"Early Modern Thought Online" (EMTO) is a database offering access to about 13.500 digitized source texts from early modern philosophy and related disciplines like history of science and history of theology provided by libraries in Europe and overseas. In the present stage of its development, EMTO presents mainly links to external resources.
This blog intends to show how to profit from concepts and methods of the digital humanities. It will give practical advice on how to use digitised sources. We will present digital collections relevant to our field, and discuss their relevance for early modern philosophy and history of ideas. But we want to do philosophy as well: present ongoing research related to sources present in EMTO. We hope that this blog, as well as EMTO as a whole, will be a helpful tool and provide a lively forum for discussion.
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Links to previous posts in this series can be found in the archive.
I must start with a correction: In the previous post, I had relied on my faulty memory in estimating the distance in time between the publication of Casmann’s Modesta Assertio and relevant publications by Keckermann and Timpler. But I had not noted that the first edition of Timpler’s Systema Metaphysicae was published in 1604. Moreover, it had escaped me that Keckermann, too, began to address the question how to define philosophy in his Praecognita Logica published first in 1599 before Casmann.
Keckermann’s and Timpler’s contributions are interesting not only in the context of a history of ‘Reformed’ philosophy. Comparing their views highlights a difference in understanding philosophy that on further reflection may be fairly fundamental at least for the German discourse on the subject. Both authors differ in their assessment of what philosophy is (i. e. to what genus it belongs).
In order to explain their difference in this respect it may be helpful to use an analogy. A computer program first consists of a number of commands, procedures, or statements that are written down by programmers and can be printed in a book: the ‘source code’. In order to run the program on a machine, it must be ‘compiled’. If this ‘executable’ file is loaded into a machine, the CPU processes the instructions in order to e. g. paint a character in the window you are working in. For Keckermann (and the majority of early moderns), philosophy exists in human beings as such an ‘executable’: it is a permanent disposition to think and act in certain ‘philosophical’ ways. Timpler is the first in this German debate to explicitly distinguish this disposition (the existence of which he doesn’t deny) from the underlying ‘source code’, i. e. philosophy as it can be written down in a book.
Keckermann: Philosophy as Habit
Habits are, for Keckermann, one of three factors that are necessary to enjoy the goods philosophy has to offer: to live in agreement with one’s intellect, a life that makes us happy.1 For this to be possible, there must first be an object to be known. And we must have a natural faculty of the soul that relates to this object. Besides this, we need a reliable disposition to know the object of a natural faculty methodically (ordinate) and without succumbing to error.2 Such a disposition can be acquired either supernaturally through Divine illumination or naturally through learning. In a post-lapsarian world, the latter is more common, but it is important to note that the first option is not categorically denied. Keckermann only points out that it happens rarely and cannot be expected by anyone. In the light of Hoffmann’s criticism discussed in the last post this might mean that supernatural inspiration for leading a naturally good life is possible, but no one should count on this option. Keckermann thus occupies middle ground between Casmann and Hoffmann: philosophy suffices to attain ‘natural perfection’ in hac vita. In this he agrees with Casmann. But we must take into account the possibility that even after the Fall some individuals (we may think e. g. of the Apostles) may have been provided with the necessary insights without tedious study. This is a concession to Hoffmann.3
Nevertheless, the only reliable path to living in agreement with one’s intellect is study. Keckermann distinguishes two kinds of disciplines that help us in that, ‘objective’ and ‘directive’ disciplines.4 ‘Objective’ disciplines analyse a domain of objects existing in the real world (res ipsas in natura positas): theology, jurisprudence, medicine, and philosophy. Mathematics is a part of philosophy, history and the ars militaris are a part of political philosophy.5 Directive disciplines are not concerned with things themselves, but with enhancing our intellect by providing tools (instrumenta) and rules (normae) for its operation. This concerns thought and language: the former is regulated by logic, the latter by grammar, rhetoric, and poetic.6
So for the early Keckermann philosophy is a habit that is customarily acquired through study and learning and provides methodical and error-free knowledge of a domain of objects accessible to our natural cognitive faculties. This domain is defined through an enumeration of philosophical disciplines (namely metaphysics, physics, mathematics, ethics and their subdisciplines).
If we compare this to earlier views of the subject, we see that for Keckermann philosophy is no ‘superdiscipline’ encompassing all the rest of the disciplines (as the Ramist Daubenrock had held). And dialectic is not a part of philosophy, but an instrument (this may be inspired by the Aristotelian Zabarella, a connection I will not explore here). Philosophy is not concerned with Christian wisdom (against Casmann), but a limited domain that determines its place in the system of knowledge as a whole.
Timpler’s Understanding of Philosophy
Timpler himself makes explicit the differences in understanding philosophy and its place in the overall canon of disciplines in his criticism of Keckermann’s distinction between ‘objective’ and ‘directive’ disciplines. He first gives a brief, but correct summary of Keckermann’s position and proposes then three objections.
First of all, it is wrong to assume that only certain disciplines deal with a definite domain of objects: in fact, this is true for every discipline, because every discipline is concerned with something that can be known (a scibile or obiectum intellectionis humanae) - every discipline is concerned either with being as such (ens in genere) or one of its two species, the ens reale or the ens rationis. In other words, Keckermann would need an argument why the ens rationis should not count as an object of the human intellect.7 Conversely, disciplines that are concerned with a domain of objects enhance our intellect through the cognition of these objects, so that all disciplines are not only ‘objective’, but also ‘directive’.8 Therefore, every discipline must contain rules and norms that guide our search of the truth - at least on the level of application (the norms themselves may be taken from other disciplines, like logic or grammar).9
Timpler introduces three, instead of two, highest genera of learning: philologia, philosophia, theologia. Philologia prepares for philosophy and theology, teaching letters and comprising grammar, rhetoric, poetic, music, logic, and history. Philosophy concerns the studium sapientiae naturalis et terrenae. It helps us to achieve proficiency in achieving contemplative knowledge and in leading a good life (ad bene contemplandum et agendum). Theology allows us to live good and participate in Divine grace (ad bene beateque vivendum). It is concerned with supernatural wisdom (studium sapientiae praeternaturalis et caelestis).10
Again Timpler discusses objections. The first argues from the Ciceronian view discussed in the first post of this series that philosophy is the study of all liberal arts and knowledge of human and Divine things (scientia rerum humanarum et divinarum), so that philology and theology must be subsumed as parts of philosophy. In this perspective, Timpler is misguided, because he does not acknowledge that philosophy is first and foremost concerned with wisdom.11
Timpler’s response to this is twofold. His first point is that we shouldn’t trust nominal definitions, because usage can be lax and need not be a clear guide regarding the precise extension of a concept.12 So the Ciceronian formula contradicts the entrenched usage of the term ‘philosophy’: philosophy was only rarely understood as the totality of liberal arts. It consists only of those disciplines that direct us ad bene contemplandum et agendum ex naturali rationis lumine. For this we need metaphysics, physics, and mathematics in the domain of contemplative thought and ethics, economics, and politics in the domain of action.13
The second objection argues from what we could call the ‘humanist’s standpoint’: All arts are concerned with speech, because they regulate how to talk about a given domain. Therefore, all arts are ‘philological’.14 In replying, Timpler again refers to the consensus omnium: philology as the study of letters is the common way to use the term. Its function has always been only propaedeutic.15
The last two objections focus on the relation between philosophy and the ‘higher faculties’. Regarding theology, it must be asked whether it makes sense to classify it as a ‘liberal art’, since it depends only on supernatural inspiration, namely the Divine word: human efforts do not contribute to it.16 As far as medicine and jurisprudence are concerned, they cannot be subsumed under one of Timpler’s position highest genera of learning which shows that his way of dividing learning is mistaken.17
Timpler replies that for him theology in parts belongs to the liberal arts, insofar as it can be understood as an ordered systema of precepts collected from Scripture. It concerns those parts of revealed knowledge that can be gleaned from reading Scripture and meditating on it. Its principles may be supernatural, but how we apply these principles to acquire knowledge is not in itself supernatural. Or, to put it more bluntly: in order to learn how to live in grace, do not nead illumination, but hard work in order to know what God expects from us.18 Medicine and jurisprudence should be understood as ‘offspring’ (soboles) of philosophy which we may take to be their mother. Medicine originated in physics, jurisprudence in ethics, politics, and economics. So it is possible in principle to construe them as parts of philosophy.19
So, for Timpler, the nominal definition of philosophy does not provide any clues about its subject matter besides the rather obvious fact that philosophy is concerned with ‘natural wisdom’. Howeer, it does not have any encyclopedic ambitions. The humanist idea to subsume philosophical reflection under the study of letters in general is as misguided. Theology is a separate discipline (this distinction is more clear-cut than what we find in Casmann). However, in its ordinary course of business it employs the same techniques as other liberal arts. Medicine and jurisprudence can be construed as parts of philosophy.
Philosophy as such is one of the three highest genera of learning. It is concerned with a domain of knowable objects (scibilia) which includes both entia realia and entia rationis. It has a normative component, because it enhances our intellect and directs it in its search for contemplative truth and morally good action. In this endeavour, it is limited to what can be known relying on our natural faculties, it does not aspire to supernatural wisdom (again, this clearly differs from Casmann’s conception of ‘Christian Philosophy’).
Timpler On What is the Genus of Philosophy
In order to complete this account of Timpler’s metaphilosophical views, we still need to find out more about the genus of philosophy. For this, we must first get a grasp of his distinction between ‘external’ and ‘internal’ artes. Timpler points out that this distinction is an innovation (a nullo alio Philosopho hactenus tradita), which is quite unusual. But as soon as we examine how things stand (or, as you would say in German, ‘die Sache selbst’ (res ipsa), it is unavoidable.20
The crux of this distinction is that an ars as such does not exist. Or, to put it differently: it can only exist in two different manifestations. As internal art, art is a the manifestation of an external art in a human being, i.e an acquired disposition to think and act in a certain defined manner.21 As external art, art is a systema. Timpler quotes Lucian’s definition of systema and renders it in Latin as follows:
compages praeceptorum certorum usu probatorum ad finem aliquem utilem in vita.
A systema is a collection of doctrine or precepts that is intended to help us in reaching certain goals in life. But not every systema is an ‘external liberal art’. For this, additional requirements must be fulfilled. An ‘external liberal art’ is defined as
systema methodicum certorum praeceptorum de re aliqua scibili utilique traditorum ad erudiendum et perficiendum hominem.22
So besides being a ‘body of doctrine’ that consists of parts, the relations between these parts must be ‘methodical’, i. e. not confused or unorganised. And the subject matter to be organised in this systema must help us to become more erudite and perfect.
If we apply these general reflections on the notion of a liberal art to Timpler’s views on philosophy, the following notion of philosophy as an ‘external liberal art’ emerges:
Philosophy as systema is a methodically organised and body of doctrine (that can e. g. be contained in a book). It is concerned with those knowable objects (scibilia) which can be known to ‘natural reason’, i. e. without relying on supernatural principles. The precepts concerning these knowable objects must be methodically organised and be apt to better human beings in what they know and how they act.
