Aufklärung (The German) and British philosophy

The German Aufklärung and British philosophy Manfred Kuehn INTRODUCTION The German Enlightenment was not an isolated phenomenon.1 It was closely connected with developments in other European countries and in North America. Like the thinkers in other countries, the Germans were advocating a new ideal of knowledge. They were concerned with a critical examination of previously accepted doctrines and institutions from the point of view of reason. Though the German Enlightenment had its own distinctive voice, it would have been very different without influences from abroad. Two countries were especially important in shaping the German Enlightenment, namely France and Great Britain. It is perhaps not too much of an exaggeration to say that the German Enlightenment would have been impossible without these British influences. The following chapter will investigate the influence of British philosophers on the German Enlightenment. It would be easy to enter into a dispute as to when the Enlightenment actually began. Some scholars have argued that the family of ideas and attitudes that characterize what we today call ‘the Enlightenment’ originated in the second half of the seventeenth century, others have argued that it was essentially an eighteenth-century phenomenon.2 There are even good reasons for the claim that the ‘enlightenment’ as we understand it today really began to flower only at the middle of the eighteenth century.3 However, it would be very easy to exaggerate the importance of such periodizations. There is no ‘real chasm’ between the Enlightenment and the period that preceded it. As Ernst Cassirer has pointed out, the new ideal of rationality developed ‘steadily and consistently from the presuppositions which the logic and theory of knowledge of the seventeenth century… had established’ ([12.19], 22). There is a change in emphasis, not a radical break. While such seventeenth-century philosophers as Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza were rather optimistic in believing that all knowledge could actually be reduced to rational principles and thus be raised to a strict science, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers were more sceptical about how this could be done. There is a move away from the principles to the phenomena, and from the general to the detail, but no abandonment of the goal of rational explanation. For this reason, we should expect difficulties in determining who did or did not ‘belong’ to the Enlightenment, but for the very same reason we must say that not much rides on such classifications.4 In any case, it is much easier to determine the beginning (and the end) of the Enlightenment in Germany than in most other countries. It clearly has its beginnings in the disputes between the followers of Christian Thomasius (1655–1728) and Christian Wolff (1679–1754) early in the eighteenth century at the University of Halle. The pietistically influenced Thomasians strongly opposed Wolff’s rationalistic philosophy on religious grounds and they ultimately were successful in having Wolff not only expelled from the University, but even from Prussia (in 1724). Wolff’s formal address to the University of Halle “On the Practical Philosophy of the Chinese’ of 1721 may be taken to be the culmination of this dispute, and it may also be taken as the starting-point for the discussion of the history of the Enlightenment in Germany. Wolff argued in this address that ethics was not dependent on revelation, that Chinese ethics and Christian ethics were not fundamentally different, that happiness need not have a religious basis, and that reason was sufficient.5 Wolffian philosophy became the dominant force at German universities after 1720. Its influence began to wane only after the middle of the century. However, when Wolff died in 1754, it was no longer at the centre of the philosophical discussion. From about 1755 on the Germans opened up more to external influences, and the Enlightenment in Germany began to resemble more closely the Enlightenment in France and Great Britain. This lasted until the early 1790ss. With the first successes and transformations of Kantian philosophy Germans turned inwards again. This change also marks the end of the German Enlightenment. Accordingly, it will be convenient to divide the German Enlightenment into two different periods, namely that of the early Enlightenment, or ‘The Wolffian Period’, which lasted from about 1720 to 1754, and that of the late Enlightenment or of ‘popular philosophy’, lasting from about 1755 to 1795. THE EARLY ENLIGHTENMENT The years between 1720 and 1754 are characterized mainly by the religious dispute between the Wolffians and Thomasians. While the Thomasians, deeply influenced by Pietism, advocated an almost mythical view of nature, the Wolffians were, on the whole, not religiously inclined and motivated by scientific concerns ([12.46]). Though both groups knew the major works of British philosophers, and especially those of John Locke, neither one had any deep affinities for them, and the influence of British philosophy on German thought during the Wolffian period was rather peripheral. The Thomasians Thomasius and his followers did not have much to offer by way of original thought addressed to philosophical problems.6 They regarded most of the classical problems of perception and knowledge as sceptical quibbles of no consequence, believing that ultimately these problems could all be explained as the result of the Fall upon man’s faculty of knowledge. Accordingly, they also believed that if the influence of the evil will were to be eliminated, everything would find its proper place and perspective. The Thomasian epistemology was therefore rather meagre. Its most distinctive characteristics are: (i) an extreme sensationalism, and (ii) a correspondence theory of truth, and (iii) the subordination of the faculty of knowledge to that of the will, and thus (iv) the subordination of philosophy to theology. Many of their psychological views exhibit a great resemblance to Locke’s theories. And while Locke definitely had an influence on their theories, these influences are not very interesting. In fact, everything that makes Locke philosophically interesting and important, namely his detailed investigations of particular epistemological problems and their consequences for metaphysics, is almost completely absent from the works of Thomasius and the Thomasians.7 When they were not engaged in criticizing particular doctrines in Wolff, most of them excelled in general discussions of commonplaces. Crusius, one of the last adherents of this way of thinking, is usually regarded as the most important of all the Thomasians. Following the earlier Thomasians, Crusius criticized rationalism from a pietistic point of view, objecting strongly to the optimistic faith in the omnipotence of reason. He argued that reason is limited and can be shown to be more dependent upon sense perception than the Wolffians wanted to admit. While he no longer accepted Thomasius’s simple-minded sensationalist account of the origin of knowledge, and tended toward some sort of compromise between the rationalist belief in innate ideas and principles and Thomasian