tiistai 27. joulukuuta 2016

Martin Knutzen: Philosophical proof of the truth of Christian religion (1740)

Considering that the interpretation and reinterpretation of religions and especially Christianity will be one of the main hobbies of the post-Kantian German philosophy, it is somewhat surprising to see that religion has played so little role in the discussions of the German philosophy in the beginning of 18th century. True, Christianity has been a clear background of all the philosophers we have dealt with and religious topics like God and immortality of the soul have been discussed especially in works concentrating on natural theology. Still, there has been little discussion of religion itself, barring some remarks of religion as a cult in natural theology and of religious communities in natural law.

Martin Knutzen's Philosophischer Beweiß von der Wahrheit der Christlichen Religion feels then quite a fresh work. Knutzen himself is probably best known as a teacher of Kant, and one might hypothesise that Kant might have been inspired by Knutzen's work. Then again, Knutzen's philosophy of religion has a very different basis from later Kantian and post-Kantian philosophies of religion. It could be called broadly Wolffian in the sense that Knutzen follows the formal trappings of the Wolffian school, with its supposedly strict definitions and proofs.

Knutzen's proof has essentially two steps. The latter step, in which Knutzen tries to show the divine origin and reliability of Bible stories and especially of the account of the resurrection of Jesus, is less interesting, as it relies more on historical interpretation and Bible exegesis than any deep philosophical insights. Yet, it is of interest in the sense that Knutzen outlines different criteria for deciding the truth of various matters. While the metaphysical or ”geometric” truth should be based on nothing else but the nature of things and physical truth should be based on the actual natural laws, a third kind of or moral truth is dependent on the moral nature of human beings – in other words, we can be reasonably sure that some event has occurred if its denial would involve people behaving against their character. Thus, Knuzen cites as evidence for the truth of the gospel that the supposed enemies of Christianity have accepted it as a historical account – it would go against human nature that one would outright accept the stories of your rivals, if one wouldn't already accept them as reliable.

The first step in the proof involves more philosophical speculations. Knutzen notes that all humans are obligated to obey God's commandments, which coincide with the natural law – firstly, following the natural law just means following our own nature, and secondly, as a divinely instituted law it has the further obligating element that it is based on the will of a person responsible for creating us. Furthermore, Knutzen notes as an empirical fact that all human beings break the natural law in some manner, how insignificant it may seem. Importantly, he does not suggest that this empirical fact would require some sort of original sin as an explanation – it is just something that happens and definitely not a destiny of fallen human beings.

Still, because of this tendency to break the natural law, human beings are in debt to God, Knutzen continues, and because their whole existence depends on God, this debt is infinitely great. In fact, it is so great that nothing that human beings could by themselves do would ever be enough for cancelling this debt – not even if they would conduct the rest of their lives according to the tenets of natural law. Because God is also just and must require some sort of recompensation for the sins of human beings, an infinite punishment should be in store for all human beings.

Knutzen thinks that this problem of the infinite guilt of human beings should be the basis of all true religion – a religion that would just repeat all that natural law has to say would be completely futile. He is also convinced that in addition to Christianity no other religion in the world tackles this question (admittedly, he has only limited information on these other religions). Since Christianity is the only answer given to the problem of infinite guilt – in effect, the answer is that a) God has many aspects and that b) in one aspect he took the shape of a human being and by his death paid the infinite debt – it must be the true religion, just as long as we know that this dying person was truly divine (this is supposed to be proven by the second step, since resurrection is for Knutzen a clear sign of divine power).

Although Knutzen's proof is clearly full of holes, it does address an important issue – that people do have the feeling that they have something to pay for – and recognises that this feeling is a basis of lot of religious sentiments. Indeed, we might be able to draw a clear line from Knutzen's proof to the romantic idea of an alienation of human beings.

keskiviikko 9. marraskuuta 2016

Joachim Darjes: Universal institutions of jurisprudence (1740)

Darjes is one of those philosophers who are not afraid to dabble in many fields of philosophy. We have already seen his take on logic and some of his metaphysical views, while the current work, Institutiones jurisprudentiae universalis, belongs to the same genre as Wolff's series on natural law, first volume of which was published in the same year as Darjes's book. Unlike Wolff, Darjes manages to go through the whole of natural law and the so-called law of nations within the space of one book.

Darjes uses a similar structure in his book as earlier writers on natural law – he starts from an individual human being and moves through simple interpersonal relationships to communities and finally to a civil state. Similarly familiar is Darjes's view of what makes up the good of human beings – because humans have body and soul and external possessions, they should take care of their physical, mental and economical state.

Body, soul and possessions are something we should respect in everyone – this is the basis for human interaction in Darjes's philosophy, and it is so fundamental that it holds even in an ”absolute human condition”, that is, the so-called state of nature, in which no communities yet exist. Darjes also admits that even before creating communities humans are capable of making pacts with one another and that they are indeed obligated to hold onto them – this is what forms the beginning of trade.

