Leibniz or Thomasius ? An Enquiry Concerning German Modern Philosophy

(in Idealistic studies, vol. 37, issue 2, p. 77-86, 2004)

The point of this study is to ponder over pre-Kantian modern philosophy in Germany, that is, the German philosophy of the 17th and early 18th centuries, a pre-Enlightenment philosophy, which nevertheless paved the way for the Enlightenment. Considered for far too long as depending solely on Leibniz and stigmatized as dogmatic (hence its being all too recurrently referred to and summed up as "Leibnizo-Wolffian"), German modern philosophy appears, under close examination, to bear the mark of scepticism—a scepticism embodied precisely by the father of German modern philosophy, i.e. Thomasius, a contemporary opponent of Leibniz. To show how Thomasius and his followers enabled the striking spread of Hume's philosophy in modern Germany, to show how pervaded by scepticism German modern philosophy was—Wolff included—, such is the purpose of this paper, whose main concern is to reconsider the very nature of the philosophical mutation from Leibniz to Kant. Studying the sceptical prolongation given to German rationalism, while probing the sources of modern philosophy to delineate an archaeology of the Aufklärung , and therefore of Kant , is, after all, a way of giving oneself the means to re-evaluate Kant's gesture itself.


German modern philosophy has too often been summed up under the surreptitiously libellous label "Leibnizo-Wolffian", a synonym for what Kant defined as dogmatism in the Critique of Pure Reason. All thinkers between Leibniz and Kant allegedly shared the dogmatism expressed in the three following tenets: first, that knowledge is God-founded, second, that existence can be deduced from a concept, and, thirdly, that there is an a priori adequacy between representations and the things represented. Those three tenets, quintessential to dogmatism, were allegedly championed in similar ways by all German thinkers before Hume came to wake them all up from what Kant called their "dogmatic sleep". This reconstitution, however, which originated in Kant and which the latter's followers and commentators[1] largely spread around, is historically false. Far from elaborating anew on those three tenets, German modern philosophy in both its empiricist and rationalistic dimensions marked instead their moribund decline. The relevant problem of the period going from Thomasius to Wolff was not dogmatism but scepticism. As a matter of fact, the English  tradition of sceptical empiricism—embodied moderately by Locke, and more radically by Hume—, was known in Germany quite early. If, as a general rule, Germany was characterized at the time by its receptivity to foreign thinking, having never been so open and compliant with the suggestions coming from other countries than in the middle of the 18th century,[2] and if every work of some value that was published on foreign soil was immediately signalled, analysed, commented upon in the journals of the times, and translated in great parts when thought necessary,[3] then indeed it was the English branch of sceptical philosophy that benefited the most from such enthusiasm.[4] Suffice it to mention the incredibly rapid translation of Hume's work to prove our point. A translation in four volumes, comprising his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, appeared as soon as 1754;[5] the Four Dissertations were published as Vier Abhandlungen in 1759, and then as Vier Philosophen in 1768; as for the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (a posthumous work published in 1779), they were almost immediately translated, first only in part, by Hammann in July 1780, and then as a whole, by Schreiter in 1781. Besides, a selection of the philosopher's writings had been made accessible through the text : Das Genius des Hrn Hume, which was published in Leipzig in 1774. Last but not least, when his writings were not translated, they were extensively commented upon in the journals of the times. The Gottingische Anzeigen gave a regular account of the main themes dealt with in Hume's works as soon as the latter were published in England. Thus Hume's challenging the foundation of causality was analysed to perfection as early as 1740—i.e. the year the final volume of the Treatise of Human Nature appeared in England. Similarly, Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek took a periodic account of the translations (, standpoints as to, and protests against) and of the arguments for and against English scepticism.[6] But the spreading of his ideas was made possible only because of the then current situation of German philosophy. Indeed, if Hume's thinking was so quickly absorbed, and in parallel so rapidly perceived as a great danger, it was due principally to the striking proximity of his thoughts with the German philosophy of the times. To put it more clearly, Hume drew the logical conclusions of empiricism, and German modern philosophy, as though despite itself, was empirical. In fact, an historical enquiry into the heart of German modern philosophy is necessary to support the thesis that Hume's thinking was welcome in Germany because scepticism was already there, for, indeed, one tends to keep in mind only the Leibnizian, and therefore dogmatic approach of Wolff and his contemporaries as what mainly defines it. This enquiry will allow us to grasp the inner dynamics that led to the paradoxical situation of a pre-Kantian German philosophy unable to disprove Hume for the simple reason that it implied, in itself, an empiricism pervaded by scepticism.