sensationalism, he is far from being clear on the details. Thus he did not want to reject entirely the doctrine of innate ideas, and he left the matter undecided. The following passage is perhaps typical: At the occasion of external sensation the ideas of certain objects arise. We then say that we sense these objects. There are two possible explanations for this. Either the ideas themselves already lie in the soul, and are made lively by these concurring conditions…or we have only the immediate cause and the power to form them at the moment of the concurrent condition and in accordance with it. We cannot know for certain which of these two possibilities is true. But we assume less, if we assume the latter. ([12.5], 153) According to Crusius, rationalism was not necessarily wrong, though it may be presumptuous. Crusius was at his strongest when he criticized Wolff and at his weakest when he tried to develop his own theory. Indeed, this can be said of all the Thomasians. Though they found in Locke a welcome ally in criticizing Wolff, they hardly ever went beyond him. Furthermore, their strong theological convictions usually got in the way of their philosophical arguments, making it very difficult for them to appreciate Locke’s more subtle philosophical analysis. Accordingly, most of the similarities between the German sensationalists and British philosophers were incidental and remained without significant philosophical consequence. The Wolffians The Wolffians were philosophically more interesting.8 However, since their philosophical project was essentially defined by the attempt to work out in a clearer and more systematic fashion the ideas of Leibniz, they had little use for such philosophers as Hobbes and Locke. Believing that the Leibnizian principles of contradiction, of sufficient reason, of the identity of indiscernibles, and of pre-established harmony were essentially correct, they also thought that philosophy was well on its way to becoming an exact science by following the ‘mathematical model’. The British philosophers, who emphasized the role of sensation in all of knowledge, appeared to be of little use in this context. However, they were not dismissed. Wolff was clearly not a ‘rationalist’ in the sense of discounting empirical observation altogether. In fact, empirical observation formed for him the very starting-point, even ‘foundation’, for philosophy because he thought that by ‘means of the senses we know things which are and occur in the material world’. Yet philosophy is not so much concerned with establishing and describing things as they exist, or as we may be acquainted with them by the senses. For Wolff, things ‘which are or occur possess a reason from which it is understood why they are or occur’, and philosophy is the enterprise of finding these reasons and putting them into systematic order by demonstrating how they are connected. Put differently, whatever exists or occurs is by that very fact possible. Philosophy’s task is to show how they are possible. Accordingly, ‘philosophy is the science of the possibles insofar as they are possible’. It must demonstrate from ‘certain and immutable principles’ and with ‘complete certainty’ why ‘those things which can occur actually do occur’ ([12.13] 3–20). Once this has been done, we have also demonstrated the ‘reality’ of the concepts of these objects, and we have gone from mere sensible and ‘historical’ knowledge to true philosophical understanding. In demonstrating why the things that can occur do occur, Wolff follows essentially Leibnizian lines, appealing to the principles of contradiction and sufficient reason. It is obvious that such philosophers as Locke could not be of much help in that enterprise. However, they could be important in determining what things exist or occur. Accordingly, one can find references to Locke in Wolff’s discussion of ‘empirical psychology’. He also appears to have made use of Locke in his moral philosophy. Some of his comments on Locke are negative, but many were much more positive than one might expect.9 Yet it would be easy to exaggerate the importance of Locke for Wolff. Though he could use some of the ideas of this British philosopher to his own end, he was ultimately more interested in developing his own metaphysics, i.e. in demonstrating the possibility of things and the reality of concepts. This was the part of his work that he considered to be most important. In fact, it was only this part that he considered to be truly philosophical. Locke entered really only into the pre-philosophical or ‘historical’ parts of his system. Even later, when such Wolffians as Baumgarten attempted to develop an aesthetic theory on Wolffian principles, this did not change. Aesthetics remained an attempt to show how beauty only appeared to be sensible, and that it was really also rational or conceptual. Accordingly, British philosophy could be for them, at best, marginally important.10 It was only with Wolff’s death and the end of the conflict between the Wolffians and the Thomasians that the Germans began to open up to British philosophers.11 THE LATE ENLIGHTENMENT AND POPULAR PHILOSOPHY Moses Mendelssohn (1729–86), one of the best-known and most important philosophical talents of the second period, described the philosophical situation during the 1750s as one of ‘general anarchy’, in which philosophy, ‘the poor matron’, who according to Shaftesbury had been banished from high society and put into the schools and colleges…had to leave even this dusty corner. Descartes expelled the scholastics, Wolff expelled Descartes, and the contempt for all philosophy finally also expelled Wolff; and it appears that Crusius will soon be the philosopher in fashion.12 This crisis was not a special German phenomenon, but one of European thought in general. In fact, it clearly was largely imported. While in Britain empiricism and rejection of ambitious all-inclusive speculative systems could already look back on a long and distinguished tradition, during the early part of the Enlightenment most German philosophers were still engaged in attempting to develop and work out such systems. In France, the mood had already changed under the British influence. Thus Condillac was asking in his Treatise on Systems (1749) for a synthesis of the positive or empiricist approach with a more systematic or rationalistic one, differentiating between the ‘esprit systématique’ and the ‘esprit de système’, rejecting the latter, while advocating the former. Voltaire had previously published his Lettres philosophiques (1743) and his Elements de la philosophie de Newton (1738), in which he attacked Cartesianism and argued for Newton’s approach. Diderot, in his On the Interpretation of Nature (1754), advocated the experimental method and gave expression to his belief that mathematics had run its course and could not develop further. Rousseau’s Discourse on the Arts and Sciences was published in 1750, and Buffon began to exert great influence when the first volume of his Natural History came out in 1749. Given the fact that most educated Germans could speak French and looked to France for literary and cultural models, it was inevitable that these developments would also have profound effects upon these