Philosophy as ‘internal liberal art’ concerns the ‘subjective side’ of philosophy, i. e. its existence in human individuals. It is a
habitus intellectualis hominem perficiens, doctumque et aptum reddens ad artificiose contemplandum vel operandum.23
This definition is based on a Ramist divisio. A habit is a permanent quality of man that determines us to act either in a good or in a bad way.24 Habits are either good or bad (virtus or vitium).25 Both kinds are either innate or acquired.26 Acquired correct habits are either intellectual or moral.27 A good intellectual habit (i. e an intellectual virtue) consists in knowledge (notitia) that is acquired through learning and that enables humans to use their gifts well (ad bene muneris sui functiones obeundas).28 Such habits are either liberal or illiberal.29 Liberal habits allow us to fulfill the duties of learning and virtue. Illiberal habits lead us away from learning and virtue towards the corporeal functions of human beings.30
Debate on ‘metaphilosophical questions’ is not a very common phenomenon within early modern philosophy. So the German situation may very well be an exception. And if we compare the discussion of these problems in Timpler to previous texts (Liddel/Martini, Pernot, Daubenrock), the level of sophistication achieved by Timpler is quite astonishing. We can surmise that this debate was at least in part due to the anti-philosophical polemic of Hoffmann and Casmann’s overreaching reply. It is remarkable that neither Keckermann nor Timpler side with Casmann here. Both rather see the necessity to recalibrate the precarious relationship between philosophy and theology and to preserve an independent domain of inquiry for philosophical reflection.
Timpler’s twofold conception of philosophy opens a problem space that is interesting in its own right. The relation between philosophy as it is written down in books and philosophy as it does its job in peoples’ heads deserves further investigation. If the foremost goal of philosophy is the transformation of minds, the central task of the philosopher is teaching (and a textbook is only an instrument in this endeavour). If the foremost goal of philosophy is the collection of transformative knowledge, the central task of the philosopher is thinking, so that the textbook is not just an instrument, but the final result of the philosophical activity.
Cf. Keckermann, Bartholomäus. Praecognita Logica. Hanovia, 1604, p. 47: “Quaenam est post Fidem in Christum et voluntatis santificationem summa tua in hac vita perfectio, et voluptas? Si secundum intellectum vivam, […] hinc summa et inaestimabilis in mente voluptas oritur.” ↩
Cf. Keckermann, Praecognita, p. 47f: “Quaenam vero ad eiusmodi cognitionem praecipue requiruntur? Tria. 1, id quod cognoscendum est sive obiectum. 2, potentia naturalis intelligendi fluens ab anima rationali. 3, Dispositio certa, per quam illa naturalis potentia in actum ordinate et sine errore deducatur.” ↩
Cf. Keckermann, Praecognita, p. 48: “Unde ergo illa bene intelligendi Dispositio? Vel a Deo immediate infunditur, vel per disciplinam acquiritur: illa extraordinaria nunc est post lapsum, et rara, neminique in specie promissa: haec ordinaria et frequentior.” ↩
Cf. Keckermann, Praecognita, p. 49: “Quotuplices ergo sunt Disciplinae, quae ad Rerum intellectionem Hominem disponunt? Duplices: obiectivae, et Directivae. Quotnam sunt Hominis operationes, quae egent eiusmodi normis artificialibus? Duae praecipue. primo quidem intellectio sive cogitatio de rebus: post cogitationum significatio, quae fit locutione et scriptione.” ↩
Cf. Keckermann, Praecognita, p. 48f: “Quid vocas obiectivas? Sic voco eas, quae res ipsas in natura positas tanquam obiecta intellectionis nostrae tractant. Quotnam sunt illae? Quatuor maiores et principaliores. 1, S. S. Theologia. 2, Iurisprudentia. 3, Medicina. 4, Philosophia, quae in se continet Metaphysica, Physicam, Mathematicam, sub qua Arithmetica, Geometria, Astronomia, Musica, Optica, et denique Ethicam; sub qua Oecnomica, Politica, sub qua praeter Historias etiam […] Militaris continetur.” ↩
Cf. Keckermann, Praecognita, p. 49: “Quid vocas directivas? Quae non tractant res ipsas cognoscendas; nec HOminis intellectum rebus ipsis informant et perficiunt; sed eius operationem aliquam tantum praeparant certis normis et instrumentis dirigunt et ordinant. Quae disciplinae dirigunt significationem cogitationum? Grammatica, Rhetorica, Poëtica. Quae vero intellectionem sive cogitationes? Sola illa divina magistra Logica, […]” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Clemens. Metaphysicae Systema Methodicum: Libri Quinque; Per Theoremata Et Problemata Selecta Concinnatum. nunc denuò ab Auctore recognita. Hanoviae: Antonius, 1612, p. 25: “[…] videtur hae distributio disciplinarum non esse recipienda, […] Quia omnis disciplina habet certum obiectum, in quo explicando versatur, adeoque certum scibile tractat, tanquam obiectum intellectionis humanae. Ideoque etiam omnis disciplina est obiectiva. Ac licet non omnis disciplina res tantum tractat in natura extra intellectum positas; tamen quaelibet tractat vel ens in genere, vel certum genus entis sive realis, sive rationis: […].” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 26: “Quia omnis disciplina intellectum hominis rerum certarum, circa quas explicandas versatur, cognitione informat, et perficit.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 26: “Quia omnis disciplina operationem aliquam hominis per sua praecepta tanquam normas et instrumenta dirigit, ne in rectitudine, quae in ea requiritur, aberret. Licet enim sola Grammatic tradat artificium pure et emendate loquendi; et sola Logica ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 26: “Usitatum est in scholis, praesertim Aristotelicis, accurate distinguere inter Philologiam, PHilosophiam et Theologiam, et ad tria illa summa quasi capita ac genera omnes disciplinas liberales referre. Per Philologiam enim comprehendunt, Grammaticam, Rhetoricam, Poeticam, Musicam, Logicam, et Historiam. Per Philosophiam vero intelligunt studium sapientiae naturalis et terrenae, qua homo disponitur ad bene contemplandum et agendum. Per Theologiam intelligunt studium sapientiae praeternaturalis et caelestis, per quam homo disponitur ad bene beateque vivendum. Quod cum ita sit, videtur non inepte ars liberalis distribui posse, ita ut alia dicatur Philologica, alia Philosophica, alia Theologica.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 26f: “[…] obiici potest, […] Philosophiam ex notatione nominis nihil aliud esse, quam studium sapientiae. Ideoque nihil aliud esse, quam studium sapientiae. Ideoque cum omnes artes liberales ad parandam sapientiam aliquid conferant, Philosophiae ambitu omnes ares liberales non immerito comprehendi, Et hinc Philosophiam definiri modo […] Rerum divinarum et humanarum causarumque quibus hae res continentur, scientiam: modo comprehensionem et doctrina artium liberalium. Proinde quam Theologicam artem sub Philosophica comprehendi.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 27: “Vocabula sapenumero tam in communi loquendi consuetudine, quam in schola artificum in alia significatione vel latiore, vel uangustiore usurpati, quam ipsa notatio concedit, […] Ex notatione non semper rectum et firmum sumi posse de significatione usitata vocabulorum, sed ex usu et consuetudine communi et antiqua recte loquentium.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 27f: “Philosophiae vocabulum apud veteres et probatos authores, et in communi etiam recte loquentium usu sumi non pro studio et doctrina omnium artium liberalium; sed tantum illarum, per quas homo disponitur ad bene contemplandum et agendum ex naturali rationis lumine; seu, per quas homo in rebus terrenis cognoscendis et agendis fit prudens et sapiens; cuiusmodi sunt metaphysica, Physica, Mathematica, Ethica, Oecnomica, Politica.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 27: “Philologiam ex notatione nominis nihil aliud esse, quam studium artium liberalium, per quas […] tam ratio, quam oratio, informatur. Ideoque cum omnes artes liberales vel rationem vel orationem informent; inde sequi omnes artes posse dici Philologicas; Et sic ab iis Philosophicam et Theologicam non esse distinguendam.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 28: “Philologiae vocabulum communiter usurpari a viris doctis pro studio humanioris literaturae, seu illarum duntaxat artium liberalium, quae ita rationem et orationem informant, ut tanquam famulae et pedissequae inserviant Philosophiae et Theologiae, […]” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 27: “Theologiam sacrosanctam inter artes liberales recte non numerari; cum ex principiis naturalibus no constet, sed supernaturalibus: Neque naturali sensus et rationis lumine, humanoque studio et industria sit inventa et constituta, sed lumine supernaturali verbi divini hominibus sit patefacta.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 27: “Artem Medicam et Iuridicam neque ad Philologicam, neque ad Philosophicam, neque ad Theologicam artem referri posse: ideoque distributionem illam esse angustiorem suo distributo.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 28: “Theologiam SacroSanctam numerari inter artes liberales, partim, quatenus sumitur pro systemate certorum praeceptorum ex S. Scriptura collectorum et methodice dispositorum, partim, quatenus accipitur pro notitia ordinaria rerum sacrarum et divinarum ex verbi Dei auditu, lectione et meditatione comparata. Ac licet principia ipsius non sint naturalia, sed supernaturalia; neque naturali rationis, sed supernaturali verbi divini lumine hominibus sint patefacta; tamen ordinarie a nobis non alio modo, ac relique artes acquiritur, nempe partim sensus adminiculo, partim meditatione et mathesi assidue et seria verbi divini a Deo nobis patefacta.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 28: “Medicam et Iuridicam artem ex Philosophia, tanquam sobolem ex matre suam habere originem: illam quidem ex Physica; hanc vero ex Ethica, Politica, et oecnomica: Ideoque duas artes illas ad Philosophiam non male reduci posse.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 3: “Caeterum quod ad distinctionem illam artis in externam et internam attinet, illa quidem, si ipsa vocabula spectes, nova est, et a nullo alio Philosopho hactenus tradita: nihilominus si res ipsas, quae vocabulis significantur, considerabis, re ipsa comperies, illam necessariam esse ad enucleandam et eruendam universam artis liberalis vim et signifiationem.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 4: “[Sc. Ars liberalis interna] nihil aliud est, quam habitualis artis externae notitia.” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “[…] habitum in genere […] esse qualitatem permanentem, per quam homo ad bene vel male agendum disponitur, […]”. ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “[…] habitum in genere alium esse rectum, alium pravum: quorum ille dicitur virtus, hic vitium, […] ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “utrumque vel esse innatum vel adventitium, […]” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “[…] habitum recte adventitium vel esse intellectualem vel moralem […]” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “[…] habitum intellectualem rectum esse notitiam discendo comparatam, per quam homo promtus est ad bene muneris sui functiones obeundas […]” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “[…] Eundem alium esse liberalem, alium illiberalem […]” ↩
Cf. Timpler, Metaphysicae Systema, p. 31: “Liberalem esse, qui hominem ad doctrinae et virtutis officia obeunda idoneum reddit. Contra illiberalis, qui hominem a dotrinae virtutisque studio avocat, et ad corporalia munia obeunda idoneum reddit.” ↩
In the last post I promised to dedicate this blog post to the early modern notion of a philosophical systema. Since I want to keep this promise, this post is unusually lengthy: as it often happens in working with lesser-known sources, the situation turned out to be more complicated than I could foresee when I gave this promise. But since all steps of my argument are quite closely intertwined, it did not make sense to me to divide it into shorter posts. Please expect some amount of rambling incoherence: matters are really complicated, but the analysis should be ultimately rewarding.