The Frühaufklärung: C. Thomasius (1655-1728)

Without probing the complex typology of late-17th and early-18th-century German philosophy, characteristically divided up between numberless authors, one can divide it into three main moments,[7] beginning with Thomasius, a writer as important until Kant as Leibniz —which is something that tends to be forgotten nowadays. In fact, C. Thomasius' somewhat misplaced statements of 1687 constitute the very founding stone of the Aufklärung. The most important philosophical movement of the century, which was, in the end, to father  Kant, was born from an impertinent remark.

Indeed, very soon Thomasius became bored with the vanity and vacuity of the neo-scholastic debates among academics, in which referring to a celebrated author was a substitute for thought in the prematurely tottering minds of the professors. He decided then not only to give lectures on Balthazar Gracian, but also to publish his lectures in German.[8] That quiet casualness sparked off vivid opposition and various admonitions, to which he answered with confounding insolence. This led to his being dismissed from Leipzig and his making the most of it by travelling in the country and founding a university at Halle. It was from there that the attack was then launched upon the old, crumbling edifice of metaphysics. "And thus began, with a provincial academic jest, the German Aufklärung."[9] Thomasius' response to "dogmatism" crystallized into several of his writings, the most important of which being Ausübung der Vernunftlehre.[10] Thomasius' philosophy is first characterized by his determined denunciation of metaphysics which he judged intolerant, detached from life, and useless as regards moral and religious practices[11]. To this criticism, one must add his claim to think freely elsewhere than in the shadow of some authority. It is this call for freedom which explains why Thomasius was more preoccupied with concrete morality (in which education took pride of place  than with ontological speculation. Last, his rather concise theory of knowledge is undeniably characterized by its empiricism. As W. Schneiders highlights, "his attitude is oriented towards emancipation, empiricism and voluntarism."[12] Without going into further detail which could help us determine whether Thomasius had some knowledge, before he published his main work, of Locke's philosophy[13]—whose Essay Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1689, had been translated and thereby made accessible very rapidly—, we can say that, from a gnoseological point of view, a characteristic feature of the birth of the Aufklärung was an amazing empiricist profession of faith. This philosophy thereby paved the way for Lockean empiricism to meet with a favourable reception; and indeed, Locke's Letters Concerning Toleration consequently appeared as a manifesto for the new school. Besides, the leading question of Locke's philosophy—i.e., what are the nature and limits of human understanding—, seemed likely to rid philosophy of the traditional, idle ontological debates. Last, the various statements of the English philosopher according to whom human knowledge was necessarily limited ("our business [here] is not to know all things but those that concern our conduct"[14]) seemed to echo the first Aufklärers' wish to turn to morality and action. The first movement defining the Aufklärung imperceptibly adopted the idea that the future of philosophy did not lie in ontological knowledge but in descriptive psychology, at best in some kind of anthropology. Besides, by acknowledging the empirical genesis of knowledge, it conceded that human knowledge was limited and metaphysical knowledge, impossible. One may add that the positive reception—or objective convergence—of Locke's relative scepticism[15] was not totally extraneous to the debates and damages Hume's sceptical empiricism brought about some fifty years later.

