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Life story
of Immanuel Kant




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Immanuel Kant was born on April 22, 1724, at 5 o’ clock in the morning in Kneiphof, one of the three towns that make up Königsberg. A few months later, on June 13, 1724, King Frederick William I merged the three towns of Old Town, Kneiphof and Löbenicht into the City of Königsberg, with the help of his town hall regulations. Since then its name was “Royal Prussian Capital and Residence City of Königsberg”.


On April 23, 1724, the descendant of the Kants was baptized as "Emmanuel". In the course of time, the future philosopher changed his name and used it in the form of "Immanuel", which in Hebrew means "God be with us". He was the fourth of nine children, only five of whom reached adulthood.


Immanuel's school education began in 1731 at the local school of St. George's Hospital, where mainly catechesis was taught. In 1732 Immanuel was transferred to the Pietist Collegium Fridericianum for male students, thanks to the help of Pastor Franz Schultz, an acquaintance of Immanuel’s mother. He attended the Collegium Fridericianum until 1740.


In 1740 Immanuel Kant entered the university. His family had the hope, supported by Pastor Schultz, that Kant would become a theologian and pursue an ecclesiastical career. However, the young student chose to study logic, ethics, metaphysics, natural law, and mathematics.


During his studies, he often attended formal and social evenings, where he could give free rein to his gregarious soul; he was always fashionably dressed, charming, eloquent, blessed with a keen sense of humor and an inexhaustible repertoire of anecdotes and inventive replies and sayings. He was also a good card player, even when played for money. The young Kant was neither a cagey snob nor an oddball, as it is sometimes described in some places.


In 1747 he left the city without graduating in order to work as a village teacher. He became a teacher of three of the five sons of Pastor Daniel Ernst Andersch in Judtschen, about a hundred kilometers east of Königsberg - today Wesołówka in Kaliningrad oblast. Around 1750 he left Judtschen and went to Jarnołtowo (in German: “Groß Arnsdorf”), where he worked until 1754.


After Kant left Jarnołtowo, he was a tutor at Count von Keyserlingk's in Waldburg-Capustigall near Königsberg for a certain time. On April 17, 1755, Kant submitted his master's thesis "De Igne," written in Latin, to the dean of the Faculty of Philosophy. On May 13, he defended the submitted thesis and passed the master’s examination.


After defending his academic work, Kant was employed as a university curator; at that time there was no vacancy for him in the chair of philosophy. In the same year he was habilitated. In 1765 he got a job as deputy librarian of the palace library, and from 1766 he became curator in the field of natural sciences. About 15 years later, in 1770, he received the chair of logic and metaphysics and was appointed professor. Until then he lived very modestly and received only a small salary from the royal power.


When he became a titular professor, his main income came from tuition fees. He then allowed himself to buy a house together with the employment of a servant and began to organize get-togethers with meals for invited guests, which often extended into the late afternoon. Conversely, he very much enjoyed being invited by the people of the aristocracy of Königsberg, remaining true to himself as the sociable man of the world that he was.


In 1786 and 1788 Kant was director of the University of Königsberg, and in 1787 he was admitted to the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. The greatest German universities of that time - Halle, Jena, Erlangen, Mittau - offered him a chair of philosophy: He always refused.


Kant died at his home on February 12, 1804, at 11 o’ clock in the morning. He was buried in truly royal surroundings in his beloved Königsberg, where he rests to this day despite the turmoil of war and the rise and fall of two totalitarian systems.


Kant conducted a kind of Copernican Turn in Western philosophy and his achievements strongly influenced the development of the entire European philosophy. He left behind a huge universal scientific work, from which subsequent generations still benefit today.


According to witness reports, Kant returned to Jarnołtowo at least symbolically, since the originals of his works were moved here for several years. This is because during the Second World War book collections and archives of the University of Königsberg were kept in Jarnołtowo. Among them were Kant's original texts written in the years 1776-1791, mainly his appeals to his students published on the days before summer and winter semesters started. For fear of a potential bombing of Königsberg, these documents were taken away. In 1945 the book collections were transported from the palace in Jarnołtowo to Połowite (in German: “Pollwitten”) train station, where they were loaded onto wagons. After a long odyssey, including a long stay in Morąg (in German: “Mohrungen”), where they were originally supposed to be kept, the book collections finally reached Olsztyn (in German: “Allenstein”). A large number were lost, but some of them are still preserved to this day and are kept in the State Archives in Olsztyn.



Translation: Sebastian Meller, Ph.D.

“It is never too late to become wise;

but if the change comes late,

there is always more difficulty in starting a reform”