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Hermann Lotze

Updated on February 26, 2012


Hermann Lotze was a German philosopher who set forth a teleological idealism that sought to include the laws of science as subordinate to moral ends and aesthetic values in the higher truths of man and the universe. Rudolf Hermann Lotze was born in Bautzen, Saxony, on May 21, 1817. Studying at the University of Leipzig he developed a love of the classics, art, and philosophy as well as an affinity for mathematics and the physical sciences. He took doctorates in philosophy and medicine.

He practiced medicine briefly in Zittau, taught in Leipzig (1842-1844), and was professor of philosophy at the universities of Gottingen (1844-1880) and Berlin (1880-1881). He died in Berlin on July 1, 188l.

Lotze was important in the scientific reaction against abstract German idealism and Naturphilosophie.

Writing on physiology, he aggressively disputed the prevailing vitalism deriving from Schelling, and placed the sciences of life and mind on the same footing as the sciences of inorganic nature, using his idea of mechanism. He drew on the monadology of Leibniz in stressing pluralism and the individual, as against the abstract Hegelian concept of man, and upheld the essentiality of man's affective nature.

Lotze regarded mechanism as universal in application, yet subordinate in significance. He denied that a scientific approach entailed a materialist concept of reality. He distinguished between factuality and validity, holding that the valid truths are true by virtue of their unconditional "ought". One such truth is that man has freedom of will.

Mechanism does not conflict with free will but is the efficient condition of its action. The exact sciences calculate and connect facts, but only moral ends and aspirations-noted in feelings and emotions-provide transphenomenal meanings. Mechanism is an aspect of the interrelatedness of things, but the purpose of the interrelation is the realization of the highest good. Laws of efficient causation deal with the "transitive action" between men and natural objects. Essentially, these particularities are not independent but are "actions of the worldground" and comprehended in the infinite being, which is conceivable only as spirit, or a personal God.


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