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History of Philosophy
German Illumination -- Transition to Kant
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)

[1] Cf. Falckenberg, op. cit.; also Zeller, Die deutsche Philosophie seit Leibniz especially pp. 195-273.

During the seventeenth century Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694), who aimed at mediating between Grotius and Hobbes, and Christian Thomasius (1655-1728), who is considered the first of the German Illuminati, appeared as representatives of a new philosophy of law. They investigated the foundations of natural right, and formulated theories in accordance with the changed political conditions of Europe.


It was the aim of many of the philosophical writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to free philosophy from the technical difficulties which rendered it inaccessible to the generality of readers, and in this way to reach the people, as the French authors of the Encyclopaedia were doing. Walther von Tschirnhausen (1651-1708), Johann Nicolas Tetens (1736-1805), and Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) represent different phases of this movement in different departments of thought, -- physical science, mental science, and religious philosophy. To the same period belongs the so-called Pietistic movement which aimed at counteracting the rationalistic tendency by quickening religious feeling.

During the storm and stress movement of the last decades of the eighteenth century, when rationalism was at its height, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), the philosopher-poet, expounded a system of religio-philosophical thought which may be said to be a system of natural religion, based partly on the pantheism of Spinoza's Ethica, and partly on the theism of Leibniz' Théodicée. To the same period belongs Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), whose Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit [2] marks an epoch in the history of the philosophy of history. In this work Herder interprets history from the point of view of the organic unity of the human race.
[2] Translated by T. Churchill, Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man, London, 1800. Herder's complete works were published at Stuttgart in 60 vols., 1827-1830. cf. Francke, Social Forces in German Literature (New York, 1897), pp. 318ff.
Christian von Wolff (1679-1754) is of special importance on account of the influence which he exercised on Kant's early training. He attempted to reduce Leibniz' philosophy to a systematic form, but in doing so he modified the essential tenets of his predecessor, restricting the doctrine of preëstablished harmony to the explanation of the relations of soul and body, and so changing the doctrine of the dualism of the monad as practically to restore the Cartesian antithesis of mind and matter. He devoted special attention to philosophic method. Indeed, he sometimes carried method to the extent of formalism. Wolff is the author of the well-known division of metaphysics into ontology, cosmology, psychology, and rational theology.


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