Germans. Furthermore, since this empiricist turn in France was closely connected with a new appreciation of British natural science and British philosophy (indeed with an enthusiasm for anything British), the same also had to happen in Germany. When Frederick the Great assumed power in 1740, he almost immediately began to work at reorganizing the Berlin Academy of Sciences. His intent was to raise its status, and to make it at the very least a worthy rival of the French Academy. To achieve this goal, he appointed to the Academy two of the leading Newtonians of the time, namely the French natural philosopher Pierre L.M. Maupertuis (1698–1759) and the gifted Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–83). The perpetual secretary of the Academy, J.B.Merian, was also a Newtonian and therefore also anti-Wolffian. The King also invited promising Wolffians because he wanted a balance of Wolffians and Newtonians in the Academy.13 However, between 1744 and 1759, it was clearly the Newtonians who had the upper hand. The questions for the regular prize essays were designed to discredit Leibniz-Wolffian philosophy, and to advance the course of Newton in Germany ([12.48]). This also involved close attention to British philosophy. The anti-Wolffians in the Academy knew and appreciated not only Locke, but also such thinkers as Berkeley and Hume ([12.50]) And Hume appears to have played an especially important role in the dispute between the Wolffians and the Newtonians at the Academy. Though it is not clear that the Newtonians always understood Hume correctly, they did invoke him against Leibniz and Wolff.14 Indeed, both the German and the French translations of Hume’s Essays clearly were occasioned by the interest of the Newtonian members of the Academy.15 This clearly had important consequences. As one of the earliest historians of this period put it: Around the middle of the century…German scholars familiarized themselves more and more with other languages and especially with the beautiful and philosophical literatures of the French and the English. This…not only made them aware of the deficiencies and imperfections of the German language and the German national taste in the sciences and fine arts; and created not only the most lively passion to educate, to refine the sciences and the arts, and to compete with the foreigners in all kinds of beautiful representations, but it also made the Leibniz-Wolffian method of the school hitherto followed distasteful to the better talents. The strict systematic form, which the Wolffians had accepted, appeared to put oppressing chains upon the free flight of philosophical genius. Moreover, in a number of philosophical works by foreigners they also found thoroughness and systematic spirit, but no pedantry and coercion…even the textbooks of foreign philosophers were much more readable than those of the Germans.16 What looked at first like philosophical anarchy gave rise, under the influence of British models, to a new way of philosophizing. In the following I would like to say more about these effects. Philosophical Style and Method Hume’s first Enquiry appeared in German as the second volume of the Vermischte Schriften in 1755. Johann Georg Sulzer (1720–79), the editor of the German translation of the first Enquiry, gave Hume high praise as a philosophical writer. He found that Hume could write clearly and elegantly about the most profound and difficult problems of metaphysics. Indeed, he claimed that in Hume ‘thoroughness and pleasantness seem to fight for priority’, and he praises Hume’s work as the model for a truly popular philosophy, expressing his hope that the Germans would imitate Hume in this regard.17 Closely connected with the problem of a popular philosophical style is for Sulzer—as well as most of his contemporaries—the problem of common sense. In fact, popular expression is seen only as the external expression of the principle of common sense ([12.14]). Therefore, Hume’s philosophy could also be a model for philosophers who want to combine philosophical reasoning with common sense. However, one of Sulzer’s most important reasons for publishing the translation was his belief that philosophers who are uncritically received become lax and superficial, and that the German philosophers are in this situation. They had allowed their weapons to become blunt and rusty ‘during the long peace’ of the Wolffian period.18 Hume could be useful as a critic of German philosophers. Sulzer hoped that ‘the publication of this work will interrupt their leisurely slumber and give them a new occupation’.19 Mendelssohn One of the philosophers who was most impressed by Hume’s style was Mendelssohn. In fact, he openly emulated it in his own works. Thus in his anonymous ‘Letter of a Young Scholar in B’. he spoke of the beautiful philosophical writers, those who have noticed that the systematic way of representation is not always the best, those like Leibniz, Shaftesbury, Hume or the author of the Letters on Sensation, who often digress, but who always get back to the point.20 According to most Germans of the period, Mendelssohn succeeded admirably. They praised the elegance and thoroughness of his writings—comparing them explicitly with those of Hume. This shows that Hume provided these Germans with a new model for writing philosophy. Garve However, it would be a mistake if it were thought that this was a merely stylistic manner. We can see this clearly in another philosopher, who found Hume important for his style of writing, namely in Christian Garve (1742–98). Differentiating between a number of methods of thinking, he called special attention to what he called the method of observation.21 It starts neither from the most general principles nor from common experiences; it is neither a systematic deduction of the appearances from rational concepts, nor a Socratic ascent from facts to the ideas and principles of reason. The philosopher… leads his readers…right into the materials, allowing necessary and preparatory ideas to flow in at certain occasions. The philosopher who follows this method does not represent himself as a teacher among students. Rather, he presupposes that his readers know what any well-educated person knows about the subject, ‘and his only goal is to add to the common stock of knowledge some new discoveries from his experience, and to fill in, or even discover some gaps’. According to Garve it is natural that ‘all such new ideas…are only fragments’. He thought that the essays of David Hume were full of such fragmentary ideas. Furthermore, Garve argued that the value of these fragments was enhanced by Hume’s sceptical approach. As a sceptic, Hume evaluates both reasons for and against any view under consideration. Since this is done in a masterful fashion by Hume, both in his History and in his philosophical writings, Hume could serve as the model for a new way of philosophizing. While his philosophy may have a bad name for some ‘ever since its aim has been identified as empirical’, it need not be contradictory to systematic philosophy. Indeed, such a philosophy of observation can itself be systematic, and ‘an investigation that consists only of observations can possess true philosophical thoroughness as Hume’s and Montesquieu’s