Yet, pacts are not the only thing pulling humans together, Darjes says, because there are certain natural reasons for human interaction – Darjes is speaking of marital relations and parental relations, but also of relations between master ans servant. All of these relations form then natural communities, the conglomeration of which is family (one does wonder what the relationship between master and servant does in this list). In comparison, all the other communities are then just hypothetical, in other words, they are not natural, but based on some further conditions.

It is then not surprising to see Darjes expounding next the theory of civil states. He does note the possibility of several families living in a state of anarchy – in principle, anarchy means for Darjes that all families are equal to one another. The need for civil state rises then in quite a Hobbesian manner from a need for security and involves giving some people the right to govern the whole collection of families. This right to rule does not mean complete abrogation of the rights of other citizens, but it does give the rulers the necessary authority for maintaining security. Darjes think rulers have even the right to restrict the emigration of the citizens of their civil state.

Interestingly, Darjes also considers religious communities. He firstly sets them under the authority of the civil state – civil state has a right to eradicate even religious communities within its borders, if they happen to threaten its security. Furthermore, religious communities must respect the right of conscience, which means that they can't forcefully convert other people to their cause. Then again, Darjes says, a religious community and its rulers have a right to homogenize the beliefs of their members. They can't really force anyone to change their views, but they can use their representatives to expound what dogmas their creed has – and they can excommunicate people who steer too far away from these dogmas.

The final part in Darjes's book consists of the so-called law of nations or the study of relations between states. The main idea of Darjes is that states live in a condition of nature toward one another. Like in case of individuals, the state of nature does not imply completely lawless state. Instead, Darjes thinks there are certain infringible rules of conduct that must be obeyed in international affairs. Thus, a state should respect he borders of other states, hold the treaties made with other states and declare a war only when the other state has given a just cause for it.

So much for Darjes and natural law. Next time we shall be one step closer to Kant, when we for the first time meet one of his teachers.

tiistai 6. syyskuuta 2016

Johann Jakob Breitinger: Critical poetry (1740)

In the previous post I mentioned the conflict, which Gottsched had with the Swiss aestheticians Bodmer and Breitinger. In retrospect, this conflict was less to do with completely different notions of aesthetics and more to do with different emphasis: Gottsched was more keen to hold on to the principle of the imitation of nature and clear rules derived from this principle, while Bodmer and Breitinger thought wonder to be the essential element of aesthetic feeling. While previously we saw Bodmer's practical application of their notion of aesthetics, Breitinger's Critische Dichtkunst presents its basic theory.

One must at first note that despite Breitinger's animosity with Gottsched, he doesn't wonder too far from tenets of Wolffian philosophy. Thus, we hear philosophy or ”worldly wisdom” defined as a science of all things, in so far as humans are capable of knowing the ground of their possibility and actuality.

What Breitinger wants to modify in Wolff's philosophy is to add rhetoric and poetry as its parts. His justification is based purely on utilitarian grounds. While philosophy is based on intricate scientific reasoning, most people simply cannot follow it and they have to be educated by other needs, that is, with the help of rhetoric and poetry.

Furthermore, Breitinger also accepts the suggestion that poetry is imitation of nature. That is not to say that poetry would be just a retelling of what happens in world around us, somewhat like history. Instead, poetry should arouse a feeling of truth in its reader through sensuous images. In this sense, poetry resembles painting, which also tries to imitate nature by creating a semblance of truth in its watcher. Yet, painting affects us more forcefully, while poetry has the advantage in being able to use material from all senses, which is just recollected by hearing certain words.

Since Breitinger accepts the idea that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds, he is bound to accept that imitated natural things can be regarded good. Yet, Breitinger finds a certain difference – while the goodness of the actual world is intrinsic to it, goodness of poems lies in them being good imitations. Thus, one can have a good poem, even if its topic falls short of complete perfection.

As it was habit with Gottsched and Bodmer, Breitinger extends the notion of imitation from the actual to all possible worlds, and just like Bodmer, he extends it quite far, to improbable possibilities, in which animals and plants speak and all sorts of allegorical abstractions exist. Indeed, such fables are one end of poetic works, in which wondrous rules over probability. Still, even they have some share of probability, since human mind has the tendency to antropomorphise natural things and especially animals.

In general, Breitinger sees all poetic works balancing between wonder and probability. Too much of wonder and a poem loses its credibility. Then again, too little of wonder and a reader won't have any interest on the poem. Most of the art of poetics deals then with various ways to enhance both wonder and probability. Thus, even when describing quite ordinary things, poet can highlight some of their more extraordinary properties or show them in an unexpected light. Similarly, one must make e.g. actions and speeches of a person seem like they would flow naturally out of the character of the person.

I will not go further into the petty details of the conflict between Gottsched and Breitinger/Bodmer-duo, and hence, this will be last we'll hear of any of them. Next time, I shall look at a completely different discipline, namely, jurisprudence.

torstai 23. kesäkuuta 2016

Bodmer: Critical inquiry on wondrous in poetry (1740)

It is always refreshing to see a philosopher reconsider his old ideas and to move away from positions he held earlier. This appears to be case with Bodmer, whose earlier work showed clear influences of Wolffian philosophy and regarded imitation as the basic principle of good poetry. By the time of writing his Critische Abhandlung von dem Wunderbaren in der Poesie und dessen Verbindung mit dem Wahrscheinlichen, Bodmer appears to have changed his opinion quite radically – art need not be limited by correspondence with actual objects, because in addition to actual world, poems can deal also with other possible worlds.

