Kantian Journal

2013 Issue №4(46)

A Königsberg society of friends without Kant


The legends about dinner parties of Immanuel Kant’s friends have been known since the times of his first biographers and other contemporaries. However, there were other communities of friends in Königsberg. Gathering friends at a dining table for the purpose of intellectual communication became a tradition in Königsberg in the 17th/18th centuries. This tradition created a sub-system of creative communication and leisure bringing together both nobility and aristocracy and ordinary curious citizens. The reasons behind this phenomenon were the geographical, geopolitical, and cultural and historical position of Königsberg — a large provincial trade and cultural centre of East Prussia. The focus of the article is the historical and documentary analysis of the group ‘portrait’ of the participants of Königsberg meetings described in the novel Lebensläufe nach aufsteigender Linie by Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel, who served as a longstanding burgomaster of Königsberg, anonymously authored several books, and held friendly meetings at home. The author juxtaposes the epic portrait of Hippel as one of the novel’s characters — the host featured in the Lebensläufe — with the picture of Emil Doertsling showing a dinner party held by Kant, which brought together local celebrities, among whom Kant’s friend Hippel is depicted in the foreground. A copy of this picture is exhibited in Kant’s Museum at the Kaliningrad Cathedral. The article makes an interesting and convincing attempt at identifying the historical figures shown in both group portraits —Lebensläufe and the picture by Emil Doerstling.

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