The Hochaufklärung: C.Wolff (1679-1754)

Wolff's actualisation of Leibnizian metaphysics was a response, built on an opposition, to that first movement. His main purpose was to reconstruct Leibnizian ontology by constituting into some system what in Leibniz remained scattered in a constellation of texts. The new philosophy thus presented the main Leibnizian themes anew, as a series of propositions deducible from one another. Wolff's rationalism is distinct from Leibniz' though, insofar as he did not trace rationality back to some supreme being. In his eyes, the onto-theological pattern of metaphysics was not immediately or clearly identifiable. Metaphysics was to be defined as some ontology, as knowledge of the being as being, without its being necessary, ever, to resort to a transcending principle. From Wolff onwards, reason was to be allowed only by itself, which makes of this philosopher a genuine Aufklärer.[16] What nevertheless fundamentally binds him to the previous philosophy is his keeping the traditionally-oriented definition of philosophy as ontology, and, by way of consequence, his relative confidence in some identity between being and thinking, between the real and some modality of knowledge, between what is and reason. Actually, this may sound as a return to the conception of truth that prevailed in the 17th century. In opposition to the first movement of the Aufklärung which equated philosophy with some geography of the human mind, Wolff's philosophy admittedly continued and developed the definition of philosophy as knowledge of the being, and correlatively operated a return to a definition of truth as adequacy between knowledge and being. On the basis of such an opposition, it seems arguable to maintain that, far from providing some suitable ground for empiricism to spread, Wolff's philosophy rather constituted its breaking point.

Beyond the most obvious differences, however, Wolffianism, as though despite itself, led to a redefinition of philosophy insofar as it more or less transformed it, in a way that was more implicit than explicit, into what it was not initially. As a matter of fact, if Wolffianism kept the Aristotelian definition of philosophy as ontology, it is nonetheless true that by depriving it of the classical onto-theological solution founding adequacy in God, it made its metaphysics, as M. Puech has demonstrated,[17] more logical, more epistemological and more psychological:

1) More logical first, insofar as Wolff, renouncing the Leibnizian solution, aimed at demonstrating that the principle of sufficient reason, enabling one to bear judgements upon things, could be deduced from the principle of non-contradiction, without which the mind could simply not bear any judgement. Attempting to find a suitable base for the principle of sufficient reason no longer required positing God first of all in the picture, and is more akin, mutatis mutandi, to the gesture of the early-20th-century logicians who ambitioned to base the whole set of possible  mathematical judgements upon logic.

2) More epistemological because, by giving up foundation in God, it progressively left aside the questions of metaphysica specialis to the benefit of the enquiry as to the principles of knowledge (non-contradiction, sufficient reason, etc.). Metaphysics thereby was being turned into a theory of knowledge. Correlatively—and this may be the most amazing thing of all—giving up the notion of theological foundation led to turning the adequacy of knowledge and truth into a mere assumption, which one might cling to while renouncing to demonstrate it. To put it more clearly, the Leibnizian thesis of pre-established harmony was being given up, everything suggesting that for the Wolffians the question of the adequacy of knowledge and the real imperceptibly became secondary. H. J. de Vleeschauwer has emphasized how this gradual renunciation bears its mark on all  German philosophy immediately before Kant. In his summary of the evolution that occurred between the 17th and 18th centuries, he writes, referring to pre-established harmony, that "Leibniz held this thesis deep at heart, Wolff much less and Knutzen, not at all."[18] It is worth insisting on that gradual renunciation, for indeed, the thesis supporting pre-established harmony answered the question of the adequacy between representations and things. That pre-Kantian rationalist philosophy should have manifested a relative indifference towards it bears evidence of the extent of the displacement then operating in the very concept of philosophy. For this reason, the continued reference to the classical definition of philosophy appears to have been purely verbal. Only the actual deployment of the concept reveals the deep transformation taking hold of philosophy at the time.

3/ Its being made more psychological necessarily followed that surreptitious redefinition of philosophy. For Wolffians, man has an innate propensity to judge on the ground of the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, etc., and this disposition (in the nature of the human mind) became the final base for those principles: "We learn by experience that the nature of our mind is such that, in a given case it will not admit that a thing exists without sufficient reason."[19] Philosophy truly became a theory of knowledge then and this theory of knowledge could only find its base in some "innate disposition" common to all men (/human beings). In short, the theory of knowledge called for a psychological approach[20]—itself made legitimate by some anthropology of sorts. And thus the very logic of Wolff's thought processes imperceptibly made of philosophy a psychology of knowledge, just as Thomasius had made of it some "geography  of the mind". It is clear then that despite his reassertion of philosophy as ontology, Wolff announced the mutation from metaphysics to psychology. And therefore it is from the inside that Wolffianism paved the way for sceptical empiricism, since the crisis of Wolffian metaphysics had not been born from refutations from the outside, but from its own assertions.[21] To sum up, renouncing to found reason in God was to make of pre-established harmony a mere assumption; and giving up that immediately onto-theological pattern of thought inevitably led metaphysics away from what it was, nearer towards psychology or anthropology, and, as a consequence, proved Locke and Hume right in their definition of philosophy as the study of the human mind. This subterranean displacement of the task of philosophy, the mutation from rationalism turning empiricist, was to receive greater light in the third, ultimate stage of the Aufklärung.

