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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

It is not much better with the ontology of Wolff


ONTOLOGY is the first part of Wolff's metaphysics. Ontology treats of what are now called categories, or those fundamental conceptions which are applied to every object, and must therefore at the outset be investigated. Aristotle had already furnished a table of categories, but he had derived them wholly empirically. It is not much better with the ontology of Wolff; it is laid out like a philosophical dictionary. At its head he places the principle of contradiction, viz.: it is not possible for any thing to be, and at the same time not to be. The conception of the possible at once follows from this principle. That is possible which contains no contradiction. That is necessary, the opposite of which contradicts itself, and that is accidental, the opposite of which is possible. Every thing which is possible is a thing, though only an imaginary one; that which neither is, nor is possible, is nothing. When many things together compose a thing, this is a whole, and the individual things comprehended by it are its parts. The greatness of a thing consists in the multitude of its parts. If A contains that by which we can understand the being of B, then that in A by which B becomes understood is the ground of B, and the whole A which contains the ground of B is its cause. That which contains the ground of its properties is the essence of a thing. Space is the arrangement of things which exist conjointly. Place is the determinate way in which a thing exists in conjunction with others. Movement
is change of place. Time is the arrangement of that which exists successively, etc.

2. COSMOLOGY.--Wolff defines the world to be a series of changing objects, which exist conjointly and successively, but which are so connected together that one ever contains the ground of the other. Things are connected in space and in time. By virtue of this universal connection, the world is one united whole; the essence of the world consists in the manner of its connection. But this manner cannot be changed. It can neither receive any new ingredients nor lose any of those it possesses. From the essence of the world spring all its changes. In this respect the world is a machine. Events in the world are only hypothetically necessary in so far as previous events have had a certain character; they are accidental in so far as the world might have been directed otherwise. In respect to the question whether the world had a beginning in time, Wolff does not express himself explicitly. Since God is independent of time, but the world has been from eternity in time, the world therefore is in no case eternal in any sense like God. But according to Wolff, neither space nor time has any substantial being. Body is a connected thing composed of matter, and possessing a moving power within itself. The powers of a body taken together are called its nature, and the comprehension of all being is called nature in general. That which has its ground in the essence of the world is called natural, and that which has not, is supernatural, or a wonder. At the close of his cosmology, Wolff treats of the perfection and imperfection of the world. The perfection of a world consists in the harmony with each other of every thing which exists conjointly and successively. But since every thing has its separate rules, the individual must give up so much from its perfection as is necessary for the symmetry of the whole.

3. RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.--The soul is that within us which is self-conscious. In the self-consciousness of the soul are itself and other objects. Consciousness is either clear or indistinct. Clear consciousness is thought. The soul is a simple incorporeal substance. There dwells within it a power to represent to itself a world. In this sense brutes also may have a soul, but a soul which possesses understanding and will is mind, and mind belongs alone to men. The soul of man is a mind joined to a body, and this is the distinction between men and superior spirits. The movements of the soul and of the body harmonize with each other by virtue of the preestablished harmony. The freedom of the human soul is the power according to its own arbitrament, to choose of two possible things that which pleases it best. But the soul does not decide without motives, it ever chooses that which it holds to be the best. Thus the soul would seem impelled to its action by its representations, but the understanding is not constrained to its representations of that which is good and bad, and hence also the will is not constrained, but free. As a simple being the soul is indivisible, and hence incorruptible; the souls of brutes, however, have no understanding, and hence enjoy no conscious existence after death. This belongs alone to the human soul, and hence the human soul alone is immortal.

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