works which are written in this spirit prove’. Hume’s cautious and methodological scepticism became an alternative to the dogmatic way of doing philosophy, and many Germans followed Hume without ever openly referring to him. Feder and Meiners Similar methodological considerations also motivated the Göttingen philosophers Johann Georg Heinrich Feder (1740–1821) and Christian Meiners (1747–1810). Though both opposed radical scepticism, they also considered themselves as moderate sceptics. In fact, Feder described himself as having ‘wavered between Wolffian dogmatism and scepticism’ early in his life, and he further characterized his early scepticism as having been ‘unrefined’, ‘unchecked’ and ‘without system’. His later thought consists exactly of a refined or checked scepticism, or a scepticism with a system. The same may also be said of Meiners. His Revision der Philosophie of 1772 relied mostly on the ‘wise Locke’ and the ‘brave and good-natured Hume’. He also found that for strict or ‘esoteric’ philosophy ‘no other method is as favourable as the sceptical method’. This scepticism towards all philosophical theories brought Feder and Meiners into the proximity of such common-sense philosophers as Thomas Reid. Like Reid, they felt that philosophers aimed too high in their conception of philosophy, attempted to obtain knowledge out of reach for human beings, and believed that ‘whatever else man may try, he can only think with his own understanding’ and not with some superhuman faculty of thought which grants absolute certain knowledge. Our understanding is very limited and not the best we can imagine, but it is all we have: ‘to despise it for this reason, or not to be satisfied with it…would be neither philosophy nor wisdom’. According to Göttingers, philosophy had to become more modest. It had to learn from common sense, which is stronger than philosophical speculation. Indeed, the circumstance that common sense and the principles of morals, upon which human happiness depends most, have been conserved in spite of all the many artificial webs of error shows the beneficial frame of nature, which does not allow us to drift too far from these wholesome truths in the course of exaggerated speculation. Obscure feelings indicate them for us and instinct leads us always back to them. Accordingly, for the Göttingers the real task of philosophy could only be to establish these principles of common sense and morality more clearly and to defend them against the exaggerated speculations of certain philosophers. However, their works had a tendency to become what Kant called a mere ‘critique of books and systems’. Rather than concentrating on analyzing philosophical problems and solving them on their own, they collected all the different theories others had advanced with regard to them. While their philosophical approach is therefore usually characterized as ‘eclecticism’ or ‘syncretism’, it is perhaps better to call it ‘indifferentism’ or ‘methodical scepticism’, for the Göttingers did not set out simply to give a collection of different philosophical opinions, but they tried to develop a consistent philosophical system. Their study of different philosophical theories was no end in itself, but a methodological tool. As Feder put it, for instance: ‘In order to protect myself from the delusions of one-sided representations and to reach well-founded insights it is necessary to compare different ways of representation and to study several systems’. This approach to philosophy became very influential during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Indeed, most popular philosophers followed this approach.22 At least partially as a result of this tendency to mere eclecticism, most did not succeed in making interesting contributions to the discussion of philosophical problems, and their works deteriorated into a mere listing of different philosophical opinions. New Problems in Metaphysics and Ethics The increased attention to the observations and problems raised by British philosophers also had definite influence on what these Germans viewed to be the philosophical problems that needed to be solved. The early Wolffians had been occupied mainly with the rational side of man, or with logic and metaphysics, and they had neglected almost completely our sensitive side (or, like Baumgarten, simply treated it ‘in analogy to reason’). The works of the British philosophers brought the importance of man’s sensitive nature most forcefully home to them. Accordingly, the younger German philosophers tried to supplement the Wolffian theory by relying on British observations, or they simply rejected Wolffianism altogether. Psychology and anthropology, aesthetic and educational theories based upon more empirical methods began to replace logic and rationalistic metaphysics as the key disciplines for an understanding of the world and man’s place in it. The discipline of metaphysics itself was transformed by this. While the Wolffians had already differentiated between an ‘empirical’ and a ‘rational’ or ‘pure’ discipline within metaphysics, they had also clearly emphasized the work of pure metaphysics as the most distinctive and fundamental occupation of philosophy. During the second part of the German Enlightenment, the empirical part became more and more decisive. Yet only few were willing to give up pure metaphysics altogether. In their heart of hearts, most of these philosophers remained Wolffian. Mendelssohn One of the philosophers who most resisted the move in this direction, while at the same time paying a great deal of attention to incorporating British observations into aesthetics and ethics was Mendelssohn.23 Brought up on Wolffian logic and ontology, rational theology and philosophia practica universalis, he had early discovered that this way of philosophizing was exhaustive neither of the world nor even philosophical discussion. He found that British philosophers also had something to offer. The works of Locke, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, and almost every other British philosopher of note were full of problems that needed solution and observations that needed to be explained, if German philosophy of the traditional sort was to succeed, and most of these problems seemed to have do with the analysis of sensation in theoretical, moral, and aesthetic contexts. Mendelssohn had formulated a new problem or task for himself (and the other Germans). This task was conceived by him—at least at first—as one of incorporating British ‘observations’ in a comprehensive theory. As he noted at the occasion of a review of Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful: The theory of human sensations and passions has in more recent times made the greatest progress, since the other parts of philosophy no longer seem to advance very much. Our neighbours, and especially the English, precede us with philosophical observations of nature, and we follow them with our rational inferences; and if it were to go on like this, namely that our neighbours observe and we explain, we may hope that we will achieve in time a complete theory of sensation.24 What was needed, he thought, was a Universal Theory of Thinking and Sensation, and such a theory would explain the relation