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In conclusion, it might be said with justice that the author's approach to Vico is guided by a genuine instinct for what is central and vital in that author; and his effort to evaluate this central element in terms of continuing relevance not only for philosophy, but for the whole range of the humanistic disciplines and for the creative life of art and society as well is impressive.

This effort, from the point of view of the validity of his interpretation of Vico, suffers severe handicaps from the limited recourse he has to the scholarship and interpretation which has grown up about Vico's work. One senses that his interest in Vico is not that of the Vichian scholar; and his own viewpoint, that of the contribution of Vico to a better understanding of the creative life in its individual and its social dimensions, is both understandable and admirable.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion, however, that even in the service of this interest a wider recourse to the resources of Vichian scholarship would have been helpful to him. The fact that his bibliography is limited to works in English or works translated into English, and not to all or even to the most authoritative of these; his too great reliance on Flint, for example, upon whom he seems to be dependent even for his acquaintance with the original text in many instances, especially those touching the De Antiquissima, all militate against the adequate development of what may certainly be recognized as a genuine sensitivity to the central values of Vico's thought.

By Lewis White Beck. Cambridge : The Belknap Press, The undertaking must have been extremely taxing--Beck points out that the last such attempt was Eduard Zeller's Geschichte der deutschen Philosophie seit Leibniz in Then, from the time of Albert the Great on, when one first gets a succession of German philosophical and quasi-philosophicaI thinkers, the history is largely one of derivative thought, stemming first from Paris and later from Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and England. Professor Beck has managed to show how, and from whom, his subjects were derivative while avoiding accounts of the non-German thinkers drawn upon.

At the same time he captures the essentials of the Germans' positions. In his early Leipzig years, he was primarily interested in matters of law, particularly, following his father, in Pufendorf's natural law theory. This period ends around with the publication of Institutiones jurisprudentiae divinae Institutions of Divine Jurisprudence in which he sought to complete Pufendorf's project of divorcing natural law from theology.

Kant’s Philosophy of the Self in the Critique of Pure Reason Lecture 2

This year, as well, saw the publication of Introductio ad philosophiam auliam Introduction to Court Philosophy , a text that is somewhat misnamed since it has less to do with proper conduct or even thought at court than with the proper use of reason, a topic that Thomasius would take up in greater detail in his Introduction to the Doctrine of Reason. In general, —8 seems to have marked an endpoint of sorts and the beginning of the second major stage, the more clearly philosophical one, of Thomasius's life.

Early German Philosophy : Kant and His Predecessors by Lewis W. Beck (1969, Hardcover)

Even though he would remain in Leipzig for another two years, he had clearly broken with tradition by , when he began lecturing and publishing in German. During the late s and after a religious crisis that led to an at least temporary re affirmation of his pietist beliefs , Thomasius produced two works on metaphysics that endorsed a mystical variety of vitalism. In subsequent years, his interests shifted back to matters of law. This was the third part of his life and will not be further considered in this context.

Thomasius's philosophical stance was an empiricist one, not the rationalism that we find in much of the philosophical tradition and with Wolff. It is true that his belief in natural human reason and its capacity to find truth suggests a mild rationalism, but Thomasius abhorred innate ideas and maintained that all knowledge, all thought, begins with sense perception.

This strong sensationism which has similarities with Locke's position was coupled, as has already been noted, with an enlightenment stance, in the sense that it was governed by the conviction that knowledge, truth and morality are the purview of everyone, not merely the elect few. The latter is particularly evident in the differentiation between Gelehrtheit and Gelahrtheit that he drew at the outset of the Introduction to the Doctrine of Reason. Gelehrtheit or academic learning is the domain of experts who are familiar with syllogistic logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and theology, but Gelahrtheit or practical learning is available to everyone with a healthy reason who pursues knowledge not for its own sake but for the use-value it has in daily life.

Thomasius's enlightenment convictions are similarly evident in his eclecticism. Though generally deemed a negative stance, this is not the case for Thomasius. He considers it positively as a corrective to any form of sectarian dogmatism. By his own account, he was influenced by several of his predecessors, notably, by Grotius in the Dutch Republic and Pufendorf in Germany, and by Hobbes and Locke in England, and he appropriated those aspects of their theories that he found conducive to his overall aim: the spread of the Enlightenment ethos, understood here as the project of ensuring a healthy reason, one that can discover truth, that can lay open contradictions and fight prejudices.

Given Thomasius's basic presuppositions of where knowledge is likely to be found in daily life rather than abstract speculation and who is most likely to attain it the person who has a healthy reason, not one corrupted by prejudices , it is likely not surprising that his epistemology was not a theoretical one. His two books on theoretical philosophy, the Introduction to the Doctrine of Reason and the Application of the Doctrine of Reason , are books on truth. They are not, however, books on truth in the traditional sense.

Thomasius did not develop a philosophical conception of truth or of the condition of its possibility. He seems to have simply adopted a correspondence theory of truth and to have taken the harmony of thought and thing as a given. Certainly, this harmony was not the problem for him that it was for 17 th century thought and that it would be again in the later part of the 18 th century with Wolff, Knutsen and Kant.

What mattered to Thomasius is the enlightenment optimism that truth is possible and, moreover, accessible to everyone. His Application continued this theme, though this time by providing people with the means of avoiding error. Avoiding error involves the eradication of prejudices, which are among the causes of the corruption of reason.

