Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: CULTIVATION OF THE MIND - Kant on Education (über Pädagogik)
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CHAPTER IV: CULTIVATION OF THE MIND - Immanuel Kant, Kant on Education (über Pädagogik) 
Kant on Education (Ueber Paedagogik), trans. Annette Churton, introduction by C.A. Foley Rhys Davids (Boston: D.C. Heath and Co., 1900).
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CULTIVATION OF THE MIND
Mental culture may also in a certain sense be called physical, so far as it is distinguished from ‘practical’
63.We come now to the cultivation of the mind, which also we may call, in a certain sense, physical. We must, however, distinguish between nature and freedom. To give laws to freedom is quite another thing to cultivating nature. The nature of the body and the nature of the mind agree in this, that culture goes to prevent the spoiling of either, and that art adds something to both. We may, therefore, call the cultivation of the mind physical, in a certain sense, just as well as the cultivation of the body.
This physical cultivation of the mind, however, must be distinguished from moral training, in that it aims only at nature, while moral training aims at freedom. A man may be highly cultivated physically, he may have a well-cultivated mind; but if he lacks moral culture, he will be a wicked man.
Physical culture must, however, be distinguished from ‘practical’ culture, which last is pragmatic or moral. In this last case morality is the aim rather than culture.
‘Free’ and ‘scholastic’ culture
64. The physical cultivation of the mind may be divided into (i) free and (ii) scholastic culture. Free culture is, as it were, but a pastime, while scholastic culture constitutes a business. Free culture is that which must always be observed with the child. In scholastic culture, on the other hand, the child is looked upon as under restraint. We may be occupied in games, which we call being occupied in our leisure time, and we may be occupied by compulsion, which we call work. Scholastic culture constitutes work for the child, free culture constitutes play.
Work and play are both necessary, but they should not be confused by trying to make play of work
65. Various plans of education have been drawn up by different people, in order to discover the best methods—a most praiseworthy undertaking. One among others suggests that children should be allowed to learn everything as it were in play. In an article in the ‘Göttingen Magazine’ Lichtenberg ridicules the folly of trying to make everything like play for boys, while they ought to be accustomed to serious business at an early period, since they must some time enter a business life. This is an utterly preposterous notion. A child must play, must have his hours of recreation; but he must also learn to work. It is a good thing, doubtless, to exercise skill, as it is to cultivate the mind, but these two kinds of culture should have their separate hours. Moreover, it is a great misfortune for man that he is by nature so inclined to inaction. The longer a man gives way to this inclination, the more difficult will he find it to make up his mind to work.
Work is to be distinguished from play by having some ulterior end in view
66. In work the occupation is not pleasant in itself, but it is undertaken for the sake of the end in view. In games, on the other hand, the occupation is pleasant in itself without having any other end in view. When we go for a walk, we do so for the sake of the walk, and therefore the further we go the pleasanter it is; while when we go to a certain place, our object is the company which we shall find there, or something else, and therefore we shall naturally choose the shortest way. The same thing happens in card games. It is really extraordinary how reasonable men can sit by the hour and shuffle cards. It is not, it seems, so easy for men to leave off being children. For how is this a better game than the children’s game of ball? It is true that grown men do not care to ride hobby-horses, but they ride other hobbies.
Man needs occupation and restraint; therefore schoollife, with its compulsory occupation and restraint, is a good training for the child
67. It is of the greatest importance that children should learn to work. Man is the only animal who is obliged to work. He must go through a long apprenticeship before he can enjoy anything for his own sustenance. The question whether Heaven would not have shown us greater kindness by supplying all our wants without the necessity of work on our part must certainly be answered in the negative, for man needs occupation, even occupation that involves a certain amount of restraint. Just as false a notion is it that if Adam and Eve had only remained in Paradise they would have done nothing there but sit together singing pastoral songs and admiring the beauty of Nature. Were this so, they would have been tormented with ennui, just as much as other people in the same position.
Men ought to be occupied in such a way that, filled with the idea of the end which they have before their eyes, they are not conscious of themselves, and the best rest for them is the rest which follows work. In the same way a child must become accustomed to work, and where can the inclination to work be cultivated so well as at school? School is a place of compulsory culture. It is very bad for a child to learn to look upon everything as play. He must, it is true, have his time for recreation, but he must also have his time for work. Even though the child does not at once understand the use of this restraint, later in life he will recognise its value. It would be merely training the child to bad habits of inquisitiveness were one always to answer his questions: ‘What is the use of this?’ or, ‘What is the use of that?’ Education must be compulsory, but it need not therefore be slavish.
The mental faculties ought not to be cultivated separately, but each one in relation to others—the inferior with a view to the superior
68. With regard to the ‘free’1 cultivation of the mental faculties, we must remember that this cultivation is going on constantly. It really deals with the superior faculties. The inferior faculties must be cultivated along with them, but only with a view to the superior; for instance, the intelligence with a view to the understanding—the principal rule that we should follow being that no mental faculty is to be cultivated by itself, but always in relation to others; for instance, the imagination to the advantage of the understanding.
