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Context, Influences and Disciples

Both Thomasius and Wolff had followers. In Thomasius's case this was in spite of the fact that he claimed to have no desire to have disciples or found a school. But given the influence he had on his contemporaries, it would have been surprising if there had not been anyone who saw himself as following in his footsteps and, more importantly, taking up his cause (against Wolff). Among Thomasius's contemporaries to do so were Franz Budde (1667-1729), Joachim Lange (1670-1744), Andreas Rüdiger (1673-1731), and Adolf Friedrich Hoffmann (1707-1741). Christian August Crusius (?1715-1775) was a later follower (Hoffmann's student) who came on the philosophical scene when Wolffianism was already starting to decline.

Wolff's followers were perhaps more varied than those following and rejecting Thomasius. Indeed, by the 1740s, Wolffianism had become the leading German philosophy and had spread to the major German universities: to Halle (with Wolff, A. G. Baumgarten, though he moved on to Frankfurt an der Oder), G. F. Meier, and J. A. Eberhard, who is known particularly for the role he played in early Kant-criticism), to Marburg where virtually every academic was a Wolffian, to Giessen (with J. F. Müller, and Böhm), to Tübingen (with Georg Bernhard Bilfinger, Israel Gottlob Ganz and Gottfried Plouquet), to Leipzig (with Gottsched and Ludovici), to Jena (with Johann Peter Reusch and Joachim George Darjes), and to Königsberg (with Knutsen, Kant's teacher).

The reception of Wolff's philosophy is interesting not only in view of its widespread acceptance, but also in light of the disputes it generated and the further developments it gave rise to. Chief among these disputes were (1) the attack by the pietists (Budde and Lange) that led to Wolff's dismissal from Halle and (2) the attack by the Thomasians (Hoffmann and Crusius). Further developments of the Wolffian philosophy can be found particularly in the domain of aesthetics with Gottsched and Baumgarten.

3.1 Pietism

The development of early and even mid-enlightenment thought in 18th century Germany proceeded hand in hand with the then relatively new (protestant) religious trend: pietism. Like the discontent that the representatives of the early enlightenment had with authority and, at least in the early years, intellectual life, those of pietism took issue with the (religious) orthodoxy and its intellectualism. Furthermore, rather than endorse obedience and conformity to the establishment, the pietist movement emphasized the subjective aspect of faith: a person's experience, feeling, and, above all, personal participation in religious matters and performances. The emphasis on the subjective and personal, and on people's actual participation in religion made pietism an ideal companion for early enlightenment thought. At issue here was not academic competence, not the cognitive aspect of religion, but its affective aspect with emphasis on devotion and practical service, just as what was at issue in the early enlightenment was not the intellectual aspect of reason, but its practical performance and service. And both movements were characterized by a commitment to egalitarianism.

This is not to say that the parallel development was always or even necessarily harmonious. In Halle, the chief representative of pietism was August Hermann Francke (1663-1722), who had been brought there by Thomasius. But Thomasius and Francke did not see eye to eye on all matters. While Thomasius had endorsed Francke's practical activism (he was the founder of the Halle orphanage), he broke with Francke by 1699, criticising his educational policies for producing “uneducated, melancholy, fantastic, obstinate, recalcitrant, and spiteful men” (cited in Beck, 253). It is not clear what, if any, philosophical reasons Thomasius had for turning against Francke. However, the details of their disagreement are not important for the development of 18th century philosophy.

Date: 2014-12-21; view: 620

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