keskiviikko 29. huhtikuuta 2015

Hoffmann: Study of reason – Abstract ideas

I have until now just assumed that what Hoffmann calls idea is what we might call representation and now this reading is verified: idea is for Hoffmann a state of understanding, in which a possible object is represented through a similarity of such state with the object or through the effect of such object to understanding. What is striking is Hoffmann's rather cavalier assumption that representation will surely correspond to what it represents. Of course, he admits that all ideas do not represent their objects as perfectly – an idea which shows all important properties of its object, as it were, in one glance, is more perfect than an idea that shows them only successively.

Just like one would expect, Hoffmann thinks there are as many ideas as there are powers of understanding. Thus, we have purely sensuous ideas (sensation of a bike I am seeing), memorised ideas (memory of a bike I have seen), ideas of ingenuity (say, an idea of a bike with a different shape from usual) and finally, abstract ideas (idea of a general structure of bikes). Of these, all ideas in which abstraction has been complete and all the parts are distinguished are non-concrete. Non-concrete ideas then consist of ideas with no parts to abstract any more (simple ideas, such as the idea of a certain colour) and of ideas which are combinations of abstracted ideas. Concrete ideas then are ideas in which parts are not distinguished from one another. Such concrete ideas could be of sensed individuals (like an idea of an apple I am seeing), but they might also be abstractions, albeit unclear abstractions (in this case we are presenting e.g. virtue through a concrete example, but we cannot say what makes this particular example an instance of virtue). Both sensuous and abstract concrete ideas can then either represent only an individual object or a group of such objects.

Hoffmann leaves the discussion of concrete ideas here, since it is especially abstract ideas that interest in discussion of logic. Abstract ideas can, Hoffmann continues, be more or less undetermined depending on how many characteristics one is thinking them to have. Of more undetermined ideas we cannot say whether any individuals correspond to it – it is difficult to say what counts as a good action, if goodness of an action is defined only as an agreement with good maxims. Then again, mere determination is also not an assured sign for finding individuals instantiating the idea – it might be that existence of something corresponding to the idea is dependent on some external circumstances that cannot be deduced out of the idea itself. Furthermore, some abstract ideas or transcendentals could be used in all possible worlds (all concepts of metaphysics would apply here), while others describe only the actual world.

Abstraction means for Hoffmann making distinctions, and an important consideration from an epistemological point of view is whether what is abstracted can truly exist in the manner it has been abstracted, that is, whether distinctions made have some basis in something external to understanding. Hoffmann points out that there are actually four different questions one must consider. Firstly, we should ask whether such distinction can be made at the level of essences, that is, whether it is something that we can even think about. In other words, when we abstract human will from the notion of freedom, we can think of the two apart, because it is possible to think that will might be deterministic. Then again, when we try to abstract such notions like force and substance from one another, we quickly note that force cannot even be thought without some substance, although the distinction appears to suggest otherwise.

Secondly, we could ask whether the distinction concerns real existence. We might abstract good understanding from virtue and the distinction is truly real, since there are people who have good understanding, but are not virtuous. Then again, we might abstract human understanding from its various powers and we might even think that understanding could come without these powers, but the distinction would still be just possible – understanding does not actually exist without these powers.

Thirdly, we could ask whether the abstracted thing does exist within those limits we assign to it in our thought. Thus, we can be fairly certain that limbs of an animal do have those limits they appear to have, but to separate a cylinder of water from ocean in our heads does not indicate any natural distinction, even though the cylinder of water could exist without the ocean. Hoffmann makes a passing suggestion that this is where Leibnizian monadology goes astray. The point appears to be that Leibniz leaps from thought of some ultimate units of existence to the notion that these units would actually describe natural division of reality, although it might well be that there are no ultimate units naturally distinct from their surroundings.

Fourthly, we could ask whether the supposed distinction does not merely indicate the same object from different perspectives. Thus, we can objectively abstract understanding from will, because these things are different objects, while when we start to abstract different perfections of God from one another, the distinction is merely ideal, since all these perfections are merely different perspectives to God himself. Hoffmann is especially keen to attack Aristotelians and disparage the notion of different types of souls – there are no separate vegetative, animal and rational soul in human beings, but they all indicate merely different aspects of the same soul.

As I already mentioned in the previous post, Hoffmann thinks abstraction can be either causal or existential, that is, it might concern either processes and e.g. separate cause from its effect, or it might concern some wholes and divide it into its parts or constituents. Of these two types, existential abstraction is in a sense more fundamental, since all causal abstractions could be thought as existential – we might ignore that we are dealing with a process and consider e.g. a relationship of clouds and rain as a whole from which both are abstracted. In this case we could speak of an accidentally existential abstraction, in which the existentiality depends only on the arbitrary whim of the abstracting cogniton. This is an important distinction for the logic of judgements, since existential abstractions reveal relations that can be expressed with the form ”A is B”. Thus, Hoffmann is noting that even if we could bring a sentence describing causal relations into such a form – say, as in ”cloud IS the cause of rain” – this would just hide the true form ”cloud causes rain” indicating the peculiarity of causal relations.

Hoffmann further divides existential abstraction into external and internal abstraction. In external abstraction, what is abstracted doesn't really inhere in the starting point or ground of abstraction, for example, it indicates merely relations of a thing to other things or is just a certain time and place in which the thing exists. In internal abstraction, then, what is abstracted inheres in the ground of abstraction, like figures, quantities and forces of a thing. Internal abstraction is then divided into logical and properly existential abstraction. In logical abstraction, what is abstracted inheres in the whole abstracting ground, somewhat like animality concerns the whole of human being, while in properly existential abstraction, what is abstracted could exist apart from the other parts of the whole, somewhat like soul and body could be separated in a human being.

