Luca Signorelli (1450-1523), Dante Alighieri
Mainz Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy / Book symposium on Udo Thiel’s The Early Modern Subject November 21-23, 2013 Philosophisches Seminar, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Philosophicum, J…
Leibniz letter (via anonymea).
This blog was on hiatus for some time due to major changes in my professional affiliation. Since 09/2013 I teach philosophy at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
In the second post of this series I have introduced you to the metaphilosophical views of the Helmstedt professors Martini and Lidell who stated that the main relevant characteristic for a definition of philosophy is its function as a ‘medicine for the mind’ (medicina mentis). I had then discussed how philosophy had been heavily criticised by the Helmstedt theologian Daniel Hoffmann. However, apparently Helmstedt philosophers were quite unperturbed by Hoffmann’s attacks. Some ten years after Martini and Lidell, the Helmstedt logician Heinrich Huberin presided over a dissertation on the definition of philosophy in general and its parts that stays true to the commitments of his colleagues and defines philosophy again as ‘medicine of the mind’, and as a doctrine that relies only on the natural light fo the intellect in order to enhance our souls both in theory and action.1
And his Lutheran colleague Christoph Butel, teaching in Szczecin, is even more adventurous: It is ‘unbecoming’ (indecorum) for a philosopher not to know the common essence (ratio) and the most important parts (principalia membra) of philosophy.2 Some philosophical sects assert that philosophy is an empty term without reference. This can be refuted by showing that any argument against philosophy is itself philosophical. To demonstrate the inexistence of philosophy apodictically is only possible, if philosophy is used. Doing philosophy is unavoidable.3
Butel now recounts the various definitions of philosophy we have already encountered in previous posts: cognition of existent things, cognition of human and Divine things or knowledge about such things. Human things should be understood as the domain of human action. Divine things are those who are created as necessary things by God or nature (thereby excluding God from the domain of philosophy). Then there is meditatio mortis, the separation of the mind from affects, the mind following the precepts of philosophy, because it is not subjugated to the affects of the heart (cordis affectus) or the imagination (phantasia sensuum). Or it is a perfection of man that makes us similar to the Divine. Or it is medicina animi.4
But none of these options seem to be acceptable to Butel. First of all, this collection itself is a mixed bag. These definitions refer indiscriminately to the subject matter of philosophy, its end, or they contain a commendation (encomium) of philosophy. But as definitions in the strict sense of the words they commit various fallacies: they give either a wrong or a remote genus for philosophy, or they explain only some of the differences between philosophy and other species belonging to the same genus or they are too broad, including e. g. the mechanical arts.5
But what is then the right genus of philosophy? For Butel, philosophy is a habit of our mind (animus). It presupposes some effort (industria) on part of its students and its acquisition is assisted by instrumental disciplines (disciplinae organicae), i. e the liberal arts. But in contrast to the arts, philosophy is concerned with the things themselves (res ipsae) and is meant to help us in leading a good life. It should be noted in this context that Butel introduces this definition as a proposal for further discussion (disputationis causa).6
The definition, according to Butel, has two advantages: it is applicable to all parts of philosophy, and it can be aligned with the Aristotelian notion of for causes. It gives us a formal cause for philosophy, namely its genus as habit of the mind. And it allows us to determine two material causes, the subiectum in quo (the human mind) and the subiectum circa quod (Divine and human things). It excludes the liberal arts from philosophy, because they are concerned with our notions of things (secundae intentiones) rather than the things themselves. And it gives us two efficient causes of philosophy, God and nature. God is the creator of all good things (and philosophy is good, because it leads us to a good life). Nature has a role to play, because it is part of our nature to strive for philosophical knowledge.
So Butel does not agree with Timpler’s view that we should distinguish an ‘objective’ and a ‘subjective’ side of philosophy. But besides that, his dissertation show clearly that Hoffmann’s attacks on philosophy were not really effective in Lutheran circles: Anyone disputing the existence of philosophy must himself proceed philosophically. And no one can be a philosopher without an articulated view of what the discipline is about. This is in itself remarkable, but even more so, when we see that Butel is not certain about the right definition of philosophy himself (he only introduces it disputationis causa). In other words, he is not really sure whether he is a philosopher himself.
