perjantai 19. tammikuuta 2018

Joachim Darjes: Elements of metaphysics 1 – Connecting things

In previous post, we saw Darjes define basic notions of thinkable and possible and various determinations thinkables and possibles can have. The next step is to relate especially the possibles in various ways to one another. The most basic concepts in this relating are those of succession and coexistence. Darjes does provide definitions for these terms, but these definitions are somewhat circular or at least rely on our notions of what it means e.g. that a thing stops to exist, when another comes to existence. Thus, we might as well take these two notions as primitive relations, on basis of which temporal and spatial relations in general can be founded.

As one might have suspected, the primary mode of connection Darjes considers is that of reason/ground – that which makes something to be what it is. Darjes is one of the most careful philosophers in making distinctions between various forms of ground. The most important distinctions lie, firstly, between reason for the possibility of something and reason for the actual existence of something, and secondly, between a metaphysical/synthetical reason, which makes something be in itself what it is, and logical/analytic reason, which makes us know what something is. Further distinctions concern the questions whether a reason is by itself sufficient to ground something, whether a reason for something lies within the thing grounded or outside it and whether reason has truly caused something to occur or merely removed some obstacles preventing something to occur.

Like all Wolffians, Darjes is not happy to just define notions, but he wants also to show where they can be deployed. Especially the question of metaphysical reason of existence is important. Darjes notes that since essences must necessarily be, there really can't be any metaphysical reason for their existence. Instead, it is only us who can have analytical reasons for knowing that some essence exists, that is, we might have reasons for knowing something is possible.

If essences do not need metaphysical reasons, the connection of essences – or in general, any subjects – with further determinations not implicit in them does require. In essence, Darjes shows here his commitment to a version of the principle of sufficient reason. Like other Wolffians before him, Darjes tries to argue for this principle, but his arguments clearly just presuppose a number of things. Darjes suggests that a determination without a reason to back it up would not be able to prevent its opposite to latch on to the same subject, which would inevitably cause contradictions. In other words, Darjes merely presumes that some explaining or even causating factor is required for connecting a particular non-necessary and possible determination to a thing – or what amounts to the same thing, for removing the opposite determination. Darjes also hastily assumes that this presumption requires the stronger supposition of a sufficient reason – that is, that for the connection of a subject and determination there must be a finitely describable series of reasons, ending with a final reason, which requires no reason beyond itself.

The first particular kind of reason Darjes considers is the essence as a reason of some affections of a thing. Such affections Darjes calls attributes, although he at once admits this concept has two meanings, depending on whether the essence is the reason of their actuality or possibility – thus, attributes could be divided into actual and possible attributes. Now, some possible attributes might still require another reason for making them actual affections of the thing in question. Such affections would not be actual attributes. While most of the Wolffians would just name these non-attribute affections modes, Darjes has still some more divisions to make. The reason actualising the non-attribute affection might be something external to the thing in question, and in that case Darjes speaks of a mode. Then again, this reason might be something intrinsic to the thing, although not its essence – Darjes calls this a mode by analogue. These modes by analogue are an interesting addition to the normal classification of determinations of things. Firstly, they resemble modes, because they are not grounded on the essence of the thing: hence, they are at least analogical to modes. Secondly, they still resemble in a sense attributes more, because they do not require anything external to the thing for their explanation.

Even modes are not a simple group in eyes of Darjes. The modes in the most proper sense are actualised just through some external effective reason. Yet, Darjes says, some modes might also have partial actualising reason in something within the thing in question (Darjes also calls these affections mixed non-attribute affections). In effect, such immediate modes would otherwise be actualised by something internal to the thing in question – and would then be just modes by analogy – but some obstacle prevents this actualisation, which then requires some external reason removing this obstacle. Noticeably, while the place of relations in relation to modes has been somewhat murky in the Wolffia tradition, Darjes clearly takes them to be a subspecies of modes – modes divide into intrinsic modes, such as qualities and quantities, which can be cognised without any reference to other things, and into extrinsic modes or relations, the cognition of which requires a reference to other things.

