Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI: PRACTICAL EDUCATION - Kant on Education (über Pädagogik)
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CHAPTER VI: PRACTICAL EDUCATION - 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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91.Practical education includes (1) skill, (2) discretion, and (3) morality.
Skill must be thorough
With regard to skill, we must see that it is thorough, and not superficial. We must not pretend to know things which we afterwards cannot accomplish. Skill must be characterised by thoroughness, and this thoroughness should gradually become a habit. Thoroughness is an essential element in the formation of a man’s character, while skill is necessary for talent.
Discretion consists in using others for our own ends; this necessitates reserve and self-control
92. As regards discretion, it consists in the art of turning our skill to account; that is, of using our fellow-men for our own ends. For this several things are necessary. Properly speaking, it is the last quality attained by man, but it ranks second in importance.
In order that a child may acquire prudence, he must learn to disguise his feelings and to be reserved, while at the same time he learns to read the character of others. It is chiefly with regard to his own character that he must cultivate reserve. Decorum is the art of outward behaviour, and this is an art that we must possess. It is difficult to read the characters of others, but we must learn to do this without losing our own reserve. For this end a kind of dissembling is necessary; that is to say, we have to hide our faults and keep up that outward appearance. This is not necessarily deceit, and is sometimes allowable, although it does border closely on insincerity.
Dissimulation, however, is but a desperate expedient. To be prudent it is necessary that we should not lose our temper; on the other hand, we should not be too apathetic. A man should be brave without being violent—two qualities which are quite distinct. A brave man is one who is desirous of exercising his will. This desire necessitates control of the passions. Discretion is a matter of temperament.
Self-control is the first step towards the formation of a good character
93.Morality is a matter of character. Sustine et abstine,1 such is the preparation for a wise moderation. The first step towards the formation of a good character is to put our passions on one side. We must take care that our desires and inclinations do not become passions, by learning to go without those things that are denied to us. Sustine implies endure and accustom thyself to endure. Courage and a certain bent of mind towards it are necessary for renunciation. We ought to accustom ourselves to opposition, the refusal of our requests, and so on.
Pity as a motive should take the place of emotional sympathy
‘Sympathy’1 is a matter of temperament. Children, however, ought to be prevented from contracting the habit of a sentimental maudlin sympathy. ‘Sympathy’ is really sensitiveness, and belongs only to characters of delicate feeling. It is distinct from compassion, and it is an evil, consisting as it does merely in lamenting over a thing. It is a good thing to give children some pocket-money of their own, that they may help the needy; and in this way we should see if they are really compassionate or not. But if they are only charitable with their parents’ money, we have no such test.
It is better to know a few things thoroughly than many things superficially
The saying Festina lente expresses constant activity, by which we must hasten to learn a great deal—that is, festina. But we must also learn thoroughly, and this needs time; that is, lente. The question here arises whether it is better to know a great many things in a superficial way or a few things thoroughly. It is better to know but little, and that little thoroughly, than to know a great deal and that superficially; for one becomes aware of the shallowness of superficial knowledge later on. But the child does not know as yet in what condition he may be with regard to requiring this or that branch of knowledge: it is best, therefore, that he should know something thoroughly of all, otherwise he will but deceive and dazzle others by his superficially acquired knowledge.
Character, the formation of, which is the ultimate aim of education consists of fixity of purpose, and the carrying out of that purpose
94. Our ultimate aim is the formation of character. Character consists in the firm purpose to accomplish something, and then also in the actual accomplishing of it. Vir propositi tenax,1 said Horace, and this is a good character. For instance, if a man makes a promise, he must keep it, however inconvenient it may be to himself; for a man who makes a resolution and fails to keep it will have no more confidence in himself. Suppose, for example, that a man resolves to rise early every morning that he may study, or do something or other, or take a walk—and excuses himself in spring because the mornings are still too cold, and rising early might injure his health, and in summer because it is well to allow himself to sleep, and sleep is pleasant—thus he puts off his resolution from day to day, until he ends in having no confidence in himself.
Those things which are contrary to morality must be excluded from such resolutions. The character of a wicked man is evil; but then, in this case, we do not call it ‘character’ any longer, but obstinacy; and yet there is still a certain satisfaction to find such a man holding fast to his resolutions and carrying them out, though it would be much better if he showed the same persistency in good things.