The topic of Bodmer's work is John Milton's Paradise Lost, a poem about the rebellion of Satan against God and of the fall of the first human beings from the grace. A number of French critics had attacked the book, notably because it had tried to overreach the limit of what is humanly imaginable and to describe things no human being could have ever witnessed. A good example is provided by the angels. Critics had complained that these are actually immaterial entities, but Milton describes them as having flesh and blood. When it comes to fallen angels, he even suggests they can feel bodily pain. Bodmer notes that Milton is just following an age-old tradition – even Homeric gods had a body, were bodily exhausted etc. Furthermore, he notes that a poet can refrain from literal imitation, if a powerful allegory demands it.

Even further in his dismissal of the principle of imitation Bodmer goes when he speaks of Milton's use of such entities like Death and Sin. The French critics had complained that these characters felt quite shadowy and that their presence in the poem mad the whole thing look quite improbable. Bodmer notes that a poet need not restrict oneself to mere probabilities, when the whole range of possibilities is available for him – and who can tell what wonders lie in the immaterial world?

Bodmer's aesthetical bent drives him then toward extending the range of what can be recounted in a work of fiction – not just probabilities, but also possibilities. This attack against very restricted theories of imitation is not the only philosophically interesting theme Bodmer considers. For instance, he notes that when Milton describes Satan as having momentary relief from pain, the poet is just telling the truth, since an infinite amount of pain is impossible for a limited entity, which even an angel must be. Or, when critics express puzzlement that Adam could know concepts of negative emotions, when all he had thus far had were positive emotions, Bodmer notes that Adam could well have abstracted the concept of a negative emotion from his experience of positive emotions – it wouldn't have been a distinct concept, but it would still have been a concept. Yet, the main aesthetic innovation of the work is just this attack on imitation as the sole principle of poetry.

Although Bodmer speaks of French critics, another probable target of his attack is Gottschedian school of aesthetics, in which naturalness was seen as the central element of poetry – so central that even operas were thought to be bad poetry, because people singing all the time is just artificial construct. Indeed, Bodmer's work can be seen as an integral part of his conflict with Gottsched, which was an important source of controversy in the 1740s. We shall have occasion to speak about this controversy with the next book, which was written by Johann Jakob Breitinger, an ally of Bodmer.

maanantai 2. toukokuuta 2016

Friedrich II: Anti-Machiavelli (1740)

Friedrich II (1712-1786)
Royalty is not a common sight in lists of philosophers. Few clear examples come to mind immediately: Marcus Aurelius, princess Elisabeth of Bohemia – and Friedrich II of Prussia. Known by the title ”philosopher-king”, this enlightened despot appeared to have a golden touch. In his life time, Prussia rose from a slightly larger German territory into ranks of European superpowers, boomed economically and received a more modern system of justice. Furthermore, he strove to raise the status of Prussian culture to the level of French culture he loved and invited to his court many French litterateurs and philosophers, such as Voltaire. He even called back Christian Wolff, whom his father had long ago exiled because of suspicions of heresy.

Despite the grand sound of all these efforts, it might well be asked what this person is doing on a blog concentrating expressly on philosophical writings. Well, Friedrich II did write – poetry, but also some more philosophical works. It is especially his L'Anti-Machiavel that will now be my topic.

As the name of the book suggests, target of this critical work is Machiavelli and especially his most famous work, The Prince, famous for it utter immorality. In this work, Machiavelli had declared that a good prince should use all the means necessary to get to his ends – war, plunder, deception, murder, slander, you name it. Even if Machiavelli's advice appears rather cynical, he was in his heart a republican, and The Prince was merely an attempt to find a suitable local prince, who could use it for the honourable end of uniting Italy under a home-bred rule.

Friedrich connects his own work with quite another philosophical debate – he considers Machiavelli to be even greater threat than Spinoza, because while latter had erred only in matters of speculation, the former wrote falsities in important practical matters. If Spinoza was commonly seen as gateway to atheism, Machiavelli led to even worse immoralism – to the idea that a ruler should not strive for the good of his people.

While Friedrich's motives are clearly based on morality, his argumentation is not. Instead, he tries to show that a Machiavellian prince cannot even fulfill his own ends with the means of Machiavelli's book. A prince cannot really rule without the support of his citizens, as is witnessed by many revolutions against despised rulers, Friedrich notes. Deceptiveness and cruelty might help one in gaining kingship, but such qualities cannot be used for retaining one's rule.

Furthermore, Friedrich notes that Machiavelli's The Prince does not take into consideration relativistic nature of cultures. In other words, methods of rule fit for 16th century Italy – a time of petty principalities fighting for equally petty reasons – do not work in other lands, let alone at other times. In 18th century, small principality just couldn't afford to e.g. wage war alone, but should accept alliances with other principalities.