of sensation and thinking in theoretical, moral and aesthetic contexts.25 It would use British ‘observations’ and German (speak: Wolffian) ’explanations’. Mendelssohn had also definite ideas about the general approach that had to be followed. It had to be shown that the phenomena observed by British philosophers and traced by them to a special sense are really rational. Thus it was wrong, he argued, to follow certain British philosophers in speaking of a special ‘moral sense’ or ‘common sense’, for instance. Though they may appear to be independent faculties of the mind, they must be reduced to reason. Though he admitted that this reduction to reason is difficult in the case of moral judgements, since our moral judgements ‘as they present themselves in the soul are completely different from the effects of distinct rational principles’, he did not think that this means they could not be analysed into rational and distinct principles.26 Our moral sentiments are ‘phenomena which are related to rational principles in the same way as the colours are related to the angles of refraction of light. Apparently they are of completely different nature, yet they are basically one and the same’.27 Moral phenomena are phenomena in the Leibnizian sense, but they are also ‘phenomena bene fundata’ because they are ultimately founded in something rational. In this way Mendelssohn also set for himself and others a most important task, namely the task of explaining how the rational principles are related to what appear to be the completely different moral sentiments, for the colour analogy, though very sugges-tive, does not explain anything about the actual relation between rational principles and moral judgements. It was precisely this task that defined one of the central concerns of German metaphysicians and moral philosophers during the second half of the eighteenth century, namely to show how ‘sense’ could be reduced to ‘rational principles’, or how British observations could be incorporated into a framework that remained more or less Wolffian. Most philosophers in Germany between 1755 and 1790 were working on this problem in some way or other. In the following I shall briefly summarize two of the most important and influential attempts, namely those of Johann Nicolaus Tetens and Immanuel Kant. Tetens Johann Nicolaus Tetens may well be the German philosopher of this period who learned most from British thinkers. He is sometimes referred to as the ‘German Locke’, but he might also have been called the ‘German Reid’, for Tetens always starts his own discussion of philosophical issues at the point where Reid left off, and his epistemological theory is deeply influenced by the Scottish analysis of the problem of perception. Dissatisfied with the state of German speculative philosophy as he found it, Tetens turned to observational psychology for his method and to common sense for the subject-matter of his philosophy. Thus he declared that the method he has used ‘is the method of observation; the one which Locke and our psychologists have employed in their empirical psychology’, and that ‘the cognitions of common sense are the field which must be worked in philosophy’. Yet even Tetens did not believe that Locke’s method could exhaust all of philosophy. Rather, he believed that even if we were to succeed in determining and describing all the principles of the human mind ‘in accordance with the analytic method, used by Locke, Hume, Condillac, and others (including some German philosophers)’, there would still be much more work to be done; we would have to go on to develop a basic science that has to do with the ‘universal reason’ of things. Though Tetens spent most of his efforts pushing further along the lines of Locke, Hume, Reid and Condillac, he argued that speculative philosophy is not only possible, but even desirable. Ultimately, his work was meant to show that, once the human mind had been correctly described, and its fundamental concepts and principles had been catalogued, metaphysics could be freed from the contradictions which make up such a large part of it. Metaphysics would then be able to progress without further difficulties. In fact, Tetens believed that a metaphysics is possible even without a complete delineation of the basic features of the human mind. That this is possible is shown by the fact that there ‘exist already, at present, many particular speculative theories from general concepts, which our metaphysicians have developed, and which secure for the understanding that knows how to use them great, extensive and fertile vistas just as they are’. We need only to develop further these fragments of metaphysics that exist in order to arrive at the truths that define the fundamental science of metaphysics. These truths will, according to Tetens, be objective truths, not merely subjective convictions. Since Locke’s analytic method can yield at best ‘subjective necessity which forces us to think in accordance with universal laws of the understanding’, he must show how objective necessity arises, or how it is that we can legitimately ascribe ‘what we cannot think otherwise’ to properties in the objects themselves. Tetens tries to accomplish this by first showing that this question can only mean ‘whether the laws of thought are only subjective laws of our own faculty of thought or whether they are laws of any faculty of thought whatsoever’. After these reformulations, Teten’s answer to the question concerning the objectivity of knowledge has become surprisingly simple. Since we cannot think any other faculty of thought than our own—for if there were such a faculty of thought with other laws, it could not be called ‘thought’ in the same way as our faculty—the truths of reason ‘are objective truths, and the fact that they are objective truths is just as certain as the fact that they are truths in the first place. We cannot doubt or deny the former, just as we cannot doubt or deny the latter’. Kant and the end of the Enlightenment It was in this philosophical situation that Kant first conceived of the problem of a critical philosophy and began to work towards his Critique of Pure Reason. His own work owes just as much to such philosophers as Locke, Hume, Reid, Hutcheson and Smith as it does to the earlier German discussions of their theories. Indeed, Kant’s ultimate theory is in one important sense no different from the reactions of his German contemporaries. He is also concerned with developing a universal theory of thought and sensation. He also wanted to show that the mere subjective necessity of sense that appeared to be sufficient for British philosophers to speak of certainty, can be shown to be objective. Furthermore, he also followed the lead of the other Germans in trying to show that sense-perception presupposes concepts. Though his account of how the senses presuppose concepts is different from those given by his contemporaries, it owes a great deal to them, and it alone does not radically differentiate his position from theirs. His a priori ‘categories and principles of understanding’ are closer relations of Tetens’s ‘laws of the understanding’.28 However, what differentiates him from his contemporaries is that he was willing to take a step they