At this moment, after going through all these various determinations things could have, Darjes makes a detour to different ways things could be distinguished, apparently through these various affections. Some distinctions, Darjes begins, concern merely the words used – this is a logical distinction – while other distinctions concern also what the words refer to and what is then something thinkable – metaphysical distinction. A metaphysical distinction, then, concerns either things thought – real distinction – or then just our conceptions of things – rational distinction. Although the distinction between real and rational distinctions appears a rather straightforward dichotomy, Darjes thinks these two types of distinction can be classified in a more gradual manner. Real distinction might concern something intrinsic to the things distinguished, but it might also be just an extrinsic distinction, based on different ways to denominate things. Furthermore, while rational distinction can be purely rational in the sense that it has nothing to do with the objects of our conceptions, in what Darjes calls eminent rational distinction this distinction is based on the objects of the concepts. Indeed, an extrinsic real distinction can well be connected with an eminent rational distinction, which is then in some sense intrinsic, although not real distinction. The importance of this highly abstract classification for Darjes is that two attributes or an attribute and an essence of the same thing can be distinguished only in an eminently rational manner – that is, the difference between the two is not just something in our heads, but it still doesn't require that two attributes or an attribute and an essence would be two separate things. Thus, while a thing might have several attributes, it still might not be divisible into several things.

We noted in the previous post that Darjes spoke of possibles of first and second order, when other Wolffians would have spoken of absolutely necessary and contingent things. This is because Darjes defines the notions of necessity and contingency in connection with combinations of determinations and subject – determination is necessary to a thing, if its opposite cannot belong to the thing, otherwise it is contingent. Such a notion of necessity and contingency is obviously relative to the thing in question. In addition to this subject-relativity, necessity and contingency can be relative to some hypothetical condition, and if not, Darjes speaks of absolute necessity and contingency. It is quite clear that essences and attributes are absolutely necessary, while all non-attribute affections are contingent – a thing has them because of some external or internal reason, and in another situation it might well have quite different affections. While Darjesian account of necessity and contingency is primarily about determinations, he still can speak of necessary and contingent things, because he regards existence as one possible determination of a thing. Furthermore, he notes that necessity and contingency can occur not only within determinations of a single thing, but also as characteristics of connections of things.

Like many Wolffians, Darjes concludes his discussion of connections between entities or nexuses with the notions of unity, order, truth and perfection. Starting with unity, Darjes notes that all connections between things form unities, which might be, depending on the nature of connection, absolute or relative, intrinsic or extrinsic and necessary or contingent. Thus, for instance, essence and respective attributes form a necessary, intrinsic and absolute unity. Then again, non-attributive affections form only a contingent unity with the essence. Furthermore, if thing has some mode produced by something external, the thing must form an extrinsic unity with this external reason.

Order Darjes defines as a characteristic of a series of connected things, where the things are connected because of same reasons – for instance, if some causal factor connects A1 to A2, the same factor connects A2 to A3 and so on. Darjes insists that we can always express this same reason in the form of a proposition, which then acts as a rule for the order in question. Truth, on the other hand, Darjes defines as the convenience of such things that have been posited together – for instance, truth in the usual sense of the word is the convenience of what we think about a thing or what we say about thing with the concept of this thing. Since the general definition of truth does not mention any series, all truths are not orders. Then again, in all orders the members of the series convene with one another. Perfections, finally, Darjes defines as consent of various things, where consent means that things conjoined are not adverse to one another.

lauantai 13. tammikuuta 2018

Joachim Darjes: Elements of metaphysics 1 – Thinkable and possible

While philosophers of Wolffian school began metaphysics usually with ontology, Darjes starts with something called primary philosophy, which should be distinct from ontology. The main difference between the two disciplines is that only latter deals with entities (ens). I shall speak in a later post what Darjes meant by an entity, but for the moment I am concentrating on his primary philosophy.

Like all Wolffians thus far, Darjes begins his account of metaphysics with the principle of non-contradiction. It is not surprising that this principle delineates the realm of possible for Darjes. More interesting is that Darjes actually has an account of what is left outside this realm. Even Wolff did define nothing as what is impossible, but it was unclear what this nothing should be – something in our minds or something more ontologically robust. Now, Darjes notes that nothing and something or impossible and possible are simply kinds of cogitable or thinkable, while thinkable simply is what we can think. Thus, metaphysics is then forcibly defined in relation to our thought, which paves the way for a complete change of ontology into an analytic of principles, which will happen with Kant. It is also important that according to Darjes we can think even contradictions – something not admitted by all philosophers – and very telling about Darjesian attitude toward thinking, which seems then to be nothing more than mere combining words together.