Those who delay to fulfil their resolutions will do but little in life. We cannot expect much good to come of so-called future conversion. The sudden conversion of a man who has led a vicious life cannot possibly be enduring, in that it would be nothing short of a miracle to expect a man who has lived in such a way suddenly to assume the well-conducted life of a man who has always had good and upright thoughts. For the same reason we can expect no good to come from pilgrimages, mortifications, and fastings; for it is difficult to see how such customs can, all at once, make a virtuous man out of a vicious one. How can it make a man more upright, or improve him in any way, to fast by day and to feast at night; to impose a penance upon his body, which can in no way help towards improving his mind?
In laying the foundation of the child’s moral character, his duties should be placed before him by means of examples and rules.(1) His duty towards himself—to maintain the dignity of man in his own person; and (2) his duty towards others—to reverence and respect their rights
95.To form the foundation of moral character in children, we must observe the following:—
We must place before them the duties they have to perform, as far as possible, by examples and rules. The duties which a child has to fulfil are only the common duties towards himself and towards others. These duties must be the natural outcome of the kind of question involved. We have thus to consider more closely:—
(1) The child’s duties towards himself.—These do not consist in putting on fine clothes, in having sumptuous dinners, and so on, although his food should be good and his clothing neat. They do not consist in seeking to satisfy his cravings and inclinations; for, on the contrary, he ought to be very temperate and abstemious. But they consist in his being conscious that man possesses a certain dignity, which ennobles him above all other creatures, and that it is his duty so to act as not to violate in his own person this dignity of mankind. We are acting contrary to the dignity of man, for instance, when we give way to drink, or commit unnatural sins, or practise all kinds of irregularities, and so on, all of which place man far below the animals. Further, to be cringing in one’s behaviour to others; to be always paying compliments, in order by such undignified conduct to ingratiate ourselves, as we assume—all this is against the dignity of man.
We can easily find opportunities for making children conscious of the dignity of man, even in their own persons. For instance, in the case of uncleanliness, which is at least unbecoming to mankind. But it is really through lying that a child degrades himself below the dignity of man, since lying presupposes the power of thinking and of communicating one’s thoughts to others. Lying makes a man the object of common contempt, and is a means of robbing him of the respect for and trust in himself that every man should have.
(2) The child’s duties towards others.—A child should learn early to reverence and respect the rights of others, and we must be careful to see that this reverence is realised in his actions. For instance, were a child to meet another poorer child and to push him rudely away, or to hit him, and so on, we must not say to the aggressor, ‘Don’t do that, you will hurt him; you should have pity, he is a poor child,’ and so on. But we must treat him in the same haughty manner, because his conduct is against the rights of man. Children have as yet no idea, properly speaking, of generosity. We may, for instance, notice that when a child is told by his parents to share his slice of bread-and-butter with another, without being promised a second slice, the child either refuses to obey, or obeys unwillingly. It is, besides, useless to talk to a child of generosity, as it is not yet in his power to be generous.
The first duty of the child towards himself, which is often overlooked, is of great importance, especially during the period when childhood is left for youth
96. Many writers—Crugott, for instance—have either quite omitted, or explained falsely, that chapter of morality which teaches our duties towards ourselves. Our duties towards ourselves consist, as has been already said, in guarding, each in our own person, the dignity of mankind. A man will only reproach himself if he has the idea of mankind before his eyes. In this idea he finds an original, with which he compares himself. But when years increase, then is the critical period in which the idea of the dignity of man alone will suffice to keep the young man in bounds. But the youth must have some timely hints which will help him to know what he is to approve and what to mistrust.
In teaching children their duty towards others a catechism of right conduct would be of great use
97. Almost all our schools are lacking in something which would nevertheless greatly tend to the formation of uprightness in children—namely, a catechism of right conduct. This should contain, in a popular form, everyday questions of right and wrong. For instance, a man has a certain debt to pay to-day, but he sees another man in sore need, and, moved with pity, gives him the money which belongs of right to his creditor. Is this right or wrong?