Those ‘in the know’ may be a bit surprised that I do not (yet) turn towards Timpler, Keckermann, and Alsted, the probably best-known proponents of a ‘systematic’ conception of philosophy in Germany in the early 17th century. Instead I want to introduce Otto Casmann’s conception of ‘Christian philosophy’. Casmann is probably best known for his role in the early history of ‘anthropology’. I will refrain from discussing this in any detail (see for this de Angelis 2010). There is not that much known about his life, he is probably the least-known figure in the closely-knit circle comprising, besides him, Keckermann, Timpler, and Alsted (a short biography in German is available online).
I want to show in this post that Casmann was involved in one of the more notorious controversies in early modern Germany, the Hoffmann dispute. I will not go into the chronology or the exact circumstances of this debate, since it has been covered in extenso in Markus Friedrich’s excellent book available as free e-book. Friedrich, however, has apparently not noted Casmann’s involvement in this dispute, so that this is probably the first interesting data point in this post.
At the same time, Casmann’s contribution to the Hoffmann dispute refers to the notion of philosophy as a systema. It thus predates the more prominent uses of this concept in printed works by Timpler and Keckermann by a decade. This might be for some the second interesting data point in this post.
But in order to understand these data points, we need some context. Therefore, I will first adress Hoffmann’s attacks against Casmann’s teacher Goclenius and against his Helmstedt colleagues in the philosophy faculty (among them Martini and Liddel, whom we know from the second post in this series).
Hoffmann against Goclenius
One indication for the notoriety of the Hoffmann dispute is the fact that even Leibniz was aware of the controversy (see Antognazza 2007). For assessing its philosophical relevance, it is helpful to return first briefly to Liddel’s and Martini’s dissertation from 1592. As you remember, Martini and Liddel had held that philosophy should be understood as ‘medicine of the mind’ (medicina mentis). Whereas the unschooled mind is fallible, this situation is alleviated through the invention of disciplines. Theology, however, is not mentioned in this context. Philosophy began with Pythagoras, it was extended first by Socrates and Plato, then by the Stoics. This, however, was preposterous for a staunch Lutheran theologian: instead of sola Scriptura, sola fides, sola gratia, sola philosophia is the guide we need for leading a good life.
In 1596, Hoffmann reflects on these issues in a book-length critique of the Reformed protestant Rudolph Goclenius (possibly thereby preparing the ground for the later attack on his Helmstedt Lutheran colleagues). Here, the tone of the argument is subdued compared to his later writings, but Hoffmann’s position is crystal clear. Analysis of the Divine belongs exclusively into theology, philosophy is irrelevant and misleading in this domain. It ‘crashes under the weight’ of such questions and must be saved by theology. A proper reading of Scripture must start all over again (de novo) and build again what has failed in the first attempt. This new faith flourishes because of the strength of the Word (robore verbi) which in turn has been written by God Himself (propter auctorem Deum).1 This, of course, is a not so veiled allusion to what the Reformation set out to achieve: abandon the misuse of abstract reasoning in theology and return to the simple truths of Scripture.
Philosophers are not interested in simple truths, they obscure matters. The more they strive to achieve new and certain knowledge, the less they can achieve certainty. Hoffmann uses the creation in order to make his point. Philosophers proceed slowly, weighing arguments and deriving them from principles in order to achieve certainty. They could equally well consult Hebr. 2.3: the Apostle clarifies that our knowledge that the world was created by the Word has its foundation in faith.2
It is curious to see that Hoffmann does not rest his case here: he goes on to show that this very same conflict had already been discussed in the Catholic tradition. Scholastics distinguished between Christian faith and philosophical knowledge.3 Clearly, Goclenius, the Reformed protestant, must be wrong, if even some medieval ‘Papists’ had been able to get to the heart of the matter.
In order to prove this point, Hoffmann apparently relies on the commentary on the Sentences by Denys the Carthusian: This at least is the source not only for Denys’ own position, but also for all other scholastic authors mentioned by Hoffmann in this context, namely Durandus, Richard of Middletown, Scotus, and Aquinas. Hoffmann’s reading is highly selective and does not really take into account the real concerns of the medievals which focused on the more specific question in what sense theology can be a science rather than the general relation between reason and faith.
For Durandus, pace Denys, pace Hoffmann, conclusions drawn from premisses that are based on faith cannot be known with the same certainty as apodictic conclusions based on indubitable premisses.4 Hoffmann contends that principles of faith are infallibly known, because their authority is based on illumination provided in Scripture.5 This makes any attempt superfluous to refute philosophers on their own ground, i. e. philosophically.6 Here Scotus erred: In taking seriously philosophical answers to theological questions he induced sophistic confusion, e. g. in asserting that our ‘receptivity’ for forms does not distinguish between natural and supernatural forms, so that the distinction between natural and supernatural knowledge does not apply to it.7 The criticism of Scotus’ view brought forward by Richard of Middletown and Denys himself is viewed by Hoffmann as an ‘indication of the light of Gospel’ (indicia lucis Evangelia).8 In other words, some medieval theologians had some inkling of principles that would later on be cornerstones of Protestantism: For Denys, every mode of knowing supernatural objects is itself supernatural.9 For Richard, such supernatural knowledge is based on illumination and only accessible for ‘supernatural man’ (homo supernaturalis).10 Finally, Hoffmann refers to Aquinas and his distinction between imperfect philosophical contemplation and perfect theological contemplation (omitting, however, that the latter is only possible in the afterlife (in patria)).11
Historians of philosophy today should take into account that Hoffmann articulates legitimate theological concerns. Augustine had reflected in his Retractationes (I.3) on his early works saying that ‘I attributed much to the liberal arts which were largely unknown to many of the saints’. Seeing the attack on Goclenius in light of the stance articulated by Liddel and Martini in the 1592 dissertation, we can begin to understand, why Hoffmann may have believed that making any concession to unilluminated natural reason is treacherous: if philosophers state that knowing philosophy suffices for coming to terms with one’s life, impressionable young minds may come to believe that supernatural guidance is no more required.
Hoffmann could have rested his case after showing the superiority of Scripture over philosophical rationalisations of the creation. But he bolsters his argument by appealing to medieval scholastics, supplanting his ‘argument from reason’ with an ‘argument from authority’ (albeit a selective reading of these authorities). Part of this is certainly polemic: the turba scholastica could see the truth, philosophers, Calvinists, and Calvinist philosophers couldn’t. But maybe Hoffmann saw himself as continuing a valuable tradition of antiphilosophical scepticism in theological matters. If this assumption is correct, it may serve as a (partial) explanation for the acidity in Hoffmann’s remarks on philosophy in 1598: his arguments had been by and large ignored, in fact Martini had begun to lecture on metaphysics in 1597 (Hoffmann had complained about this in a letter).
Finally, Hoffmann’s attack on Goclenius makes it plausible that Casmann was acquainted with the early stages of the debate, since he had been Goclenius’s student, before coming to Helmstedt. But before turning to Casmann’s reaction, we must concern ourselves with a second text by Hoffmann: the foreword to a dissertation presented by Caspar Pfaffrad in 1598.
Hoffmann in 1598: Philosophers as ‘patriarchs of heresy’
Compared to the attack against Goclenius, the 1598 foreword is certainly more radical. Whereas the earlier text merely states the failure of philosophy to provide an adequate understanding of the Divine, Hoffman now focuses on the detrimental effects of philosophy in general:
Si quis historiam Ecclesiae ab initio usque ad haec tempora retexuerit, animadvertet, ei post Satanam saeviorem hostem nunquam fuisse ratione et sapientia carnis in doctrina fidei dominatum affectante, cuius violentia etiam corporalium Tyrannorum immanitatem superat, cum animas ipsas vehementissime excruciet, et a vera Dei agnitione validissime avellat.12
Next to Satan himself, ‘carnal wisdom and carnal reason’ (ratio et sapientia carnalis) are the worst foes of Christianity, because they turn souls from God and want to dominate the discourse on the Divine. Philosophical instruction creates hybris and aggressiveness, encourages the mind to intrude on theology and to be committed to falsehoods. The early church knew this from experience and stated that ‘philosophers are patriarchs of heresy’ (philosophos esse haereticorum patriarchas).13 He contrasts this with the sorry state of affairs in his time: theologians themselves have succumbed to ‘carnal wisdom’, questioned articles of faith and seduced the young to dispute the sense of Scripture on philosophical grounds. It was Luther’s Divine inspiration that originally took care of this problem, urging him to purge scholastic philosophy and keeping it from those who belong to the Holy Spirit, relying instead exclusively on the authority of Scripture.14
Hoffmann, Casmann, and the Nominal Definition of Philosophy
Now things get tricky. In a further tract published in 1600 on the problem of ‘double truth’ (the ongoing debate need not concern us here), Hoffmann explicitly calls out Casmann: He is portrayed as a timid patron of the philosophical past. Besides innumerable other horrors, he dismisses Luther’s doctrine of double truth. His wording in this is ‘diabolical’. Hence, the publication of the tract was inevitable: “Extremam vero isthaec publicandi necessitatem imposuit nobis Ottho Casmannus.”15
What is even more interesting: Casmann’s reply, his Philosophiae et Christianae et verae modesta assertio bears the date 1601, so either this date is wrong, or we must assume that Hoffmann had got hold of proofs before publication, because he quotes Casmann verbatim and with the correct page number. Did Casmann send the text himself? Both may have known each other, because Casmann studied in Helmstedt somewhere between 1582 and 1587. Maybe he only knew the relatively measured tone of Hoffmann’s attack on Goclenius and was unaware of the unabated radicalism of the 1598 dissertation. Or maybe some intermediary provided Hoffmann with the text. We will probably never know exactly: documentary evidence on Casmann’s life is scarce. Until now, even his participation in the Hoffmann dispute has gone completely unnoticed.
But we have clear evidence that this involvement took place and that Hoffman was aware of Casmann as an adversary. But the reverse seems to be true as well: at least, this is the best way to make sense of the full title of the Modesta assertio: it is directed against ‘vexations and slander of the enemies [sc. of Christian philosophy] and of some hierophants’ (adversus insanos hostium Eius, et nonnullorum hierophantarum Morsus et calumnias) - a description that fits Hoffmann quite nicely.
And indeed, if we read the passages on the nominal definition of philosophy in Casmann as a refutation of Hoffmann’s views, several deficiencies and omissions in Hoffmann’s argumentation come to light. The very first sentence of the work makes this quite clear:
De Philosophia Christiana, adversus omnis Philosophiae iniquos censores et calumniatores, disceptaturis, primum quid sit ea Philosophia […] cognoscendum est. Melius autem haec non poterit cognosci et dignosci, quam si eius definitio proponatur et excutiatur.16
Before we can even begin to criticise philosophy, we must be clear about what the thing is that we want to criticise. Whereas Hoffmann in 1596 limited his claims against philosophy to philosophical reflection of the Divine, the 1598 foreword is a wholesale attack on philosophy that does not care to explain what exactly philosophy is. Against this, Casmann asserts that unless we define philosophy first, we do not even know what exactly we are talking about. Casmann supports this claim with references to Piccolomini, Scaliger, Aristotle, and Cicero - a marked contrast to Hoffmann’s deliberately unscholarly mode of argumentation.17
Whereas in previous times, as discussed in the first blog post of this series, the question of how to define philosophy was by and large independent from confessional allegiances, the situation now has changed: to reflect on the definition of philosophy is itself an act of defiance against those who wish to abandon the project alltogether.
