Gesammelte Werke (German Edition)

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According to Wolff, artificial logic provides the rules for reaching reliable conclusions in scientific disciplines. Something is distinct, say a term, notion or explanation, if the characters or marks of that thing can be distinguished, or picked out, when representing that thing to one's self or to another.

On the one hand, it implies that the logical principles needed for formulating sound judgments are already built into the very structure of the human understanding. Ultimately, Wolff believes that the Principle of Contradiction, the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and the Principle of Conceptual Implication or Principle of the Syllogism are all innate to the human mind. And on the other hand, the ability to make explicit an artificial logic allows for a reliable method to be employed in all areas of human inquiry. Ideally, according to Wolff, all the human sciences can be as demonstratively certain as mathematics and can be rationally ordered into a systematic and unified whole.

Like other rationalist philosophers of his day, Wolff is committed to the idea that human knowledge is in a continuous state of progress and that everything, at least in principle, can be eventually explained. By science here I mean the habit of demonstrating propositions, i. Unlike the critical Kant, Wolff does not distinguish between the understanding and reason.

Put slightly differently, science is a disposition or ability of the human mind to conceive the facts of reality in an ordered and structured way. Individual sciences, therefore, such as philosophy, cosmology, or psychology, are simply the various sets, or subsets of demonstrable facts. Wolff's system of Human Science is also structured according to a notion of rational order. And just as there are certain facts that are more fundamental and serve as a basis for discovering other facts, there are, Wolff believes, certain sciences whose subject matter is more basic and which ultimately stand as the foundation for other sciences that have a more specialized focus.

It appears, at first glance, that Wolff's insistence on the rational order of science simply follows from a dogmatic metaphysical claim about the structure of reality. A reasonable objection to Wolff might be that his conception of the rational order of human science is based on an unwarranted assumption about the harmonious order he believes to be present in all facets of reality.

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This harmonious order the objection continues illicitly presupposes that a Divine Architect has created everything according to a plan and thus the rational order of human science is simply an upshot of God's creative power. There are certainly passages of Wolff's works that lend support to such an objection. An important part of the reason why Wolff believes that there is a rational order to human science is because of the progress he believes he has witnessed in such sciences as astronomy and optics, which he believes have utilized such an order when establishing various scientific truths.

Now because of its subject matter, which includes the realm of both possible and actual things, philosophy is considered by Wolff to be the broadest and most fundamental science. In the classification of sciences given in his Preliminary Discourse , Wolff divides philosophy into two branches: practical philosophy, on one hand, and theoretical philosophy, on the other.

Whereas Wolff believes that all of practical philosophy is subordinated to metaphysics i. Wolff, in stark contrast, maintains that discoveries and conclusions made in practical philosophy are necessarily based upon prior conclusions drawn from ontology or metaphysics. This notion is a foundational concept of Wolff's ontology and is ultimately derived by him from the Principle of Contradiction [ POC hereafter].

In the Ontologia , he writes:. We experience… [ POC ]… in the nature of our mind, in that, while it judges something to be, it is impossible at the same time to judge the same not to be…. We recognize the necessity of our own existence by recognizing the psychological impossibility of denying it. But if it were possible both to affirm and also deny our own existence simultaneously , then the experience of certitude that accompanies self-discovery would thereby be undermined. By attending to our mind, Wolff believes that we reveal both the logical and psychological meaning of impossibility.

What is possible as a concept is simply reducible to what is possible as a thing. Very briefly, Wolff's understanding of being or what-is involves regarding being in its most general sense. More accurately, existing objects figure into Wolff's metaphysical account only insofar as existing objects are a subset of possible things. To briefly recap, it is from POC , an innate principle of the human mind, that Wolff believes we first learn the meaning of possible and impossible.

Whereas something is that which is intrinsically possible and corresponds to a possible object, nothing is an empty term and cannot strictly speaking be thought of as something because there is no possible object to which it corresponds.

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In this discussion, Wolff appears to give two separate accounts of the theoretical origin of the principle. Although prima facie , it is unclear why Wolff attempts to advance both views, it is perhaps worth pointing out the difference between 1 being able to be demonstrate the truth of a proposition and 2 knowing the truth of a proposition because it is self-evident.

