Study Guide

Immanuel Kant Files

Kant's Personal Diary

(Warning: some of the following material deals with mature themes and may not be appropriate for a younger audience, especially those prone to boredom.)

Monday

Arose at 5:00 today. I drank one cup of weak tea brought to me by my servant Martin Lampe. I then smoked one pipe. From 5:25-5:45, I ate breakfast, which consisted of eggs and toast with marmalade. I then prepared my lectures.

At 6:50, I departed for the lecture hall. Lectures delivered from 7:00-11:00. I then returned home to a lunch of sausage, bread, and 4 carrots brought to me by my servant Martin Lampe. I consumed food until 11:33. I then enjoyed two minutes of relaxation time. How pleasant to kick back and do nothing! But I have always had too much of a wild and free side. Must be sure to keep that in check.

Worked from 11:45 until 2:57. 3 minutes to put on my coat and shoes. I must not be late for my 3:00 walk! Walked from 3:00 until 3:30.

After my walk is my time for private contemplation. Today's topic: Why do I value Martin Lampe? Perhaps because he is reliable and generally (though not always) punctual? But that is only assigning him a "market price"—valuing him the same way that I value a good piece of furniture. He would be viewed as replaceable by anyone with similar qualities.

Perhaps I value Martin because of his sense of humor? Well, he doesn't really have a sense of humor, though I seem to recall him once attempting to make a joke. But even if I did appreciate him for his sense of humor, this would be no more than assigning him a "fancy price"—a more subtle version of a market price. Again he would be regarded as a replaceable object.

It seems, then, I should value Martin as an "end in himself," as a being who, rather than being valuable because of this or that property, is intrinsically valuable. Only then will my attitude toward him be genuinely moral. Do I so value Martin? I don't think so (I'm not sure I ever much thought of him before this), but this is a good idea and I should write it down.

Contemplation time being over, I met with my friend Green from 4:00 until 5:27. Socializing is good for one's mental health I have read. However, it can be dangerous for one's physical health. Needless to say, I did not shake hands with Green or open my mouth excessively wide while near him, for fear of catching an illness. We spoke of the weather, as well as the change of seasons. Good times.

At 5:30, my servant Martin Lampe brought my dinner of bread, cheese, sausage, and 8 carrots. After dinner I briefly contemplated the stars (from 6:00-6:07). How many stars there are! They seem innumerable. Well, let me check: 1, 2, 3… at 3,456 I lost count. How overwhelming! I'm pretty certain I had an experience of the sublime.

At 6:10, I retired to reread Leibniz for the 374th time.

Lights out at 9:00. What a day!

Tuesday

Arose at 5:00 today. I drank one cup of weak tea brought to me by my servant Martin Lampe. I then smoked one pipe. I ate breakfast, which consisted of eggs and toast with marmalade, from 5:26-5:46. (Martin Lampe was late with breakfast again; I must speak with him.) I then prepared my lectures.

At 6:50, I departed for the lecture hall. Lectures delivered from 7:00-11:00. I then returned home to a lunch of sausage, bread, and 5 carrots brought to me by my servant Martin Lampe. I consumed food until 11:34. I then enjoyed one minute of relaxation time.

Worked from 11:45 until 2:57. 3 minutes to put on my coat and shoes. Walked from 3:00 until 3:30.

After my walk is my time for private contemplation. Today's topic: Should I lie to Martin Lampe? Suppose I told Martin that I was going to give him a raise when I had no intention of doing so. Consider my usual formulation of the categorical imperative: it says, roughly, that only principles that everyone can act on, without contradiction, are moral principles. Clearly, my lie to Martin would lead to a contradiction by this standard.

But what of the formula I came up with yesterday—that I should treat others always as ends in themselves? If I made a false promise to Martin, it seems I would not be treating him as an end in himself, as intrinsically valuable. Instead, I would be treating him simply as a means to my own end (keeping him as my servant by whatever means necessary). So this formula, too, shows lying to be immoral.

I believe that I have now discovered two different but equivalent expressions of the categorical imperative, the basic moral law. I suspect there may be other expressions as well. Must remember these ideas.

After contemplation time, I met with my friend Green from 4:00 until 5:27. Didn't shake hands, of course. We spoke of the weather, as well as my plans to buy a new chair. Good times.

At 5:30, my servant Martin Lampe brought my dinner of bread, cheese, sausage, and 7 carrots. After dinner I contemplated the stars (from 6:00-6:07). Sehr nice. As I looked at the stars, the following thought occurred to me. Two things fill my mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and more steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. Wow—I like that. I must make sure that sentence makes its way into one of my books. Perhaps here.

At 6:10, I retired to reread Leibniz for the 375th time.

Lights out at 9:00. What a day!

Wednesday

Arose at 5:02. Got started late today, feeling behind. I drank one cup of weak tea brought to me by my servant Martin Lampe. I then smoked one pipe. From 5:25-5:45, I ate breakfast, which consisted of eggs and toast with marmalade. I then prepared my lectures.

At 6:50, I departed for the lecture hall. Lectures delivered from 7:00-11:00. I then returned home to a lunch of sausage, bread and 3 carrots, brought to me by my servant Martin Lampe. I consumed food until 11:33. I then enjoyed one minute and 30 seconds of relaxation time.

Worked from 11:45 until 2:57. 3 minutes to put on my coat and shoes. Walked from 3:00 until 3:30.

After my walk is my time for private contemplation. Today's topic: Am I an immoral lout? Yesterday, I established that the categorical imperative holds that one should always treat others as ends in themselves. But all the time I treat Martin as my servant, telling him to do this or that for my own purposes. I fear this means I'm a bad person.

Well, I am not the only one who does this. Even those who don't have servants treat shopkeepers, for example, as means to their own ends. Are all shoppers bad, then? No, I think the point is that one should never treat another merely as a means to an end. Treating someone as a means, to some extent, in some situations, is unavoidable. But we must never lose sight of the fact that the person is also an end in himself and not simply a thing for our convenience.

Well, that's a relief! I was worried there for a moment that I would have to get rid of my servant. That would throw off my whole schedule.

After contemplation time, I met with my friend Green from 4:00 until 5:27. Today, we had a heart-to-heart talk. As I had told Green yesterday that I wanted a new chair, he shared with me that he had a similar desire himself, though for a slightly different kind of chair. Very touching (in an emotional sense only; I made sure to keep enough physical distance between us as to make the spread of illness unlikely).

At 5:30, my servant Martin Lampe brought my dinner of bread, cheese, sausage and 9 carrots. After dinner I was unable to contemplate the stars, since it was cloudy. So, at 6:03, I retired to reread Leibniz for the 376th time.

Lights out at 9:00. What a crazy day!

There are 20 years of Kant's daily diary available for the interested Shmoop reader. It is fascinating to see the subtle variations in Kant's routine, with his wake-up time and bedtime varying by as much as 8 minutes. Also fascinating are the daring departures from his schedule on weekends: in his more devil-may-care moments, he would stop writing as much as 12 minutes earlier than usual.