It is wrong, for we must be free from obligation before we can be generous. When we give alms, we do a meritorious act; but in paying our debts, we do what we are bound to do.
Again, can a lie ever be justified by necessity? No, there is no single instance in which a lie can be justified. If this rule were not strictly adhered to, children especially would take the smallest excuse for a necessity, and would very often allow themselves to tell lies. If there were a book of this kind, an hour might very profitably be spent daily in studying it, so that children might learn and take to heart lessons on right conduct—that apple of God’s eye upon earth.
With regard to the obligation of benevolence, we should arouse children to the duty of helping others, rather than to the sentiment of feeling for them
98. As to the obligation of benevolence, it is not an absolute obligation. We must arouse the sympathies of children, not so much to feel for the sorrows of others as to a sense of their duty to help them. Children ought not to be full of feeling, but they should be full of the idea of duty. Many people, indeed, become hardhearted, where once they were pitiful, because they have so often been deceived. It is in vain to point out to children the meritorious side of actions. Religious teachers often make the mistake of representing acts of benevolence as meritorious, without seeing that all we can do for God is just to do what we are bound to do; and in doing good to the poor, we are only doing our duty. For the inequality of man arises only from accidental circumstances—if I possess wealth, to what do I owe it but to the laying hold of circumstances favourable to me or to my predecessors?—while our consideration of the whole remains ever the same.
Children should not be encouraged to compare themselves with others, but with an ideal standard of what is right and fitting
99. We only excite envy in a child by telling him to compare his own worth with the worth of others. He ought rather to compare himself with a concept of his reason. For humility is really nothing else than the comparing of our own worth with the standard of moral perfection. Thus, for instance, the Christian religion makes people humble, not by preaching humility, but by teaching them to compare themselves with the highest pattern of perfection. It is very absurd to see humility in depreciating ourselves. ‘See how such and such a child behaves himself!’ An exclamation of this kind produces only a very ignoble mode of thinking; for if a man estimates his own worth by the worth of others, he either tries to elevate himself above others or to detract from another’s worth. But this last is envy. We then only seek to impute faults to others, in order that we may compare favourably with them. Thus the spirit of emulation, wrongly applied, only arouses envy. Emulation may occasionally be used to good purpose, as when we tell a child, in order to convince him of the possibility of performing a certain task, that others could easily do it. We must on no account allow one child to humiliate another. We must seek to avoid every form of pride which is founded upon superiority of fortune. At the same time we must seek to cultivate frankness in the child. This is an unassuming confidence in himself, the possession of which places him in a position to exhibit his talents in a becoming manner. This self-confidence is to be distinguished from insolence, which is really indifference to the judgment of others.
Classification of cravings and vices
100. All the cravings of men are either formal (relating to freedom and power), or material (set upon a certain object)—that is to say, either cravings of imagination or enjoyment—or, finally, cravings for the continuation of these two things as elements of happiness. Cravings of the first kind are the lust of honour (ambition), the lust of power, and the lust of possession. Those of the second kind are sexual indulgence (voluptuousness), enjoyment of good things (good living), or the enjoyment of social intercourse (love of amusement).
Cravings of the third kind, finally, are love of life, love of health, and love of ease (freedom from care as regards the future).
Vices are either those of malice, baseness, or narrow-mindedness.
To the first belong envy, ingratitude, and joy at the misfortune of others. To the second kind belong injustice, unfaithfulness (deceitfulness), dissoluteness—and this in the squandering of wealth as well as of health (intemperance) and of honour.
Vices of the third kind are those of unkindness, niggardliness, and idleness (effeminacy).
Classification of virtues
101.Virtues are either virtues of merit or merely of obligation or of innocence.
To the first belong magnanimity (shown in self-conquest in times of anger or when tempted to ease and the lust of possession), benevolence, and self-command.
To the second belong honesty, propriety, peaceableness; and to the third, finally, belong honourableness, modesty, and content.
Man is by nature neither good nor bad. He becomes both, however—his inclinations urging him one way, while his reason would drive him in another
102. But is man by nature morally good or bad? He is neither, for he is not by nature a moral being. He only becomes a moral being when his reason has developed ideas of duty and law. One may say, however, that he has a natural inclination to every vice, for he has inclinations and instincts which would urge him one way, while his reason would drive him in another. He can only become morally good by means of virtue—that is to say, by self-restraint—though he may be innocent as long as his vicious inclinations lie dormant.
