Article ID: CBB280649402

Materialism in the Mainstream of Early German Philosophy (2016)


Discussions of the reception of materialist thought in Germany in the first half of the eighteenth century tend to focus, naturally enough, upon the homegrown freethinkers who advanced the cause of Lucretius, Hobbes, and Spinoza in clandestine publications and frequently courted the ire of the state for doing so. If the philosophers belonging to the mainstream of German intellectual life in that period are accorded a place in the story, it is only insofar as they actively set themselves against the materialist threat and, in the course of working to undermine it, actually only succeeded in inadvertently drawing more popular attention to it. By contrast, in this paper I will show that it was not just insofar as the thinkers of the early eighteenth century played the role of the diligent critic and unwittingly propagated the views of their opponents that materialism can be said to have penetrated into the very mainstream of the German Enlightenment. Rather, as I will argue, there was a striking degree of uptake of distinctively materialist claims even among its most vociferous mainstream critics, and that this is the case for thinkers in both the Wolffian and the Thomasian traditions.

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Authors & Contributors
Hecht, Hartmut
Freeman, Samuel
Weisberg, Michael
Guyer, Paul
Martin, Adrienne
Cristina Santinelli
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Revue de Synthèse
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
College Publications
Boston College
University of Pennsylvania
Columbia University Press
Mechanism; mechanical philosophy
Science and religion
Wolff, Christian von
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von
Spinoza, Baruch
Hobbes, Thomas
Tschirnhaus, Ehrenfried Walther von
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
19th century
Early modern
Rome (Italy)
Prussian Academy of Sciences

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