Interestingly, Friedrich's book touches even a more metaphysical question. One of the chapters of Machiavelli's book concerned the role of fortune in state affairs – and whether a prince could negate its influence. Here Friedrich notes that Machiavelli assumes, without further ado, that fortune exists. Yet, he notes skeptically, there has been no convincing proof showing that true fortune or contingency exists – nor, for that matter, any proof showing that e.g. providence has cared for everything

Next time, we'll move back to aesthetics.

sunnuntai 10. huhtikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Ethics (1740)

Development of philosophical disciplines hasn't been one of steady accumulation and maybe even not a progress at all. Instead, one sees some paradigms used for some time and then replaced suddenly by other paradigms. When looked at from the viewpoint of the new paradigm, it might seem that there was no development at all happening before the shift. Thus, from the viewpoint of a modern logician, the centuries of Aristotelian logic might seem filled with no important insights nor even with any true variation in the views – everyone just learned their Baroccos. Of course, such an external reflection hides the fact that within this older paradigm there might have been differences of opinions – these differences just seem inessential when compared to the difference of paradigms.

Such a paradigm shift occurred in many disciplines with the advent of Kant's critique. Ethics seems to be no exception. Thus, when we post-Kantians consider Wolff's and Baumngarten's ethics, we might have difficulties noting any differences between the two, because they share so many similarities.

And indeed, there are features found in ethics of both thinkers. Both Wolff and Baumgarten say that the ultimate principle of ethics is perfection. Furthermore, both philosophers think that duties divide into three classes: those toward oneself, those toward others and those toward God.

Yet, Wolff and Baumgarten have interestingly different tendencies in their ethics, and these tendencies are based on subtly different features of their metaphysics. For Wolff, human soul is always essentially a loner. It is connected to physical world through hypothetical pre-established harmony, but truly determined just by its own progression. Hence, its primary duty is always perfecting itself. Duties towards others are mostly negative, since one should let others perfect themselves, while the most important duty toward God is to act ethically – religion is just a modification of ethics.

At first sight, Baumgarten's view of the human soul might seem quite similar. Human soul, like all monads, has no real influence on anything outside itself and is not influenced by anything, except God, which affects everything. Yet, despite the seeming similarity, Baumgarten at least emphasises different things. First of all, he is keen note that monads do have ideal influences to one another – that is, whenever monad affects another, the other monad is not just passive, but acts itself. In other words, Baumgarten merely says that the existence of causal processes between monads is just a matter of viewpoint – in some sense a monad affects another, in another sense it doesn't.

Furthermore, Baumgarten says that similar relations hold between all monads and thus between all substances. In other words, there is no obvious difference between physical and mental causality and both souls and bodies form a part of the same world, held together by the glue of ideal causality. In addition, Baumgarten also holds that souls form a sort of body of their own – mystical community, one might say, with God as its head.

It is then no wonder that Baumgarten places duties toward God as the central element of his own ethics. We should aim to know God truly and thus avoid all sorts of heresies, like Spinozism. Furthermore, it is not just about internal beliefs – we should also externalize our beliefs through prayers and other ceremonies, Baumgarten says. In other words, religion becomes the essence of ethics in Baumgarten.

While the role of divinity becomes more central, the role of individual becomes less central. Of course, one should make oneself more perfect – that is, one should e.g. improve one's mental capacities and keep oneself healthy. Yet, this all seems more like a necessary means for improving perfection in general – something Wolff thought was best left for individuals themselves. For Baumgarten, instead, spreading goodness everywhere is a primary duty of a human being – and human beings as composites of both body and soul are a good target of good actions. Indeed, Baumgarten goes even so far as to insist on conversational abilities as one duty of human beings – we should not be hermits, but instead we should communicate with other fellow humans.

Baumgarten's emphasis of religion and duties concerning other conscious beings takes Baumgarten into rather strange places. God is supposedly the only thing one should worship, thus, worshiping other conscious entities – like demons, whether they happen to exist or not – is completely forbidden. Even worse it is if one tries to use such worship to magically aid oneself or harm others – magic is placed under suspicion.

This concludes Baumgarten's account of ethics. Next time, we shall turn our interest to royalty.  

tiistai 22. maaliskuuta 2016

Christian Wolff: Natural right 1 (1740)

With the onset of 1740s Wolff begins his final great task, Jus Naturae, which would eventually consist of eight thick volumes and which is, in a sense, a crowning moment in the progress of his Latin works.

The topic of Wolff's Natural right is a continuation of his earlier books on general practical philosophy – as one might well remember, in the Wolffian tradition natural right was often regarded as an application of the general practical philosophy. Still, in the first volume, Wolff remains in a sense on quite a general level. The topic of this first volume is universal human right, where universal means what concerns all human beings. In other words, the volume is about rights and obligations of every person, no matter what her station in life.