Vices, for the most part, arise in this way, that civilisation does violence to Nature; and yet our destiny as human beings is to emerge from our natural state as animals. Perfect art becomes second nature.
All depends on leading children to understand and accept correct principles
103. Everything in education depends upon establishing correct principles, and leading children to understand and accept them. They must learn to substitute abhorrence for what is revolting and absurd, for hatred; the fear of their own conscience, for the fear of man and divine punishment; self-respect and inward dignity, for the opinions of men; the inner value of actions, for words and mere impulses; understanding, for feeling; and joyousness and piety with good humour, for a morose, timid, and gloomy devotion.
But above all things we must keep children from esteeming the merita fortunæ1 too highly.
The method of teaching children religion
104. In looking at the education of children with regard to religion, the first question which arises is whether it is practicable to impart religious ideas to children early in life. On this point much has been written in educational works. Religious ideas always imply a theology; and how can young people be taught theology when they do not yet know themselves, much less the world? Is the youth who as yet knows nothing of duty in the condition to comprehend an immediate duty towards God? This much is certain—that, could it be brought about that children should never witness a single act of veneration to God, never even hear the name of God spoken, it might then be the right order of things to teach them first about ends and aims, and of what concerns mankind; to sharpen their judgment; to instruct them in the order and beauty of the works of Nature; then add a wider knowledge of the structure of the universe; and then only might be revealed to them for the first time the idea of a Supreme Being—a Law-giver. But since this mode of proceeding is impossible, according to the present condition of society, and we cannot prevent children from hearing the name of God and seeing tokens of man’s devotion to Him; if we were to teach them something about God only when they are grown up, the result would be either indifference or false ideas—for instance, terror of God’s power. Since, then, it is to be feared that such ideas might find a dwelling-place in the child’s imagination, to avoid it we should seek early to impart religious ideas to the child. But this instruction must not be merely the work of memory and imitation; the way chosen must be always in accordance with Nature. Children will understand—without abstract ideas of duty, of obligations, of good and bad conduct—that there is a law of duty which is not the same as ease, utility, or other considerations of the kind, but something universal, which is not governed by the caprice of men. The teacher himself, however, must form this idea.
At first we must ascribe everything to Nature, and afterwards Nature herself to God; showing at first, for instance, how everything is disposed for the preservation of the species and their equilibrium, but at the same time with consideration in the long run for man, that he may attain happiness.
The idea of God might first be taught by analogy with that of a father under whose care we are placed, and in this way we may with advantage point out to the child the unity of men as represented by one family.
Religion is morality applied to the knowledge of God. In teaching children we must begin with the law which is in us. Morality must come first, and theology follow
105. What, then, is religion? Religion is the law in us, in so far as it derives emphasis from a Law-giver and a Judge above us. It is morality applied to the knowledge of God. If religion is not united to morality, it becomes merely an endeavour to win favour. Hymnsinging, prayers, and church-going should only give men fresh strength, fresh courage to advance; or they should be the utterance of a heart inspired with the idea of duty. They are but preparations for good works, and not the works themselves; and the only real way in which we may please God is by our becoming better men.
In teaching a child we must first begin with the law which is in him. A vicious man is contemptible to himself, and this contempt is inborn, and does not arise in the first instance because God has forbidden vice; for it does not necessarily follow that the law-giver is the author of the law. A prince, for instance, may forbid stealing in his country without being called the original prohibitor of theft. From this, man learns to understand that it is a good life alone which makes him worthy of happiness. The divine law must at the same time be recognised as Nature’s law, for it is not arbitrary. Hence religion belongs to all morality.
We must not, however, begin with theology. The religion which is founded merely on theology can never contain anything of morality. Hence we derive no other feelings from it but fear on the one hand, and hope of reward on the other, and this produces merely a superstitious cult. Morality, then, must come first and theology follow; and that is religion.