While demonstrating the truth of a proposition yields knowledge of it, to know a proposition because it is self-evident may or may not mean the proposition is also demonstrable. There is no inconsistency, for example, in holding that one and same proposition is both self-evident and demonstrable. A proposition could be known immediately one way and yet, in another way, follow as a conclusion of a sound deductive argument. The first is that PSR is never contradicted by experience; the second is that we can recognize singular instances, or examples, of it in our experience of the world, and the third is that we have an inquisitive attitude toward our surroundings and future life.

As we have seen, Wolff believes that we learn the truth of this principle by attending to the psychological experience of not being able to both affirm and deny our own existence in introspection. The remaining four self-evident principles, however, are demonstrable in the strict sense and each, he believes, can be derived from POC. Nothing exists without a sufficient reason for why it exists rather than does not exist. That is, if something is posited to exist, something must also be posited that explains why the first thing exists rather than does not exist.

Let us assume that some A exists without a sufficient reason for why it exists rather than does not exist. The crucial premise italicized above purports to reveal a contradiction that follows from the assumption that something exists without a sufficient reason. In his early publication, New Elucidation of the First Principles of Metaphysical Cognition [], Kant provides a critique of this argument. There are two important points to consider about Wolff's argument for PSR and Kant's subsequent analysis of it.

First, whether or not Wolff succeeds in his task of proving PSR does not significantly detract from his basic conviction that all axiomatic principles of the human mind are derivable from POC. Strictly speaking, Wolff believes that POC is the only indemonstrable self-evident truth and that all true propositions can in theory be demonstrated to be true by means of a deductively sound argument.

The latter part of this claim is certainly provocative. In this respect, Kant's criticism of Wolff's proof, which certainly appears to be correct, cannot by itself serve to undermine Wolff's claim for the demonstrability of PSR from POC. The second important point to keep in mind is that although the early Kant is critical of Wolff's demonstration of PSR , he does not challenge the principle's status as an innate principle.

According to Wolff, every being is endowed with an essential nature. Possible things have natures insofar as they as are comprised of a number of non-contradictory determinations or predicates. Different sets of determinations, and the relationships among these determinations, serve as the principle of individualization within the realm of possible things. Hence, to provide the reason for a possible thing is simply to enumerate the determinations that make that thing the kind of possible thing that it is. If, on the other hand, the something to which a reason is provided is an actual i.

A being, in the most general sense, is comprised of three different types of determinations: essentials, attributes, and modes. Essential determinations define the essential nature of a being and a being's attributes follow from, or are determined by, its essentials. Thus to say a nominal being is indeterminate is to say that there are modes of it that may or may not be present.


In the weakest sense, since existence is a mode, and nominal beings do not exist as such but are able to come into existence under certain conditions, all nominal beings are indeterminate. Yet as a Principle of Becoming, PSR serves to furnish the causes, or grounds, for why a real individual comes into actuality. To be sure, PSR is central to Wolff's entire exposition of metaphysics and figures prominently in all levels of his philosophical analysis. Even more so than his rationalist predecessors, such as Descartes and Leibniz, Wolff elevates the role of human reason as the premier instrument of human knowledge.

In retrospect, what is remarkable about Wolff's rationalism is that Wolff actively sought to defend his conception of reason against the rising tide of empiricism which at the time aimed to limit the role of reason as an instrument of human knowledge. Unlike Descartes and to some extent Leibniz, Wolff advanced a rationalist philosophy within an intellectual climate that was downright hostile to the authority of reason. Yet instead of posing a counterattack, highlighting the deceiving nature of empirical knowledge and empiricism generally, Wolff sought to accommodate the claims of his adversaries.

Recall that human scientific knowledge, for Wolff, is divided into three separate branches: mathematical, philosophical, and historical or empirical knowledge. Mathematical knowledge differs from both historical and philosophical knowledge. For history rests in the bare knowledge of the fact. In philosophy we discover the reason of things which are or can be. And in mathematics we determine the quantities which are present in things.

It is one thing to know the fact, another thing to perceive the reason of fact, and still another to determine the quantity of things. Mathematical knowledge, in turn, involves knowing something of the world by virtue of the quantity that is present in a given object of knowledge. For Wolff, an object of knowledge may either be a thing in-and-of-itself i. Wolff divides the human mind into two basic faculties: the faculty of sense and imagination, on the one hand, and the faculty of understanding and reason, on the other.