Like others before him, Casmann differentiates between a nominal definition and a real definition of philosophy. His discussion of the nominal definition of philosophy as love of wisdom allows him to take up Hoffman’s 1598 contrast between ‘Christian wisdom’ and ‘carnal wisdom’.
[…] Philosophia Christiana est studium Christianae sapientiae: ut Ethnica, mundana, carnalis est studium, et amor Ethnicae, mundanae, carnalis sapientiae. Illa verae, haec aberrantis saepe numero est sapientiae. At aberrans sapientia, potius est stultitiae non absimilis.
Christian philosophy is concerned with Christian wisdom. Pagan philosophy is concerned with worldy wisdom, the ‘wisdom of the flesh’ (Hoffmann’s carnalis sapientia). Casmann does concede that pagan philosophy is an aberration. But Hoffmann has committed a conceptual mistake: if ‘pagan philosophy’ is the study of ‘pagan wisdom’ and if this pagan wisdom is in error, pagan philosophy is the ‘love of foolishness’ (stultitia) rather than proper love of wisdom.
So for Casmann, Hoffmann’s argument against philosophy rests on a conceptual misunderstanding. First of all, it is an analytical truth that every student of wisdom is a student of philosophy (valet ex vi nominis).18 From this follows the claim that true believers (veri Dei cultores) must study wisdom. This can be based on Scripture, e. g. Proverb. 8: “Discite imperiti sapientiam.” It would be absurd to assume that Salomon requires us to acquaint ourselves with erroneous wisdom. Therefore, he is best read as asking us to learn ‘true wisdom’.19 But pagan philosophy is not true wisdom, or, to be more precise, whatever is wrong in pagan philosophy, is not a sign of wisdom.20 Casmann elucidates this further by using an analogy that can only be understood as an ad hominem against Hoffmann:
Non Philosophiae est, quod est Ethnici, ut Ethnici, ut nec theologiae datur, quod hominis est male feriati, calumniatoris et impii.21
What is pagan in pagan thought, does not belong to philosophy. In the same way thoughts of a slanderous, impious, and ill-mannered man do not belong to theology. If and insofar as pagans only searched for wisdom without finding it, they must count as ignorant (stulti facti sunt). Hence, true believers must be at the same time students of (Christian) philosophy.22
Although it is tempting to understand Casmann’s project as the vindication of Christianity using the toolset of the philosopher, Christian philosophy is in fact the vindication of philosophy against theological ‘anti-philosophy’. That means that Casmann and Hoffmann differ not just with regard to the relation of reason and faith, philosophy and theology, but in their understanding of philosophy itself. Confessional strife engenders metaphilosophical debate.
Philosophy as System? Casmann’s ‘Real Definition’ of Philosophy
Turning to the problem how to give a ‘real definition’ of philosophy, Casmann delivers first a very brief overview of the state of the question, enumerating not less than eleven positions (seven have already been mentioned in this series): philosophy as meditatio seu commentatio mortis (Plato), scientia rerum humanarum et divinarum (Stoics), contemplatrix veritatis (Aristotle), knowledge of what makes things the things they are (rerum, qua res sunt, cognitio), cognition of human and Divine things and their causes (rerum divinarum, humanarumque causarum, quibus continentur, cognitio) or knowledge (scientia, Speusipp) of such things, assimilation to the Divine as far as humanly possible (according to Casmann, the last three can all be found in Ammonius). Four are new: philosophy as multarum rerum scientia or acquisitio scientiae (both in Plato), as moral reflection (Max. Tyr.) or appetitus scientiae (again Ammonius) and, finally, Piccolomini’s statement that philosophy is undefinable.23
However, none of these proposals is discussed in any detail. Instead, Casmann turns to a definition that is discussed in his own philosophical circles:
Ex nostratibus quidam definiunt, eam esse ordinatum artium liberalium systema.24
This statement is remarkable for a variety of reasons. First, it predates the writings of Keckermann who is usually credited with introducing the notion of ‘system’ into philosophy, by a decade. Second, this definition is not Keckermann’s. As I will show in subsequent posts, it is Timpler who employs this definition in his later publications. We have no evidence for a direct acquaintance of both philosophers: Casmann was a Heidelberg student in 1587 and departed in 1589. So he probably missed Timpler in Heidelberg who immatriculated in 1592. But nevertheless some contact between both is probable, because Timpler was Casmann’s successor as professor of philosophy in Steinfurt in 1595.
Casmann contrasts Timpler’s definition with what he deems to be a more advantageous formulation:
Nobis eam ita describere liceat: Philosophia est ordinata literatae sapientiae comprehensio.25
Three differences between what I’ll continue to call Timpler’s definition and Casmann’s own proposal should be noted: Casmann prefers to speak of ‘literate wisdom’ (literata sapientia) instead of artes liberales. And he uses the Latin term comprehensio instead of the Greek expression systema. And this comprehensio is supposed to be ‘structured’ (ordinata), i. e. the elements of this aggregate must stand to each other in clearly defined relations.26 I would suggest that a systema may be equivalent to a comprehensio ordinata, so that two of these differences may be merely verbal, since later on Casmann himself uses systema to characterise philosophy.27
More interesting is the question, why Casmann speaks about literata sapientia rather than artes liberales. I think that this can be attributed to his overall intention to deliver an apology of philosophy against Hoffmann’s objections. For this, it is necessary to show that the contrast between simple Christian wisdom that can be gleaned from Scripture alone and erudite pagan wisdom is misleading. In fact, Christian wisdom must depend on learning, too:
Literatam dicimus sapientiam, quia non quamvis describimus, sed eam quae est literis erudita.28
So philosophy can be vindicated against theological criticism, if it is Christian and erudite at the same time.
One last aspect is worth mentioning. Casmann makes an explicit difference between wisdom itself (i. e. a habit of the soul) and a ‘system or doctrine’ of wisdom.29 To which extent this conceptual innovation is taken up by later adherents of ‘systematic philosophy’ will be one of the problems to be examined in subsequent posts.
We have seen that in order to put Hoffmann’s concerns in this dispute into context, they should be related to how his Helmstedt colleagues saw philosophy, namely as a humanist discipline without any theological dimension that helps students to better their minds. Critical readers may take these assertions as a suggestion of ‘philosophical self-sufficiency’ in leading a good life.
For Hoffmann, such self-sufficiency of unilluminated reason is hybris: the argument against Goclenius intends to prove that man can never be self-sufficient in this sense. Even some medieval Scholastics were able to see this (in this context, it may be interesting for the history of early modern theology to explore further the fact that a Catholic mystic like Denys the Carthusian is the main point of reference for Hoffmann - something I myself am ill equipped to do). Compared to his attack on Goclenius, the stance in the foreword of the 1598 dissertation is much more radical: It is not directed against philosophy that transgresses its limits. Its criticism is directed against philosophy as such. It is an embodiment of ‘wisdom of the flesh’ and engenders heresies, corrupting theology itself.
It is highly probable that Casmann was in some way acquainted with Hoffmann and his stance, being both a student of Goclenius and of Helmstedt university. The 1600 publication on ‘double truth’ is clear evidence that Casmann was taken by Hoffmann as being involved in the dispute. Moreover, Casmann’s definition of philosophy in the Modesta Assertio can be best understood as a reaction to Hoffmann. This is why he replaces the notion of ‘liberal arts’ used both by Daubenrock (see last post) and Timpler with the notion of Christian wisdom that is both pious and learned. This allows his readers to see that Hoffmann built a strawman: if pagan wisdom is wrong, it is not wisdom, but folly. True wisdom can be philosophically informed and nevertheless in agreement with the teachings of faith. So Casmann’s brand of ‘Christian philosophy’ is not a vindication of Christianity with philosophical means, but a vindication of philosophy against an antiphilosophical theologian.
Casmann’s use of ‘systema’ to characterise philosophy (even though it may be taken from Timpler) predates the previously known references to this concept by a decade. Moreover, he uses the latter term to refer to the ‘doctrine’, i. e. the content of philosophical teaching (similar to Daubenrock who had regarded philosophy as a disciplina of the liberal arts) and contrasts this with the result of philosophical instruction, namely wisdom. With this distinction the question whether philosophy is something that can be found in books or whether it is meant to be an effective tool for changing souls is on the table again (I had raised this question previously in a different context in my discussion of Keckermann’s concept of history).