Conscience is the representative of God
106. The law that is within us we call conscience. Conscience, properly speaking, is the application of our actions to this law. The reproaches of conscience would be without effect, if we did not regard it as the representative of God, who, while He has raised up a tribunal over us, has also established a judgment-seat within us. If religion is not added to moral conscientiousness, it is of no effect. Religion without moral conscientiousness is a service of superstition. People will serve God by praising Him and reverencing His power and wisdom, without thinking how to fulfil the divine law; nay, even without knowing and searching out His power, wisdom, and so on. These hymnsingings are an opiate for the conscience of such people, and a pillow upon which it may quietly slumber.
Children should be taught reverence and obedience to the divine will
107. Children cannot comprehend all religious ideas, notwithstanding there are some which we ought to teach them; these, however, must be more negative than positive. It is of no use whatever to let children recite formulæ; it only produces a misconception of piety. The true way of honouring God consists in acting in accordance with His will, and this is what we must teach children to do. We must see to it that the name of God is not so often taken in vain, and this by ourselves as well as by children. If we use it in congratulating our friends—even with pious intent—this also is a misuse of the holy name. The idea of God ought to fill people with reverence every time they hear His name spoken. And it should be pronounced but seldom and never lightly. The child must learn to feel reverence towards God, as the Lord of life and of the whole world; further, as one who cares for men, and lastly as their Judge. We are told of Newton that he never pronounced the name of God without pausing for a while and meditating upon it.
By uniting the idea of God and duty the child will learn to be kind to animals. He should be taught also to discover good in evil
108. Through an explanation which unites the ideas of God and of duty the child learns the better to respect the divine care for creatures, and will thus be kept from an inclination towards destruction and cruelty, which we so often see in the torture of small animals. At the same time we should teach the child to discover good in evil. For instance, beasts of prey and insects are patterns of cleanliness and diligence; so, too, evil men are a warning to follow the law; and birds, by waylaying worms, protect the garden; and so on.
Religious ideas should be taught to children early, though they should be few in number and merely negative
109. We must, then, give children some idea of the Supreme Being, in order that when they see others praying, and so on, they may know to whom they are praying, and why. But these ideas must be few in number, and, as has been said, merely negative. We must begin to impart them from early youth, being careful at the same time that they do not esteem men according to their religious observances, for, in spite of the diversity of religions, religion is everywhere the same.
At the time when the instinct of sex develops in the youth, he should be spoken to clearly and definitely on the subject
110. Here, in conclusion, we shall add a few remarks which should especially be observed by the youth as he approaches the years of early manhood. At this time the youth begins to make certain distinctions which he did not make formerly. In the first place, the distinction of sex. Nature has spread a certain veil of secrecy over this subject, as if it were something unseemly for man, and merely an animal need in him. She has, however, sought to unite it, as far as possible, with every kind of morality. Even savage nations behave with a kind of shame and reserve in this matter. Children now and then ask curious questions; for instance, ‘Where do children come from?’ &c. They are, however, easily satisfied either at receiving an unreasonable answer which means nothing, or by being told that these are childish questions.
These inclinations develop mechanically in the youth, and, as is the way with all instincts, even without the knowledge of a particular object. Thus it is impossible to keep the youth in ignorance and the innocence which belongs to ignorance. By silence the evil is but increased. We see this in the education of our forefathers. In the education of the present day it is rightly assumed that we must speak openly, clearly, and definitely with the youth. We must allow that it is a delicate point, for we cannot look upon it as a subject for open conversation; but if we enter with sympathy into his new impulses1 all will go well.
The thirteenth or fourteenth year is usually the time in which the feeling of sex develops itself in the youth. (When it happens earlier it is because children have been led astray and corrupted through bad examples.) Their judgment also is then already formed, and at about this time Nature has prepared them for our discussing this matter with them.
Evil impulses may be escaped from by constant occupation. The youth should learn to respect women
111. Nothing weakens the mind as well as the body so much as the kind of lust which is directed towards themselves, and it is entirely at variance with the nature of man. But this also must not be concealed from the youth. We must place it before him in all its horribleness, telling him that in this way he will become useless for the propagation of the race, that his bodily strength will be ruined by this vice more than by anything else, that he will bring on himself premature old age, and that his intellect will be very much weakened, and so on.
