tiistai 30. lokakuuta 2012

Ludwig Philipp Thümmig: Institutions of Wolffian philosophy provided for the use of academics, part 2 (1727?)

I noticed that in my investigation of the theoretical part of Thümmig's work I left out a crucial element, namely, the very structure of the science in question. A quick schematic is here:

Few words of explanation. Logic forms its own module in Wolffian philosophy. On the one hand, logic precedes all other sciences, because it introduces the very method used in all sciences. On the other hand, logic is clearly based on psychological considerations: to know how human cognition should work, we must know something about human cognitive powers. Because psychology is partly an empirical science, Wolffian logic, as described by Thümmig, must also have an empirical element.

The second module in the picture consists of metaphysics. Here the foundation of the whole lies in ontology, of which it is difficult to say whether it is empiricist of rational – remember the controversy about the principle of sufficient reason. On ontology are based both cosmology and psychology, first of which deals with the sum of all complex objects and second of which deals with one type of simple object or soul. Both cosmology and psychology also have empirical foundations. In addition to the ontological theory of complex objects, cosmology contains also the highest generalizations from physical laws, clearly based on observations. Even more clearly, psychology contains an empirical part, which the so-called rational psychology then tries to explain. Furthermore, rational psychology is also partially based on cosmology, because psychology must explain the supposed interaction of the soul with its body, a complex object. Finally, natural theology is based on both cosmology and psychology – for instance, the existence of God is deduced cosmologically from the existence of the world and the soul.

The final module of theoretical philosophy is then structured similarly as psychology. First, there is the so-called experimental philosophy, which contains results of the physical observations and experiments. The physics proper offers then a rational explanation for the content of the experimental philosophy , just as rational psychology was supposed to explanation of the results of empirical philosophy. Physics is also grounded on cosmology, which defines the most general laws governing the physical things.

If we finally move to Thümmig's vision of the practical philosophy of Wolffian school, we may firstly note how the practical philosophy is dependent on the theoretical philosophy – logic is used to show how human being should use their intellectual capacities, ontology to define the concept of goodness, psychology to show what humans are capable of and theology to determine how humans should take God into account.

In Wolff's writings practical philosophy was detailed in two writings, the one dealing with ethics and the other with civil philosophy, Thümmig's scheme makes it much clearer that the two disciplines are actually just two parts of one discipline. Indeed, the practical philosophy forms a more definite unity with Thümmig than theoretical philosophy:

The practical philosophy has then a general part, on which both of its major divisions are based. The aim of this general part is to establish natural law as the guiding principle of all good actions – all actions must aim towards perfection. The natural law is then divided into two different sublaws, depending on whether the actions involve only a single human being or whether they involve also interpersonal relations. In the former case, the natural law determines the obligation for an individual to perfect one's intellect, volition, body and external state, while in the second case natural law commands members of a community to make other members as happy as possible and the community in general as prosperous and tranquil as possible. The former aspect of natural law is then the foundation of moral philosophy or ethics, which is then nothing but a system of rules for making oneself perfect. The latter aspect, on the other hand, is the foundation of civil philosophy or politics, which is divided into two parts. The first part or economics deals with the prosperity of simple communities or households, while the second or politics proper, which is also based on economics, deals with the prosperity of communities consisting of households, that is, republics.

Thümmig has thus made two additions to the Wolffian practical philosophy: firstly, he has introduced the idea of a general practical philosophy, and secondly, he has divided the ethics and the politics into two parts, first of which investigates the primary goal of these disciplines and the second of which determined the practical measures for obtaining those goals. When it comes to details, Thümmig fails to make any substantial additions to what Wolff himself had said in his works on ethics and politics. This leads us naturally to the question of the role Thümmig played in the development of German philosophy. I shall endeavor to make similar concluding remarks on every philosopher, once I get to the last text I read from them.

The texts of Thümmig considered thus far have had little of lasting interest. In addition to Institutions, he has edited one collection of Wolffian articles and authored a book on scientific curiosities and an article defending Wolff's German metaphysics. Even the Institutions, which has been clearly the main publication of Thümmig, has been mostly a mere summarized translation of Wolff's works. Of course, Institutions still was important for the Wolffian school, because it presented the doctrine of the school for the very first time in the international language of the time.