We just mentioned the notion of the ground of abstraction, by which Hoffmann apparently refers to the idea from which the abstraction begins. Hoffmann notes that there always is some connection between the ground of abstraction and that which is abstracted from it – later, we shall see that this connection is the basis of our ability to make judgements. Hoffmann notes that this connection might be either a posteriori and contingent or a priori and necessary. This sounds suspiciously like Kant's division of judgements into a posteriori and a priori types, and Hoffmann's definitions appear to correspond with the Kantian notions. Thus, a contingent connection between ground of abstraction and what is abstracted is something we know based on experience, for instance, just like we know human beings have blood circulation only through observations. On the contrary, a necessary connection is something we know based just on both of the ideas, for instance, when we know that triangle is a figure.

What is even more striking is that Hoffmann then divides the necessary connection into two types that closely resemble the Kantian notions of analytical and synthetic a priori judgements. In fact, Hoffmann notes that the necessary connection might be either identical – or as Hoffmann also calls it, hypothetical – or then absolutely a priori. In an identical connection, the abstraction is completely based on the ground of abstraction, that is, what is abstracted is already thought with the idea from which abstraction begins. Hoffmann notes as an example a connection of rational animal with an animal, which could clearly be expressed in a Kantian analytic judgement, but also the mathematical relation of number 12 and its part 6. Then again, an absolutely a priori connection is not completely based on the ground of abstraction or what is abstracted is not expressly thought with the idea from which the abstraction begins, but instead, the abstracted element is somehow connected to the ground of abstraction, although it is essential to that ground. As a special example of such a connection, Hoffmann mentions causal relations, but also the relation of a figure to matter embodying it, which somewhat resembles Kant's first analogy of experience.

We are already seeing Hoffmann's enthusiasm with divisions. We have also seen that these divisions are not meant to be mere empty scholasticism, but important tools in making cognition more certain and in avoiding faulty reasoning. Indeed, we have seen Hoffmann engaging with Leibnizian and Aristotelian philosophies and emphasising the importance and distinct nature of causality that cannot be reduced to mere logical relations. We shall see more of Hoffmann's careful analysis next time, when we start with the relations of ideas.

sunnuntai 26. huhtikuuta 2015

Hoffmann: Study of reason - The powers of understanding

In the Wolffian tradition, and generally also in German idealism, understanding refers to a certain part of human cognition. Hoffmann, on the other hand, follows another tradition and by understanding means generally whole cognitive side of human mind. More particularly, Hoffmann defines understanding as the power of spirit to determine itself in such a manner that ideas can exist or be generated in it.

Hoffmann takes a strikingly original stance and suggests that all animals are capable of ideas and thus they must have understanding. Of course, there are different grades of understanding. Some animals have only a passive cognition or sensation, in which external objects decide what ideas the animal will have. Then again, some animals have also an activity – memory – that lets them retain their vividness for a while. Yet, no non-human animal has the ability to know truth – this would require what Hoffmann calls reason, which is peculiar only for humans.

It is evident then that human understanding has various powers or capacities. In a sense, the most basic of these is sensation (Empfindung) or the capacity to be passively determined by some external object in such a manner that an idea is generated. Sensation is the basis of cognition, because it is our only route to existence. Hoffmann states quite strongly that humans do not have any pure understanding that could know existence of something without any help from sensation. Indeed, he even advises using concrete examples for highly abstract rules, in order to ease understanding them.

Yet, sensation does have its limits, Hoffmann admits. We cannot sense any simple objects, but everything we sense consists of smaller entities. We can also sense only individual objects and no abstractions. Thus, we can never directly sense essences of things, which would consist of forces abstracted from individual things.

Just like Wolffians, Hoffmann also thinks that sensation comes in two kinds, as external and as internal sensation. What makes it more interesting is that Hoffmann actually seems to have quite a developed theory of inner sensation. While external sensation is caused by objects completely external to human soul, the ultimate causes of inner sensations lies within the soul, namely, it is the very activities of human understanding or at least their effects we view with inner sensation. There is empirical evidence, Hoffmann thinks, that this activity does not straightaway move to the inner sensation – there is a clear temporal gap between a mental activity and awareness of such an activity. Thus, the activities we see with inner sensation first cause some changes in some part of our body – Hoffmann mentions the notion of animal spirits – and it is the animal spirit which then affects inner sensation.

In addition to describing the various faculties of human understanding, Hoffmann is also interested to describe various defects these faculties might have and to suggest several cures for these defects – perhaps this is influence of his mentor, Andreas Rüdiger, who did study medicine. Thus, one could have too strong inner sensation so that external events could pass by without one taking any notice – someone might be too entwined in her own thoughts so that she couldn't even witness an army marching by her. Then again, inner sensation might also be too weak, because of an imbalance in the relation of the activities of understanding and the animal spirits – such weakness would then cause wavering in certainty, since, Hoffmann says, one need to have a clear view of what one is thinking in order to be convinced of it.

In Wolffian scheme, sensation is then followed by imagination, which is generally the capacity to represent something that is not present. Hoffmann does not recognise such general capacity of imagination, but instead distinguishes two subcapacities of Wolffian imagination into independent capacities. First of these is memory or the capacity to retain ideas of things no longer present still vividly in our mind. Hoffmann doesn't have that much of interest to say about memory, although he does speculate that the memorised ideas must be still present somehow unconsciously in the soul, so that it can then view them when needed. Memory is more important to Hoffmann as a presupposition of making judgements – one has to keep subject still in mind, when connecting it with predicate. Weak memory is then obviously a hindrance to a philosopher, but so is also too good memory – one dependent on book learning, instead of good judgement, is prone to just believing in authorities.