The inferior faculties have no value in themselves; for instance, a man who has a good memory, but no judgment. Such a man is merely a walking dictionary. These beasts of burden of Parnassus are of some use, however, for if they cannot do anything useful themselves they at least furnish material out of which others may produce something good. Intelligence divorced from judgment produces nothing but foolishness. Understanding is the knowledge of the general. Judgment is the application of the general to the particular. Reason is the power of understanding the connection between the general and the particular. This free culture runs its course from childhood onwards till the time that the young man is released from all education. When a young man, for instance, quotes a general rule, we may make him quote examples drawn from history or fable in which this rule is disguised, passages from the poets where it is expressed, and thus encourage him to exercise both his intelligence and his memory, &c.
The memory should be carefully trained to retain such things as are important
69. The maxim Tantum scimus, quantum memoria tenemus1 is quite true—hence it is very necessary to cultivate the memory. Things are so constituted that the understanding first follows the mental impression, and the memory must preserve this impression. So it is, for instance, in languages. We learn them either by the formal method of committing them to memory or by conversation—this last being the best method for modern languages. The learning of words is really necessary, but the best plan is for the youth to learn words as he comes across them in the author he is reading. The youth should have a certain set task. In the same way geography is best learnt mechanically. What is learnt in a mechanical way is best retained by the memory, and in a great many cases this way is indeed very useful. The proper mechanism for the study of history has yet to be found. An attempt has been made in this direction consisting of a system of tables, but the result has not been very satisfactory. History, however, is an excellent means of exercising the understanding in judging rightly. Learning by heart is very necessary, but doing it merely for the sake of exercising the memory is of no use educationally—for instance, the learning of a speech by heart. At all events, it only serves to encourage forwardness. Besides this, declamation is only proper for grown-up men. The same may be said of all those things which we learn merely for some future examination or with a view to futuram oblivionem.1 The memory should only be occupied with such things as are important to be retained, and which will be of service to us in real life.Novel-reading is bad for children Novel-reading is the worst thing for children, since they can make no further use of it, and it merely affords them entertainment for the moment. Novel-reading weakens the memory. For it would be ridiculous to remember novels in order to relate them to others. Therefore all novels should be taken away from children. Whilst reading them they weave, as it were, an inner romance of their own, rearranging the circumstances for themselves; their fancy is thus imprisoned, but there is no exercise of thought.
Distractions must never be allowed, least of all in school, for the result will be a certain propensity in that direction which might soon grow into a habit. Even the finest talents may be wasted when once a man is subject to distraction. Although children are inattentive at their games, they soon recall their attention. We may notice, however, that they are most distracted when they are thinking of some mischief, for then they are contriving either how to hide it, or else how to repair the evil done. They then only half hear anything, give wrong answers, and know nothing about what they are reading, &c.
The memory should be cultivated by learning names, by reading and writing, and by learning languages
70. The memory must be cultivated early, but we must be careful to cultivate the understanding at the same time.
The memory is cultivated (i) by learning the names which are met with in tales, (ii) by reading and writing. But as to reading, children should practise it with the head, without depending on the spelling. (iii) By languages, which children should first learn by hearing, before they read anything.
Then a well-constructed so-called orbis pictus will prove very useful. We might begin with botany, mineralogy, and natural history in general. In order to make sketches of these objects, drawing and modelling will have to be learned, and for this some knowledge of mathematics is necessary. The first lessons in science will most advantageously be directed to the study of geography, mathematical as well as physical. Tales of travel, illustrated by pictures and maps, will lead on to political geography. From the present condition of the earth’s surface we go back to its earlier condition, and this leads us to ancient geography, ancient history, and so on.
Knowing and doing should be combined
But in teaching children we must seek insensibly to unite knowledge with the carrying out of that knowledge into practice. Of all the sciences, mathematics seems to be the one that best fulfils this. Further, knowledge and speech (ease in speaking, fluency, eloquence) must be united. The child, however, must learn also to distinguish clearly between knowledge and mere opinion and belief. Thus we prepare the way for a right understanding, and a right—not a refined or delicate—taste. This taste must at first be that of the senses, especially the eyes, but ultimately of ideas.
The understanding should be cultivated by rules which should be studied side by side with their application
71. It is necessary to have rules for everything which is intended to cultivate the understanding. It is very useful mentally to separate the rules, that the understanding may proceed not merely mechanically, but with the consciousness of following a rule.
It is also very useful to bring these rules into a set form, and thus commit them to memory. If we keep the rule in our memory, though we forget its application, we shall soon find our way again.
Here the question arises whether the rules shall first be studied in abstracto, and whether they ought to be studied after they have been applied, or whether the rule and its application should be studied side by side. This last is the only advisable course; otherwise the application of the rule is very uncertain till the rule itself is learned.
But from time to time the rules must also be arranged in classes, for it is difficult to keep them in memory when they are not associated together. Consequently in learning languages the study of grammar must always, to a certain extent, come first.