Darjes notes that everything thinkable, whether it be possible or impossible, has something that makes it possible or impossible. This feature making something possible or impossible Darjes calls the essence of thinkable. Darjes thus actually has a definition for an essence, which is more than one could say of Wolff. Then again, Darjesian notion of essence is is another deviation from the usual Wolffian stand, where essences belong only to possible things. Darjes also calls essence a constitutive or adequate primary concept, implying that essences are nothing but thoughts.

Darjes also introduces at this point the primary division of complex and simple, although he extends this classification to all thinkables. His method is to introduce these notions through the idea of essence. Essence of something we can think might be resolvable into further thinkables. If it is, the corresponding thinkable is complex, while if it isn't, this thinkable is simple. Note that we still appear to be moving in the level of thoughts, since Darjes especially calls the parts of essences or essentials partial or inadequate concepts. Further evidence that we are here dealing with thought is provided by Darjes' statement that division of complex thinkables must inevitably end with something simple, because we simply cannot think a bottomless series of constitution. Furthermore, Darjes notes that all impossible thinkables – nothings – must be complex, since simplicities cannot contain contradictions (another assumption that Wolff never made).

Beyond essence and its constituents or essentials, what is thinkable has what Darjes calls affections or adjuncts, in relation to which the thinkable is a subject. Knowing a bit about Wolffian tradition, one might suspect that Darjes would mention attributes and modes at this point. He will mention them, but in a completely different place, because his division of characteristics of thinkable is much more fine-grained than with earlier Wolffians. Still, something similar is in Darjes' mind, when he mentions that affections can be divided into two sorts. Some of them the thinkable has absolutely – that is, they characterise the thinkable in any situation whatever, for instance, like triangle is characterised by certain sum of angles. Some affections, on the other hand, are hypothetical, that is, characterise the thinkable under some conditions, such as when a triangle could be characterised by a certain colour, if it happens to painted in some manner. While the former affections are stable, the latter could be changed without any contradiction.

Beyond essence, essentials, attributes and modes, Wolffians also mentioned relations and Darjes makes no exception. For him, relation or extrinsic determination is something external to a thinkable which it characterises, that is, even when we have assumed the existence of the thinkable, we still need to assume the existence of something else, before this determination could hold of the first thinkable (for instance, one cannot be a child without someone else, whose child one is).

An opposite of an extrinsic determination is, of course, an intrinsic determination, that is, a determination that characterises a thinkable, even if there were no other thing to relate it to. Darjes doesn't leave this class of characteristics here, but goes on to divide intrinsic characteristics further. At first sight the division appears to just repeat the division between extrinsic and intrinsic determinations- some intrinsic determinations can be conceived without other things, some cannot. Yet, it is the word ”conceive” which is obviously important here – a determination might ontologically not be dependent on relations with other things, but we might epistemically require such relations.

The first part of the division or qualities is an easy thing to understand, and for instance, essence and essentials are obviously qualities in this sense. But what belongs to the other category? Darjes suggests that at least quantities belong to this class of intrinsic determinations. Clearly, quantity is an intrinsic determination in the sense that a thing can be of certain size without any thing external to it. Yet, if thing has a size, it must, firstly, be a complex and contain other things as its constituents. These other things or parts are then what is required for conceiving that a thing has a certain quantity – for instance, to say that a field is four acres large, we must think of field as consisting of acre-sized parts.

A thinkable with a quantity should not just consist of parts, but of parts that are in some sense same – this if how we can say e.g. that a field is six acres in size or that there are six wolves in a pack. This sameness, Darjes defines, means that these thinkables can replace one another, at least in some respect (just like if wolves are required, one wolf is as good as another, and that's why we can determine the size of a wolf pack). Darjes goes into more details of various kinds of sameness – identity or sameness of all characteristics, equality or sameness of quantities, similarity or sameness of qualities etc. - but none of this is surprising.

The one final thing to discuss at this point is Darjesian notion of existence. Unlike Baumgarten, Darjes does not try to beat Wolff in finding a definition for existence, but like Wolff, he merely accepts it as a given notion, which is related in a certain manner to the notion of possibility – what exists is possible, but something might be possible, without existing. Thus, Darjes divides possible essences into two kinds – ideal or merely possible essences and real or actual essences. The ideal essences Darjes also takes as a kind of nothing. That is, they are not nothing, in the official Wolffian sense of the word of being impossible – in other words, they are not complete negations of all existence. Instead, Darjes calls them nothing in a privative sense – they could exist, but happen to not exist.

