Baader, Franz Xavier von (1765–1841)

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Franz Xavier von Baader, the German philosopher and theologian, was born in Munich. He studied medicine at Ingolstadt and Vienna and practiced for a short time, but soon abandoned this career. While he was in England from 1792 to 1796 studying mineralogy and engineering, he became interested in philosophy and theology. On his return to Germany he formed friendships with Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. Although Baader later broke with Schelling, the three philosophers continued to exert strong influence on one another. Baader was appointed superintendent of the Bavarian mines and won a prize from the Austrian government for inventing a new method of glass manufacture. He retired in 1820 to devote himself to philosophy.

Baader's two major works are Fermenta Cognitionis (Vols. IIV, Berlin, 18221824; Vol. V, Munich, 1825) and Spekulative Dogmatik (5 fascicles, Munich, 18271828). He was appointed professor of philosophy and speculative theology at the new University of Munich in 1826. He stopped lecturing on theology in 1838, when the Catholic bishop banned the public discussion of theology by laymen, but he continued to lecture on philosophy until his death.

Baader's philosophy is couched in aphorisms, symbols, and analogies, and it is therefore difficult to summarize. He detested David Hume's empiricism, William Godwin's radicalism, and Immanuel Kant's rationalism. He turned the critical method he had learned from Kant against criticism itself, calling for a return to the mystical tradition of Jakob Boehme, Paracelsus, Meister Eckhart, the Cabala, the Neoplatonists, and the Gnostics. He believed that since God is in all things, all knowledge is partly knowledge of God. God is not an abstract being but an eternal process, eternally becoming. As God creates himself, he comes to know himself. The relation between his will and his self-consciousness is the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is an eternal possibility in God and only becomes actual in nature, which is the principle of selfhood eternally produced by God. Nature is God alienated from himselfhis shadow, his desire, his want. The purpose of the existence of nature is to afford an opportunity for the redemption of humanity.

Morality is not a matter of inner law, as Kant believed, but apprehension of, and obedience to, God's will. Salvation depends on prayer, faith, and the sacraments as well as on morality and good works. Humans are social beings under the law of the state, and the subjects owe total subservience to their ruler. But the state is under the law of the church. Any departure from this divinely ordained order leads to the twin modern evils of despotism and liberalism.

Baader sought a theistic, Catholic philosophy reconciling nature and spirit, science and religion, the individual and society. He believed that philosophy had to go back to its sources, from which it had been separated since the time of Descartes. Baader was thus a precursor of the neoscholastic revival, but his own teachings, close to heresy, have no important place in the movement.

See also Boehme, Jakob; Eckhart, Meister; Gnosticism; Godwin, William; Hume, David; Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich; Kabbalah; Kant, Immanuel; Neoplatonism; Paracelsus; Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von.


The collected works of Franz von Baader were published as Sämmtliche Werke, 16 vols. (Leipzig: H. Bethmann, 18511860). Vol. XV contains a biography; Vol. XVI, a systematic exposition of Baader's ideas.

Works on Baader are D. Baumgardt, Franz von Baader und die philosophische Romantik (Halle: Salle, M. Niemeyer, 1927); J. Claasen, Franz von Baaders Leben und theosophische Werke, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 18861887), and Franz von Baaders Gedanken über Staat und Gesellschaft (Gütersloh, Germany, 1890); and Kuno Fischer, Zur hundert jährigen Geburstagsfeier Baaders (Erlangen, Germany, 1865).

Adam Margoshes (1967)