Furthermore, it is clear that Wolff and at least other Wolffians took Thümmig seriously and referred to his writings various times. Indeed, it is just to be expected that a promising young philosopher follows for a time the writings of his mentor closely, before breaking into some truly new territory. Thümmig never really had the chance to break away from the shadow of Wolff, because he died rather young in 1728.

Still, in light of Thümmig's writings it is difficult to say whether he could have really changed the tone of Wolffian philosophy. He does introduce novelties, but these novelties are not so much reformations of Wolff's doctrines, but merely additions concerning issues Wolff had not discussed – think, for instance, of Thümmig's fascination with animal psychology. In contrast with later Wolffians, like Baumgarten, Thümmig is more like a person who applies a theory to new fields of investigation, while the later Wolffians sometimes even disputed the theory and the axioms on which it was based – not to mention Kant, who replaced even the methods and aims of philosophy.

So much for Thümmig, next time we shall find out the purpose of the world.

maanantai 15. lokakuuta 2012

Ludwig Philipp Thümmig: Institutions of the Wolffian philosophy provided for the use of academics - Do animals have souls?

Thümmig's psychology or theory of soul remains familiarly Wolffian in its main characteristics. Human soul certainly exists, Thümmig says, because we are conscious of many things and being conscious presupposes something that is conscious. Furthermore, this conscious being or soul cannot be material, because material or in general complex objects could not form a continuous unity out of its experiences. Thus, souls must be simple entities defined by their unique force or striving towards perfection.

Then again, Thümmig does not wish to dminish the role of body. On the contrary, he supports Leibnizian idea of a harmony between soul and body – changes in the soul are reflected in body and vice versa, because God has set the two to work in harmony, although neither has any true effect on the other. Thümmig's consideration of the doctrine bears an obvious resemblance to Bilfinger's discussion. As both works appeared in the same year, the reason for the similarity is probably to be found in discussions between the Wolffians. Particularly noteworthy is that both locate the bodily element corresponding to soul in brain.

Thümmig notes now that human brain is similar to brains of many animals. As the human brains are in a sense the physical manifestation of human soul, Thümmig suggests that animal brain is also a manifestation of a soul. In effect, Thümmig is advocating the idea that animals are also souled and therefore aware of their environment. This is important as the first opinion on the question of animal psychology in the Wolffian school.

Animals then have soul, but what sort of capacities are their soul is supposed to have? Animals do have sense organs, just like men – eyes, ears and noses. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that they are capable of having perceptual experiences – they can, for instance, have an experience of redness, when their eyes come in contact with red light.

The question of conceptual capacities of animals is more difficult. Thümmig states that concepts as such cannot be directly manifested in the brain. He apparently thinks that even perceptions occur in brain as some sort of physical images – picture of a rose is somehow imprinted on the mind. Now, instead of concepts, words referring to concepts might well be imprinted in this manner, which would explain what corresponds to thinking in human brains.

Thümmig takes it granted that animals do not usually have any language skills – even parrots do not really talk. Thus, no words as such are imprinted in the animal brains and therefore they cannot at least have abstract thoughts without any clear perceptual content. Thümmig is thus saying that animals do have sensations, but not concepts. As we have seen, in Wolffian philosophy the difference between sensations and concepts is one of degree: sensations are at best clear, while concepts might be more or less distinct cognitions. In other words, animals can distinguish e.g. apples from pears, but they cannot define what is it in apples that differentiates them from pears.

In Wolffian philosophy, reasoning was seen as an essentially conceptual process. Thus, Thümmig couldn't admit that animals had any capacity for reasoning. This appears strange, because animals appear to make inferences. For instance, if a dog smells a piece of food coming from under two boxes and it cannot find any food from one box, it appears to know that the smell originates from the other box – in this case the dog has apparently deduced from statements of the form ”p or q” and ”not p” the third statement ”q”. Thümmig solves the dilemma by introducing the idea of a reasonlike behaviour – a non-concpetual capacity analogous to reason is operating in the dog's mind. In other words, dog has instincts that simulate the conscious use of reason.