We've already seen how innovative Darjes is in his use of the absolute and hypothetical viewpoints on various notions, and possibility is not an exception – in addition to absolute or intrinsic possibility or non-contradictoriness, Darjes mentions hypothetical or extrinsic possibility, that is, potentiality in some specific conditions. Another and more interesting use of these viewpoints concerns Darjesian differentiation between possibles of first and second order – possibles of first order absolutely cannot fail to exist,while possibles of second order cannot fail to exist under some hypothetical condition. We are obviously already speaking here of absolute and hypothetical necessity, although the term necessity hasn't yet been introduced. Darjes also makes a quick interesting remark about absolute necessity. He notes that while a thing exists, we cannot really distinguish between the essence and the existence of the thing. We can do this separation only with things that at some point won't exist and with things that must exist essence and existence just cannot be distinguished.

torstai 14. joulukuuta 2017

Joachim Darjes: Elements of metaphysics I (1743)

Darjes is quickly becoming one of the most interesting second-generation Wolffians. In his logical works he has shown himself to have an analytical mind with an ability to make clear and still profound distinctions, has manifested extensive historical knowledge of such then rarely mentioned things like the medieval theory of supposition, and finally, has been quite original, for instance, in his metaphysical reading of predication. It will be interesting to see whether this positive view will continue through the first part of his metaphysical work, Elementa metaphysices.

As metaphysics is in the heavy core of philosophy, I will use several articles to go through in more detail what Darjes had to say about its many facets. I shall begin by asking what he himself considered to be the nature of metaphysics. We find an interestingly original take already in Darjes' view on the nature of philosophy. While previous Wolffians had either emphasised the object of philosophy – e.g. happiness – or then saw the essence of philosophy in finding reasons, for Darjes philosophy is all about abstracting. In other words, Darjes does not think philosophy or science is about explaining things, but about describing their general features.

Darjesian definition of metaphysics seems more in line with the Wolffian tradition. Its topic, Darjes says, are possible objects and the primary genera to which the possible objects divide into. Metaphysics then divides naturally into two different disciplines – ontology as the study of possible objects as such and special metaphysics as the study of primary genera of possible objects.

Thus far the division of metaphysics with Darjes doesn't seem surprising, but when it comes to special metaphysics, Darjes introduces some interesting novelties. Like with many Wolffians, for Darjes basic division of things was into simple and composite things. Darjes found from this division two primary parts of special metaphysics – monadology and somatology. This was already a bit of a novelty, since this division did not completely correspond with the usual division into cosmology on the one hand, psychology and natural theology on the other hand. While e.g. Wolff's cosmology contained a study of elements, in Darjesian division elements as simple objects were a topic to be handled in monadology – they formed the topic of monadology proper.

In addition to monadology proper, Darjes divided monadology into psychology – study of souls – and something called pneumatology – study of spirits – where both souls and spirits were not elements of bodies. We will have to consider the full import of this division later, but at least the pneumatology should contain natural theology as the study of infinite spirit, while finite spirits should be the topic of pneumatology proper. Just like other Wolffians, Darjes suggests that psychology should have an emprical side, because experiences are our only route to some capacities of souls. Darjes also extends this demand to pneumatology, which should have its own experimental side.

The main difference from other Wolffians is the lack of world as a proper topic of metaphysics. Indeed, this is quite logical, since world is not a primary genera of entities, but a collection of some of them – bodies form a corporeal world, while souls and spirits together form a moral world and both of them together a transcendental world or the world in the most extensive sense.

Next time, I shall begin with Darjesian primary philosophy, which strangely isn't identical with ontology and wasn't included in Darjes's division of metaphysics.

torstai 16. marraskuuta 2017

Christian Wolff: Natural right 3 (1743)

The third part of Wolff's Jus naturae continues with the topic of property, which was so prominent in the second part. Now it is not anymore a question about the original method of acquiring property, but more about what Wolff calls derivative modes of acquiring. In other words, it is all about rules by which the ownership of some thing can be transferred from one person to another. The primary result of Wolff's discussion is that this transference is always two-sided: while the owner undoubtedly has a right to state that he wants to transfer his property to someone, the person to whom the property is transferred must also accept this transaction.