The Spätaufklärung: the Eclectics

The third moment, Eclectism , which, in terms of quantity, was the most important one in Germany, is almost deducible from the first two since it constitutes the edgy synthesis of both. If it no easy matter to produce a conceptual definition of the Eclectic trend, since the common point of its followers was their "will not to make enemies,"[22] and if the most varied theories found themselves gathered up in the trend, it remains that every doctrine in it operated a double juxtaposition: that of metaphysics and empirical psychology; that of rationalism and some ill-assumed scepticism. There is ample evidence of the first of these juxtapositions in all the texts. When you consider Tetens, who attempted explicitly a synthesis between the two previous currents of the Aufklärung, you note that, although he presented empirical psychology as a preamble to metaphysics in its classical sense, he tended to take it more and more as an autonomous, and finally as the true object of philosophical enquiry.[23] As for the second association, between professed rationalism and some underlying scepticism, it can be perceived in the conception of common sense, of an instinctive faculty, common to all humans, which, in the eyes of the Eclectics, solved all philosophical questions. Initially formulated by the Scottish philosophers inimical to Hume, such as Beattie [24] "common sense" found itself defined as an "irrepressible instinct", an "immediate faculty" which enabled one to use the principle of causality, for instance, without its being necessary to wonder about its ontological foundation. Is it out of habit or of necessity that one uses this principle when thinking about things? The Eclectics' answer was that one used it immediately and that there was no need to push the enquiry  further. Reason, which gave one access to  fundamental truths, was therefore reduced  to some mysterious faculty they unwaveringly called instinct.

But then the movement was to face up to Hume's sceptical empiricism, without being able to oppose it due to its weird kinship with the Scottish philosopher. Unable, due to their innovative renunciation of the onto-theological pattern of metaphysics, to find a rational base for the adequacy between being and thought, and compelled to refer to an instinct-based  common sense, which marks the extenuation of reason, the German rationalists, as though despite themselves, bear witness to the fact that the 18th century as a whole was the century of scepticism. All the trends of philosophy then were implicitly sceptical, Hume's was the first and only one to be coherently so. Besides, it transpires from the present analysis that the most striking phenomenon of the second half of the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries was the systematic, albeit varied questioning of the thesis of pre-established harmony, and that this questioning destined philosophy no longer to equate ontology, but to become a discipline with blurred outlines, and manifold, contradictory definitions. Now, this reconstitution of the nature of German modern philosophy is not without consequence on the very definition of Criticism. This it the last point we shall evoke here.

Archaeology of Criticism: Leibniz or Thomasius?