Because historical knowledge is based in experience, Wolff believes that it is through the faculty of sense that humans gain historical knowledge. And because philosophical knowledge is knowledge of the reasons of things, he believes that it is through the intellectual faculty of reason that humans gain philosophical knowledge. Mathematical knowledge, in contrast to both historical and philosophical knowledge, may either be gained through the senses or through reason.

According to Wolff, a true philosophical definition of a thing yields the sufficient reason for all its essential predicates and it is arrived at through the faculty of reason. Because of that which one knows only by experience, one knows only that it is but does not see how it is connected with other truths, in knowledge from experience there is no reason. Hence experience is opposed to reason…We have, then, two ways by which we can reach the knowledge of truth: experience and reason.

The former is based on the senses, and the latter on the understanding. The faculty of distinctly representing to ourselves what is possible is understanding. In this, the understanding differs from the senses and imagination; for the latter can at most give clear, not distinct ideas; but when understanding is added, the same ideas become distinct….

For Wolff, giving a definition for an object in the natural world begins first with experience and recognizing the empirical fact of its existence. However, since knowledge of such an object is admittedly confused or incomplete, as it is an object of sense, the faculty of reason is needed in order to yield distinct knowledge of it.

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According to Wolff, empirical or historical fact can only tell you, at best, that something exists, but not anything about the essential nature and properties of a thing. In order to know something substantive about an object of experience, such as its essential properties, the faculty of reason, exercised through the mind's philosophical way of knowing, must be employed. In a strict sense, therefore, knowledge gained through the senses is limited to two basic kinds claims: claims of real existence, on one hand, and claims about the quantity present in things, on the other.

Two things follow from Wolff's view of sensual knowledge that are perhaps worth noting. The first is that historical knowledge of bodies or physical matter is sufficient to give knowledge of their real existence. Since we have experience of our own body and other bodies local to it, we are guaranteed of the real existence of such things. The second consequence to follow from Wolff's view of sensual knowledge is that mathematical knowledge of the material world is sufficient to establish that the world is a plurality of co-existing bodies and that each individual body is a composite of parts.

Philosophy is a science of possible and actual reality. According to Wolff's own taxonomy, theoretical philosophy is divided into three separate branches: ontology or metaphysics proper , special metaphysics, and physics. Although there is an important sense for Wolff in which ontology is relevant for, and even necessarily grounds cosmology and the other special sciences, cosmology itself stands in a grounding relationship to physics that is, yet again, a more narrow and specialized discipline.

In fact, within Wolff's system there is complete uniformity from the top-down so to speak , so that even principles of ontology are relevant for the discipline of physics. As might be expected, one such principle that enjoys such universal application is PSR. Recall that for Wolff a being in the most general sense is any possible thing. Possible things have essential natures insofar as they are composed of a number of noncontradictory determinations or predicates. The essence of any given possible thing is its Principle of Being, or principle of individualization. Whereas the essence of a simple being is defined by its essentials, or essential properties, the essence of a composite being is defined by the manner in which its parts are combined together.

A being is called composed which is made up of many parts distinct from each other. The parts of which a composite being is composed constitute a composite through the link which makes the many parts taken together a unit of a definite kind. In one respect, simple beings and composite beings are not simply two different species of beings. Strictly speaking, the only substantial things to exist at any level of reality are simple substances. In this light, Wolff's notion of substance is perhaps best regarded as a notion of essence, where each simple substance is a different set of compatible and prime essential properties.

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In Wolff's system, the accidents of substance are the properties that exist by virtue of a thing's essentials. And according to Wolff, there are three basic classes of accidents: proper attributes, common attributes, and modes. Proper and common attributes of substance follow from and are determined by a thing's essentials. Proper attributes are the properties of a thing that are determined by all the essentials taken together, and common attributes are the properties of a thing that are determined by only some, but not all, its essentials.

Attributes as such are perhaps best understood as necessary accidents, since they are determined by and necessarily follow from a thing's essentials. Modes, in contrast, are only contingent accidents of substance. They are the properties of a thing that may or may not be present, and if actually present, they are causally the result of some contingent state of affairs. More precisely, the possible presence of any given mode follows from a substance's essentials, but the actual presence of a given mode is the result of something outside the substance's essence that is causally responsible for its presence in a being.

Cosmology, as a special metaphysical science, is the study of the world-whole in general. The world, as such, is an extended composite of extended composites. The world is a collection of mutable things that are next to each other, follow upon one another, and are entirely connected with each other. In precise terms, Wolff believes the world is an extended whole that is composed of a finite number of interacting physical bodies.