Since transference of property, and more generally rights, involves usually spoken or written interaction between human beings, Wolff also considers obligations regarding language. A general rule guiding speech in Wolff's opinion is that one should be morally true or honest, that is, say what one believes is true. Yet, Wolff does not take this principle to the supposedly Kantian extreme, in which honesty is more important than anything, even human life. Instead, Wolff clearly states that honesty can never be an excuse for breaking natural law. One should even avoid saying honest things, which would offend someone's feelings. In general, one should not speak frivolously, but one should have always a good reason for saying something.

Wolff also says that no person is obligated to always say the same thing. Indeed, if one doesn't consider anymore as true something that one once held to be true, one need not be accountable for one's earlier opinions. Instead, such a change of opinion is a sign of flexible mind, who can correct oneself when new evidence is found. Yet, there is one particular type of speech that cannot be taken back, namely, promises involving transfer of property or some other activity.

Thus, Wolff's discussion of transference of property and his discussion of honesty are combined in a discussion of pacts or contracts. Just like contract requires more than one person, it cannot be broken just by a one-sided decision, but only by a mutual consensus. If one side of the contract does not do what she has promised, the other side of the contract has the right to force the first person to keep her promise.

Not all contracts are valid, and a valid contract requires something more than mere mutual consent of the persons making the pact. Firstly, the persons making the contract must have enough reason that they are able to make contracts. Thus, minors, people who lack the necessary intellectual capacities and even persons under some severe emotional distress cannot make valid pacts. Secondly, the contract itself must be such that it can be fulfilled. Thus, contracts involving impossibilities or even conditions exceeding the capacities of the persons involved cannot be valid. Hence, no one could have made valid contracts, which would lead them to debts they could never hope to settle.

The majority of the third part of Wolff's natural law goes then into various intricacies of contracts. What makes interest a just part of contracts? That it is a recompensation of potential profits a person could have got by using her capital in another manner. If you have promised something to another person in a letter, can you still take your promise back? As long as the letter hasn't arrived to its destination, you can renounce the promise, but once the person to whom the promise has been made has read and accepted it, the promise becomes a valid contract. Can we in some case presume that a person has wanted to transfer some of his property, although she hasn't said it? If a thing has been derelict for years, we can assume that its owners won't miss it anymore.

Some of Wolff's concerns seem rather quaint these days, such as his long account of oaths, in which person tries to verify what he has spoken and especially to make his promises more believable by insisting that God will curse him if he lies or break his promises. Quite rightly Wolff notes that atheists can't make true oaths, although they can vouch for their own conscience. Furthermore, he notes that such an oath does not really add anything to promises or contracts and it certainly won't make it valid, if it isn't already – thus, although one would vow to do something impossible or beyond one's capacities, one still shouldn't be afraid of hell fire.

Next time we shall see what Darjes had to say about metaphysics.

lauantai 14. lokakuuta 2017

Joachim Darjes: Introduction in inventing art or theoretical-practical logic (1743)

Darjes has been one of those philosophers who, while outwardly staying within the Wolffian school, have in truth distanced themselves from some key tenets of Wolff's system and taken their ideas to original directions. We have already seen Darjes suggest rather interesting innovations in his book on logic. If you know the field of German philosophy in the first half of 18th century, you won't be surprised to hear that his Latin book on same topic, Introductio in artem inveniendi seu logicam theoretico-practicam, is a much fuller treatment.

In a sense, most of the additions concern the necessary presuppositions of logic, that is, its metaphysical underpinnings. Like all the Wolffians thus far, Darjes considers certain key notions that we hold to be logical as ontological – for instance, the principle of contradiction is not a principle denying the affirmation and negation of the same proposition, but describes the ontological impossibility of incompatible things actualising at the same position. Darjes goes even further than other Wolffians, suggesting in a manner reminiscent of Russell that the subject-predicate -relation is not just a human convention, but reflects the order of reality itself.

Another interesting novelty in Darjesian ontology is that the basic ingredients of the reality are not so much individuals, but characteristics, of which individuals are then full combinations, to which no new characteristics can be added. Part of this ontological picture is the idea that some of these characteristics are atomic or not analysable to further characteristics. This picture resembles Wolffian idea of determinations, but seems ontologically stronger – Darjes takes characteristics to be things, if only partial ones.