So much for animal psychology. Next time I'll be moving to the second part of the book.

sunnuntai 7. lokakuuta 2012

Ludwig Philipp Thümmig: Institutions of the Wolffian philosophy provided for the use of academics - Fully determinate individuals

The difference of individuals and universal properties has been recognized at least since the time of Aristotle. Indeed, it is obvious that the universal genus of horse is not an individual horse, although on some reading Plato had treated the genus just as one individual among others. Despite the familiarity of the distinction, it is quite hard to say what exactly differentiates universals from individuals.

Now, Thümmig suggests the rather curious definition that individuals are fully determinate in every way, while universals are still further determinable. The idea behind the strange definition is actually rather simple. Take some general class of things, such as vertebrates. Now, if we know that an animal is a vertebrate, we know something of it – at least that it has a vertebra. Still, many other characteristics of the said animal are completely undetermined by its being a vertebrate, for instance, whether it flies or not. Universal vertebrate is thus determined through this collection of properties shared by all vertebrates. This collection does still not determine any concrete individual, because a particular vertebrate has still some characteristics not included in the collection.

Similarly, all concrete individuals must be completely determined in respect of all possible characteristics (presumably there's an infinity of such possible characteristics). In other words, we cannot have an individual thing that would neither have a certain characteristic nor not have it: the individual must be determinately one or the other. Furthermore, nothing but a completed determination of possible characteristics could individuate a particular thing. One might object that it could still be possible that an individual is identifiable through some incomplete list of characteristics – for instance, George Washington can be plucked out from the rest of the humanity by him being the first president of United States, even if we didn't knew what he was called. But the objection forgets that in Wolffian philosophy we are allowed to look at other possible worlds. Thus, there could be another possible world where the first president of United States was a man called Thomas Jefferson, and the given description would not distinguish the two possible first presidents. Note that while an individual is determinate in all aspects, we might not be able to determine all its aspects.

Some universals and no individuals are then clearly indeterminate in some respect, but Thümmig's definition suggests also that all completely determinate things are individuals, but never universals. This is a far more uncertain proposition. Suppose for instance that we would know a particular rock and all its characteristics completely. Now, if we could then copy the rock and its exact characteristics, we would have two different individuals with the exactly same characteristics. In fact, the list of these characteristics would be completely determined - this was the presupposition - but it would also define a universal class containing several individuals (the two rocks).

Thümmig's definition thus clearly presupposes the idea that no two individuals could have a matching set of characteristics. This principle of the identity of indiscernibles originates actually from Leibniz, who according to a story once challenged courtiers to look for two exactly similar leaves just to prove the principle. Indeed, the principle might well be empirically sound, but as the thought experiment shows, it shouldn't be really accepted as an incontestable axiom of pure reason – and certainly it should not be hidden within a definition. Still, Thümmig's mistake is small when compared to what Baumgarten later did with the same notions – more on this later.

Next time we shall look on animal psychology.

perjantai 5. lokakuuta 2012

Ludwig Philipp Thümmig: Institutions of the Wolffian philosophy provided for the use of academics (1723)

In the development of a theory there becomes a time, when the ambiguities of academic research become distilled in the succinct form of a text book. In the development of Wolffian philosophy this distillation occurred with Thümmig's Institutiones philosophiae Wolfianae in usus academicos adornatae. The book appeared in two parts, firs of which dealt with the theoretical part of Wolff's philosophy – it covers issues dealt in Wolff's logical, metaphysical and physical works.

Summarising an intricate philosophical work is undoubtedly an achievement in itself, but one might wonder how original it can be. Then again, Thümmig's work was not completely without its novelties. While Wolff himself had written his main works thus far in German, Thümmig wrote in Latin, making Wolffian philosophy so available for an international audience. Indeed, many of the Latin terms used for concepts of Wolffian philosophy – e.g. ontologia – are fixed for the first time in Thümmig's work.