Wolff's general idea is that the idea of an obligation precedes the idea of right. In other words, if there were no obligations, there would be no rights and therefore no jurisdiction. It comes as no surprise that Wolff then states the existence of some primitive obligations – such obligations should be based on the essence of humanity and are therefore applicable to all human beings.

Since these natural obligations are based on the essence of humanity, which is same for all human beings, it then appears that at least when it comes to these obligations, no human being should have any rights that were not rights of other people. This is especially true in the state of nature, where the only obligations are the natural obligations, while in civil state human beings might have made contracts restricting their natural rights.

The content of this universal natural right or law should then be familiar to us already from Wolff's German ethical writings. Particularly, Wolff divides the universal law into three departments, first of which concerns person's obligations towards oneself. This is the strangest part of Wolffian ethics for modern reader, but based on an essential notion of Wolffian practical philosophy – we are obligated to perfect ourselves. This means, firstly, that we should perfect our own soul. In other words, we should perfect our intellect and try to know things as distinctly as possible. We should also perfect our will and learn how to master our sensuous impulses.

Beyond soul, one should also train and care for one's body. As body is for Wolff something different from the soul and something given to it, he thinks it obvious that we cannot by ourselves decide to end its life. Then again, one should provide nourishment for the body, but not too much, since immoderate eating and drinking merely ruins one's body. One should also use medicine to fix bodily problems caused by diseases.

Human beings also have the right to use those external goods, which lie in their power. They can nourish the body, with products of nature, as long as they do not try to use bodies of other human beings for lunch. One has a right to make one's environment clean enough and even beautiful. Human beings can also spend their time manufacturing some raw materials to shape that is more use than the original.

Human beings have obligations not just toward oneself, but also toward other humans and God, Wolff says. Duties toward others seem mostly negative – one should not be rude to anyone, one should not molest anyone, mentally or physically. To put it short, one should not hinder anyone becoming more and more perfect, and in extreme cases, one should even actively help others to perfect themselves.

Duties toward God do not add that much new to the scheme. At most, one should try to have as accurate picture of God's characteristics as possible and thus avoid deism and other heresies. One should also promote the glory of God and lend one' own will for God's purposes. In practice, this means not much more than acting according to natural law.

So much for Wolff's natural law this time, next we shall see what Baumgarten has to say about ethics.

torstai 25. helmikuuta 2016

Joachim Georg Darjes: The existence of freely existing necessary human actions (1739)

We have already seen one book of Darjes, namely, an interesting text book on logic, which deviated slightly from the normal Wolffian manner of presentation. De necessaria actionum hominis liberarum existentium existentia is just a short text of under ten pages and its topic seems rather worn out in the field of German philosophy: how to reconcile the principle of sufficient reason with the apparent freedom of human action. Yet, although Darjes' solution to this question is far from original, it at least is a refreshingly clear and straightforward account of one position in this dilemma.

Darjes begins, like a good Wolffian, by accepting the principle of sufficient reason. We have many times seen how difficult it is to read this principle, and in many cases, to decide what it actually means. Darjes has a very strict understanding of the principle – if a sufficient reason exists, then that which it is reason of must also exist. In effect, sufficient reason becomes with Darjes almost the same thing as determining cause.

How does such a determinism then combine with free actions? Well, it all comes down to how freedom is defined. For Darjes, freedom of human actions lies in the fact that it is the human itself, who gets to decide what she will do from several equally possible actions. Although such free actions cannot be based on anything outside humans, they can be based on something inside humans. This basis of action must be, Darjes concludes, a representation of maximal good in human mind.

Combining determinism and freedom becomes then quite easy. Human being has a representation of highest good and her actions are determined only through that representation – hence, they are free actions. Then again, this representation determines necessarily what the action following it will be, and so the determinism is retained.

One might think that Darjes's attempt to break the Gordian knot is as effective and as against the rules of the game as the fabled original was. Indeed, it all seems to depend on Darjes merely assuming what freedom of actions means. Yet, Darjes does have other arguments for his position. Notably, he says that his definitions are believable, because they agree with some of our important intuitions. We do think it is possible to know from the values and beliefs of a person how she will act in certain situations – the whole popular psychology is based on this assumption. Unless our representations truly determined our actions, none of this would be true.

As interesting as Darjes's defense of his deterministic position is, the shortness of the text makes it a bit undeveloped. Next time, we shall see what Wolff had to say about free actions in his writings on natural law.

maanantai 15. helmikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Divine deeds

Like majority of the German philosophers at the time, Baumgarten was quick to distance his ideas from Spinozism. Thus, he insists that God is not just a passive source of emanation, but an active creator. Of course, God has not created everything, Baumgarten says. Essences of all things are necessary and thus in need of no creation. Since essences of things contain their necessary limitations, Baumgarten can also say that God is not the cause of these limitations – whatever evil there is in the world, is then ultimately no fault of God.

What God has done then is that he has given existence to some of the essences and their complex or the world. With the world, he created all its parts, down to the simple substances or monads. Because God knows best, this world must be the best possible, even though it necessarily has some evil due to the limitations of the substances. Quite traditionally, Baumgarten suggests that the end of the creation is to reflect the glory of divinity, especially in the eyes of all substances with intellect to comprehend the perfection of the world and its creator.