Another interesting, if only a passing addition to the preface of logic, is Darjes's account of truth. As you might recall, with Wolff, truth in the logical sense was assigned a place only in the applied logic, because truth required relating the content of pure logic – concepts, judgements and syllogisms – to what they are supposed to represent. In a sense, Darjesian reorganisation is quite natural. With Darjes, as with all Wolffians thus far, logic is based on psychology, because concepts, judgements and syllogisms exist within human soul. Surely the relation of these logical items to what they represent is not a mere afterthought, but a necessary part of the psychology of human thinking underlying logic.

I have already described the most important novelties in the Darjesian logic itself in my description of its German version. This does not mean that his Latin logic would have nothing of interest, beyond the preface. One peculiar feature of Darjesian Latin logic book is its emphasis on invention, clearly expressed in the title of the work. Darjes is anxious to present not just theorems, but also solutions to problems – for instance, Darjes does not just define clear concepts, but also explains how to make one's concepts clearer. This is not a complete novelty, since we just saw Bilfinger doing something similar in his own logic.

Although sections on rules for disputations, communication of truths and hermeneutics are an addition in Darjes's Latin logic, they are not that peculiar in the more extensive context of logic textbooks. More interesting is the second part of Darjesian logic, which he calls dialectics, in separation from the part containing analytics. In effect, what Darjes means by dialectics is a study of probability and a search for probable truths – it is like reading part of Aristotelian logic through Bayesian eyes. What is even more intriguing is Darjes's idea of applying probability to pondering testimonies or to evaluating different hermeneutical possibilities.

This is just a glimpse of Darjes's innovations. Next time I shall again return to Wolff's natural law.

torstai 27. heinäkuuta 2017

Bilfinger: Logical lessons (1739)

It is somewhat peculiar to notice that almost all notable German philosophers of the period wrote a textbook on logic. Considering that there had been no notable additions to Aristotelian syllogistic, one might think that the market would have quickly been saturated with these books. Of course, one would then be forgetting that logic books of the time contained something beyond syllogisms and were more like books on methodology. Thus, they even gave the philosopher a chance to share his opinion on the proper means to do philosophy. Hence, it is not surprising to find Bilfinger in his Praecepta logic attacking Rüdigerian idea that mathematical and logical method would not be equivalent terms.

Bilfinger continues the trend of putting logic itself in logical form, that is, of using the formal schema of definitions, propositions and corollaries. An interesting part of his exposition is the heavy use of problems, that is, of practical propositions suggesting solution to some task, which especially emphasises the methodological part of the book. This methodological feeling is also heightened by an appendix concentrating in the use of logic in academic disputations – Bilfinger gives quite practical advise, for instance, on the means by which a defender or opponent of a thesis can look for arguments for or against some proposition.

As is often the case, the most interesting part of the book is the first one dealing with the ideas or concepts. Bilfinger's notion of idea is quite representational – idea is like a picture of something, although it might indeed be quite an obscure picture. The primary source of ideas for Bilfinger is our sense or experience, but we can then produce new ideas out of these first ones, e.g. through recombination, analogies and abstraction. Especially abstraction is a potent source of mistakes, because it might lead to embodiment and substantialisation of mere properties. This might happen e.g. in physics, where we speak of wind, which is nothing else but movement of air, or in psychology, where different capacities of mind are thought of as distinct entities, like Aristotelian souls.

The practical aim of Bilfinger with ideas is their clarification, that is, making them better tools for identifying things which they represent. This means for Bilfinger primarily making them more intuitive, that is, connecting them to ideas that are directly connected to what they represent. Most of our ideas are mere signs for other ideas – this is especially true of words, but also e.g. of some written symbols (like + and -), inflections of speech etc. Words should be defined, so that we could find marks which help to distinguish things signified by these words from other things.

Mere definitions are still not enough for Bilfinger. Even if we would have a definition of, say, God as the most perfect entity, we still wouldn't know from this mere definition whether there really could be possible things represented by this definition – for instance, even if we had a definition of a biangled figure, there still couldn't be any biangled figures. Thus, Bilfinger notes, the so-called Cartesian proof of God's existence (what Kant later called an ontological proof) wouldn't work if we weren't sure about the possibility of the notion of God. A better foundation for reliable information, according to Bilfinger, is a real definition, which gives an account of causal processes that would generate things signified by certain words. Because all things are ultimately generated by God, perfect real definitions would show how things are connected to God.