Cf. Hoffmann, Daniel. De usu et applicatione notionum logicarum ad res theologicas et de inusitatarum praedicationum reductione, adversus Rudolphum Goclenium. Frankfurt/Main: Kopf, Peter, 1596, p. 16 f: “Hoc tamen insuper observari oportuit, quod scientiam Philosophicam, tanquam sua mole corruentem in divinis, sacra Scriptura excipiat, et vanam factam de novo extruat, novis fundamentis substratis, novisque firmamentis adietis, ut sic a sacro primordio exculta, evadat in fidem vigentem robore verbi, propter auctorem Deum.” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 17f:”Quod enim Philosophi, quicquid de Deo et rebus divinis aliquousque pertexere videntur, quanto curiosius ac accuratius stabilire conantur, tanto minus tandem eius plhrofori/an tueantur, id docet experientia. […] Mundum a Deo factum esse, videtur Philosophis demonstrabile, sed quanta cum nugatione et hesitatione agitur, ubi ad certitudinem assertionis stabiliendam, argumentis proceditur, et quidem ex quibus principiis, quando productus sit! Quapropter ad ad Hebrae. II. vers. 3. dicitur: per fidem intelligimus mundum constructum fuisse verbo.” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 18: “Voluerunt enim hoc docere scholastici, quod fides Christiana non paretur demonstrationibus, quae humanam scientiam pariant, quoniam fides sit non apparentium, nec principiis philosophicis, seu natura notis innitatur. Et hoc non male, sed utiliter monetur, quatenus fides theologica a scientia philosophica discernitur.” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 18f: “Omni enim scienti, inquit Durandus, potest constare de conclusione scita quod sit vera, et quod impossibile sit aliter se habere. Sed de *conclusione, deducta ex principiis tantum creditis, non potest constare deducenti, quod impossibile sit, eam aliter se habere, neque quod sit vera. Non enim plus constare potest de conclusione, quam de principiis, cum noticia conclusionum, dependat ex noticia principiorum.” The parallel passage in the Sentences commentary can be found in Doctoris ecstatici D. Dionysii Cartusiani Opera omnia in unum corpus digesta ad fidem editionum Coloniensium. Monstrolii: typis Cartusiæ S.M. de Pratis, 1896, p. 61. The text follows the 1530 Cologne edition. ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 19: “Ad hoc respondemus: verbum Dei esse quidem unicum fidei principium, […] Deus eam per idipsum verbum illuminando, et voluntatem in obsequi trahendo, ita firmat certitudinem principii, ut fidelis laeto pectore illud sanguine suo obsignare non dubitet.” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 22: “Quod et quare homini praeter et ultra naturales scientias, supernaturalis doctrina et cognitio sit necessaria, viderunt Scholastici, et tamen quia Philosophorum partes sibi arrogantius sumserunt, et Theologiae Philosophica commiscere consueverunt, obscurarunt nonnulli ipsi, quod vidisse deprehenduntur, ideoque disputationibus hic sese fatigarunt mutuo!” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 23: “Ut tamen istis Patriarchis suis [sc. philosophis] studeret, rationes duas primarias pro ipsorum opinione, protulit. […] His ita movetur, ut sophisma dicat, quod obiectum ab aliis fuerat, Philosophos nimirum, qui habuerunt naturalem intellectum acutum, quando descenderunt in singularia ad finem, vel fuisse dubios de fine […] asserens potentiam passivam seu receptivam, uno modo comparari ad formam quam recipit, et sic non cadere circa eam, distinctionem naturalitatis et supernaturalitatis.” The alleged quotes from Scotus correspond word for word to the paraphrase in Denys, Opera omnia, p. 85f. ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 24: “Haec ille, quae cum praecedentibus sunt indicia lucis Evangelicae, quae in mediis tenebris papatus non fuit plane obscurata apud omnes.” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 24 “Non est idem modus recipiendi formam, et habitum naturalem et acquisitum, atque formam et habitum supernaturalem infusum, nec inclinatio mentis creatae, ad supernaturalem formam, et habitum, naturalis, sed supernaturalis potius censetur, hoc est conveniens potentiae, ultra ac supra gradum, et modum ac limitem suae naturalis conditionis, utpote per respectum ad finem supernaturalem. Imo si naturalis consisteret, posset a naturali causa compleri et actuari.” For the parallel passage in the Opera omnia cf. p. 87. ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 24f: “Et Richardus, quem solidum Doctorem appellant, sic sensit, quod philosophi, quantumcunque excellentis ingenii, qui non fuerint supernaturaliter illuminati, nunquam cognoverint, nec posuerint beatitudinem veram et plenam. Quo signo constat, quod cognitio illius beatitudinis est homini supernaturalis. For the parallel passage in the Opera omnia cf. p. 85. ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, De usu, p. 25: “Sed addamus, et pro decisione huius controversiae Scholasticae, proferamus sententiam Thomae Aquinatis, cuius auctoritatem etiam turba Scholastica Scoto praefert: Omnes qui recte senserunt, inquit, posuerunt finem vitae humanae Dei Contemplationem, Contemplatio autem Dei, est duplex, una per creaturas, quae est imperfecta, quantum creatura est effectus non proportionatus creatori, sed distans ab eo in infinitum: Idcirco ducit in cognitionem Dei imperfecte, in qua Philosophus felicitatem contemplativam constituit, quae tamen felicitas est viae, atque ad hanc, ordinatur tota cognitio Philosophica, ex rationibus et considerationibus creaturarum procedens. Alia est contemplatio Dei, qua immediate videtur, per suam essentiam, quae est contemplatio perfecta, et habetur in patria, […]” The parallel passage in the *Opera omnia can be found again on p. 85. ↩
Hoffmann, Daniel, Pfaffrad, Caspar.Propositiones de Deo, et Christi tum person tum officio […] Feces Scholasticas Expurgantis, Oppositae Pontificiis. Helmstedt: Lucius, Jakob d.J., 1598, n. p.. ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, Propositiones de Deo, n. p.: “Quanto vero magis excolitur ratio humana philosophicis studiis, tanto armatior prodit, et quo seipsam amat impensius, eo Theologiam invadit atrocius, et errores pingit speciosius. Unde Paulus […] Philosophiam depraedantem discipulos Apostolorum agnovit, et […] inter opera carnis reiecit haereses, quod primitiva Ecclesia per experientiam edocta sic explicavit: Philosophos esse haereticorum patriarchas.” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, Propositiones de Deo, n. p.: “Cum vero hodie circumferimus oculos in orbe Christiano, statum eius inde miseriorem cognoscimus, quod multi Theologorum ad sapientiam carnis sublimes articulos fidei revocant, et iuventutem alluefaciunt ad disputationes quibus ad Philosophiae calculos exigitur sensus sacrarum literarum. […] Quod enim auditoribus nostris sedulo inculcavimus, Lutheri Theologiam ideo esse puriorem, quod ille ad expurgandum fermentum Scholasticorum divinitus excitatus Philosophiam ab iis, quae sunt Spiritus Dei longe propulsavit, nihilque fidei Christianae commodum duxit, nisi quod ex limpidis fontibus Istraelis haustum quanto ingratius carni tanto magis Spiritui saperet: […]” ↩
Cf. Hoffmann, Daniel. Pro Duplici Veritate Lutheri A Philosophis Impugnata. Magdeburgi: Dunckerus, 1600, n. p.. The text goes on: “qui [sc. Casmannus] in libello cuius titulus (Philosophiae, et Christianae, et Verae Modesta Assertio) multis retro seculis inaudicem Philosophiae Patronum agit, et inter infinita portenta caetera, doctrinam Lutheri, quam hic ab Hoffmanno assertam vides, Diabolicis his verbis pag. 40 fugillat: “Duplex veritas una Theologica sapientiae divinae, altera Philosophica sapientiae humanae, est Diabolicum ad omnes errores atque atheismos excusandos et defendendos accommodatissimum figmentum.”“ ↩
Cf. Casmann, *Modesta Assertio, p. 3f: “[…] sequitur rei scilicet explicatio, quae a quibusdam exacte constitui posse negatur, ut a Piccolm. de Introductione in scient. de natura. a variis autem si non perfecte, salte imperfecte definitur. Plato alicubi vocat meditationem seu commentationem mortis: solutionem animi a corpore: conversionem animi ad ea, quae vera sunt et divina. E Stoicis nonnulli, divinarum et humanarum rerum scientia (quidam addunt qua hic fas) nonnulli, meditationem artis ad vitam accomodatae. Aristoteles in Metaphysicis dicit, Esse scientiam contemplatricem veritatis. Plato item alicubi vocat multarum rerum scientiam, in dial. de Phil. Alibi acquisitionem scientiae, in Euthyd. Plerunque autem eam ad Moralem restringit. Max. Tyr. Serm. 16 Philosophia est divinarum et humanarum exacta scientia, quae vel virtutes vel ratiocinationes pulcras convenientissmae vitae ac studiorum commodorum dispenset. Speusi. de Plat. def. Philosophia est appetitus sapientiae, contemplatio veritatis, ut veritas est. Ammon. in Porph. Pilosophia est rerum, qua res sunt, cognitio. Idem. Est rerum divinarum, humanarumque causarum, quibus continentur, cognitio. Idem. Philosophia est similitudo Dei, quoad natura humana patitur.” ↩
Cf. Casmann, Modesta Assertio, p. 6: “Propositio enim prioris sylogismi [sc. ‘Christiana sapientia veritatis et bonitatis aemula’] eandem vim veritatis retinet, quam haec: Literatae sapientiae systema seu doctrinae etc. Ut etiam posterioris propositior.” ↩
In this overview on the concept of philosophy in early modern Germany, I had originally planned to leave aside Johann Ludwig Havenreuter’s contribution to the debate.1Havenreuter
probably is best known for his edition of Zabarella’s Opera logica. Although his brief dissertation on the concept of philosophy adds a new detail to the overall picture by defining philosophy as scientia rerum divanarum et humanarum rather than mere ‘cognition’ of human and Divine things, the text in itself is rather short on argument, as you can see yourself
But then I stumbled on another dissertation from Strassbourg: It was defended by Wacław Leszczyński in 1594. As Joseph Freedman points out in a contribution to this booklet [PDF]
from the Leiden university library (Freedman’s paper starts on p. 30), we cannot always be sure how praeses and respondens contributed to the text of the dissertation. With regard to the Leszczyński dissertation, however, we can be reasonably sure that its praeses Havenreuter may have advised his student, but did not contribute to the text itself.2
This at least is the most probable explanation I could come up with why Havenreuter’s own definition of philosophy as ‘scientia rerum divanarum et humanarum’ is criticised in the text:
A nonnullis enim definitur: omnium rerum scientia, sed cum Philosophia sit certa cognitio et scientia, multae autem res sub scientiam cadere non possint, (quales sunt, omnia singularia et contingentia, quae propter suam varietatem et inconstantiam sciri non possunt) definitio minus apta et accommodata videri potest.3
Scientia refers to knowledge grounded in apodictic proof. Such knowledge purports to be infallible (it is certa cognitio). But philosophy may at times be concerned with things that cannot be known in this strict sense of the word, e. g. particulars or contingent objects. This is an oblique reference to the domain of action. In other words, practical philosophy cannot be a science (remember that I had pointed out in the last post the precarious status of practical philosophy in relation to the question how to define philosophy as a whole).
But this would mean that practical philosophy is not included into the scope of Havenreuter’s definition. This is inacceptable for Leszczyński. In discussing Plato’s definition of philosophy as meditatio mortis, he states that its main defect is that it includes only the contemplative disciplines:
Utrum haec definitio Platonis, cum contemplativae, omissa practica tantum competat, minus commoda et sufficiens esse videtur.4
The same mistake can be found in Aristotle:
Aristoteles Philosophiam definit scientiam veritatis. Quae definitio cum soli contemplativae competat, Philosophiae in genere acceptae non satisfacit.5
Leszczyński completes his account with his own proposal for a definition of philosophy.
Philosophia est habitus, mentibus humanis a Deo concessus, industria et exercitatione auctus, quo omnia quae sunt, quatenus firma et certa ratione cognosci possunt, ut homo ad felicitatem perveniat cognoscuntur.6
Some elements of this definition are not original: philosophy is a gift of God. Habits presuppose practice (industria et exercitatio). Philosophical knowledge is supposed to be reliable (firma et certa ratione). But one aspect is surprising: apparently, Leszczyński is the first of the authors examined here who states unequivocally that the main goal of philosophy is to contribute to leading a good life (ut homo ad felicitatem perveniat). This explains why he argues against definitions that include only the contemplative or theoretical discplines in their scope.
It is not that far-fetched to assume that the utility of philosophy - or, to be more precise, the question why philosophy should be useful at all - is a pressing problem in Germany at this time because of the onslaught of Ramism. So the obvious question is: how did Ramus and his followers define philosophy?
An answer to this question is quite hard to come by. As far as Ramus himself is concerned, there is an article on him in the Stanford Encyclopedia, which dedicates a whole section to Ramus’ definition of philosophy. But only one paragraph is relevant here that I quote in full:
Ramus’ way of looking at philosophy and logic was in many ways similar to that of the Stoics. His definition of philosophy as a cognitio artium liberalium, a knowledge of the liberal arts, reveals both the influence of Stoicism and of the medieval educational tradition. Ramus thus regarded logic as a part of philosophy and defined it as an art that truly gives us knowledge of being. Ramus’ followers often substituted the word doctrina for cognitio, which made it even clearer that the perspective was more pedagogical than ontological (Cf. Ramus, Dialectica, p. 11, where he uses another variant, defining philosophy as a comprehensio praeceptorum, a collection of precepts).
The author is disinclined to provide a reference for the first definition, ‘cognitio artium liberalium’. I suspect that this is not a mere oversight. Consulting the abridged online version of Walter J. Ong’s magisterial Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, we see that this has in fact been proposed as a Ramist definition of philosophy: but it stems from Severin Slüter’s Syncrisis controversiarum ac disputationum qua a Rameis et Peripateticis motae sunt, which, unfortunately, is not yet available online. Ong at least does not know of any occurence of this passage in Ramus’ own writings.
