keskiviikko 16. tammikuuta 2013

Christian Wolff: A required addition to Remarks on Dr. Budde's Concern over Wolffian philosophy, given by instigation of Buddian answer (1724)

There are couple of early German philosophers I have decided to ignore, mainly because their main works were published long before even Wolff had become a household name of German philosophy. First of these, Christian Thomasius, I have mentioned earlier, because we have seen a number of his followers. The other is Johann Budde, whose main philosophical works appeared already at the beginning of the 18th century. By the time I am currently discussing, Budde had begun to turn his attention mainly to theological issues.

Budde had apparent affinities with the Thomasian school and especially its more pietist proponents, like Lange, and indeed, like Lange, he had written an article meant against the supposedly atheist influence of Spinoza. Furthermore, Budde had wrote against Wolff a twenty-page-article, Bedenken von der Wolffischen Philosopie, which contains essentially the same line of criticism that Lange's book I have recently studied expounded in more detail – Wolff's philosophy resembled Spinozism. Wolff answered with his own writing, Anmerkungen über Herrn D. Buddens Bedenken von der Wolffischen Philosophie. At that moment appeared Lange's thorough work on Wolffian philosophy, which included also a review of Wolff's article against Budde – it wasn't a surprise that Lange sided with Budde and blamed Wolff for not answering Budde's points at all. Finally, Wolff published an even more thorough answer, Nöthige Zugabe zu den Anmerkungen über Herrn D. Buddens Bedenken von der Wolffischen Philosophie, auf Veranlassung der Buddischen Antwort heraus gegeben, which I shall look in more detail this time.

The apparent opponent of Wolff is once again Budde, but actually he is more interested of his defender Lange, whom he avoids calling by name – Lange is usually described as an advocate of Budde. Wolff is apparently quite irate by Lange's text and ironically comments how strange it is that someone could study texts so thoroughly and so long without comprehending at all what is said in them. Indeed, Wolff notes how Lange has misunderstood e.g. Wolff's remarks on the possible temporal beginning of the world – Wolff has just said that proving this beginning would be difficult and that no one has done it so far. Wolff even points out that Budde, who was defended by Lange, accepted even more, namely, the Thomistic doctrine that such a proof would be impossible for human reasoning – if Wolff's standpoint leads to atheism, certainly Budde's will do so even more.

Wolff is not satisfied with mere irony, but tries to make the reader comprehend what his philosophy is all about. To this effect, Wolff summarizes the essentials of his philosophy in easily understandable statements. The core of Wolff's philosophy is rather simple: 1) the events and things of the world are connected by influencing and interacting with one another and by being means and ends to one another, 2) the totality of these events and things and laws connecting them or the world is itself contingent, 3) soul has understanding and will, but these two capacities are based on one unitary force, 4) processes in sensory organs correspond to certain sensory experiences, while volitional experiences correspond to certain movements of body, 5) God exists and 6) we can know this with certainty, because the world is contingent and requires God's support.

Wolff's list is rather surprising. Especially unexpected is the complete lack of any ontological propositions: there is no mention, for instance, of Wolff's notion of modalities, of his attempt to base the principle of sufficient reason/ground on the principle of non-contradiction or of the idea of simple substances. In fact, compared to the common idea of Wolff as a speculative rationalist, the list seems rather mundane – even such empiricist as Locke might accept it.

Indeed, Wolff himself notes in the particular case of the pre-established harmony that his philosophy does not at all hinge on this point. What Wolff is committed to is the incontrovertible experience of the statement 4), and pre-established harmony is only a hypothesis explaining that experience – and one which seems most reliable, given the current state of knowledge, where physical laws appear to contradict causal influences between soul and body. If further research disproved the hypothesis, this would be of no concern to Wolff.

One might even suspect that the same reasoning could be applied to the rest of the Wolffian philosophy. Although Wolff presents his philosophy in the manner of a deductive system based on indubitable axioms, the true source of justification lies in experiential information, such as general laws based on findings of science and common sense observations – the ontological system is chosen, because these experiences can be deduced in it as theorems.

So much for Wolff's apology. Next time we shall see another bit of Lange's genius.

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