Königsberg were looking for another. It was still brutally cold on the day of the funeral; but, as winter days in Königsberg often could be, it was also beautifully bright and clear. Scheffner wrote about a month later to a friend: You will not believe the kind of tremor that shook my entire existence when the first frozen clumps of earth were thrown on his coffin — my head and heart still tremble ... It was not just the cold that made Scheffner shiver. Nor was it simply the fear of his own death, which might have been awakened in him by the hol¬ low sounds of the frozen clods of earth falling on the almost-empty coffin. The tremor that would reverberate in his head for days and weeks had deeper causes. Kant, the man, was gone forever. The world was cold, and there was no hope - not for Kant, and perhaps not for any of us. Scheffner was only too much aware of Kant's belief that there was nothing to be ex¬ pected after death. Though in his philosophy he had held out hope for Prologue 3 eternal life and a future state, in his personal life he had been cold to such ideas. Scheffner had often heard Kant scoff at prayer and other religious ire. It was clear to anyone who practices. Organized religion filled him with knew Kant personally that he had no faith in a personal God. Having pos¬ tulated God and immortality, he himself did not believe in either. His considered opinion was that such beliefs were just a matter of "individual 7 needs." Kant himself felt no such need. Yet Scheffner, a citizen of Königsberg almost as famous as Kant, clearly had such a need. Scheffner, one of the most respectable and respected cit¬ izens by the time of Kant's death, professed to be a good Christian, and he probably was one. Scheffner was a pious, if not strictly orthodox, mem¬ ber of his congregation, and he was happily married. His piety had not always been obvious. During his earliest years he had been a poet of some note, or perhaps better characterized as of some notoriety. Indeed, he was still remembered as the (anonymous) author of a volume of erotic poetry in the French tradition, which had created quite a stir some forty years back. Many considered the poems to be among the most obscene verses ever written in German. Kant's reputation as an unbeliever might cast even more of a shadow on his own reputation. Furthermore, he had to have doubts about Kant's eternal soul. As a friend, he took Kant seriously. Is it surprising that these doubts cast a spell not only over the ceremony of Kant's burial, but also over Scheffner's very life? Some of the more righteous Christians in Königsberg found it neces¬ sary to stay away entirely from the funeral. Thus Ludwig Ernst Borowski, a high official in the Lutheran Church of Prussia, one of Kant's earliest students and an occasional dinner guest during Kant's last years, someone whom many viewed as Kant's friend, stayed home — much to the dismay 8 of Scheffner. But Borowski was pursuing still higher career goals. Only too aware of Kant's shaky reputation among those in government who really counted, he felt it was better not to attend the funeral. He had seri¬ ous reservations, if not about Kant's moral character then about his philo¬ sophical and political views, and he did what he felt to be most politic. On the day after Kant's death, the Königlich PreußischcStaats-, Kriegs¬ und Friedens-Zeitungen published a note, which among other things stated: Kant, being eighty years old, died completely exhausted. His achievements in the re¬ vision of speculative philosophy are known and esteemed by everyone. His other virtues - loyalty, benevolence, righteousness, and politeness - can be missed only here m our city to their full extent. Here, the memory of the departed will remain more 9 honored and more lasting than anywhere else.Kant: A Biography 4_ Relatively few would have disputed the fact that Kant really possessed the virtues of "loyalty, benevolence, righteousness, and politeness" that were especially singled out in this notice. Still, there were some who did feel dif¬ ferently. One of the earliest publications on Kant's life to appear in Königs¬ berg was an attempt to put into question Kant's benevolence, righteousness, and politeness, while at the same time raising questions about his religious and political views. Th e Remarks on Kant, His Character, and His Opinions by a Fair Admirer of His Merits, which appeared anonymously and with¬ out any indication of its place of publication in 1804, was almost certainly written by Johann Daniel Metzger, a professor of medicine (pharmacy and anatomy) at the University of Königsberg. Kant and Metzger seem to have found themselves often in agreement. Since Kant took a great interest in medicine, the two frequently had occasion to discuss matters of mutual interest, but they also had had several disagreements concerning adminis¬ trative matters at the university. As a result, Metzger had tried to embar¬ 10 rass Kant more than once during his turns as rector of the university. It is not altogether clear why the author thought the book needed writ¬ ing. What is clear is that he had a certain degree of animosity toward Kant, and that he felt the record concerning Kant's private life needed to be set 11 straight. Metzger's diagnosis was that "Kant was neither good nor evil." He was not particularly hard-hearted, but then again, he did not have a particularly kind heart either. Metzger intimated that he probably had never given any money to anyone except his immediate family. He concluded from the evidence that Kant had once refused to contribute to a collection for a colleague whose house had burned down that he "was an egoist to a 12 quite considerable degree." Yet Metzger went on to explain, this was probably not his own fault. First, being a misogynist, Kant had never mar¬ 13 ried. Secondly, almost everyone deferred to Kant as the famous author. This was also the reason why he could not accept disagreement. Indeed, Metzger