An interesting example of a terminological novelty is the notion of infinite judgements. In Wolff's logic judgements are divided into affirmative and negative judgements (respectively, ”A is B” and ”A isn't B”). Now, Thümmig mentions also a third possibility, where the form of the judgement is affirmative, but the predicate is negative (i.e. ”A is not-B”). The notion of infinite judgement was to be important later on, because it allowed Kant to classify judgements in triplets according to their quality (more of this when we reach Critique of pure reason.)

Now, it is undoubtedly questionable whether these terminological novelties were truly Thümmig's own inventions: the notion of ontology had appeared even before Wolffians used it and I suspect that same is true with the idea of an infinite judgement. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether Thümmig was really the first Wolffian to use these terms. A year later Wolff noted in a preface to a work on teleology that Thümmig's works were essentially faithful representations of Wolff's own doctrine. This makes one suspect that Wolff himself had already used the terminology in his lectures and private correspondences and Thümmig had merely wrote down what Wolff had said.

Whomever the real innovator is, Thümmig's book does contain in addition to terminological novelties also some substantial additions to and reworkings of Wolff's original writings. I shall discuss few of them in later blog texts, but for now I shall concentrate on the question of what was the ideal of science in Wolffian school.

Ever since Leibniz the field of truths had been divided into truths based on the laws of logic and truths based on empirical facts. Following this division, Thümmig speaks of a priori and a posteriori cognitions. The terminology is interesting. At least since Kant, philosophers have been accustomed to speak of a posterior cognition, based on experience, and a priori cognition, not based on experience. Now, this hasn't been the case always. Originally, a priori referred to reasoning that derived effects from their causes, while a posteriori reasoning referred to the opposite method of deriving causes from effects. I am sure that someone has already investigated the topic, but it would be interesting to know when exactly the two terms changed their meaning – certainly it happened then before Kant.

For Thümmig, a posteriori cognition was based in experience, while a priori cognition was based something called pure reasoning. Experience was the epitome of intuitive cognition that required a direct intuition of things. Judgements based immediately on intuitions concerned always individual things, and experience was a sort of generalization from intuitive judgements. The transition was possible, because at least the predicates of intuitive judgments were general and therefore even they had something to do with generalities. Thus, by knowing properties shared by many individuals we could discover empirical laws connecting certain general properties.

Pure reasoning, on the other hand, was the high point of symbolic cognition, which used words or other symbols to stand for things themselves. Reasoning in general had to do with making discursive judgements, that is, judgements deduced from other judgements by means of syllogisms. Reasoning was pure, when among the starting points of deduction there was no intuitive judgement, but everything was based on mere definitions and self-evident axioms.

As it was common at the time, Thümmig characterized mathematics as the primary example of a priori cognition – both Hume and Leibniz would have agreed that mathematics was based on self-evident axioms. We have seen that Rüdiger had criticized such an idea, because at least geometry appeared to have an intuitive aspect. Kant in a sense struck a compromise between the two positions, because on his opinion mathematics is both a priori and intuitive – here Kant had obviously changed the meaning of a priori and intuitive.

A primary example of a posteriori science is for Thümmig physics. Although Wolff and Wolffians were mistakenly thought to disparage empirical matters, we can immediately see that over half of Thümmig's book is dedicated to physical and hence empirical questions.

A more intriguing problem is where in the classification metaphysics should be situated. We have seen that Wolff at least apparently tried to axiomatize at least a major portion of metaphysics: everything begins from the self-evident principle of non-contradiction, while even the crucial principle of sufficient reason is supposedly deduced from it.

Thümmig, on the other hand, does not even mention this deduction. Instead, he emphasizes the justification that Wolff had barely mentioned – the principle of sufficient reason is required so that we can distinguish between a dream and reality. Thümmig thus apparently bases the main principle of metaphysics on an empirical proposition.

Does that make Thümmig's version of Wolffian metaphysics then a posteriori? Not necessarily. The possibility to distinguish dreams and reality is in a sense a necessary presupposition of even having experiences. We might hence interpret the justification as transcendental – metaphysics would then be synthetic a priori in the Kantian sense.

Next time I'll be looking at Thümmig's metaphysics in a more detail.