Cf. Huberin, Heinrich, and Bartholomaeus Bargmann. Logicarum Disputatio Prima, De Philosophia In Genere Eiusque Partibus. Helmaestadi[i]: Lucius, 1604. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:gbv:23-drucke/qun-167-11-6-1s7, Thesis I §3: “Definitur itaque Philosophia proprie sumpta, quod sit doctrina ductu lucis naturae ad animi functiones proxime perficiendas, a summis omnium aetatum viris inventa, unde omnia ea cognoscimus, quae Deus in hoc universo vel contemplanda vel ad vitam recte instituendam agenda nobis proposuit.” ↩
Cf. Butel, Christoph, Praetorius, Caspar, Dissertatio De Philosophia Eiusq[ue] Praecipuis partibus, Stetini : Typis Rhetianis, 1604, Thesis I, § 1, http://digital.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/dms/werkansicht/?PPN=PPN726816094&DMDID=DMDLOG_0001: “Et satis indecorum est Philosopho, dum aliarum rerum scientiam profitetur, si communem rationem et principalia membra ipsius Philosophiae ignorat.” ↩
Cf. Butel, Thesis I, §3: “Quod Philosophia non tantum sit inane vocabulum absque re, cum variae testantur Philosophorum sectae: tum illud argumento est, quod nemo eam rationibus negare possit, quin ipso actu et usu simul eandem constituat: Nam Philosophiam negare et negationis certas causas demonstrationes adferre, est Philosophari, Philosophia uti, ejusque singularem efficaciam demonstrare.” ↩
Cf. Butel, Thesis I, §5: “Caterum de vera et propria Philosophiae definitione propter summam varietatem, difficultas existit, Plato quandoque eam definit cognitionem eorum quae sunt. Interdum rerum humanarum et divinarum scientiam. Quam definitionem etiam Cicero repetit. Per res humanas vero intelligunt actiones, effectiones et opera, quae hominum consilio et placito existunt. Res divinae illis significant res necessarias, quae a Deo et Natura producuntur. Alibi eandem Plato definit Meditationem mortis. Ubi non intelligenda est mors naturalis, qua dissolutione animae et corporis definitur: Sed separatio mentis ab affectibus, quae Metaphorice mors nuncupatur, nam quando animus humanus, non cordis affectus, aut sensuum phantasiam; sed ex Philosophiae praescripto, rectam rationem et mentem sequitur, tum non incongrue a Corpore separari dicitur. Rectius tamen secundum Piccolomineum, Meditatio melioris vitae diceretur. Alibi eandem describit Platonem, quod sit perfectio, hominem Deo similem reddens. Redditur autem homo secundum Platonem Deo similis contemplatione veri, et actione virtutis. Alii Medicinam animi eam definiunt: liberat enim animum a morbo ignorantiae et vitiorum.” ↩
Cf. Butel, Thesis I, §6: “Has et similes definitiones merio commendamus, quod partim materiam, partim finem, partim verum Philosophiae Encomium contineant, partim etiam specierum naturam declarent. Si tamen ad exactiores definitionum leges examinantur, iis non omnimodo correspondere videntur, dum aut improprium, aut remotum genus obtinent, aut partiales differentias explicant, aut nimium late, non tantum ad quasvis disciplinarum facultates, sed etiam ad mechanicas artes sese extendunt.” ↩
Cf. Butel, Thesis I, §7: “Quamvis vero in tanta definitionum varietate et post tot doctissimorum lucubrationes, de commodiori Philosophiae descriptione cogitare, forsan frustaneum, vel etiam temerarium esse videatur: disputationis tamen causa, hanc tueri conabimur: Philosophia est habitus animi intervenientibus disciplinis organicis, humana industria comparatus, inque rebus ipsis ad propriam hujus vitae felicitatem consequendam comparatus.” ↩
16th Century Drawings Of Disease Are As Fascinating As They Are Disturbing -
The second in this yearâs series of classes, convened by Will Poole, on annotated books in Bodleian Library collections was led by Kasper van Ommen (University of Leiden, and Humfrey Wanley Fellow …