Besides memory, Hoffmann discusses also ingenuity, which he defines as the capacity to move from an idea to another, to which the first one is somehow connected. These two ideas are not distinguished in any manner, so this movement involves no proper judgement, but is more like an immediate association of one idea with another. Although not yet a judgement, ingenuity might provide some material for more philosophical thinking by highlighting on some interesting and deep connection between things. Yet, ingenuity may obviously follow some quite random or oratorical associations, which might thus be of hindrance to good judgement.

The fourth power of understanding, for Hoffmann, is then judgement – it is also the most important power in logic, because only with judgements it makes sense to speak of truth. Indeed, Hoffmann defines judgement as the capacity to connect ideas formed out of material from the three other faculties in such a manner that an inner sensation of these combinations produces a conviction of truth. As Hoffmann already noted, judgement does not just connect ideas, but also distinguishes them from one another – this power of abstraction is then an essential ingredient in judgement (note how Hoffmann here anticipates the idea of both Hegel and Hölderlin that judgement is more a making of distinctions than combination of previously existing concepts).

Hoffmann's discussion of judgement requires then at first a discussion of abstraction – we shall do that in more detail in later posts, but some preliminaries can already be indicated. Abstraction begins always from some sensed or remembered individual event or object and then starts to divide the idea of this individual into pieces. In case of processual events, the abstraction is causal – we separate causes from effects and means from ends. In case of stable things, the abstraction is existential. In that case we might, firstly, in quantitative abstraction ignore the individuality of the original idea – instead of this triangle, we might think of triangles in general. Secondly, we might in metaphysical abstraction think of the properties of the original individual, as separated from any subject that might have it – instead of a human being, we might think of humanity. Thirdly, we might in qualitative abstraction differentiate the various properties of the original individual from one another.

Hoffmann doesn't really go into great detail in how the abstraction works. He does point out that often in case of causal abstraction we must be thinking of events (distant or hidden causes) we have never actually witnessed. Similarly, when thinking highly abstract and indeterminate existential abstractions we must think of ideas that we cannot literally see (the famous triangle that is no specific type of triangle). Hoffmann merely notes that the judgement or abstraction must be able to somehow supply what these ideas lack in themselves and complete them.

While in case of other faculties, too great use of them might hinder judgement, in case of judgement itself this is obviously not possible. Then again, Hoffmann notes that judgement might be too weak. The weakness of judgement leads then to obvious defects: one might have confused notions, be susceptible to unfounded presuppositions and follow all types of paralogisms.

This is then the general outline of Hoffmann's theory of mental faculties. Next time I shall start speaking about their effects or ideas.

keskiviikko 22. huhtikuuta 2015

Hoffmann: Study of reason, in which the marks of true and false are deduced from the laws of human understanding (1737)

It is regrettable that the most talented of Wolff's opponents, Adolph Friedrich Hoffmann, died (1741) before writing any further works, dedicated e.g. to metaphysics. As it is, we must take as his main work a book on logic, Vernunftlehre darinnen die Kennzeichen des Wahren und Falschen aus den Gesetzen des menschlichen Verstandes hergeleitet. Because the work represents the best and most systematic treatment of philosophy in the whole anti-Wolffian school, I shall take a more careful look at the various topics it treats over the next few texts.

As it has been noted by Beck in his seminal work on early German philosophy, Hoffmann appropriated much of the Wolffian tone in his works, trying to be even more systematical than the master himself. Indeed, reading Hoffman's logic, it appears at times like Hoffman is the more careful and ”geometric” thinker of the two, while Wolff seems in comparison like a bumbling empiricist disguising himself behind a semblance of deductions and definitions and making amateur logical mistakes.

It is not just Wolff's style of reasoning that has influenced Hoffmann, but also his division of topics. Thus, just like any other Wolffian, Hoffman begins by discussing philosophy in general. But before even that, he instructs the reader about the various parts relevant to academic discussion and particularly the various types of statements one will find in these discourses. Here, Hoffmann clearly tries to be more full and complete than Wolff, who satisfies himself with recounting the basic types of statements in supposedly mathematical treatises. Thus, Hoffmann begins by noting that some statements in academic writings depend on mere arbitrary choice – that is, they are stipulations assigning a contingent definition to some words or stating that a sign like x is meant to refer to an unknown number.

Statements in academic works that are not stipulations are then real statements, that is, statements meant to describe some facts not dependent on arbitrary choices. Most of these real statements are meant to be justified, but others cannot be, although they must still be accepted. Such statements Hoffmann calls postulates, thus distancing himself from Wolffian definition, in which postulate was taken as a statement describing some basic action possible to us (for instance, drawing a circle). Hoffman's postulates might be convenient idealisations, if not completely true, such as the idea that parallel lines will meet after an infinite distance. Then again, his postulates might also be apparently convincing generalisations that we cannot ever prove completely, such as the statement that all human beings desire happiness.

By allowing such postulates into an academic discourse Hoffmann appears to be distancing his stance from the Wolffian attitude that all statements of philosophy should be completely justified, either through experience or through demonstration. Indeed, Wolff does occasionally admit that some of his statements have been just likely hypotheses, but Hoffmann makes it a point to give the postulates an explicit place in his methodology. Furthermore, he notes that postulates cannot just be accepted willy-nilly, but one must still justify why such a postulate has been presumed,

The core of a learned discussion is still formed by statements that are taken as completely true. Some of these derive their justification from proofs, and these can then be divided into axioms, propositions etc. Here Hoffmann does not differ much from Wolff, although Hoffmann doesn't define axioms as self-evident principle, but as principles taken as granted in some discipline, although perhaps proven by another, higher discipline.

