Christian Wolff (1679-1754) was a German rationalist philosopher and mathematician, Which stands out in the historical context of the Enlightenment, a movement that is both cultural and intellectual, particularly active in Germany, France and England.
This movement was committed to knowledge and its dissemination as essential tools to create a better world in all respects.
In this article you will find a biography of Christian Wolff; we will talk about his origins, his studies, his career … without forgetting his thought, his philosophy, his works and his great contributions to the field of knowledge.
Biography of Christian Wolff
Christian Wolff (1679-1754), full name Christian Freiherr von Wolff, was a German philosopher born in Wroclaw (Silesia, Poland) on January 24, 1679, and died in Halle on April 9, 1754, at the age of 75.
This intellectual belonging to the Enlightenment can be defined as idealist, systematizer and popularizer of the philosophy of the philosopher Leibniz; in fact, much of his work has focused on disseminating and interpreting this thinker’s philosophy. He also worked as a teacher and passed through different universities
On the other hand, Wolff influenced, years later and in a notorious way, the rationalist ideas of the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Christian Wolff’s ideological stream was rationalist, according to which knowledge can be acquired by reason as an activity detached from the material reality around us, and his ideas were in turn influenced by the philosopher and mathematician René Descartes. On another side, his scientific method ultimately nourished, in large part, mathematics, Since, in addition to the philosopher Wolff was also a mathematician.
Origin and studies
Christian Wolff was the son of a craftsman. He studied Lutheran theology (a branch of Christianity) and philosophy in the Polish city of Wroclaw., His hometown. Later, in 1699, Wolff began to study another type of study (physics and mathematics), this time in a German town: Jena.
Three years later, in 1702, he moved to Leipzig to pursue a doctorate in philosophy a year later. His doctoral thesis was Philosophia practica universalis mathematica methodo conscripta.
Outraged, he obtained the chair of mathematics at the University of Halle, A few years later (in 1706), largely thanks to the recommendations of his colleague Gottfried Leibniz, German philosopher and mathematician. In this university he worked as a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy.
Controversy: the clash of his ideas with religion
Christian Wolff sparked controversy with his thinking; more precisely, one of his works, Oratio de Sinarum philosophica practica (1721), which dealt with the philosophy of the Chinese, provoked controversy. As a result of this work, many colleagues, professors of theology, accused him of being an atheist, And for this reason, he was dismissed two years after the publication of the said work.
However, it is not true that he was an atheist, and therefore denied Christian Wolff with another of his works: Theologia Naturalis, which exposes the importance of God as a perfect and real being.
Life went on and as a result of what happened Christian Wolff was banished from Prussia. Their works, moreover, were banned in 1723. Fortunately Wolff was hosted by the Landgrave Hesse-Kassel.
He began teaching at the University of Marburg until 1740. That same year, Frederick II of Prussia (also called Frederick II the Great), third King of Prussia, appointed him and returned to Halle. (German city). Four years later, at the University here, he was appointed Chancellor, and two years later he received the title of Baron. Christian Wolff remained in Halle until his death.
Work and reflection
The work of Christian Wolff is very extensive, and came to publish as many as 67 titles, organized in 23 volumes, only between 1703 and 1753. His works were written in both German and Latin.
On the other hand, to enable us to understand Wolff’s thought and philosophy, his work has focused on the dissemination and interpretation of Leibniz’s philosophy. These are Leibniz and Descartes, the two most important figures who have influenced the thought of this philosopher.
Specifically, they inspired him to create his philosophical method, which had a mathematical orientation. In contrast, Christian Wolff’s thinking was rationalist, which means that he regarded reason as the main source of knowledge, although this does not detract from his belief.
One of his most important works was Logic: Rational Thoughts on the Forces of Human Understanding (1728), based on his idea of society, which followed the trend of enlightened despotism.
Beyond this book, here are some of his most relevant works:
Practical philosophy of the universal mathematical method (i 1703)
You for the (1703)
Aërometriae elements, in which there are several air forces on a property using the method of geometry (1708)
All the Elements of Mathematics, 4 vols. (1713-1715)
Mathematical Lexicon (1716)
General Cosmology (1731)
Empirical Psychology (1732)
Rational psychology (1734)
As for his contributions, Wolff also developed a metaphysical teleologism (a branch of metaphysics that studies the purposes of objects or beings), through which he explained universal connection and harmony of being as ends established by God.
Another contribution of Christian Wolff has been to systematize and revive scholasticism, a medieval philosophical and theological current, which uses part of classical philosophy to understand Christianity.
In addition, Wolff developed his own philosophical method, which was a deductive and rationalist method, by which he maintained that all the truths of philosophy were reduced to the laws of formal logic.
Finally, we must not forget the wide distribution that Wolff has made of sciences more “distant” from philosophy, such as: mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany …
- Fazio, M (2002). History of philosophy III: modern philosophy. Word.
- Gilson, USA. I Langan, T. (1967). Christian Wolff. Modern philosophy. Buenos Aires-Barcelona. pp. 192-202 and 542-550.
- Komar, I. (1962). The virtue of prudence in the ethics of Christian Wolff. Wisdom. pp. 89-111.
- Wolff, Ch. (2000). Rational reflections: on God, the world and the soul of man, as well as on all things in general (German metaphysics). Editing by Agustín González Ruiz. Posted by Akal.