If one accepts to acknowledge that scepticism is the most philosophically relevant phenomenon before Criticism, and much more so than dogmatism, it is then, from an historical point of view, in relationship with scepticism that one must situate Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and not, as Heidegger did, in relationship with the dogmatic tradition. The problem can be stated by following a well-known interpretive alternative: i.e. what edition of the Critique best enables one to grasp, if not its essence, then its actual historical reach? The first one, the preface of which seems to take dogmatism as its butt, or the second one, the preface, additions and corrections of which are so obviously devoted to finding some particular standpoint as to scepticism? In the light of the evolution of philosophy such as we have expounded it here, it becomes clear that, in the years before the Critique, the refutation  of scepticism should come first before that of dogmatism. In relationship with the Stimmung of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the vehement disproval of classical dogmatism—that is, of the type of dogmatism according to which knowledge was founded in God, existence could be deduced from a concept, and, last of all, there existed some a priori adequacy between representations and things—could be considered as merely and passably repetitive. As H. J. de Vleeschauwer writes: "Rudiger, Béguélin, Lambert, and, above all, Crusius, combined their efforts […]. It goes without saying that they were precursors of Kant in setting the frontier between mathematics and philosophy, and the limits they endowed them with were not essentially different from those Kant was to establish. Indeed, their common thesis  can be summed up as  assuming that conceptual analysis cannot pretend to grasp what existence ."[25] It would seem quite difficult then to give the refutation of dogmatism as much importance as that of scepticism (in the Critique), since, just as well, all the philosophical trends of the period bear witness, each in its own way, to the death of dogmatism: sceptical empiricism by contesting the possibility of some foundation for  metaphysical knowledge; French materialism by rejecting nothing less than the notions of God and the soul; German modern philosophy, last of all, by renouncing to found knowledge in God and by making of the thesis of pre-established harmony a merely useful creed. Dogmatism such as it is thematically analysed in the Critique had no longer been in existence for a century. This is what accounts for the fact that as soon as 1781 Kant's most immediate contemporaries who sided with the Critique read it from the point of view of its refutation of scepticism in every sense of the term. In their eyes, Kantianism tolled the  knell of the drift of philosophy towards psychology, and by way of transcendental analysis, embodied the regained possibility of some specific philosophical discourse. It also provided, with its assertion of some conformity in the representations of phenomena, the possible basis for some scientific discourse. The sceptical threat of a total absence of harmony, lying in the assertion that man discovers in things only what he puts in them, seemed to be averted. The Critique, through its refutation of scepticism, had hit a real enemy ; it had freed some new philosophical space, and left incomplete a process that had started long before, not to say that it had long been dead already. Kant was hailed by his contemporaries because he was putting an end to the crisis of metaphysics and the dissemination of the various meanings of philosophy. This is what transpires with no ambiguity at all from the very first post-Kantians, who unanimously greeted the possibility, expressed in the Critique, for philosophy to become a science at last. Reinhold starts his Elementary Philosophy with the assertion of Kantianism's rightful validity (allgemeingültig). Maïmon acclaimed it as a truth as indisputable as Euclid's Elements. As for Beck's writings, what most often recurs in them is the word 'science'. The scientific issue was indeed the mainspring of the first Kantians' support for Criticism. But we have to state clearly  what is, philosophically speaking, at stake, beyond the rigorous analysis and historical restitution, in situating the Critique in relationship with scepticism preferably to dogmatism. In our view, to choose to favour the thesis of the refutation of scepticism is to orientate Criticism towards the issue of the scientific character of philosophy, whereas to favour the thesis of the refutation of dogmatism is to think it from the point of view of the question of existence. What, for Criticism is the most philosophically decisive: the scientific issue in general and that of the scientific character of philosophy in particular, or the assertion of the impossibility to reach "being" in itself by the mere means of conceptual elucidation? What was the most striking for the 18th-century reader haunted by scepticism: the assertion of the possibility of science or the acknowledgement of some impassable finitude? Above all, the issue at stake concerns nothing less than the interpretation of two centuries in the history of philosophy. For indeed, as we have noted, Heidegger considered the Critique of Pure Reason as an inauguration of contemporary philosophy, insofar as it allegedly introduced an irreducible break between the concept and the thing, thus invalidating, for the first time, the inevitability of the onto-theological pattern of metaphysics. From this point of view the significant gesture of the Critique would have been its breaking away with dogmatism. The Heideggerian interpretation of philosophy from the 17th century onwards is unequivocal in this regard. It can be outlined in the following manner:

1) Classical metaphysics as the deployment of the onto-theological pattern of metaphysics: Descartes and Leibniz.

2) The Kantian moment as bringing into question that onto-theological pattern through its assertion of radical finitude: the first edition of the Critique.

3) The transgression of what Kant had established (i.e. of finitude as defined in his "Aesthetics"), and the return to traditional metaphysics, i.e. to some pre-critical dogmatism: the post-Kantian systems of thought.