More interesting is Hoffmann's division of statements based on sensation (Empfindung), the second type of statements taken as completely true. Such statements include, quite expectedly, statements based on experience, which Hoffmann calls also immediate existential statements. Immediate existential statements might then be based on common experience, in which we immediately sense some objects and their connection : for instance, we might see in an experience that air can be compressed. On the other hand, the immediate existential statements might also be based on reflective experience, in which the objects are abstractions, but the connection is still something sensed or experienced, for instance, when we note that some avaricious persons are ambitious. In other words, reflective experience appears to be behind more generalised statements based on experience.

Interestingly, Hoffmann thinks that statements based on sensation include also what he calls immediate essential statements and which by their definition seem to be Kantian analytical judgements – for instance, ”expanded substance takes up more space than it used to” is immediately essential, because the predicate just explains what the subject says. The most radical suggestion here is that such analytical connections between concepts should be based on sensations. The idea appears to be that one can through an inner sensation view one's representations and instantly see that some of them are essentially connected to one another.

After introducing all the types of statements one will meet in a learned discussion, Hoffmann continues by defining the very notion of philosophy, just like Wolffians, but once again, Hoffmann's definition has some clear differences from Wolff's definition. What they both do have in common is the assumption that philosophy is a natural cognition, that is, different from the supernaturally justified theology. Hoffmann also agrees with Wolff that philosophy is not mere history or recounting – philosophy discovers truths that are not obvious on plain sight. At the same time he is willing to go further and discard even all mere descriptions of experiments from philosophy – in Wolffian tractates these were often included in the so-called experimental philosophy.

What are then the hidden truths Hoffmann wants philosophy to study? Firstly, they describe essence or nature of some things, since essences are usually not something that we could just plainly see. Furthermore, philosophy should also concern actually existing things, since some of them, say God and other souls, we never can sense. Indeed, Hoffmann goes even so far as to say that philosophy can never be about mere possibilities, which is a direct denial of Wolff's definition of philosophy as the science of possibilities.

There is still one element missing from Hoffmann's definition of philosophy, namely, restricting philosophy to eternal or unchanging truths – or at least to truths which cannot naturally stop being truths. One important group of topics removed from the field of philosophy is then everything that is based on free choice of human beings, such as specific arts giving techniques for actualising certain purposes. Even such arts are still based on philosophy, Hoffmann says, because the ultimate ends of all human actions are stable, that is, based either on essence of humanity or on God's immutable will.

As we have now seen various disciplines which are not philosophy, we should see what belongs to philosophy. Surprising is the inclusion of medicine in philosophy, but indeed, facts about human health might well be hidden and unchanging. Even mathematics is part of philosophy, since mathematical truths are not dependent on human choices. Still, Hoffmann wants to separate mathematics as a science of extensa, like space, from philosophy proper, which should instead study qualities.

The difference between mathematics and philosophy proper is not that first one deals with quantitative issues, since qualities might also be quantified, Hoffman says. Instead, just like Kant would later do, Hoffmann places the difference to the methodologies the two disciplines use – clear battle cry against Wolff's wish to apply mathematics to philosophy straightaway. Mathematical objects are such that we can abstract them easily from all their surroundings, while in case of qualities such abstraction is usually difficult, since qualities interact with other things much easier. Thus, in mathematics we may well take just an individual example of e.g. triangle and define through this example all triangles. In case of qualities, on the other hand, individual cases are so multifarious that it is almost impossible to make such generalisations. Indeed, while in case of mathematical objects one might easily use the Wolffian standard of generative definition to characterise e.g. circles, in case of qualities the genesis might affect the object to be defined. Then again, simplicity of mathematical objects often makes it futile to divided them into further types of objects, but qualities can be divided just because of their multiple characteristics and dealings with other students. All in all, Hoffmann argues that philosophy proper must often satisfy itself with mere probabilites, while mathematics must always use proper deductions.

If then move to Hoffman's division of philosophy proper, the basic classification depends on whether one wants to study things that are common to all possible worlds or things proper particularly to the actual world. The first class consists of things, Hoffman says, like God, space, time and spirits, which are then investigated by metaphysics, while things of second class, like gold and lions, are investigated by the so-called disciplinal philosophy. It is interesting that Hoffmann is able to characterise metaphysics, while in Wolffian tradition it was defined merely as a sum of certain philosophical disciplines.

Indeed, Hoffman's vision of metaphysics differs also substantially from Wolffian, since one of the central parts of metaphysics in Wolff's philosophy or cosmology is the major part of discplinal philosophy with Hoffmann. Furthermore, cosmology of Hoffmann differs from Wolffian cosmology, since Hoffmann's world is meant to explicitly contain both human souls and material objects in it. In addition to cosmology, disciplinal philosophy should contain study of nature, study of human understanding and study of human will. Of these, the study of human will is most developed by Hoffmann and is divided into a discipline called thelematology, which supposedly studies things dependent on nothing, but human will, such as laughter, and into moral philosophy, which should study things dependent on both human will and God. Moral philosophy Hoffmann then divided into prudence or study of means and various disciplines studying different moral principles, namely, natural theology, law of nature and ethics.

What really interests Hoffmann here is, of course, logic, or as he prefers to call it, the study of reason. Just like Wolff, Hoffmann appears to prefer beginning study of philosophy from logic. General need for logic arises from the need to know how to distinguish truth from falsehoods. Hoffmann doesn't apparently say that this would belong wholy to the province of logic, and in fact, distinguishes four different ways we come to regard something as true, only one of which he explicitly connects with logic. Firstly, we have immediate sensations of things, such as seeing that some tower is tall. Secondly, we sometimes notice that contradictory of something is impossible to think and conclude that this something must then be true. Both of these two methods Hoffmann takes to be fairly reliable.