The second proposed definition of philosophy as comprehensio praeceptorum is sourced. The 1569 edition referred to in the bibliography of the SEP article is again not available online. But we can check a 1585 reprint produced by the same printer. The fact that the passage in question is found on p. 10 rather than p. 11 can be due to this difference in printings. But two other discrepancies remain. First, the passage in question can be found in Omer Talon’s commentary which is printed in a smaller type than Ramus’ own text. Second, and more importantly, we see that collectio praeceptorum is a phrase that refers to dialectic rather than philosophy proper. Scanning Ong for references to a definition of philosophy by Ramus himself again does not deliver any results. Finally, it remains to be seen whether this really is a definition of dialectic.
So maybe Ramus himself had no clear definition of philosophy. Or maybe he associated this term only with those thinkers he was arguing against (i. e. the Aristotelians). Maybe dialectic was meant to dethrone Aristotelian logic and metaphysics as foundational disciplines. These questions need not be addressed here (although it would be nice to see them addressed in the SEP). As far as the German debate on ‘metaphilosophical’ questions is concerned, it suffices to show that there have been Ramists reflecting on the proper definition of philosophy (or, to be more precise, philosophers reflecting on a Ramist definition of philosophy). And whereas Slüter’s work is not available online, I can now introduce you to Nikolaus Daubenrock.
The Theses de Philosophia in Genere, Deque Artium Liberalium Principiis & Causis,& de Earundem Distributione were published in 1599 as a dissertation. After what we have learned in reading Havenreuter and Leszczyński, the question is, whether we can attribute this text to the praeses, Daubenrock. But since he presided over some other Ramist dissertations, whereas the respondent Mauritius Moltzer apparently chose a career as preacher and appears only as respondent in one other dissertation, it seems to be safe in this case to assume that the main author of the text is in fact Daubenrock.
As far as the definition of philosophy is concerned, Daubenrock starts with the confession that this topic involves a certain amount of arbitrariness. He seems to believe that attempts to persuade others to accept one’s own definition of philosophy are mostly frustrated, quoting
the Latin poet Attilius: “suam quisque sponsam, mihi meam: sum quisque amorem mihi meum”.7 In other words, it does not make sense to try to talk people out of prefering a certain definition of philosophy, even though in fact there can only be one correct definition of the philosophical enterprise. He briefly mentions four alternative definitions (knowledge of beings, assimilation to God, the meditation of death and cognition of Divine and human things) which he deems to be inacceptable and proposes then his own definition:
[…] definimus [sc. philosophiam] quod sit ordinata Entium quatenus artibus liberalibus subiecta sunt, disciplina.8
Philosophy is a discipline (disciplina) that is well-ordered (ordinata). It concerns all beings (entia), insofar as they are the subject matter of the liberal arts (quatenus artibus liberalibus subiecta sunt). In order to elucidate further the relation between the liberal arts and philosophy he uses a simile: the objects of the liberal arts relate to philosophy in the same way as concentric cirles to the center they share. Vice versa the objects of philosophy must all be related in some form to the liberal arts.9
It is important to see that for Daubenrock philosophy is not identical with any of the liberal arts (i. e. philosophy is not absorbed in e. g. dialectic). Knowing the arts is not the same as knowing philosophy, but it is a precondition (something that must be known before, a praecognitum) for becoming a philosopher. So we can only know what philosophy is, if we have first examined the arts, their scope and principles. But knowing the arts is not the same as knowing philosophy.10
Ramism, the arts and philosophy
So in order to reflect on philosophy, we must first find out more about the definition of art. Lucian had defined an art as “a complex of knowledges exercised in combination to some end useful to the world”, a definition that is adopted by Daubenrock.11 Those who know real pearls from glass pearls (quibus uniones pluris sunt quam vitrum) and who can distinguish wheat from ryegrass - a biblical allusion - agree with this definition. For them (and presumably for Daubenrock) an art is an aggregate of things we can know and teach and which has been assembled methodically (methodica praeceptorum scientificorum comprehensio).12
This is conspicously similar to the definition of dialectic by Talon mentioned above. And Daubenrock provides us with a reference to a text by Ramus himself: the Scholae in liberales artes (I refer to the Basel 1569 edition). And indeed, in col. 115 we find the definition of ars as “rerum homogenearum […] comprehensio et ordinatio” which is reasonably close to Lucian’s version.
So, yes, Talon’s purported definition of dialectic in his commentary on the Dialectica has some foundation in Ramus’ own writing. But in the relevant passage in the Scholae it is art that is defined - not dialectic. In other words, what Talon presents as a definition of dialectic is in fact a definition of its superordinate concept, art. So to say that dialectic is a comprehensio praeceptorum is not a definition. It is analogous to an Aristotelian merely stating that logic is a habit. If this Aristotelian believes to have thereby defined logic, this belief is false.
But if art is defined in this way as a structured aggregate of precepts or insights, the question (at least from an Aristotelian point of view) is, of course, how to distinguish arts from the sciences. For Daubenrock, both are indistinguishable. Both deal with a given domain (versantur circa certum et determinatum obiectum) and both are habits that rely on apodictic proof.13
From Leszczyński, we have learned that even for non-Ramists philosophy must be useful. In this context, the precarious status of practical philosophy becomes even more pressing: accounts that focus on the theoretical disciplines do not provide an adequate definition of philosophy anymore. This is strange insofar, as Ramus may not have seen himself as a philosopher. The scope of his proposed reforms to academic teaching may well have been wider than is usually acknowledged.
So maybe it was not Ramus himself, but rather German Ramists who in developing Ramism as a movement were forced to locate their project in an on-going discourse about how to define philosophy. Daubenbrock’s dissertation may well be one of the earliest examples for this tendency. But this alignment with traditional ways of thinking about philosophy engenders new questions. What is characteristic for philosophy that is not a part of one of its ‘arts’? Or, to rephrase the question, what is gained, if every art is an organised body of knowledge in a given domain and the sum total of this knowledge is then called ‘philosophy’?
In this context, it is productive to reflect again on the genus of philosophy as it is proposed by Daubenrock. He calls it a discipline (and emphasises this with an exclamation mark, see the quote in footnote 10) of the liberal arts. So apparently the main task of philosophy in this perspective is the ‘eye for the whole’: philosophy contains insights how to organise the totality of knowledge that is accessible to us, it is - to borrow a venerable medieval expression - ars artium. I think that this is the main driving force behind the emphasis of the notion of systema at the beginning of the 17th century - the topic of the next blog post.
Ceterum censeo: it might make sense to revise the article on Ramus in the Stanford Encyclopedia.
Leszczyński, Wacław. Theses De Definitione Et Divisione Philosophiae, in Inclyta Argentinensi Academia publice ad disputandum propositae […] a Venceslao Lescinio […]. Straßburg: Bertram, Anton, 1594. URN: http://fbc.pionier.net.pl/id/oai:www.dbc.wroc.pl:4088 Since I cannot link to single pages, I will refer to the numbered paragraphs. ↩
Cf. Daubenrock, Nikolaus. Theses de Philosophia in Genere, Deque Artium Liberalium Principiis & Causis,& de Earundem Distributione. Jenae: Steinmannus, 1599, Thema I, §23: “Hujus [sc. philosophiae] circumferentur definitiones, cum tamen non nisi unica et vera unius rei possit dari definitio. Sed placet nobis Attilii illud: suam quisque sponsam, mihi meam: suum quisque amorem mihi meum.” ↩
Cf. Daubenrock, De Philosophia, Thema I, §25: “Certo enim certius est ad Philosophiam omnia quaecunque liberalium artium continentur ambitu non secus ac lineas omnes periphaeriae ad centrum tendere. Et vicissim quicquid philosophicum est ad artes solum referri ingenuas et unice reduci, […]”. ↩
Cf. Daubenrock, De Philosophia, Thema I, §26:”Quia vero Philosophiam diximus artium liberalium disciplinam! haud χωρὶς τῆς ἐυταξίας hoc in loco erit de artibus, quid et quales intelligendae et quibus illae nitantur principiis paucis dispicere: cum omnis doctrinae initium a praecognitis fieri rectissime sapientiae humanae coryphaeus Aristoteles statuat […].” ↩
Cf. Daubenrock, De Philosophia, Thema I, §27: “In artium porro definitione extruenda primas haud immerito videtur obtinere Lucianus, cui τέχνη ἔστι σύστημα ἐγκαταλήψεων, ἐγγεγυμνασμένων, πρὸς τι τέλος ἔυχρηστον ἐν βίῳ.” ↩
Cf. Daubenrock, De Philosophia, Thema I, §27: “Hinc recte nonnulli ex recentioribus quibus uniones pluris sunt quam vitrum, et qui triticum lolio praeferunt, definierunt quod sit methodica praeceptorum scientificorum comprehensio, […].” ↩
Cf. Daubenrock, De Philosophia, Thema I, §28: “Dubitatur hic: utrum scientia et ars sint idem? Nos, quia artes non secus ac scientiae circa certum et determinatum versantur objectum sive ἐπισττητὸν, et artes liberales omnes esse ἕξεις ἀποδεικτικὰς, non difficulter probare pussumus, affirmativam audacter suscipimus.” ↩
In the first post in this series, I have discussed the debate about whether philosophy could be defined as cognition of human and Divine things (cognitio rerum divinarum et humanarum) and how these reflections were connected to an assessment of our cognitive and volitional faculties. In 1592, Cornelius Martini and his praesesDuncan Liddel [PDF] take this debate one step further. Their dissertation agrees with Paxmann that our mind often fails us. And it is stated that this situation calls for an emendation of our faculties. But the text differs from the Melanchthonians by defining philosophy as ‘therapy for the mind’ (medicina mentis), almost a century before Spinoza and von Tschirnhaus.
The second author I want to discuss in this post, the Jesuit Jean Pernot, distances himself as well from defining philosophy as ‘cognition of Divine and human things’. He is apparently one of the first in Germany to approach the question how to define philosophy from an Aristotelian point of view. The 180 theses defended in Würzburg in 1593 arrive at the same conclusion as the Physics commentary of the Conimbricenses, published one year before.