From this there ensues that the interpretation of Kant in the light of its opposition to the dogmatic tradition leads one not only to cancel the 18th century as a whole—for it equates thinking that the philosophers of the period had been amply satisfied by merely repeating the (whole set of) metaphysical theses of the 17th century—, but also to reduce the 19th century to a return to some form of questioning more akin to 17th-century philosophy. Reading Kant(ianism) from the point of view of the question of existence, by establishing a certain definition of finitude in his work owing to the emphasis put on his refutation of dogmatism, Heidegger drew a conception of history that involves two centuries of philosophy. The restitution of the evolution of German modern philosophy therefore provides, in fine, the means to break with the Heideggerian conception still widely shared nowadays.

At the end of this journey to the very heart of the German philosophy of the second half of the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries, what conclusions do we arrive at? First of all, that the relevant movement that defines the specificity of German modernity in a most essential manner was scepticism, not dogmatism. Second, that scepticism in Germany, far from being the mere outcome of the spreading of Hume's philosophy, preceded it and eventually allowed its rapid growth. It was from the inside, through the decisive impetus of Thomasius, that German rationalism turned into scepticism as early as in the 17th century.

German modern philosophy, considered for far too long as depending solely on Leibniz and stigmatized as dogmatic, appears, under examination, to have borne the mark of scepticism throughout. Besides, our re-evaluation of the deep down philosophical mutation from Leibniz to Kant, enables us to argue against Heidegger's interpretation such as can be found in the first paragraph of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, according to which the most significant gesture in Kant's Critique was its breaking away with dogmatism, i.e. (for Heidegger) with Leibniz and Baumgarten's philosophy. Going against that interpretation we have been able to establish that the Critique's innovative gesture was to be found elsewhere than in its invalidation of what Heidegger calls the onto-theological pattern of metaphysics insofar as that critique of metaphysics was already at work as early as the second half of the 17th century, with Thomasius, whose influence on the destiny of German philosophy easily compares with Leibniz'.


[1] They are too numerous to be all cited here. Let us just mention Heidegger as a paradigmatic example, who devoted the first paragraph  of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929) 5Trslt. James S. Churchill. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962]  to situate Kant in the history of metaphysics and circumscribed the dogmatic tradition, embodied in his pages by Leibniz and Baumgarten, as the relevant movement from which Kant's Critique acquired its meaning and value. For him, Kant's interference occurred in a context dominated by dogmatism.

[2] Cf. L. Lévy-Bruhl, La Philosophie de Jacobi. Paris: F. Atlan,  1894 : 30.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cf. M. Puech on the influence of British empiricism on German culture as one of the major facts of the 17th century, in Kant et la causalité, Paris, Vrin, 1993 : 13 ; cf. also J.P. Larthomas evoking Shaftesbury's extraordinary popularity in Germany (De Schaftesbury à Kant:  VII), and analysing the rapidity of German translations (ibid.: 681-687) (Atelier national de reproduction des théses, distributed by Didier Erudition, Paris, 1985).

[5] Vermichte Schriften: I. Vermischte Schriften über die Handlung; II. Philosophische Versuche über die menschlische Erkenntnis, 1755; III. Sittenlehre der Gesellschaft, 1756; IV. Moralische und Politische Versuche, 1756. The translation was done by J.G. Sulzer, who added critical comments to it with a view to disproving Hume's scepticism.

[6] Cf. M. Puech, op. cit.: 142 et sq.

[7] I  borrow this threefold division from W. Schneiders, Die Wahre Aufklärung. Zum Selbstverständnis der deutschen Aufklärung. Freiburg-München: K. Alber, 1974.

[8]  It was announced in the Diskurs über die Nachahmung der Franzosen. As W. Schneiders emphasizes, to offer "reflections on Gracian instead of an interpretation of Aristotle, was  a deliberate confrontation", Opus cit.: 354 .

[9] W. Schneiders, "C.Thomasius (1655-1728)" in Archives de philosophie, Paris, 1979, LXII-3: 356.

[10] Published in 1691, the text was re-edited in 1968 by editor G. Olms.

[11] Let us recall what a lot of studies have hitherto highlighted: that the German Aufklärung, contrary to the French Enlightenment, did not oppose religion and can best be understood as following the track of  the Reformation.