To better understand the types of cosmological claims that Wolff defends about the universe, it is perhaps helpful to consider first his conception of physical bodies. Ultimately, the conclusions that Wolff draws at the macroscopic level about the world-whole are simply extrapolated from his analysis of physical bodies.

After considering Wolff's analysis of body, this section will conclude with an overview of Wolff's view of space, time and material extension. Wolff's analysis of physical bodies is given from two different perspectives. Identifying these three different levels is helpful in understanding at what respective point the mechanical and metaphysical accounts each terminate or bottom out. Each atomic element is defined, or individuated, by its own distinctive internal state and each is considered to be indivisible in-itself.

Wolff's atomic elements, in contrast, do interact and have real dynamic influence over each other. The second level of description that Wolff employs when giving his account of bodies is the microphysical level. The occupants of this level are the primitive parts of bodies which Wolff calls corpuscles or material atoms. That is called an atom of nature which is indivisible in itself because it is devoid of parts into which it can be divided. That is called a material atom which in itself is able to be divided, but for actually dividing it, existing causes in rerum natura are not adequate.

Material atoms or corpuscles are indivisible in the sense that there is nothing within the world that is capable of reducing them into further parts. Corpuscles represent the lowest level of explanation that is possible within a mechanical account of bodies. Similar to the atomic level, the microphysical level lies beyond the boundaries of human perception.

It is unclear, for example, whether all corpuscles retain homogeneity with respect to their magnitude and shape. Subscribe today! By Scott Horton. Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten! Eine glatte Stirn Deutet auf Unempfindlichkeit hin. Der Lachende Hat die furchtbare Nachricht Nur noch nicht empfangen. Es ist wahr: Ich verdiene nur noch meinen Unterhalt Aber glaubt mir: das ist nur ein Zufall. Nichts Von dem, was ich tue, berechtigt mich dazu, mich sattzuessen. Und doch esse und trinke ich.

Alles das kann ich nicht: Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten! So verging meine Zeit Die auf Erden mir gegeben war. Ich vermochte nur wenig. I Truly, I live in dark times! An artless word is foolish.

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A smooth forehead Points to insensitivity. He who laughs Has not yet received The terrible news. What times are these, in which A conversation about trees is almost a crime For in doing so we maintain our silence about so much wrongdoing! And he who walks quietly across the street, Passes out of the reach of his friends Who are in danger?

It is true: I work for a living But, believe me, that is a coincidence. Nothing That I do gives me the right to eat my fill. By chance I have been spared. If my luck does not hold, I am lost.

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They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad to be among the haves! But how can I eat and drink When I take what I eat from the starving And those who thirst do not have my glass of water? And yet I eat and drink. I would happily be wise. The old books teach us what wisdom is: To retreat from the strife of the world To live out the brief time that is your lot Without fear To make your way without violence To repay evil with good — The wise do not seek to satisfy their desires, But to forget them.

But I cannot heed this: Truly I live in dark times! I came into the cities in a time of disorder As hunger reigned. I came among men in a time of turmoil And I rose up with them. And so passed The time given to me on earth. I ate my food between slaughters. I laid down to sleep among murderers.

I tended to love with abandon. I looked upon nature with impatience. In my time streets led into a swamp. My language betrayed me to the slaughterer. There was little I could do. But without me The rulers sat more securely, or so I hoped. The powers were so limited. The goal Lay far in the distance It could clearly be seen although even I Could hardly hope to reach it.

You, who shall resurface following the flood In which we have perished, Contemplate — When you speak of our weaknesses, Also the dark time That you have escaped. Parallel Texts. Hall of Fame. Early Modern. Web Links. The short story Lenz , based on the life of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz , is a humane and insightful study of mental illness.

His sceptical, contradictory aesthetic contrasts with the positivism and idealism which dominated 19th century German culture, but it clearly anticipates 20th century literary modernism. Schiller and Kant regard human beings as essentially free, rational and beings, capable of sublime apprehensions.

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In his short story Lenz we read:. Ich mag dem Gedanken nicht weiter nachgehen. The individual is only foam on the wave, greatness is mere chance, the mastery of genius a puppet-play, a ridiculous struggle against an iron law; to recognise this law is the highest insight; to master this law is impossible. What is it that lies, murders and steals in us?