Liddel and Martini start from a diagnosis of our cognitive and volitional faculties similar to Paxmann: It is the mind that directs our life towards perfection. It must subdue affects of the inferior faculties of soul and body and turn us away from ‘brutal fate’ (presumably death as a sinner) towards God and the cognition of truth and the good.1 But at the same time our faculties are bound to fail as long as they are left to their own devices (again, the authors quote the Aristotelian analogy between the mind and bats trying to see the sun). In order to compensate for these deficiencies, disciplines were invented. It is noted explicitly that these inventions were guided by the ‘natural light’ (instinctu lucis naturae). So even though the unprepared mind is fallible, it contains the resources to amend its own situation.2
The text then gives a brief overview of how the disciplines evolved and related to philosophy. First, only contemplative habits were regarded as philosophical. This changed with Socrates and Plato, who added moral philosophy to the philosophical canon. The Stoics extended the concept of philosophy again to include ‘instrumental disciplines’ (i. e. logic and rhetoric).3 In all these endeavours, the main goal of philosophy is therapy, it is a ‘medicine for the mind’ (medicina mentis). It is important to see that this is introduced as an assumption that does not need further argument (presumably, because it follows from the previous reflections). Because this is the role of philosophy, only theoretical and practical disciplines properly belong to it: the mechanical arts and instrumental habits are subordinated to them (as means to an end).4 One last relevant point should be noted. The dissertation states that philosophy is a body of teachings (doctrina), not itself a habit. It helps us to ameliorate our habits, but it is not a habit itself.5
Jean Pernot’s 1593 dissertation on the Aristotelian Physics offers a perspective on the problem of defining philosophy that is fundamentally different from Martini/Liddel and their predecessors and much closer to the Spanish debate articulated in the Conimbricenses and Toletus: among the authors examined here, he is the first to inquire whether a tenable definition of philosophy can be read from the Aristotelian corpus. According to him, six different notions can be distinguished:
philosophy contains only theoretical knowledge that can count as science: it only contemplates truths (philosophy as veritatis contemplatrix);
still more restrictive, philosophy is science only of substances;
the most restrictive view: philosophy is identical with metaphysics;
a more liberal notion contends that philosophy includes the mechanical arts, insofar as they contain statements about causes,
or moral philosophy;
finally, the correct definition according to Pernot: philosophy comprises all disciplines, regardless of whether they are theoretical or practical, if they are sciences: practical philosophy (ethics, economics, politics) is a part of philosophy, if and insofar as it is a science.6
Pernot defends this view of philosophy against alternative proposals. As seen in the last post, Albert had held that Plato’s definition of philosophy as meditatio mortis has a role to play in our understanding of philosophy, even if it is not its highest aim. Pernot denies this assertion, because Plato’s proposal is based on metaphor and therefore insufficient.7
Alternatively, it could be assumed that philosophy is meant to help us to assimilate ourselves to the Divine (as far as this is possible for humans) - a definition Pernot dismisses without argument. He merely states that the notion of philosophy as cognition of human and Divine things seems to be stronger (melior videtur). However, in the end it is not valid either, because some parts of philosophy deal with human things (e. g. physics with natural bodies), others with Divine things (e. g. metaphysics). A definition, however, must be valid for the whole (the genus) and its parts (species).8
Since none of the non-Aristotelian definitions are valid, Pernot concludes that to define philosophy as cognition of things as they are - having a perfect understanding (perfecta intelligentia) of things - is the best strategy.9 It translates effortlessly into the view of philosophy as science he had propagated before: Philosophy is the acquisition of knowledge about the world as an object of science and thereby conveys a perfect understanding of it.
Both dissertations show that at the turn of the 16th century the ‘metaphilosophical’ debate in Germany begins to diversify: the Ciceronian definition of philosophy as cognition of Divine and human things seems to lose ground. The idea that our natural capabilities are limited suggests that philosophy must help us to overcome these deficiencies, leading to Martini’s and Liddel’s therapeutic view. Comparing Pernot’s contribution to Albert’s view articulated some thirty years earlier shows how Jesuits introduced a novel style of inquiry and debate based first and foremost on the authority of Aristotle. But these advances are not only methodological. New problems come to the fore. In an Aristotelian understanding of philosophy the role of practical disciplines is precarious. Pernot avoids this problem, because he believes that ethics or politics are practical sciences. It remains to be seen whether this is really an acceptable proposition.
Cf. Liddel, Duncan, and Cornelius Martini. Disputatio de philosophia eiusque instrumentis, Helmstedt: Lucius, Jakob the older, 1592, Th. 1, §1: “Cum universa humanae vitae perfectio in mente sita sit, ad cuius imperium corporis animaeque inferiorum facultatum servitio utitur, brutalibus corporeisque affectibus mancipari non debet, sed illius sui dominii cura habita, a brutali sorte ad divina quam proxime aspirare, ac, vitiosis affectibus depositis, in veri cognitione, bonique adeptione acquiescere.” ↩
Cf. Liddel/Martini, De philosophia, Th. 1, §2: “Verum cum mens ipsa, nisi aliunde adhunc suum scopum dirigatur, adeo caeca sit, ut ad veritatem verique boni consecutionem, non aliter quam verspertilionum oculi ad solem se habeat, preater oracula divinitus patefacta, humana quaedam remedia, disciplinae nimirum, instinctu lucis naturae […] inventae et perpolitae sunt.” ↩
Cf. Liddel/Martini, De philosophia, Th. 1, §4: ” Disciplinas autem contemplativas veteres post Pythagoram sub nomine Philosophiae complexi sunt, quibus Socrates primum et Plato practicas quoque adiecerunt. Verum Stoici sub vocis amplitudine instrumentales, et quidem effectrices disciplinas quoque comprehenderunt.” ↩
Cf. Liddel/Martini, De philosophia, Th. 1, §5: “Cum vero animi nostri medicina Philosophia sit, cuius adminiculo duae praecipuae facultates animae proxime perficiuntur, disciplinae, quae in πράξι et θεωρία consistunt, Philosophiae propriae erunt. Nam quae in effectione sunt occupatae, a practicis diriguntur, et iis inserviunt: instrumentales vero media et normas tantum aliis disciplinis usu quodam communes, et modos cognoscendi praescribunt.” ↩
Cf. Liddel/Martini, De philosophia, Th. 1, §6: “Quare Philosophia, hoc modo sumta, nihil aliud erit, quam doctrina ductu lucis naturae ad animi functiones, proxime perficiendas, inventa, unde ea cognoscimus, quae Deus in hoc universo vel contemplanda, vel ad vitam recte instituendam agenda, nobis proposuit.” ↩
Cf. Pernot, Jean. Theoremata centum et octoginta […] in libros de Physica Acroasi. Würzburg: Fleischmann, Georg, 1593, § 2: “Accipitur [sc. philosophia] ab Aristotele sex praecipue modis. Primo, ut per illud Theoreticae tantum scientiae intelligantur: sicque Philosophia, Veritatis contemplatrix, definitur. Secundo, ut intelligantur Theoreticae quidem, sed tamen ea solummodo, quae de substantiis, sunt, quo modo in tot partes philosophia secatur, quot sunt ea, quae per se subsistunt. Tertio, ut solum Metaphysica eo nomine vocetur. Quarto vero, tam late, ut etiam ad Artes Mechanicas sese extendat: quatenus scilicet et ipsae aliquando suarum rerum causas, possunt reddere. Quinto, ut no solum has; verum etiam Moralem scientiam, comprehendat. Sexto, (et sic demum proprie) ut per illud omnes ac solae scientiae, tam Speculativae, quam Practicae, intelligantur: quomodo et a nobis in posterum accipiendum est.” ↩
Cf. Pernot, Theoremata, §3: “Philosophiam perpulchre Plato ex fine, Meditationem mortis definivit: […] Haec tamen definitio, praeterquam quod non adaequata sit, Metaphorica est.” ↩
Cf. Pernot, Theoremata, §5: “Melior videtur Stoicorum definitio, quae a subiecto Philosophiae desumpta est, ut sit humanarum, divinarumque rerum scientia. Per res humanas, res cum materia coniunctas: per Divinas vero, ab eadem separatas, et secretas, intelligendo. Non convenit tamen haec definitio in quamlibet partem Philosophiae; sed in omnes, simul acceptas.” ↩
Cf. Pernot, Theoremata, § 6: “Optima ergo tandem erit ea, quam Ammonius ex Platone collegit, ut sit cognitio rerum prout sunt seu quod eodem redit, perfecta earum intelligentia.” ↩
As I already mentioned
I have recently published a paper on definitions of philosophy in
early modern Spain. In what follows, I want to begin a new series of
posts exploring the same topic in a different geographical space,
namely Germany. My starting point for this is the debate on the
concept of philosophy as it is documented in various texts published
between 1544 and 1587. Their authors seem to echo some concerns in
Melanchthon’s ‘metaphilosophical’ stance, at least in the
interpretation put forward by Günter Frank
an English summary can be found
here). In Frank’s reading,
one of the views defended by Melanchthon states that philosophy must be regarded as
‘universal science’. Correspondingly, the texts to be discussed here
mostly focus on the question whether it make sense to define
philosophy as ‘cognition of Divine and human things’ (cognitio rerum
divinarum et humanarum).
So it probably does not come as a surprise that three of the four
protagonists presumably encountered Melanchthon, because they studied
in Wittenberg between
Heinrich Paxmann (1531-1580), 1550 magister, 1564 professor at the Viadrina (Frankfurt/Oder), 1576 professor in Helmstedt (source: DNB);
Johannes Grün (1535-1596), 1560 Magister in Wittenberg, after that working as teacher, return to Wittenberg university in 1582 (source: DNB).
Finally, in 1561, one year after Grün (or Grunius), Johannes Albert (fl. 1561) received special praise as magister at the university of Ingolstadt (later on the LMU Munich). The LMU library and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek present two texts by a Johannes Albert dealing with the goals and the definition of philosophy. For me, it is not yet clear whether this Johannes Albert is or is not identical with a physician and Paracelsian of the same name (a thesis that is denied here).
Werdmüller addresses the question how to define philosophy in the context of a defense of the role of moral philosophy and its contributions to theology. For him, philosophy is awareness (notitia) of Divine and human things (divinarum et humanarum rerum), i. e. knowledge that concerns the totality (universitas) of what humans can know ‘by nature’, without Divine revelation (renovatio spiritus).1 We are able to acquire such knowledge, because some capabilities of the pre-lapsarian perfect mind have been preserved: We need revelation in order to understand that Christ died for us. But we can rely on natural reason in the reflection of teaching (via docendi), the natural world or civil virtues. In doing so, we perceive signs of God’s wisdom, power, and benevolence.2
Paxmann seems to agree with Werdmüller: the object of philosophy is the ‘totality of things’ including God (Deus et tota rerum universitas). This totality can be divided into three spheres: speech, mores, and the essence of things. But whereas Werdmüller emphasises that some capabilities of our intellect have been preserved after the Fall, Paxmann takes a more sceptical view, quoting Aristotle who compared our ability to apprehend the world to what bats see when looking into the sun (993b9-11).3 Accordingly, philosophy is meant to emendate our faculties, insofar as they contribute to our awareness of truth and virtue.4
The first text written by Johann Albert and published in Ingolstadt in 1561 is the Oratio de fine philosophiae. Again, philosophy is defined as cognitio rerum divanarum et humanarum. And, like Paxmann, Albert believes that philosophy in this sense can help to dispel ignorance, thereby emendating our cognitive and volitive faculties. In fact, what objects philosophy is concerned with, i. e. Divine and human things, is derived from its task to emendate our mind.5
In a second text, a one-page dissertation also published in 1561, the task of philosophy is defined differently: here, its main goal is practical, namely tranquillity of the soul. This tranquillity is contrasted with ‘reflexion of death’ (meditatio mortis). Both are by some regarded as worthy goals of philosophy, but since there can be only one ‘highest end’ of a given activity, one must be subordinated to the other. The text states that nothing can compare to tranquillity of the soul, so that it must be regarded as the highest end achievable in philosophy.6 The meditatio mortis is an important secondary goal, because it secures the ‘dominance of reason’ (rectae rationis dominium) over the senses.7
If we accept that the dominance of the recta ratio depends on dispelling ignorance through knowledge, both texts are in harmony: knowing about Divine and human things allows us to separate reason from the influence of the senses. It is, therefore, a form of meditatio mortis which is in turn the precondition for achieving tranquillity of the soul.