Ideas are connected to form judgements or propositions, and at this point Bilfinger's account starts to become more and more formulaic, with all the different forms of judgement. A more interesting thing is what methods to use for accepting propositions. Experience is, according to Bilfinger, undoubtedly a starting point of all cognition, whether it is formed through passive observation or through active experimentation. Still, experience is not the whole basis of cognition, Bilfinger continues, because we must still make some deductions to move from particular experiences to generalisations – for instance, although we can see light revealing a rock, we need still something more to conclude that light is a general cause for seeing things. Deductions might even lead us to things we cannot observe straightaway, Bilfinger says, for example, when we deduce the existence of caloric matter from observing its effects or heat.

After moving from propositions to syllogisms, Bilfinger's exposition becomes even more formulaic, although it does have its moments, especially in discussion of problems, for instance, when Bilfinger points out that a solution to a problem must be 1) a possible solution (perpetuum mobile is a solution to nothing), 2) a real solution of the problem, 3) a full solution (diligence alone is not enough for becoming a scholar) and 4) accurate (phases of the Moon are not an accurate enough criterion for deciding when to sow the seeds).

Despite these interesting tidbits, Bilfinger's logical lessions contain nothing surprisingly novel. Indeed, the same verdict can be pronounced on his whole philosophical career. He was undoubtedly a historically important figure, because he both introduced Chinese philosophy to a serious discussion in German culture and also started a move within Wolffian school to a more Leibnizian way of thinking. Yet, in both cases Bilfinger was again merely a follower of other philosophers and not an imaginative and creative thinker.

This is as much as we'll see of Bilfinger. We shall continue with logical treatises and this time check whether Darjes has anything new to say about it.

perjantai 7. huhtikuuta 2017

Christian Wolff: Natural right 2 (1742)

If the topic of the first book of Wolff's Jus naturae was clearly ethical and dealt with rights and duties of individual toward herself, other people and God, the second book moves to what could be called economy, by taking its topic property and rights duties pertaining to it.

Wolff begins by noting that the nature of things implies no owner to them. This means, he continues, that originally there was no ownership. In this natural state, all things were in a sense in communal use – not in the sense that there would have been any communities, of course, but in the sense that no individuals owned anything. In this original state, every human being was entitled to just take whatever she found and to use it to satisfy her needs – one could just take an apple and eat it. Because no property existed, no one gathered anything for herself, but things were used only so far as needs for them arose.

Although one might think such an original state was a true paradise, like perhaps Rousseau would have insisted, for Wolff it was just a beginning for further development. In such a state of communal sharing no one would have any incentive to work on things further. Farming and such would not be required for immediate needs – and all such further manipulation of things would be pointless, since anyone would have the right to just take what you had worked on. With no development of industry, sciences could not develop. Since the ultimate duty in Wolffian system was the drive for the perfection, the original state with no property was for him something to be discarded, while private ownership then being almost like a duty.

Original mode of acquiring property is simply seizing something that is ownerless – if a thing does not yet have any owner, Wolff insists, we have a right to take it as our own. After something has an owner, this is not yet possible anymore – if we try to seize upon something that has an owner and we know that it is owned by someone else, we are infringing upon the rights of the owner.

Even if we do not know who the owner is, Wolff says, we should try to find out who she is. Only in the case that the thing has been discarded by its owner or we are incapable of finding who she is are we allowed to make ourselves the owner of the thing. In all other cases we merely possess a thing without owning it. Possession of a thing does give some rights over a thing – for instance, if we do not own a thing, we are not allowed to take it from its possessor – but the right of the owner is greater than the right of the possessor.

All property need not be material, but also rights for doing things could be owned. This is especially pertinent for land owners, because in Wolffian system ownership over land implies several relations of ownership over material and immaterial things. Firstly, ownership of land means ownership over originally ownerless individual things that happen to come upon the land owned, such as ship wreckage. Some things, such as wild animals moving through a land, are not as such owned by the owner of the land, but once the animal has died and stopped its wandering, the rights of the owner of the land come in force. In fact, owner of the land has the right to hunt, fish, pick berries etc. as her immaterial property, and anyone violating that right should forfeit her catch to the owner of the land. Here we see the limited viewpoint of Wolff – in Northern Europe, people have had, since time immemorial, a right to use such goods, even without any clear permission of the owner of the land.

A most striking consequence of Wolff's suggestion of the duty-like nature of property is that this duty never ends. Even if we would be rich, we would still have the duty to take care of our property, and if possible, make our savings bigger. It is somewhat ironic to find a philosopher holding unlimited drive for money a necessary obligation, when this drive could be regarded as a source of many problems of modern society.