The general cultivation of the mental faculties is in part physical—consisting of discipline and exercise; and in part moral—consisting of ‘maxims’
72. We must now give a systematic idea of the whole aim of education, and the means of obtaining it.
I. The general cultivation of the mental faculties, as distinguished from the cultivation ofparticular mental faculties.—This aims at skill and perfection, and has not for its object the imparting of any particular knowledge, but the general strengthening of the mental faculties.
This culture is either (a) physical—here everything depends upon exercise and discipline, without the child needing to learn any ‘maxims’; it is passive for the pupil, who has only to follow the guidance of others—or (b) it is moral. This depends not upon discipline, but upon ‘maxims.’1 All will be spoilt if moral training rests upon examples, threats, punishments, and so on. It would then be merely discipline. We must see that the child does right on account of his own ‘maxims,’ and not merely from habit; and not only that he does right, but that he does it because it is right. For the whole moral value of actions consists in ‘maxims’ concerning the good.
Physical education, then, is distinguished from moral in the former being passive, while the latter is active, for the child. He should always understand the principle of an action, and its relation to the idea of duty.
The cultivation of particular mental faculties includes, first, the inferior faculties: such as cognition, the senses, imagination, memory, and power of concentration
73. II. The cultivation of particular mental faculties.—This includes the cultivation of the faculty of cognition, of the senses, the imagination, memory, power of attention, and intelligence—in a word, the inferior powers of the understanding.
Of the cultivation of the senses—eyesight, for instance—we have already spoken. As to the cultivation of the imagination, the following is to be noticed:—Children generally have a very lively imagination, which does not need to be expanded or made more intense by the reading of fairy tales. It needs rather to be curbed and brought under rule, but at the same time should not be left quite unoccupied. There is something in maps which attracts everybody, even the smallest children. When they are tired of everything else, they will still learn something by means of maps. And this is a good amusement for children, for here their imagination is not allowed to rove, since it must, as it were, confine itself to certain figures. We might really begin with geography in teaching children. Figures of animals, plants, and so on, might be added at the same time; these will make the study of geography more lively. History, however, would probably have to come later on.
With regard to the power of attention, we may remark that this faculty needs general strengthening. The power of rigidly fixing our thoughts upon one object is not so much a talent as a weakness of our mind, which in this case is inflexible, and does not allow itself to be applied at pleasure. But distraction is the enemy of all education. Memory depends upon our attention.
Secondly, the cultivation of the superior mental faculties: understanding, judgment, and reason
74. As regards the cultivation of the superior mental faculties, this includes the cultivation of the understanding, judgment, and reason. The understanding may at first be cultivated, in a certain way, passively also, either by quoting examples which prove the rules, or, on the contrary, by discovering rules for particular cases. The judgment shows us what use to make of the understanding. Understanding is necessary in order that we may understand what we learn or say, and that we may not repeat anything without understanding it. How many people hear and read things which they do not understand, though they believe them! Of that kind are both images and real things.
It is through reason that we get an insight into principles. But we must remember that we are speaking here of a reason which still needs guidance. Hence the child should not be encouraged to be always reasoning, nor should we indulge in reasoning in the presence of children, about things which surpass their conception.
We are not dealing here with speculative reason, but only with reflection upon actual occurrences, according to their causes and effects. It is in its arrangement and working a practical reason.
The best way to understand is to do
75. The best way of cultivating the mental faculties is to do ourselves all that we wish to accomplish; for instance, by carrying out into practice the grammatical rule which we have learnt. We understand a map best when we are able to draw it out for ourselves. The best way to understand is to do. That which we learn most thoroughly, and remember the best, is what we have in a way taught ourselves. There are but few men, however, who are capable of doing this. They are called self-taught (αὐτοδίδακτοι).
In the culture of reason the Socratic method is the best
76. In the culture of reason we must proceed according to the Socratic method. Socrates, who called himself the midwife of his hearers’ knowledge, gives examples in his dialogues, which Plato has in a manner preserved for us, of the way in which, even in the case of grown-up people, ideas may be drawn forth from their own individual reason. In many respects children need not exercise their reason. They must not be allowed to argue about everything. It is not necessary for them to know the principles of everything connected with their education; but when the question of duty arises, they should be made to understand those principles. But on the whole we should try to draw out their own ideas, founded on reason, rather than to introduce such ideas into their minds. The Socratic method should form, then, the rule for the catechetical method. True it is somewhat slow, and it is difficult to manage so that in drawing ideas out of one child the others shall also learn something. The mechanical method of catechising is also useful in some sciences; for instance, in the explanation of revealed religion. In universal religion, on the other hand, we must employ the Socratic method. As to what has to be learnt historically, the mechanical method of catechising is much to be commended.
[1 ]Vogt omits the word ‘free’ here.—(Tr.)
[1 ]We know just so much as we remember.
[1 ]Future forgetfulness.
[1 ]‘Maxim’ is an important term in Kant’s Moral Philosophy, and by it must be understood general principles of right and wrong.—(Tr.)