The two other methods for ascertaining truth of something are then not so reliable. First of these resembles the second reliable method, but whereas in that case thinking the contradictory was impossible, in this case it should be just not something we can think easily or vividly enough. In such a case Hoffmann says we believe something, but cannot be as convinced of it as in the reliable case.

The second unreliable method then depends on truths cohering with one another in such a manner that knowing one truth can lead us to recognise the truth of another thing. It is this coherence of truths that is the peculiar topic of logic. In other words, Hoffmann explains, there must be some reason why human understanding can move from one truth to another. We may have some natural proneness for discovering these reasons, which then forms what is called natural logic. Just like Wolff, Hoffmann thinks it is the task of scientific or artificial logic to generalise and clarify these reasons into rules we could then use explicitly for recognising truths.

In a Wolffian fashion, Hoffmann then divides logic into a theoretical and pratical part, but in a novel fashion. Theoretical part, Hoffmann says, should discover the reasons why our understanding is able to know truths. First demand for this is to know the various capacities understanding has and then to move on to the effects of the use of these capacities – for these effects Hoffmann lends a Lockean term ”idea”, which appears roughly to correspond to what is called usually in tradition of German philosophy representation or Vorstellung. Ideas are then classified according to their various characteristics, and their various relations, such as subordination, opposition and general coherence, are considered. Notions of clarity and distinctness of ideas are also taken into account. The next topic consists then of combinations of ideas or concepts, propositions and proofs.

All of this sounds at least superficially Wolffian, but truly original is Hoffmann's inclusion of an account of truth to the theoretical part of logic, while wolffians had placed it into the practical side. Hoffmann's justification of this choice is quite believable – surely truth itself must also be a presupposition for knowing truths.

Practical part of logic attempts then to give rules, by which to improve the effects of understanding through various abstract rules. Understandably, the division of practical logic follows quite closely the division of theoretical logic. In addition, practical logic should at least contain chapters on e.g. disputation.

The preliminary outline of logic has then been set up. Next time, I'll begin with Hoffman's account of the various capacities of understanding.

perjantai 17. huhtikuuta 2015

Lange: Short demolition of those theories, which in Wolffian philosophy are adverse to natural and revealed religion, indeed even destroy them, and straight away, while in deception, sought by many, lead to atheism and Wolff: Detailed answer to D. Lange's short demolition next to its meager content (1737?)

I mentioned couple of posts ago the so-called Wertheim translation of Bible, which went quite far in pushing time-honoured revelation to a form more suitable to current advances in science – the translation was apparently even filled with remarks explaining e.g. what actually happened from a physical point of view in all six days of creation. I've already described the attempt of pietists to connect the publication of this translation with their pet peeve, the Wolffian philosophy. As a part of this attempt, Lange started to circulate a short work called Kurtzer Abriß derjenigen Lehr-Sätze, welche in der Wolffischen Philosophie der natürlichen und geoffenbahrten Religion nachtheilig sind, ja sie gar aufheben, und gerades Weges, ob wohl bey vieler gesuchter Verdeckung, zur Atheisterey verleiten, which is essentially just a summary of all the criticism Lange had targeted against Wolff throughout the years – no consideration of Wolff's new writings, no attempt at any dialogue, just condemnation and accusation.

Wolff answered Lange with his own text, Ausführliche Antwort auf D. Langens kurzen Abriß nebst einem kurzen Inhalt derselben. I have not found an accurate dating for Wolff's text, but since I have read the text from a collection of texts including also Lange's original and various defences of Wolff's doctrines, from 1737, we may assume that Wolff published it either this or the previous year. We need not go in great detail to this work, since most of it is rather familiar from Wolff's previous books: Wolff, for instance, notes that he does not think soul is deterministic, because it is completely outside the machinery of the world, and remarks that the doctrine of pre-established harmony merely denies immediate causal influence of soul to body, but accepts that soul can affect body indirectly through God.

The existence of the collection, the clear purpose of which was to defend Wolff against slanderous accusations, speaks of a turn in the tide of German philosophy. This turn would be concluded in 1740 by the assumption of the Prussian throne by Fredrick II, who would recall Wolff back to Halle from his involuntary exile to Marburg. Lange himself died in 1744, so this a fitting place to consider his overall importance to the development of German philosophy.

Johann Joachim Lange (1670-1744)

The main influence of Lange was one of criticism – starting from 1720s Lange wrote a number of critical treatises of Wolffian philosophy. Sometimes his criticism hit a crucial spot, especially when it came to the issues of necessity and human freedom, which Wolff had at first not explained adequately. Often Lange's attack was quite unjustified, like when he accused Wolff of teaching the eternity of the universe. Unfortunately, the discussion became quite heated, and Lange never bothered to change his convictions about Wolff's intentions, which is quite evident in his final treatises.

When it comes to Lange's own positive doctrines, there is very little to say, mostly because his main academic works belonged not to philosophy, but to theology, and even more, to Bible exegesis. There was a clear Cartesian streak in his early writings and especially in his endorsement of a true causal influence between soul and body. Lange, like all pietists, is also an important precursor of later anti-Enlightenment writers, like Jacobi and Hamann.

Next time it is time to say farewell to another opponent of Wolff, the much more talented Hoffmann.

perjantai 10. huhtikuuta 2015

Joachim Georg Darjes: Theoretical art of reasoning (1737)

Joachim Georg Darjes (1714-1791)

Going through even the most insignificant philosophers of a certain era might seem like a complete waste of time – surely one would be better using one's time by just concentrating on the most memorable and influential figures, like Kant and Hegel. Yet, it is just by looking at these seemingly unimportant figures that one finds, on the one hand, clear trends and fashions, and on the other hand, unexpected breaks in trends and surprising novelties.