Like Albert, Grün notes some disagreement about the proper definition of philosophy: besides the - apparently canonical - definition of philosophy as cognition of Divine and human things, we can also regard it as an aggregate of its disciplines that is not united by shared characteristics.8 And it is this second option Grün himself prefers.
Grün presents first those reasons that speak for accepting philosophy as cognition of Divine and human things: The first argument is that this definition agrees with our understanding of the term ‘philosophy’ as love of wisdom, because wisdom must be the most honorable form of knowledge and there cannot be a more honorable form of knowledge than knowledge about Divine and human things.9
Grün believes that these arguments are inconvincing: our cognitive capabilities are limited. It is overbearing (arrogans) to assume that we could have cognition of Divine and human things. And it is not only knowledge of the supernatural that Grün finds severly lacking. The same is true with regard to our understanding of the natural world the deficiencies of which were already exposed by Socrates.10
His alternative proposal: in order to define philosophy, its constituent parts should be enumerated. Philosophy consists in knowledge about the correct use of speech (cognitio artium dicendi), about the essences of things (totius rerum natura), and the doctrine of virtues. This takes into acount the limitations of our capabilities and it presents clearly the subject amtter philosophy is dealing with, because it does not claim that the knowledge contained in these disciplines is to any extent perfect.11
The first interesting aspect to note is that in the middle of the 16th century, the definition of philosophy as cognition of Divine and human things was acceptable across confessional boundaries: it is asserted by the Reformed protestant Werdmüller, the Lutheran Paxmann, and the Catholic Albert. Only one author - Grün - is sceptical and prefers to define philosophy as an aggregate of disciplines.
The main area of controversy is the epistemic dimension of a definition of philosophy, i. e. the reliability of our cognitive and volitive faculties. Should we believe that our cognitive and volitive faculties are by and large intact (Werdmüller) or should we assume that they are lacking (Paxmann)? If the latter is true, is this deficiency reason enough to change our attitude towards defining philosophy (Grün) or is it still acceptable to define philosophy as cognition of Divine and human things (Paxmann)? And we must ask, following Albert, whether attempts to define philosophy at the same time by its end (tranquillity of the soul) and its objects (Divine and human things) are feasible.
Finally, it should be noted that these texts discuss the problem of how to define philosophy with a quite low degree of philosophical sophistication. This, however, will change in subsequent years quite rapidly, as I hope to show in the next posts of this series.
Cf. Werdmüller, Otto. De Dignitate, Usu et Methodo Philosophiae Moralis, Quam Aristoteles Ad Nicomachum Filium Conscripsit; Basileae: Curio, 1544, p. 11: “Philosophia divinarum et humanarum rerum atque adeo totius universitatis notitiam significat, haud sane perfectam, sed quantam humana ratio per legitimam methodum suis viribus, a Deo donatis, hoc est, sine renovatione Spiritus sancti comparare potest.” ↩
Cf. ibid.: “Haec ratio vel mens hominis nisi renata, propter Adae lapsum neque intelligit, neque credit filium Dei pro nobis indignis mortem oppetiisse [sic?]. Non tamen ita prorsus est deleta, ut nullum extet vestigium pristinae mentis, quam Deus condiderat omnibus numeris absoluta. Adhuc enim sana mens, qualis qualis est, per se intelligit de via docendi, de civilibus virtutibus, de naturalibus rebus plurima, eque dignissima, quae ipsa quoque infinitam Dei sapientiam, potentiam, benignitatem erga nos commendant.” ↩
Cf. Paxmann, Heinrich. Themata Ad Disputandum Proposita de Philosophia, Subiecto et Fine; Witebergae: Crato, 1556, n. p.: “Philosophia, quam latine studium sapientiae interpraetamur, est cognitio artium dicendi, praeceptorum de moribus, et naturae rerum tanta, quantam mens humana assequi potest. Etsi enim menti materia quam tractet, et in qua versetur subiectum est Ens quam late patet, hoc est Deus et tota rerum universitas, et ad haec omnia aspiecienda conditi sumus: Tamen penitus perspici natura non potest et humanae mentes aspicientes eam caligant ac coecutiunt velut vespertiliones ad Solem meridianum conversi, ut Aristoteles in Metaphysicis inquit.” ↩
Cf. Paxmann, Themata, n. p.: “Cum autem solus homo inter species corporeas sit natura rationalis, ita divinitus condita ut doctrinae capax sit et possit ad virtutem utunque flecti, et Philosophiae finis sit institutio hominis ad veritatem et virtutem quanta in hac natura esse potest, versabitur Philosophia circa tres potentias quae aliis animantibus denegatae in solo homine reperiuntur, et sunt intelligentia, Voluntas et facultas loquendi.” ↩
Cf. Albertus, Johannes. Oratio de fine philosophiae et quomodo ad ipsum perveniri liceat. Ingolstadium: Weissenhorn, 1561, n. p.: “Non ergo censendum philosophiam vel mente vel aliud quid, ut sic dicam, substantiale in nobis gignere et procreare: sed tantum hominis facultates explicare, purgare, illuminare, et quo ad fieri possit perficere. […] Quod autem animum purgat ab ignorantia, oportet, ut cognitionem et scientiam introducat, […] Cum autem cognitio sit alicuius rei cognitio, patet pro ut res sit affecta, ita etiam cognitionem sese habere. Omnes autem res sunt aut divinae, aut humanae, quapropter erunt etiam harum rerum cognitiones assimiles, divinarum nempe divinae, humanarum humanae.” ↩
Cf. Albertus, Johannes. Propositiones de Fine Philosophiae. [s.l.], 1561, n. p.: “Cum cuiusvis et artis et doctrinae, unus sit ultimus, ad quem omnia artis vel disciplinae referantur praecepta, finis: duo autem philosophiae fines a philosophis et re et verbis discrepantes constituti inveniantur: Quorum alter sit mortis meditatio, alter vero in animi tranquillitate positus: plures autem uno philosophiae fines esse nequeant, perfectissimus autem quodque in gravis doctrina, finis semper existat: animi vero tranquillitatem mortis meditatione praestare, recte philosophantes sua sponte fateantur: nihil praeterea liceat in tota philosophia inveniri, quod conferri cum animi tranquillitate possit: hanc ob rem non mortis meditationem, sed animi tranquillitatem ultimum philosophiae finem esse arbitramur.” ↩
Cf. ibid.: “Mortis tamen meditationem, cum rectae rationis dominium prae se ferat, et a quibusdam pro ipso fine sit posita, ab ipso vero fine non procul disiunctam existimamus. […] Quod si animam a corpore per voluntatem separaverit, et ab omnibus rebus externis abduxerit, tum Philosophiae finem adeptus fuerit.” ↩
Cf. Grün, Johannes. Philosophiae Origo, Progressus, Definitio, Divisio, Dignitas, Utilitas, Quas Viae Humanae et Exxlesiae Confert, et Caetera; Viteberga: Welack, 1587, p. 70: “Duae Philosophiae definitiones tradi solent, Ciceronis una, quae ad utramvis definiendi formam, quae vel essentialis vel causalis dicitur relata, materiae et formae mentione, Philosophiam a praestantia et dignitate commendat: Altera usitata, quae ex partibus collecta sy/nopsin corporis Philosophiae oculis subjicit.” ↩
Cf. Grün, Origo, p. 71: “[…] nec quicquam aliud est Philosophia, si interpretari velis, quam studium Sapientiae. Sapientia autem est rerum divinarum et humanarum causarumque, quibus hae res continentur, scientia. […] Sapientia […] est scientia et intelligentia earum rerum, quae natura sua sunt honore dignissimae et qui eam homo possidet, sapiens et honore dignus perhibetur. Sapientiae genus uterque Scientiam constituit, quae ex principiis extructa, longoque rerum us et experientia multiplici comparata est. Eorum, […] quae sunt obiectum Sapientiae, Cicero tres classes facit, Res nimirum divinas et humanas, rerum proprietates et causas, quibus continentur.” ↩
Cf. Grün, Origo, p. 74: “Atque haec est Ciceronis definitio, erudita quidem et ipsa, quam tamen aliqui improbant, quod aliquantum arrogans sit et definito suo latius vagetur. Non tantum enim in divinis, si vim et naturam Numinis intelligas, ratio humana caeca est, et opinione magis quam ratione in plerisque nititur, aut falsa ac impia comminiscitur, […] sed etiam in iis, quae sensibus obvia sunt, tam elementaria, quam coelestia, aut nihil aut parum assequitur, ut a Socrate proditum fertur.” ↩
Cf. ibid.: “Altera igitur Philosophiae definitio ex partibus collecta traditur, quod sit cognitio artium dicendi, totius rerum natura et doctrina virtutum tanta, quantam mens humana in hac caligine assequi potest. Et haec quidem definitio Ciceronianam illam, non tantum intra modestiae limites revocat, cognitionis potius propter obtusam mentis nostrae aciem, quam scientiae aut habitus, quem in hac caligine in paucis assequi contingit, nomine Philosophiam dignata: […]” ↩
Die spezifische Internationalität des europäischen Calvinismus, sein grenzüberschreitender Charakter und die hohe Mobilität seiner Prediger und Anhänger sind der Forschung als Muster und Struktur seit langem bekannt. Umso mehr muss es verwundern, dass sich diese Internationalität in der tatsächlichen Forschung nicht wirklich abbildet: Die regionalen Schwerpunkte liegen eindeutig im Westen und in der Mitte Europas – dem östlichen Europa dagegen, beginnend mit den älteren Reichsterritorien im Osten über traditionelle Zentren wie Polen-Litauen und Ungarn bis hin zu den baltischen Herrschaftsbildungen und Siebenbürgen, wird traditionell nur eine periphere Bedeutung für diese Zusammenhänge zugemessen.
Im Zentrum der Tagung soll die Untersuchung von Prozessen stehen, die sich mit den Illustrationen wissenschaftlicher Werke des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts verbinden lassen. Dabei sollen bewusst Vorgänge unterschiedlicher Wissenschaftszweige thematisiert werden, weil eine gegenseitige Beeinflussung in der anvisierten Periode anzunehmen ist. Über visuelle Disziplinen wie die Kunstwissenschaft hinausgehend richtet sich die Tagung besonders auch an Forscher der Botanik, Zoologie, Naturkunde, Medizin, Kartographie und Astronomie.
Beiträge zu folgenden Untersuchungsfelder sind willkommen:
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Georg Philipp Harsdörffer (1607 – 1658) est un des grands savants et médiateurs culturels de l`époque baroque dans les domaines de la philologie et des arts. […] Harsdörffer y exerça non seulement des hautes fonctions publiques, mais il concentra aussi ses activités dans le domaine de la littérature, des langues, des arts, de la musicologie, des sciences mécaniques, de la compilation encyclopédique et de la traduction.
In the first years of this millennium, interested in fifteenth-century collectors associated with Humfrey, duke of Gloucester, I spent time becoming better acquainted with the manuscripts of the English curialist, Andrew Holes. He gave to Humfrey one important manuscript, the sole copy of Salutati’s last masterpiece, De laboribus Herculis (a book now in the Vatican, but that is another story).