[12] Op. cit.: 365. See also Schneiders' preface to Ausübung der Vernunftlehre, in which he explains how, for Thomasius, logic, or Vernunftlehre, is a "disciplina pratica". Hildesheim: Olms, 1968: 1.

[13] Cf. Schneiders, op. cit.: 364.

[14] Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Introduction to Book I. §6. Oregonstate.edu/web/ (Oregon State University)] In his "Epistle to the Reader" opening the Essay, Locke states that his purpose is not to expound metaphysics "as the true systematic knowledge of things", but "to be as useful as [he] may.".

[15] There is scepticism in his philosophy insofar as he asserts that metaphysical knowledge of the first principles is impossible; it is relative for he does not go as far as pretending that all knowledge is impossible, only that all human knowledge is necessarily limited.

[16] In Kant et la causalité, M. Puech shows how, due to Kant's accusations, Wolff remained quite unknown for a long time, when the mere reference to his Leibnizian approach had been sufficient to make of him the arch example of "dogmatism" in the Kantian sense of the term. But the situation is more complex since, as M. Puech demonstrates, Wolff was one of the first representatives of a modern kind of rationalism renouncing the foundation of reason in God. In a conference dating back to 1928, E. Cassirer also highlighted this "revolutionary" aspect in Wolff's thinking and, as a corollary, the injustice there was in considering him as a mere parrot repeating Leibniz' philosophy [Die Idee der Republikanischen Verfassung. Hamburg: De Gruyter, 1929]. We may add that in his times the theologians and traditional thinkers—the Pietists in particular—, perfectly recognized the new dimension of his philosophy, for they excluded him from his university.

[17] Cf. Kant et la causalité: 80.

[18] Cf. L'évolution de la pensée kantienne, Paris, Alcan, 1939. Let us recall here that Knutzen, a follower of Leibniz and Kant's professor, devoted a whole dissertation  in 1735 to the refutation of pre-established harmony. On this point, see Vorländer, I. Kant, der Mann und das Werk: 54, which shows that the idea according to which a concept cannot state existence had then become quite common. Similarly, M.Puech explains that pre-established harmony was considered by Wolff as merely probable, as the two rival theories, Malebranche's "occasionalism" and the Aristotelians' theory of physical influx, were totally improbable, yet "he did not make of it a founding element of his system; he avoided resorting to that controversial doctrine." Op. cit.: 87, my translation.

[19] Cf. Wolff, Philosophia prima sive Ontologia (Leipzig, 1730), edited in Gesammelte Werke (G.W.) by G.Olms, 1962: II. iii. § 74—. The paragraph is analysed by M. Puech, op. cit.: 81.

[20] The fact that Wolff was one of the first to try and transpose the methods of psychology onto those of physical knowledge, totally subject to quantity and measure, is a further sign of this. More precisely, he was one of the first to suggest an amazing plan to quantify the movements of the soul. The introduction of quantification in the field of empirical psychology appeared to him as the only means to endow this part of philosophy with some scientific character.

[21] On this point, see M.Puech, who shows that "attacks from the outside were to aggravate the crisis considerably, but were not at its root." Op.cit.: 127.My translation

[22] M. Puech, ibid.: 118.

[23] Cf. J. Barnow's paper, "Psychologie empirique et épistémologique dans les  Philosophisches Versuche de Tetens", in  Archives de Philosophie, LXVI-2 (1983): 271. We take Tetens as an example rather thant Sulzer or Daries—who, however, are much better  representatives of Eclectism, including what may sound derogatory in the term nowadays—, precisely because J.N. Tetens is a great author and his balancing between the two figures of philosophy cannot be attributed to any incoherence of thought whatsoever.

[24] Cf. his Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth (Edinburgh: 1770), translated in German as early as 1772. Beattie with this work, whose main deserve was to cite large excerpts from the Treatise on Human Nature (then not yet translated in German), intended to disprove Hume by bringing the faculty of common sense into the picture. In Germany, Scottish philosophers of the Common Sense and German Eclectics like Tetens were considered as belonging to the same trend.

[25] L'évolution de la pensée kantienne: 17 ; my emphasis.

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