Darjes' book Die lehrende Vernunft-kunst is one of those rare works that appears to be quite traditional, but has interesting deviations from the current norm. On the surface, the book seems to follow quite faithfully the trend of Wolffian textbooks on logic, with some minor deviations. Thus, the book begins with the ontological principle of contradiction, introduces as its consequence something called a law of certainty (if something is A, then it is A), and finally mentions the principle of sufficient reason as the explanation of how actuality differs from possibility. Quite standard division of cognition into historical, philosophical and mathematical forms comes next together with a classification of philosophical sciences, which in its essentials appears quite Wolffian. Chapters on philosophical style and general need of logic show also nothing surprising.

This has all been just the preface, and when the actual book begins, Darjes starts to really use the mathematical style. A typical Wolffian textbook of the time is usually presented in numbered paragraphs. Darjes uses them also, but he also notes whether the paragraph in question is meant to be a definition, arbitrary stipulation, statement drawn from experience, proposition or corollary to be proved or just an additional remark. One at once notes that many of the propositions of the book are based on experiences, justifying Hegel's often made complaint that logic of his time was just a bunch of empirical statements. Of course, because the logic is meant to be a study of human faculties of thought, it is just understandable that introspective evidence on these faculties is required.

It is with Darjes' account of mental faculties that we find the true novelties. The description of senses, imagination, memory and reflection are sufficiently similar to Wolffian empirical psychology, although Darjes' suggestion that all sensations are produced by actual objects seems a bit naive. The truly surprising statement comes with the study of understanding and concepts, which Darjes clearly defines as representations of universals. Thus, just by stipulating, it seems, Darjes has denied the existence of individual concepts. This makes a difference in classification of concepts. While Wolff had spoken of a formal difference between concepts (their differing degree of clarity) and their material difference (whether they denote individuals or universals), Darjes can speak only of their formal differences. But the differences go even further. For Wolff, understanding was merely a faculty for analysing and breaking apart our representations, whether they be individual or universal, and thus in a perfectly Lockean fashion just a further development of our perceptive faculties. Darjes, on the contrary, redefines understanding as a faculty of generalisations. In effect, Darjes is restricting the area of understanding, but so also clarifying its role – understanding is now clearly distinguished from senses and imagination, which might be seen as a step toward the Kantian separation of faculties.

Some differences can be also found in Darjes' account of definition and especially the distinction between real and nominal definitions. Wolff had stated that for nominal definition one had to be able to distinguish the defined from similar things, while for real definition one had to know why the defined thing was possible – a preferred method was to know how to generate this thing. Clearly, nominal definitions might not be real, but also real definitions might not be nominal, because one could generate things one couldn't properly distinguish. Darjes, on the other hand, defines the two types of definitions through notion of essence and essential property. Nominal definitions mean knowing some essential property of the thing defined, that is, a property that the thing has constantly – clearly enough for distinguishing the thing, but most likely also too much. The real definition is then characterised by Darjes as knowing the essence or the ground of all these essential properties. Here, a rule for generating this particular thing should be enough, but evidently it should also involve knowing what the essential properties of the thing are and being able to distinguish it – again Darjesian real definition is far stronger than Wolffian.

I will skip Darjes' account of language, although it shows surprising familiarity with the medieval theory of supposition, that is, the idea that the meaning of the word changes depending on the context of the other words. The reason for skipping is that Darjesian classification of judgements shows considerable movement towards the later Kantian classification of judgments. I have already noted that the division of judgements according to quality and quantity were already in place in Wolff'sLatin logic. Similar classifications occur with Darjes too, although with some nuances.

The classification according to quantity is almost identical to one with Wolff: judgements are either singular, particular, universal or undetermined. The difference is that while Wolff classified singular judgements as a type of particular judgements, Darjes notes that they could be classified with universal judgements, because e.g. Socrates is everyone in the class with only him as a member.

The classification according to quality shares similar resemblance with the Wolffian classification. Both Darjes and Wolff start by dividing all judgements into affirmative and negative, although Darjes apparently has rather idiosyncratic way of understanding negative judgements as attaching ”not” to the subject of the judgement. Then, while Wolff thought infinite judgements to be a type of negative judgements, Darjes takes them to be a type of affirmative judgements: affirmative judgement is either finite (its predicate is positive) or infinite (its predicate is negative). Similarly Darjes then divided negative judgements into conditionally and simply negative judgements.

The true innovation of Darjes lies in his third method of classifying judgements according to their ”whatness”. This rather obscure name hides behind it, among other things, both Kantian classifications of relation and modality. The basic division of judgements into simple and complex hails already from Wolff, although he understood also hypothetical judgements as simple, while for Darjes the only simple judgements are what Kant would later call categorical assertoric judgements.

Darjes then divides complex judgements into distinctly and indistinctly complex judgements. Starting from the easier subdivision, distinctly complex judgements are those which clearly consist of many judgements. Such judgements either hold that some subjudgements must hold together or deny that such subjudgements cannot hold at the same time. In the first type, the judgement could be simple conjunction saying that two subjudgements do happen to be true (”A is both B and C”), but it might also just state the hypothetical that one subjudgement is a condition of the other (”If A is B, it is C”). The second type contains then similarly judgements that state the fact that some subjudgement holds and another not (”A is not B, but C”), while it might also just present a disjunction of alternatives (”A is either B or C”). This side of the classification of complex judgements contains then two divisions from the Kantian classification of judgements according to their relation.