told his readers that Kant could become quite insulting when someone dared to disagree with him. As if that were not enough, Metzger revealed that Kant had the audacity to endorse the principles of the French Revolution, defending them even at dinners in the noblest houses. He was not afraid of being blacklisted (as it was done in Königsberg). Kant was impolite and insensitive. Furthermore, he mistreated his servants. Even his own uneducated sister, who took care of him during his dying days, was not allowed to eat at his table. "Wasn't Kant broad-minded enough to have 14 his sister sit at his table at his side?" Kant was reported to have said be¬ fore his death that "he was leaving this world with a clean conscience, never Prologue 5 having intentionally committed an injustice." Metzger concluded, "this is 15 the creed of all egoists." While not wanting to say much about Kant's view of theology, Metzger could not help noting that Kant was "an indifferentist" — and probably worse. He was unfair to theologians, and he disliked religious people. Nor did he know much of jurisprudence; as a result he did not think highly of it. He was unfair to members of the faculty of law. While he appreciated medicine, he allowed himself to judge in areas where he was unqualified. For example, he did not know anything of anatomy, but he pronounced on subjects that presupposed such knowledge. He was also inconsistent: al¬ though a "misogynist," he liked Hufeland's Macrobiotics, which claimed that marriage increases a man's lifespan. Metzger claimed that he did not really want to dispute the importance of Kant's philosophy. While he was willing to admit that Kant's books contributed greatly to the fame of the University of Königsberg, he found the man lacking. Metzger let it be known: Kant's works were great, but Kant himself was a far-from-admirable human being. He was as petty as human beings come, sharing in most of their faults. All in all, Kant, far from being a model of virtue, was an average person. He was neither particularly good nor par¬ ticularly bad, but it would be better if students did not emulate him. Metzger's short book was occasioned by other books on Kant that were 16 meant to praise him. There had already been a few biographies before Kant's death, all of them extremely flattering, but it appears to have been one book in particular that motivated Metzger, namely Johann Gottfried Hasse's Notable Remarks by Kant from One of His Friends at Table, which 17 had appeared shortly before. Hasse was a professor of oriental languages and theology. He and Kant became close after 1786, and Hasse frequently attended Kant's dinner parties, especially during the three years before his death. Hasse's short work was intended to be "neither a sketch of his life nor a biography," nor was it meant to "stand in the way of anyone who might have something more important or better to say about the great man." His Remarks are notable only because they provide evidence of Kant's incom¬ petence during his final years. Hasse claimed that he only wanted to "express his thankful heart." Yet most of Kant's friends wished he had not done so. In his "Declaration Re¬ garding Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre" Kant himself had alluded to the old Italian proverb to the effect that if God protects us from our friends, we can take care of our enemies ourselves, and that "there are friends who mean 18 well by us but who act wrongly or clumsily in trying to promote our ends."6 Kant: A Biography Hasse's publication was clumsy and wrong-headed. Though he praised Kant's greatness and intended to give examples of his ingenuous mind and noble character, he succeeded chiefly in raising questions that are inter¬ esting in quite different respects. Thus Hasse tells us of a book that Kant was writing during his last days. The old philosopher had himself at times declared this to be "his chief work, . . . which represents his system as a completed whole," but Hasse goes on to observe that "any future editor would have to treat it with caution because, during his last years, Kant of¬ ten deleted things that were better than those he replaced them with, and he also interjected much nonsense (like the meals which were planned for 19 a given day)." Many of the stories Hasse tells seem to be designed only 20 to raise doubts about Kant's mental competence. This was not the worst aspect of Hasse's book. He also raised questions about Kant's character, and especially about his loyalty to members of his family. Thus, after pointing out that Kant spent a considerable amount each year supporting his relatives, Hasse went on to note that he "never men¬ tioned" these relatives to anyone. He also told his readers that Kant never answered any questions about his relatives when asked, and that, when his sister came to assist him during his last years, he tried to conceal her iden¬ tity from his friends - "even though he gave her food from his table." He showed his gratitude for his sister's able care by asking his friends "to 21 forgive her lack of culture." All in all, Hasse's Notable Remarks by Kant amount to a strange tribute. No wonder Scheffner found the book despi¬ cable, observing that "it would not be easy to put such a great number of 22 trivialities, minutiae, and indelicacies on so few pages." Metzger, on the other hand, seems to have found in Hasse's ambiguities useful reminders of Kant's true character. Indeed, his Remarks on Kant can be seen as Metz- ger's attempt to put Hasse's remarks in a more proper light. Hasse's and Metzger's efforts were not the only biographical accounts that were published in Königsberg during 1804. Nor were they the most significant. Indeed, they were soon completely overshadowed by a project started by Kant's publisher, Friedrich Nicolovius, who saw to it that a collection of biographical sketches by people who knew Kant well during different stages of his life was published. Nicolovius