Baumgarten also states, again quite traditionally, that God has not just created the world, but also sustains its continued existence. This means especially that God makes sure that world follows certain stable physical laws. Such stable laws might allow some evil to happen – a human being might be killed, because a bullet follows a certain trajectory. Still, this is not something that God would have positively wanted to happen, but just something he has allowed as a consequence of the working of natural laws.

God can have more specific influence in world's events. Such special influence cannot then have any bad effects, since it is something God has positively willed to happen. Indeed, Baumgarten assures us, the aim of these divine interventions is often to help the frail worldly creatures and prevent them from succumbing to their limitations. One particular type of such interventions is revelation, which in strict sense means for Baumgarten God speaking supernaturally to finite beings. The content of such revelation is usually something that humans could not have found out by themselves, but it can never contradict what philosophy has to say about world and God.

With such traditionally religious notions ends Baumgarten's Metaphysics. Next time, I shall take a look at how to combine necessity with freedom.

sunnuntai 7. helmikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Pulling God out of the hat

It is especially in his rational theology where Baumgarten diverges most from standards set by Wolff. As we should know by now, for Wolff, it was the cosmological argument that ruled the field of theology. With Baumgarten, we find no traces of this argument. Instead, Baumgarten starts straightaway with the ontological argument, which with Wolff clearly played a second fiddle.

The two gentlemen don't just have different taste in arguments, but their very arguments are different. Indeed, when with Wolff, ontological argument was essentially dependent on cosmological argument, with Baumgarten, the ontological argument obviously has to work on its own.

There's already a clear difference in the manner, in which Wolff and Baumgarten try to prove the possibility of God. With Wolff, the proof was based on the fact that he defined God as a sum of known possibilities that are also known to be possible in combination – it requires just quick analysis to see that this proof must work. Baumgarten, on the contrary, bases his proof on more spurious ideas. He defines God as a sum of positive characteristics, which have no negations or limitations in them. He then suggests that contradiction could only occur, if such a combination of characteristics would have some negations in them. This leap of thought seems to require a more careful justification – after all, one might think that characteristics might restrict one another without being literal negations of one another. Yet, it seems that with Baumgarten, development of a thing in one dimension is completely indifferent to its development in another dimension – basic characteristics are independent of one another.

Now, with Wolff, it is then all about knowing whether his combination of perfect possible characteristics is just a contingent entity or also necessary – in the former case, we can say nothing about its existence, in the latter case, we can conclude infallibly that it does exist. The only manner in which Wolff could decide this was to show that necessary things existed – this is where the cosmological argument came in.

Baumgarten, on the other hand, simply assumes that existence is one of the independent dimensions, of which the sum of all positive characteristics consists of. As one knows well, Kant was very much against this idea and denied that being or existence would be even a characteristic in the same sense as other characteristics of things. Wolff did not go as far, because he noted that Baumgartenian line of thought could not lead very far – even if you added existence as a characteristic of some possible entity, it would still be just possible existence (this is why he had to prove a stronger notion that he could add necessity to the required possible combination of perfect characteristics). With Baumgarten, actual existence is something you can just add to a possible thing and make it exist – indeed, existence is defined by him as a completeness in the combination of all characteristics of a thing.

Baumgarten then thinks that he has shown the necessity of God's existence – God comes out, when you start to add all sorts of perfections and finally existence. God cannot then fail to exist, because that would mean contradiction. Baumgarten's final account of all the properties of God is rather traditional (he is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good), but one should not even expect originality in such carefully observed part of education.

Next time, I shall wrap up Baumgarten's natural theology, and with it, all of Baumgarten's metaphysics.

perjantai 29. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Rational psychology

A central message of Wolff's rational psychology was that the empirically observed nature of human soul is explained best, if it is assumed to be a force for representing the world, and most of this side of Wolff's system was spent showing how each distinct faculty could be reduced to such a force. With Baumgarten, on the other hand, this is more of an assumption already shown in the empirical psychology. Thus, Baumgarten uses most of the pages of his rational psychology for pursuits that overstep the limits of what we can experience, while with Wolff, these seemed more like an afterthought.

A commonality in Wolff's and Baumgarten's rational psychology is their belief that nothing material or no complex substance can account for soul's capacity to represent even itself. Baumgarten can then simply note that a soul as a simple substance is a Leibnizian monad. Although soul as such is then not a complex substance, it is attached to several such substances. Firstly, all the souls in the world form what Baumgarten calls a mystical body – this is evidently a reference to the idea of the church as the mystical body of Christ. Secondly, every soul is also tied up with some corporeal substance or body. This necessary relation to a body makes soul finite – its representations are limited by the position of its body.