apparently could not make, namely to accept as true Hume’s principle of significance, or the claim that we cannot possibly know anything that goes beyond what can be experienced through our senses. Sensations without concepts may be blind, but concepts without sensations are empty. Kant argued that metaphysics in the traditional sense was a dead end and an illusion, while they were all trying to revise or repair it so that it could take into account sense-perception in a better way than traditional Wolffian metaphysics had allowed it. One might say that Kant finished the task that Mendelssohn had earlier formulated. The (British) observations had been incorporated into a (German) theory. His Critique of Pure Reason is, at least by intention, the kind of Universal Theory of Thought and Sensation that Mendelssohn was asking for and that most of the Germans of the period were trying to develop. But when the Critique appeared it was not seen as the solution of that problem, but rather as a problem itself. Indeed, it was seen to give rise to a great number of problems. During the 1790s, Germans began to concentrate more and more on the problems posed by Kant. Though British philosophers were still mentioned, their views were hardly ever discussed. In this context we find such oddities as a review of a German translation of Hume’s Treatise that neither says anything about the contents of the work nor about the quality of the translation, but offers just a discussion of Kant’s deduction of causality as an a priori principle.29 British philosophy had become irrelevant for the problems the Germans were discussing now. This turn-away from British sources coincided with the end of the Enlightenment in Germany. NOTES 1 This chapter should be compared with the fuller treatment of the Enlightenment given by Lewis White Beck in [12.17]. 2 Hazard [12.27], suggests such an early beginning. See also [12.28], xvi. Beck, [12.16], 243, suggests ‘1687–1688, the publication of Newton’s Principia and the Glorious Revolution’ as a convenient date for its beginning and ‘1790–1793, the publication of Kant’s last Critique and the Reign of Terror’ as the date for its end. I shall follow Beck’s suggestion. 3 This is suggested by Cassirer in [12.19]. 4 See also [12.21]. 5 I agree with Beck that both Thomasius and Wolff are important for the German Enlightenment. However, I am not sure that it is quite correct to refer to the two as the ‘two founders of the German Enlightenment’, and that besides the rationalistic form of the Enlightenment of Wolff, there was also a Pietistic version of it. (See [12.16], 243ff.) I am dubious as to whether Thomasius and his followers really should be viewed as belonging to the ‘Enlightenment’ per se. In many ways they are better characterized as belonging to the enemies of the Enlightenment. It is not insignificant that Wolff gave this address when he had to leave Halle because of pressure from the Thomasians. 6 The most important members of this school are Christian Thomasius, Johann Franciscus Budde (1667–1729), Joachim Lange (1670–1744), Andreas Rüdiger (1673–1731), and very remotely A.F.Hoffmann (1703–41) and Christian August Crusius (1715–75). Johann Jakob Brucker (1696–1770) also deserves to be mentioned. His influential Historia critica philosophiae is said to have been the source of Diderot’s articles on the history of philosophy in the Encyclopédie. See [12.26], 1:346–8. 7 For details (and a more positive account) see [12.45], 33–72. 8 The names of the Wolffians are legion. They are too numerous to mention, since they held positions at almost every institution of higher learning in Germany. Some of the most important are Ludwig Wilhelm Thümmig (1697–1728), Bernhard Bilfinger (1693–1750), Friedrich Christian Baumeister (1709–85), Gottsched (1700–66), Georg Friedrich Meier (1718–77), and especially Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–62). 9 Wolff clearly also knew of Berkeley and Collier, and he found it necessary to offer a refutation of idealism that is meant to refute them along Leibnizian lines. It is not clear how well he knew Berkeley. 10 Nationalist historians of philosophy have attempted to show that the Germans never took British philosophy seriously, and that the entire eighteenth century can be explained by German sources alone. Dessoir, for example, tried to show in [12.22], 53, that ‘the basic direction of this development [of German thought in the eighteenth century] can be understood even without referring to England’ by relating Kant to the later Thomasians and especially Crusius. And Max Wundt argued that Kant’s critical problem arose ‘from a connection of the subjective and psychological approach of Thomasius with the objective and ontological principles of Wolff, claiming that Kant’s ‘transcendental logic must be derived from this tension within German philosophy and not from foreign influences’ ([12.43], 250 and 254). 11 The following can trace only the rough outline of the German-British relation. It would take several monographs to do it justice. Above all, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Lord Kames, Hume, and Reid and Ferguson were found to be extremely important by the Germans. For Shaftesbury, see [12.41]. For Henry Home, Lord of Kames, see [12.42], [12.32] and [12.65]. For a general account of the state of discussion concerning Home’s influence in Germany see [12.37]. On Ferguson not very much work has been done. But see [12.24]. See also Pascal [12.65]. For Reid see [12.30] or [12.31] and for Hume see [12.29]. 12 Mendelssohn, Briefe, die neueste Literatur betreffend 1(1 March 1759): 129–34. 13 See [12.51]. See also [12.49]. 14 See, for instance, [12.8]. See also [12.9]. Both are discussed in [12.53], 70ff-Merian’s interest in Hume did not decline. Thus on 16 December 1763 Mr. Merian read ‘une Piece traduite de Hume “Sur l’Eloquence”’ ([12.52], 282). For the 1790s see [12.10]. 15 Thus the translator of [12.15] with the first Enquiry as volume I, was the perpetual secretary of the Berlin Academy, J.B.Merian. The writer of the Preface was another prominent member of this institution namely J.H.S. Formey, and the entire enterprise is said to go back to a suggestion by Maupertuis, the president of the Berlin Academy. Johann Georg Sulzer, a prominent Wolffian in the Academy thought that Hume was important for precisely the same reasons that Maupertuis, Merian and Formey believed him to be important. He also believed that Hume’s scepticism constituted a most significant objection to Leibnizian philosophy, and it was for that reason he thought that the refutation of Hume was most important. Thus he became the editor of the German translation of the first Enquiry, and took the occasion to provide this dangerous work with an introduction and a running commentary, designed to refute Hume’s theories. 16 See [12.4], 4:503f., see also [12.4], 5: i-x, and [12.6], 1:289. 17 [12.14], Vorrede. That Sulzer is not the translator is clear from the following: ‘Es haben mich zwei Gründe zu der Bekanntmachung dieser Übersetzung bewogen, die ich durch einen blossen Zufall in die Hände bekommen habe’. 18 Sulzer obviously did not think that the criticisms put forward by the Thomasians were serious objections to Wolff. 