Interest in the recently published critical edition of student notes from Kant's lectures on anthropology prompts me to reflect on the edition from two perspectives. On the one hand, as co-editor of the edition I find myself in the role of a neutral, impartial reporter on the contents of and background to the historical-critical edition. Thus, in Part I of this essay, I will attempt to recount the most important information concerning the transmission of the lectures, taken from the “Introduction” to that volume of Kants gesammelte Schriften. On the other hand, I can also assume the role of a reader of the text and pose substantive questions to the “author,” and accordingly, act as an interpreter of the texts. Thus, in Part II, I will act as a philosophical “reader” and interpreter, addressing two sets of questions: the first concerning the origins and development of the anthropology course, the second concerning the relationship between the anthropology and ethics courses, and their systematic position in Kant's critical philosophy.
First, some general background information on the lectures, essential to a historical understanding of them: beginning in 1772, Kant's “private course” on anthropology became a standing feature of his lecturing activity at the Albertina, the university at Königsberg. Kant placed the anthropology course, which he taught in the winter semester, in a certain parallel with the course on physical geography that he had introduced earlier, at the very beginning of his career as a lecturer (Privatdozent) in 1755.