An important matter for Baumgarten is the freedom of human soul. Baumgarten thinks that human soul must be free, because it can move its own body consciously. Of course, he notes, this is only possible, if pre-established harmony is accepted, because only then the (ideal) causation of the movement of human body is dependent only on the human soul. If either the influx theory or the occasionalism is accepted, the responsibility for bodily movement is taken away from the soul, because in both theories the decisions of the soul are determined externally, either by other bodies or by God.

After these relatively mundane concerns, Baumgarten heads straight into theological speculations. He at first notes that soul cannot have been generated by the parents – indeed, soul as a simple unit cannot have been formed out of a union of other substances. Then again, it might have been transferred to the body at the time of conception.

As for the end of a soul, as monads they cannot be taken apart and will continue their existence as long as world endures. This still does not mean that all souls would be immortal, since this requires some kind of personality, that is, conscious memory of having been alive before. Humans have such a personality and therefore probably continue their existence in the afterlife – Baumgarten also supposes that they will continue their moral progress, vicious people becoming more and more unhappy and virtuous people becoming more and more happy. Animal souls, on the other hand, are not personal in this sense – and Baumgarten speculates about a possibility of a whole hierarchy of souls, with different levels of awareness, in which human souls form only one stage.

So much for Baumgarten's psychology, next time I'll take a look at his theology.

torstai 21. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Empirical psychology

Just like Wolff, Baumgarten divides psychology into two parts, empirical and rational. Yet, just like with the previous parts of his metaphysics, the interesting thing is to see where Baumgarten deviates from Wolff's examples. Like in many previous cases, the first obvious change is the lack of full proofs in Baumgarten's text. The existence of soul is almost just assumed from the fact of our self-consciousness – there must be something, which can be conscious of itself. Then, by just noticing that this soul must be that which underlies all states of being conscious of something – that is, of representing something – Baumgarten at once concludes that the soul must be a force or activity of representing things.

Just like with Wolff, in Baumgarten's psychology my body is not really mine at all, but just the material body that I happen to represent most often. Still, Baumgarten at least makes it clear that representations of a human soul are somehow directed by the position of its body – if my body would now be in Lincolnshire, I would have very different representations of the world around me.

Baumgarten assumes from Wolffian philosophy the hierarchy of different levels of clarity and distinctness of representations. A striking novelty is Baumgarten's idea that there are actually two different scales, according to which the clarity of a representations could be evaluated. Firstly, there is the intensive clarity, which measures how well we can distinguish a thing through that representation – this is the basis of what in Wolffian philosophy distinguished clear and eventually distinct representations. Secondly, there is extensive clarity, which measures how many individual characteristics of a thing are represented – in effect, it tells how vividly we experience some object. Extensive clarity is something that even non-distinct representations might have in abundance, and for evaluating such vividness Baumgarten suggests a completely new science, which he calls aesthetics. In effect, such aesthetics would include what we understand by the term, but it would in general be a science investigating all non-distinct or sensitive cognition.

Baumgarten's account of the sensitive cognition is somewhat more scholastic than Wolff's - while Wolff is often satisfied with indicating that several cognitive skills are somehow interrelated, Baumgarten tries to make clear divisions and thus presents far more individual faculties. Both philosophers have fairly similar stories to tell about the basis of all cognition, that is, sensation, which for Baumgarten refers to a cognition of the present state of the soul and the body (and thus mediately of the world), in which levels of intensive and extensive clarity are different.

Baumgarten's account of imagination shows already the scholastic tendency I mentioned. With Wolff, imagination was a name for a complex of interrelated skills, such as memory and invention, which all rely on our ability to represent things which are not present to us. With Baumgarten, on the other hand, imagination is merely this ability to represent things, which are not present us – and in fact, it is precisely an ability to represent past states of soul, body and world. Memory, or the ability to recognise an imagined representation as past, is already a distinct ability for Baumgarten. In addition to memory, Baumgarten also distinguishes such faculties as perspicacity (ability to perceive identities and diversities of things – note that this happens already at a level, in which we don't really have distinct thoughts) and innovation (ability to combine imaginations to form new representations). Especially the faculty of innovation comes with an interesting twist. Both Wolff and Baumgarten admit that even imaginations represent individual things, but whereas Wolff included innovation as one type of imagination and thus implied that even such fictional combinations of phantasms, like centaurs, are individuals, Baumgarten could conceivably state that such fictive innovations are no individuals, since innovation as a faculty differs from imagination.

In Baumgarten, our capacity to represent past things is based on the fact that all past and present things form a causal nexus. Because a similar nexus connects present to future states, Baumgarten concludes that we must have a faculty of representing future things and events, although this appears to be more obscure than representing past things. Just like Baumgarten distinguished sharply between imagination as representing past and memory as recognising something as past, he also points out a further faculty for recognising some representation as being of a future event – this is the faculty on which prophesising is based. A more mundane example of such a ”vision of future" Baumgarten presents in connection with another faculty or judgement, which means for Baumgarten representing or perceiving how perfect or imperfect something is (all of this happens still at the level of non-distinct cognition). If such a judgement is turned on future events, it can be used in practice for deciding how to act.