Indistincly complex judgements then contain words that somehow modify the basic sense of the judgement. A major part of such indistincly complex judgements are formed by what would be later called modalities, but what Darjes names explicative judgements – words like ”possibly”, ”impossibly”, ”necessarily” and ”contingently” explicate the relation between the subject and the predicate. Showing again his interest in medieval philosophy, Darjes notes that unlike what Michael Psellus said, ”truly” and ”untruly” are not similar explicators, but more like second-order statements about the truth or falsity of the judgements. The rest of the indistinctly complex judgements exclude something (”only A is/ is not B”), restrict the validity of a judgement (”in so far as p, q) or make some comparisons (”A is more B than C”). All in all, quite a mixed bunch, but most important is the inclusion of modalities, which has been the first time in my reading list that they appear in a logic book.

Like in most books on logic at the time, I can easily skip the part on syllogisms, because nothing significantly new comes up in that section. Then again, this does not mean I could close the text here, because there's still the final section on demonstration to go through. What is interesting in this context is Darjes' account of what he calls undeniable and deniable judgements or propositions. At first sight, there's nothing particularly strange about Darjes' definition of undeniable judgements – in an undeniable judgement, we can by having a distinct representation of the subject of the judgement say immediately that the predicate belongs to it. Well, the definition does have some superficial resemblance to later Kantian notion of an analytic judgement – and the feeling of resemblance is heigtened when one finds out that Darjes thinks the principle of contradiction suffices as a criterion of truth for undeniable judgements.

What makes Darjes' definition distinct from later Kantian notion of analytic judgements is his insistence that beyond definitions and tautologies judgements based on experience are also undeniable. Although this might at first seem rather unintuitive, Darjes does have a point. Consider the subject of an experimental judgement – this is just an individual we happen to represent. Now, it is quite clear that a judgement based on nothing but experience merely states some characteristic that is already evident in this representation – we see a duck and note that it seems white. In this sense the judgement is also based on the principle of contradiction – if the object seems white, we cannot but affirm this.

The difference with Kant arises probably from the fact that Darjesian definition of undeniable judgements speaks of representations in general, while Kantian definitions of analytical and synthetical judgements are made in terms of concepts. Indeed, Darjesian judgements of experience are always singular - we experience only individuals - and thus their subject cannot be or refer to universal or concept.

Of course, most of our judgements supposedly based on experiences actually overstep the limit of individual experiences just by making generalisations out of individual experiences (ironically, many of the supposed experiences in Darjes book appear to do do). The account of such judgements, Darjes tells us, should be based on probability – which apparently should be handled on the second part of Darjes' book. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find this second book on ”übende Vernunft-lehre” or practical logic, and I cannot even say whether Darjes ever published it.

All in all, Darjes' book with all its small deviations and original quirks is a sign for an end of an era. Another sign will be seen in next post, when we say farewell to a certain opponent of Wolff.

maanantai 6. huhtikuuta 2015

Christian Wolff: Natural theology, posterior part – The enemies of faith

Included with the second book of Natural theology is also Wolff's first complete take on worldviews that rivaled Christianity – one might suppose that it was especially atheism controversy that generated his interest in the topic. It is no wonder that Wolff rejects all these theories, but what is interesting is how he groups these various viewpoints into distinct sets.

The most important of the wrong theories is obviously atheism, which Wolff thinks is so important that it deserves a chapter of its own. We all know atheists are of the opinion that God does not exist. What is more, a consistent atheist must even deny the possibility of God, because by Wolff's a priori proof, God would exist, if he just were possible. Because God does not exist, there is no final explanation of the world, but instead, the world must be an independent entity requiring no explanation – a strange conclusion in Wolffian eyes, because nothing extended could be really independent for Wolff. The worldly events must either go on forever or form a loop in which things repeat one another. In any case, they must follow an iron necessity, since nothing outside the universe could come and change anything. This doesn't mean that there would be no freedom, since human souls might still have the freedom to do things – this freedom just probably would have no consequences on the level of material world. Still, it means that morality is difficult to combine with atheism, because the necessity of the world makes it impossible to apply values like good or bad to it.

After atheism, Wolff groups together fatalism, deism and naturalism, probably because his pietist opponents had often grouped these three together. Fatalism, or the idea that everything in the world happens necessarily, is evidently the one Wolff likes least. Wolff clearly states that atheists must inevitably be fatalists, at least if they want to accept the laws of physics. Still, all fatalists need not be atheists, but they may well be deists, that is, they may believe that God has just created the world, but does not afterwards interfere with it in any manner. Wolff also points out that deist, like atheist, cannot use the idea of divine providence as a way to booster people's behaviour, yet, deist can be more consistent with morality, because he can accept that God might have chosen another world, which might have been better or worse.

Still, it is the third idea or naturalism that is the most interesting of the three theories. By naturalism Wolff does not mean belief in natural sciences, but the idea of natural theology as the only true source of religion. Wolff might have sympathised with the view, but he clearly wanted to show also that natural theology and revealed religion need not be rivals, but could in many cases meet one another.

It is not so strange to see materialism and idealism in the same chapter, but anthropomorphism seems a stranger bedfellow. Yet, Wolff obviously has a point – if God is thought to be shaped like a human, he is obviously material or at least has a material constituent. This also shows that materialist need not necessarily be atheist, since she can just assume that God is some material things (perhaps even the world itself).

Wolff criticizes both anthropomorphists and materialists, because they make God into something very ungodlike – a material object that could be cut to pieces. Interestingly Wolff is less critical of idealism and even says that idealist need not deny physics, because she can just think it concerns an apparent world. Still, Wolff finally denies idealism, because it takes away from the glory of God, who then wouldn't have created an independent world.

The final chapter of the book gathers together various philosophical theories, but also paganism or belief in the existence of several gods, which is perhaps highlihted, because it shares similarities with Manicheanism: both theories suggest that there are several principles guiding world and thus they essentially lower the status of God. The final two systems, Spinozism and Epicureanism, are quickly dealt with. Spinoza has the disadvantage, because it clearly confuses the notion of independency and substance – God is the only independent thing and others are God's creations, but these creations surely are not parts of God. Epicureanism, on the other hand, falls from traditional reasons – emphasising mere sensual pleasure destroys values in themselves.