19 Kant later in the Prolegomena seems to allude to just this passage when he says that he was awakened by Hume from his Dogmatic slumber’, and that this gave his enquiries a ‘new direction’. See also [12.72] and [12.74]. 20 [12.2], 524f. Since Mendelssohn himself was the author of the Letters on Sensation, he explicitly identifies himself as a Humean in so far as writing is concerned. He goes on to wonder whether Shaftesbury and Hume followed ‘a single line of inferences’, but he declines to answer the question because this exegetical question can only be answered by a closer study of the actual texts. Shaftesbury was also important. The Philosophische Gespräche, for instance, are patterned after a dialogue of Shaftesbury (see [12.53], if. and [12.54], 37ff). His ‘Briefe über die Empfindungen’ are even more indebted to Shaftesbury’s style ([12.53], 86– 90). Mendelssohn also began a translation of Shaftesbury’s essay on the sensus communis because he liked that work so much. What he seems to have appreciated the most was Shaftesbury’s suggestion that ridicule could serve as a test of truth ([12.54], 109–12). Hume’s Enquiries also played a large (though mainly negative) role in Mendelssohn’s thought. In fact, his essay ‘Über die Wahrscheinlichkeit’ is, at least in part, an attempt to answer Hume’s doubts about experiential judgements and their basis in analogy and induction (see [12.16], 321n. and [12.53], 233). 21 Actually, he differentiates six methods. ‘The first is the method of education or the systematic method, the second, the method of invention or the Socratic method, the third the historical, the fourth the method of refutation, the fifth the method of commentary, and the sixth that of observation.’ As the best example of the systematic method he mentioned Descartes. It is the method of those who already know what they want, and who want to get to their goal as efficiently as possible. The second method was for him that of the inventors of ideas. He mentioned Franklin and Plato as examples. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth methods are really only subgroups of the second. The third is really the methods of genetic explanation. It is either that of an individual of a species and either true or fictional. The method of refutation might be thought to be the one he assigns to Hume, but he doesn’t. It is for him really a German method. Leibniz and Kant are characterized by it. As he puts it: Leibniz, whose name honours that of Germany found his way to most of his truths by refuting or correcting the concepts of Locke and Descartes. And even that philosophy by which our age will distinguish itself for posterity and which begins to communicate its form, though not always its spirit to German writings in all different kinds really is the fruit which developed from the germ of an examination and refutation of the skeptical claims of Hume and the dogmatic assertions of Leibniz. 22 The most important philosophers in this group are Dietrich Tiedemann (1748–1803), Christian Lossius (1743–1813), and Ernst Platner (1744–1818). Their theories are in many BIBLIOGRAPHY (This should not be viewed as a complete bibliography of the subject, but only as a supplemented bibliography of ‘works cited’. For more comprehensive bibliographies see especially [12.17], [12.29], [12.30], [12.35], [12.36], and [12.40].) Primary Sources ways not much more than the stricter application of the principles of Feder and Meiners. In fact, some of them, like Tiedemann, for instance, actually studied in Göttingen. Others, like Platner, Irwing and Lossius, were more independent. But in general, it may be said that while the Göttingers were content with a careful consideration of various theories and often suspended final judgement, the sensationalists had a strong bias towards physiological explanations. They were convinced that sensation and its basis in human physiology was the key for understanding human nature and thus for putting philosophy on a scientific basis. They all rejected Wolffian rationalism as being fundamentally mistaken and leading to a form of idealism. But they were by no means radical materialists. For they denied neither the existence and immortality of the soul nor the existence of God. Though they tended even further towards empiricism and sensationism than either the Berliners or the Göttingers, their general aim may still be described as the attempt to achieve a synthesis of British and German thought. And no matter how far they go in the direction of empiricism, they still remain deeply influenced by Wolffianism. 23 Mendelssohn is sometimes grouped together with other thinkers as belonging to the ‘Berlin Enlightenment’. This group includes such names as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Mendelssohn. But there are also such lesser known figures as Sulzer (1720–79), Johann August Eberhard (1739–1809), Johann Heinrich Lambert (1728–77), Thomas Abbt (1738– 66), Freidrich Gabriel Resewitz (1728–1806), and a number of even more minor thinkers. Because they all remained to a significant degree Wolffians they have also been called ‘neo- Wolffians’ by some historians. 24 Bibliotbek der schönen Wissenschaften und der freyen Künste II, 2 (1759), I quote from the 2nd edn of 1762, pp. 290f. 25 This is the title of a book by Eberhard (Berlin, 1776). The book was a response to a question by the Prussian Academy, asking for a more precise theory of thinking and sensation. Eberhard reports that the question specifically demanded that ‘(i) one precisely develop the original conditions of this twofold power of the soul as well as its general laws; thoroughly investigate how these two powers of the soul are dependent on each other, and how they influence each other, and (iii) indicate the principles according to which we can judge how far the intellectual ability (genius) and the moral character of man depends upon the degree of the force and liveliness as well as on the increase of those two mental faculties’, (p. 14f). 26 [12.3], 2:183. 27 [12.3], 2:184. 28 Compare [12.17]. 29 [12.7], 4 (1791): 155–69. Feder’s only reference to the work reads: ‘The many merits of this work have without doubt already been decided for most readers. Therefore I do not think it necessary to say anything about it’. (i) Complete and Selected Works 12.1 Garve, Christian Gesammelte Werke, ed. K.Wölfel, Hildesheim, Olms, 1985–. 12.2 Mendelssohn, Moses Gesammelte Schriften, 7 vols, ed. G.B.Mendelssohn, Leipzig, 1843–5. 12.3——Gesammelte Schriften. Jubiläumsausgabe, 20 vols, ed. I.Illbogen, J. Guttmann, E.Mittwoch. Continued by Alexander Altmann et al., Berlin, 1929–. (Now Stuttgart, Frommann and Holzboog.) (ii) Separate Works and Articles 12.4 Buhle, Johann Gottlieb Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, 6 vols, Göttingen, 1800–5. 12.5 Crusius, Weg zur Gewissheit und Zuverlässigkeit der menschlichen Erkenntnis, Leipzig, 1747. 12.6 Eberstein, Wilhelm L.G.von Versuch einer Geschichte der Logik und Metaphysik bey den Deutschen von Leibniz bis auf die gegenwärtige Zeit, 2 vols, Halle, 1794–9. 12.7 Feder, J.G.H. (ed.) Philosophische Bibliothek, 4 vols, Göttingen, 1788–93. 12.8 Merian, J.B. ‘Sur le principe des indiscernables’, Histoire de l’Academie Royale des Sciences et Belles Lettres, Année 1754, Berlin, 1756. 