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.