Just like with Wolff, intellect or understanding is not a completely distinct faculty separate from sensation, but more of a higher level of human mind, born out of sensations through attention, reflection and comparison. In difference to Wolff, Baumgarten points out that intellect forms only a one possible way to improve our cognition. Intellect or understanding is generated by purifying our sensations, that is, through clarifying our ideas, but it is also possible to make our representations more vivid – this makes our mind more in tune with what is beautiful.

Following Wolff, Baumgarten explains human feelings of pleasure and pain through the notion of perfection – perceiving something as perfect makes us feel it pleasurable, while perceiving something as imperfect makes us feel pain (of course, it is also possible that an object is not regarded as either). Expectations of pleasure and pain make our soul strive for something and thus act like motives.

Baumgarten is quite clear that our soul requires such a motive to do anything at all – if we are not forced to do anything, we will follow our own motives. Such motives could be generated either by mere sensations and other indistinct representations – then they are mere impulses – while conscious motives are caused always by distinct representations. Here a real freedom means then action instigated by such conscious motives.

The final topic of Baumgarten's empirical psychology is the interaction between soul and its body. Baumgarten says that on basis of mere psychology we cannot say which is better, the idea of a true causal interaction or the idea of a pre-established harmony. Yet, as we already know, his idea of the perfect possible world points towards the Leibnizian idea.

So much for Baumgarten's empirical psychology, next we shall see what he has to say about rational psychology.

tiistai 12. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Such a perfect world

The account of world in general and its parts completes the independent part of Baumgarten's cosmology. There is still one section of cosmology we haven't dealt with, but it still requires to be fulfilled by an important proposition, proven only in theology. The section concerns the perfection of the world and the proposition to be proven states that the world is perfect, because it is created by God.

We have already seen that the notion of perfection in Baumgarten is quite aesthetical – the more things we have following the same laws, the more perfect world we have. This notion by itself rules out certain worldviews as being clearly imperfect. We already know that Baumgarten holds materialistic world to be an impossibility. Furthermore, egoistic world is clearly not perfect, because in such a world exists only one entity. Similarly, a dualistic world is more perfect than idealistic, because idealism allows only the existence of spirits, while dualism accepts also the existence of matter and its simple parts – that is, if matter and spirits are just something that can exist in the same world.

One part of the notion of perfection rules then that there should be as much entities in the world as possible, while the other part states that these entities should be governed by same laws. An interesting question is whether the other part speaks against the possibility of events happening against natural laws, that is, miracles. One thing is certain – the inclusion of spirits in Baumgarten's world does not violate natural laws, but instead just extends the notion of natural from mere material universe to spiritual entities. Thus, whatever spirits do, it is not in any way miraculous. Indeed, it is only God who could act in any way against the laws of nature.

We might think that as an avid Leibnizian Baumgarten would be quite against the notion of miracles – in a perfect world God needs not wind the clock from time to time. Yet, as a Wolffian, Baumgarten is still willing to leave the possibility of miracles open. Supernatural events might be possible even in the perfect world, if they just somehow improved the world. If some perfections could not be achieved through mere natural means or if they could not be achieved as perfectly, then miracles might be in order.

Interestingly, Baumgarten uses the notion of perfect world to decide the topical question of interaction between substances. If we begin from the least acceptable alternative, occasionalism would state that no finite substances would actually act, but everything would be done by infinite substance or God. This view would contradict a proposition Baumgarten takes to be self-evident, that is, that when a thing is in some respect passive toward another thing, it must be in another respect active. Hence, occasionalism would fall to a contradiction and would be unacceptable even on that account.

The decision between causal influx, Leibnizian pre-established harmony and some mixture of the two is not as simple. Before Baumgarten can decide between these alternatives, he must obviously explain what they all mean. Causal influx, Baumgarten says, means that all interactions are real, that is, when substance A is active in respect to a change in passive substance B, B is in no respect active in respect to this same change. Then again, pre-established harmony states that all interactions are ideal, that is, when substance A is active in respect to a change in passive substance B, B is also active in respect to that same change – in other words, it is just a matter of perspective, whether A has caused something in B or whether B has caused it in itself. In mixed positions, some interactions are real, some ideal.

Now, Baumgarten insists that the system of pre-established harmony does not deny that causal interactions do occur between different substances – it just states that at the same time these substances, in a sense, act for themselves. Similarly, a system of universal causal influx does not deny that world would contain universal harmony, and indeed, causal influx would glue all the parts of the world as well together as pre-established harmony. Then again, causal influx does have its problems. Particularly, since an activity of a thing must always be derived from some other substance, eventually no finite substance would be active in the sense that its activity would be consequence of its own nature.

But the final proof Baumgarten accepts is based on the notion perfect world. If the world would be glued by a universal causal influx, all the reasons for some event would be external to the things involved in the event. Then again, in pre-established harmony, all events have two different types of influence – the events are really caused by the things themselves and ideally by other things. Because of this consideration, Baumgarten is willing to accept pre-established harmony, except in case of God, who obviously is a real cause of the whole world.

So much for cosmology! Next time I will turn to questions of psychology.