We may escape from these impulses by constant occupation, and by devoting no more time to bed and sleep than is necessary. Through this constant occupation we may banish all such thoughts from our mind, for even if the object only remains in our imagination it eats away our vital strength. If we direct our inclination towards the other sex, there are at any rate certain obstacles in the way; if, however, they are directed towards ourselves, we may satisfy them at any time. The physical effects are extremely hurtful, but the consequences with regard to morality are even worse. The bounds of Nature are here overstepped and the inclination rages ceaselessly, since no real satisfaction can take place. The teachers of grown-up youths have propounded the question whether it is allowable for a youth to enter into relations with the other sex? If we must choose one of the two things, this is certainly better than the other. In the former he acts against Nature; in the latter he does not. Nature has called upon him to be a man so soon as he becomes of age, and to propagate his kind; the exigences, however, which exist for man in a civilised community render it sometimes impossible for him to marry and educate his children at that period. Herein he would be transgressing the social order. It is the best way—indeed, it is the duty of the young man—to wait till he is in a condition to marry. He acts then not only as a good man, but as a good citizen.
The youth should learn early to entertain a proper respect for the other sex; to win their esteem by an activity free from vice; and thus to strive after the high prize of a happy marriage.
With regard to distinctions of rank, the youth should be made conscious of the equality of men, as well as of their civil inequality
112. A second distinction which the youth begins to make about the time of his entrance into society consists in the knowledge of the distinction of rank and the inequality of men. As a child he must not be allowed to notice this. He must not even be allowed to give orders to the servants. If the child sees his parents giving orders to the servants, they may at any rate say to him: ‘We give them their bread, and therefore they obey us—you do not, and therefore they need not obey you.’ In fact, children would of themselves know nothing of this distinction, if only their parents did not give them this false notion. The young man should be shown that the inequality of man is an institution that has arisen on account of one man striving to get an advantage over another. The consciousness of the equality of men, together with their civil inequality, may be taught him little by little.
In what way the moral character may best be maintained throughout life
113. We must accustom the youth to esteem himself absolutely and not relatively to others. The high esteem of others for what does not constitute the true value of men at all is vanity. Further, we must teach him to be conscientious in everything, and not merely to appear so, but to strive to be so. We must also make him heedful that in no matter about which he has well weighed a resolution shall it remain an empty resolution. Rather than this it is better to conceive of no resolution at all, and let the matter remain in doubt. He must be taught contentedness as regards outward circumstances, and patience in work—Sustine et abstine—moderation in pleasure. If we are not always thinking of pleasure, but will be patient in our work, we shall become useful members of the community and be kept from ennui.
Again, we must encourage the youth—
(1) To be cheerful and good-humoured. Cheerfulness arises from the fact of having nothing to reproach oneself with.
(2) To be even-tempered. By means of self-discipline one can train oneself to become a cheerful companion in society.
(3) To regard many things invariably as matters of duty. We must hold an action to be worthy, not because it falls in with our inclinations, but because in performing it we fulfil our duty.
(4) In love towards others, as well as to feelings of cosmopolitanism. There exists something in our minds which causes us to take an interest (a) in ourselves, (b) in those with whom we have been brought up, and (c) there should also be an interest in the progress of the world. Children should be made acquainted with this interest, so that it may give warmth to their hearts. They should learn to rejoice at the world’s progress, although it may not be to their own advantage or to that of their country.
(5) To set little store by the enjoyment of the good things of life. The childish fear of death will then disappear—we must point out to the youth that the anticipations of pleasure are not realised in its fulfilment.
Lastly, by pointing out the necessity of daily ‘settling accounts’ with himself, so that at the end of life he may be able to make an estimate with regard to its value.
[1 ]Endure and abstain.
[1 ]Kant uses the word ‘sympathy’ (Sympathie) not in the usual sense which the word has in both German and English, but in the more restricted sense of mere feeling for suffering, which does not lead to helpful action, while compassion (Mitleid) is fellow-feeling combined with a desire to help. Sympathy is passive; compassion is active.
[1 ]A man who keeps steadfast to his purpose.
[1 ]Strokes of luck.
[1 ]Rink and Schubert add: ‘and discuss it with him in all earnestness.’—(Tr.)