Finally a last page on Wolff's natural theology. Next time I'll turn to a new philosopher.

keskiviikko 1. huhtikuuta 2015

Christian Wolff: Natural theology, posterior part (1737)

The second part of Wolff's Theologia naturalis appeared just a year after the first part. While the first part had given an empirical proof of God's existence and his attributes by using a cosmological argument that moves from the existence of worldly things to the existence of their creator, the second part should begin with an a priori proof of these very same matters. Of course, it seems unclear why the first proof was required, if an a priori proof was already going to be written. Yet, one should remember that for Wolff, a priori meant simply all deduction of propositions, no matter whether the premises of the deductions contained some empirical statements. Indeed, we shall see that the second deduction is essentially based on the ideas of first deduction and cannot work without it.

What we should do, for now, is to forget all Kantian thoughts about the impossibility of ontological proof. We should ignore the idea that existence is not a true predicate, but positing of something. We should not say that e.g. possibility requires coherence with all the presuppositions of experience and generally forget all Kantian ways to understand modalities. All these concerns are anachronistic, and as we shall see, Wolffian proof has weak points, even when evaluated by its own standards.

Let us then summarise Wolff's proof. Wolff starts from the Leibnizian idea that when you just admit the possibility of God or perfect being that has all compossible realities and also accept that such a being would also have necessity as its property, then, because necessity just means something that exists, if it just is possible, then God would definitely exist. We might figuratively say that all possibilities reside in some shadowy world of potentialities, all waiting for some external push to move themselves to the actuality – all except one, that is, the being that pushes itself to actuality with its own power. Wolffian God is then like baron Münchhausen, who could get himself out of a mire just by pulling his own hair.

Wolff's proof has then three crucial points. Firstly, we may at first ask what this whole discourse of realities and their compossibilities actually means. Secondly, we may question whether such a perfect being would be possible. Finally, we should consider how we can be sure that necessity is one of these compossible realities.

Starting with the question of realities we find a bit of a problem. Although we would expect the word ”reality” to be explained in all its details in Wolff's ontology, it is actually something that Wolff just mentions briefly in passing. What little we can see from this mention is that reality is connected somehow with the concept of res or thing. Now, one should remember that for Wolff thing means something that is at least a possibility and that might well actually be a mere possibility. Reality is then that which makes something res or thing. Note that reality has nothing to do with actuality – actualities are not said to be more ”thinglike” than possibilities. Instead, by reality Wolff appears to refer to what makes something as perfect as it can be: all restrictions and limitations limit also the ”thingness” of something.

Now, each individual reality itself must be something possible, that is, it must be a feature of some possible thing. This doesn't mean that putting two realities together would make another possible thing: if squareness and circularity were both realities, they surely could not belong to a single possible thing. Thus, it makes sense to speak of compossibles, that is, realities that together can make up a possible thing. Thus, it makes some sense to ask whether there could not be several sets of compossible realities, but we may assume for the sake of argument that Wolff could somehow describe the set defining God in more detail and in such a manner that it would refer only to him and to nothing else.

Is then such a combination of realities possible? We know that the realities themselves are by definition possible. Because we are not yet trying to determine what these realities are, we need not prove individually of any of them that they are possibilities and thus realities. Combining the realities or possibilities should also produce something possible, because once again by definition, the realities are meant to be compossibilities. So, we may conclude that the notion of perfect being is always a possibility – there just isn't yet any guarantee what actual features this supposedly perfect being would have (for all we know, it might be something really mundane, like a shiny coin).

The most important part then lies in proving that necessity is one of these realities. What we should then do is to show that necessity is a possibility: because necessity would then clearly be more unlimited than contingency or impossibility, we could then suppose it is also a reality. Problem is that there seems to be no straightforward way to prove the possibility of anything – we could know something as possible, if we knew it was or at least had been actual or if we could infer the possibility of something from the actuality of something else.

Wolff solves this problem rather straightforwardly. A necessary being exists, therefore necessity is a possibility. And how do we know some necessary being is actual then? Why that is simple – it has been proven in the first part of Wolff's natural theology. We know that God exists, because world requires some final explanation, and we know that God is necessary, so surely we know that necessity is also a possibility.

The audacity of Wolff's argument cannot fail to be noticed. The supposed a priori proof of God's existence requires the assumption of God's possibility, which Wolff then sets out to do by invoking an a posteriori proof of God's existence. Firstly, it must be noted that Wolff really cannot have done otherwise. Ultimately, the only justification of possibility in Wolff's philosophy can only be through actuality – we know some actual red things, so we know redness is a possible feature of things, or we know actual things that require some other type of things for their existence, so we know that these other type of things must also be possible.

Secondly, we have to remember what a priori knowledge means in Wolffian philosophy – it is merely any type of knowledge based on proofs, no matter what the premisses of these proofs are. Thus, it matters not so much if Wolff's a priori proof of God's existence is based on some previous a posteriori proof.

It is still strange that Wolff decided to use such a circuitous reasoning – after all, if we do know God's existence, why bother proving it a second time, if we have to use God's existence as a premiss of the proof? I suspect the case is a bit similar as with the relation of rational to empirical psychology – rational psychology adds in a sense nothing new to empirical psychology about the activities of human consciousness, but merely explains the data of empirical psychology through a reasonable hypothesis. Similarly, the a priori proof of God's existence does not note anything new about its apparent topic, but it does open a new perspective by highlighting the role of God as the perfect being - no wonder then that Wolff uses many chapters to show that all of the God's attributes proved in the first book reflect actually God's absolute perfection.