That, in turn, is accomplished through what he identifies as dogmatic doubt, not the Cartesian doubt that deems everything false so as to find a first indubitable principle, a useless enterprise, according to Thomasius. Dogmatic doubt is the doubt about particular things, beliefs, and opinions, and this he found healthy and conducive to preventing error.

Thomasius's enlightenment convictions are not, however, as straightforward as might appear. He did believe in natural reason's capacity to overcome corruption, but even as he adhered to this view, he held that an evil will is at the root of this corruption, and that we require God's grace. This conflict is particularly evident in his moral philosophy. Human self-interest and an evil will stand in its way.

Thomasius's moral theory is a theory of the will. He held that in moral matters, the will dominates reason. Though human beings have free choice if not externally constrained, the will is not free. Rather, it is dominated by human affects; our passions, impulses, and desires. Like Hobbes, Thomasius believed that even though subject to such inner psychological constraints, the will still chooses with the aid of reason ; it consciously wills.

Early German Philosophy: Kant and His Redecessors - Lewis White Beck - Google книги

And a conscious choice is precisely what is required for a good action to be considered moral, a good instinct or good inclinations may make us good, may even be desirable, but by itself this is not enough to make us moral. Morality requires a conscious act of will. The trouble with morality arises because the will is determined by evil desires, in particular, lust, ambition, and avarice.

Although there are noble sentiments as well, which similarly influence the will, they are in conflict with the negative dispositions. The conflict can be brought to a positive conclusion only by appeal to divine grace God's salvation. This ambivalence and return to theology aside, Thomasius's moral position is an interesting one. The theory of rational love is based on the fundamental equality of human beings as well as on their ability to think and choose independently of authority. Ultimately, Thomasius's ethics is a social ethics.

The theory is other-directed, and given the absence of laws and principles, constitutes a nice contrast to the formalist universalist ethics Kant would develop by the end of the next century. At the same time, the lack of any way of making this theory applicable in a context governed not by similar but instead by conflicting interests, makes something like a fomalist ethics an inevitability. It is without question that Christian Wolff was the most important German philosopher in the early and middle portion of the eighteenth century.

Indeed, his philosophy is reputed to constitute the most coherent systematic whole produced in the 18 th century prior to Kant. As an enlightenment thinker, albeit a rationalist one, he was, like Thomasius, committed to public education.

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He saw philosophy, which he conceived as world-wisdom Welt-Weisheit , as the means to public enlightenment and, in line with the mood of the time, the purview of everyone, not just of philosophers or experts. Wolff's birthplace was Breslau then in Eastern Germany, now in Poland. At an early age, dissatisfied with orthodox theology, he turned to the study of mathematics as offering the best means to certainty. He studied theology and mathematics at the University of Jena and gained his Master's degree in Leizpig in Influenced by von Tschirnhaus and while working in Leipzig as a private lecturer, he wrote a dissertation seeking to apply the mathematical method to problems in practical philosophy.

This drew Leibniz's attention to him.


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They began a correspondence that continued until Leibniz's death in Since his position in Halle was predominantly as a teacher of mathematics — a task at which he excelled — Wolff did not begin lecturing and writing on philosophical matters until In mathematics, he produced textbooks, a four volume history of mathematics in and a mathematical dictionary in It did not contribute to a smooth collegial relationship that Wolff did not like Thomasius's eclectic philosophy and did not hide his dislike.

Having earlier been invited to the University of Marburg, he took up the position there. At the time Marburg was a more cosmopolitan place than Halle, and Wolff now had students from other countries. He saw himself as speaking to Europeans, not merely Germans, and began writing in Latin. In fact, he produced a second series of books, in Latin and identified as his Latin works, going over the same subject matter that he had treated in his German texts, albeit in more detail.


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  • Though even more scholastic than the earlier German texts, these books contributed to his fame in a much broader context Europe rather than Germany. He became increasingly well established, so much so that a cabinet order of required candidates for the ministry to study Wolff's books, particularly his logic. In short order, Wolffians and Wolff societies could be found everywhere, even in Prussia.

    In , Frederick the Great recalled him to Prussia, offering a permanent fellowship in the Berlin Academy. Rather than accept the invitation to Berlin, he returned to Halle to great acclaim and public approbation. To his disappointment, however, the mood in Halle had changed, the residing Wolffians, in particular Baumgarten , had begun to develop his thought, and his lectures were not successful.

    Complaining about the poor quality of the students, he gave up lecturing but continued writing.

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    Wolff was not an original philosopher, but a modernizer and systematiser. Rather than reject scholastic school philosophy outright, as Thomasius had done, he modernized and systematised it and philosophy as a whole. Systematizing philosophy meant integrating different ideas from the philosophical tradition — Descartes's concept of substance, for instance, and Leibniz's theory of pre-established harmony.

    But while eclectic in this sense, unlike Thomasius's thought, Wolff's was anything but arbitrary. Rather, he combined those ingredients into a comprehensive system on the model of mathematics. Mathematics was, for Wolff, a systematic science operating by definition and syllogistic proof, and this was the method he strove to make applicable to philosophy.

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    Definitions were arrived at analytically — the analysis was to be of empirical matters and was to convey simple ideas through a process of clarification, abstraction, and analysis. These were then combined into definitions. The definitions were to function as ingredients in the syllogisms that returned, synthetically, to the empirical starting point, though it is presumably now understood why things are as they are, an understanding that was, for Wolff, the goal of philosophy.

    Logic is of central importance to Wolff because it sets out the rules for thought, which is understanding's ability to forge connections, according to Wolff a uniquely human ability. All human beings have natural understanding, but by itself this is not sufficient.