was not alone. Others, like Scheffner, were also involved in urging this project along. Th e collec¬ tive enterprise was designed, at least in part, to forestall and undermine further contributions like those of Hasse and Metzger. In this, it was quite successful. The resulting book, On Immanuel Kant, came to be viewed as the most extensive and most reliable source of information concerning Prologue 7 Kant's life and character, but it is neither as reliable nor as extensive as we might wish. The three people who had known Kant well during different periods of his life, and who were to give accounts of Kant's life as they knew it, were Ludwig Ernst Borowski, Reinhold Bernhard Jachmann, and Ehregott Christian Wasianski. All three were theologians born and raised in Königs¬ berg. Borowski had known Kant the longest, having attended his lectures in 1755 and remained friendly with him through the early sixties. He had also been his opponent in a disputation on physical monadology in 1756. Though he could not give a firsthand account of Kant's funeral, he could be counted on to tell the story of Kant's life from his earliest period as a lecturer until his final years. Jachmann had studied with Kant and had be¬ 23 come closely associated with him between 1783 and 1794. As his "amanu¬ ensis" or academic assistant, he knew Kant well during the years in which he published his most famous works. He could speak with authority on the eighties and nineties. Wasianski was a deacon who had taken care of Kant during his final years. He had studied at the University of Königsberg between 1772 and 1780. Indeed, like Jachmann, he had also been Kant's amanuensis. He could have said much about Kant's life during the seventies, but strangely enough he says nothing about these years, restricting him¬ self to an account of Kant's last years. After Wasianski left the university in 1780, he had no contact with Kant for a decade, meeting him again only in 1790 at a wedding reception. Kant seems to have invited him immedi¬ ately to his regular dinner parties, and gradually came to rely on him. Over the years he entrusted him with more and more of his personal business. Indeed, Wasianski ultimately earned Kant's complete trust. Having been chosen by Kant as his personal secretary and helper, as well as the executor of his will, he knew the aged Kant's circumstances very well. These three theologians were expected to set the record straight. They were to tell the public who Kant really was, and they were to make sure that others who were dealing in mere anecdotes could not harm his reputation. The project was thus essentially an apologetic enterprise. As such, it had the blessings of Kant's closest friends in Königsberg. In a certain sense, they all closed ranks to "save" Kant's good name. It is important to understand this function of the book On Immanuel Kant, for it explains why certain things are emphasized in the book and others downplayed. The apologetic nature of the project explains also the somewhat monochromatic picture of Kant we get from the three biographies. Its authors clearly felt that 24 there were a number of things that were "not appropriate for the public."Kant: A Biography 8 Furthermore, each of them had prejudices and views that could only stand in the way of an objective account of Kant's life and work as a whole. For one thing, these three Königsberg theologians could not be expected to paint a colorful picture of the "all-crushing" philosophical libertine, whose au¬ dience was the world. Rather, they sketched, all gray on gray, the dull out¬ lines of the life and habits of an old man, who just happened to have written books that made him famous. Telling us next to nothing about the first sixty years of Kant's life and more than enough about the last twenty years or so, they continued in some ways the tradition started by Hasse and Metz¬ ger. Yet, it is their picture that still largely determines the way we see Kant. Kant was made into a "flat character" whose only surprising feature was the complete lack of any surprises. Some of Kant's friends thought that the only one who was really qual¬ ified to write about both the man and his ideas was Johann Christoph Kraus, Kant's former student, longtime friend, and colleague in philosophy. But Kraus refused to do so. Scheffner explained: "Kraus is the only one who could write about him; yet, it might be easier to cut off a piece of granite 2 with a knife than to get him to prepare something for publication." ' We do not know whether it was just Kraus's perfectionism that kept him from writing a biography of Kant. There may have been other reasons. Kant and Kraus had had a falling out. Though they did not quite avoid each other late in life, they did not talk to each other either. Some thought there was a certain rivalry between them — and there probably was. Metzger, who denigrated Kant's character, praised Kraus. We do not know whether this was a reason for Kraus's reluctance. All we know is that he never wrote anything on Kant. Scheffner might have been an even better candidate, 26 but he showed no interest, or perhaps better, he urged on Borowski. An¬ other person who might have opened up new perspectives on Kant was Karl Ludwig Pörschke, professor of poetry at the University of Königsberg. An early admirer of Fichte in Königsberg, he wrote to him in 1798, reporting that Kant was no longer capable of "sustained thinking," and that he was withdrawing from society: Since I often must talk to him for four hours at a stretch, I know his bodily and mental condition very well; he hides nothing from me. I know from intimate talks his life's story starting with the earliest years of his childhood; he acquainted me with the smallest circumstances of his progress. This will be of service when the buzzards are making noise around his grave. There are in Königsberg a number of people who are 27 ready with biographies as well as with poems about the dead Kant.