12.9——‘Réflexions Philosophiques sur la Ressemblance’, Histoire de l’Academie Royale des Sciences et Belles Lettres, Année 1751, Berlin, 1752. 12.10——‘Sur le phénomisme de David Hume’, Histoire de l’Academie Royale des Sciences et Belles Lettres, Année 1793, Berlin, 1793. 12.11 Tetens, Johann Nicolaus Philosophische Versuche iiber die menschliche Natur und ihre Entwicklung, 2 vols, 1777 (repr. Hildesheim, Olms, 1979). 12.12——Über die allgemeine speculativische Philosophie 1775. Translations 12.13 Wolff, Christian Preliminary Discourse on Philosophy in General, trans.R. J.Blackwell, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1963. 12.14 Hume, David Philosophische Versuche über die Menschliche Erkenntnis, Hamburg and Leipzig, 1755. 12.15——Oeuvres philosophiques, ed. J.B.Merian, 5 vols, Preface). H.S.Formey, 1758– 60. General Surveys and Background Materials 12.16 Beck, L.W.Early German Philosophy, Kant and His Predecessors, Cambridge, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969. 12.17——‘From Leibniz to Kant’, The Routledge History of Philosophy, vol. VI, The Age of German Idealism, ed. Robert Soloman and Kathleen Higgins, London, 1993, ch. 1. 12.18 Brandt, R. and Klemme, H. David Hume in Deutschland. Literatur zur Hume- Rezeption in Marburger Bibliotheken, Marburg. Universitätsbibliothek, 1989. 12.19 Cassirer, E. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1951. 12.20——Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit, vol. 2, Berlin, 1907 (repr. Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974). 12.21 Crocker, L.G. ‘Introduction’ in The Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment, Oxford, Blackwell, 1991, pp. 1–10. 12.22 Dessoir, M. Geschichte der neueren Psychologie, 2nd edn, 1902. 12.23 Erämtsae, E.Adam Smith als Mittler englisch-deutscher Spracheinflüsse, Helsinki, 1961. 12.24 Flajole, E.S. ‘Lessing’s Retrieval of Lost Truths’, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 74 (1959): 52–66. 12.25 Ganz, P.F. Der Einfluss des Englischen auf den deutschen Wortschatz, Berlin, 1957– 12.26 Gay, P. The Enlightenment, 2 vols, London, 1967, 1971. 12.27 Hazard, P. The European Mind, 1680–1715, trans. J.Lewis May, Cleveland/ New York, The World Publishing Co., 1963. 12.28——European Thought in the Eighteenth Century, From Montesquieu to Lessing, trans. J.Lewis May, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1954. 12.29 Kreimendahl, L. and Gawlick, G. Hume in der deutschen Aufklärung, Stuttgart, Frommann and Holzboog, 1987. 12.30 Kuehn, M. Scottish Common Sense in Germany, 1768–1800: A Contribution to the History of Critical Philosophy, with a Preface by Lewis White Beck, Kingston and Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987. 12.31——‘The Early Reception of Reid, Oswald and Beattie in Germany’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 21 (1983); 479–95. 21.32 Neumann, W. Die Bedeutung Homes für die Aesthetik und sein Einfluss auf die deutschen Aesthetiker, Halle, 1894. 12.33 Oppel, H. Englisch-deutsche Literaturbeziehungen, 2 vols, Berlin, 1971. 12.34 Popkin, R.H. ‘New Views on the Role of Skepticism in the Enlightenment’, Modern Language Quarterly 53 (1992): 279–97. 12.35 Price, L.M. The Reception of English Literature in Germany, Berkeley, 1932. 12.36 Price, M.B. and Price, L.M. ‘The Publication of English Humanioria in Germany in the Eighteenth Century’, University of California Publications in Modern Philology xliv (1955). 12.37 Randall, H.W. The Critical Theory of Lord Kames, Northampton, Mass., Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, 1964. 12.38 Stabler, E. Berkeley’s Atiffassung and Wirkung in der deutschen Philosophie bis Hegel, Tübingen, 1935. 12.39 Walz, J.A. ‘English Influences on the German Vocabulary of the 18th Century’, Monatshefte (Madison) 35 (1943): 156–64. 12.40 Waszek, N. The Scottish Enlightenment and Hegel’s Account of Civil Society, Dordrecht/Boston/London, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988. 12.41 Weiser, C.F. Shaftesbury und das deutsche Geistesleben, Leipzig und Berlin, 1916. 12.42 Wohlgemuth, J. Henry Homes Ästhetik und ihr Einfluss auf deutsche Ästhetiker, Berlin, 1893. 12.43 Wundt, M. Die Schulphilosophie im Zeitalter der Aufklärung, Tübingen, 1945. (repr. Hildesheim, Olms, 1984). 12.44 Yolton, J.W. The Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment, Oxford, Blackwell, 1991. 12.45 Zart, G. Einfluss der englischen Philosophie seit Bacon auf die deutsche Philosophie des 18. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1881. Wolff and the Thomasians 12.46 Becker, G. ‘Pietism’s Confrontation with Enlightenment Rationalism: An Examination of Ascetic Protestantism and Science,’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30 (1991): 139–58. 12.47 Biller, G. ‘Die Wolff-Diskussion von 1800 bis 1985. Eine Bibliographie’, in Christian Wolff, 1679–1754, 2nd edn, Werner Schneiders, Hamburg, Meiners, 1986, pp. 321–46. The Berlin Academy 12.48 Buschmann, C. ‘Philosophische Preisfragen und Preisschriften der Berliner Akademie, 1747–1768. Ein Beitrag zur Leibniz-Rezeption im 18. Jahrhundert’, Deutsche Zeitschrift far Philosophy 35 (1987): 779–89. 12.49 Calinger, R.S. ‘The Newtonian-Wolffi an Controversy (1740–1759)’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 30 (1969): 319–30. 12.50 Gossman, L. ‘Berkeley, Hume and Maupertuis’, French Studies 14 (1960): 304– 24. 12.51 Harnack, A. von Geschichte der Königlich-Preuβischen Akademie de Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 4 vols, Berlin, 1900. 12.52 Winter, E. Die Registres der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1746–1766; Dokumente für das Wirken Leonhard Enters in Berlin, Berlin. Akademie Verlag, 1957. Mendelssohn 12.53 Altmann, A. Moses Mendelssohns Frühschriften zur Mataphysik, Tübingen, J.C.B.Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1969. 12.54——Moses Mendelssohn; A Biographical Study, Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1973. 12.55 Pinkuss, F. Moses Mendelssohns Verhältnis zur englischen Philosophie, Würzburg, 1929. 12.56——‘Moses Mendelssohns Verhältnis zur englischen Philosophie’, Philosophisches Jahrbuch der Görres Gesellschaft 42 (1929): 449–90. Feder and Meiners 12.57 Brandt, R. ‘Feder and Kant’, Kant-Studien 80 (1989): 249–64. 12.58 Röttgers, K. ‘J.G.H.Feder—Beitrag zu einer Verhinderungsgeschichte eines deutschen Empirismus’, Kant-Studien 75 (1984): 420–41. 12.59 Zimmerli, W.C. ‘“Schwere Rüstung” des Dogmatismus und “anwendbare Eklektik”. J.G.H.Feder und die Göttinger Philosophie im ausgehenden 18. 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Englische Wege zu Kant, Leipzig, 1931. 12.83 Werkmeister, W.H. ‘Notes to an Interpretation of Berkeley’, in New Studies in Berkeley’s Philosophy, ed. W.E.Steinkraus, New York, Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1966. 12.84 Winter, A. ‘Selbstdenken, Antinomien, Schranken. Zum Einfluss des späten Locke auf die Philosophie Kants’, Eklektik, Selbstdenken, Mündigkeit, ed. N.Hinske [vol. 1 of Aufklärung]. 12.85 Wolff, R.P. ‘Kant’s Debt to Hume via Beattie’, Journal of the History of Ideas 21 (1960):117–23.

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