Clauberg, Johannes (1622–1665)

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Johannes Clauberg, a German Cartesian philosopher, was born in Soligen, February 24, 1622, and died in Duisburg, January 31, 1665. Though he lived a short life, his philosophical output was considerable; his name became almost synonymous with that of René Descartes in Germany. Clauberg studied in Cologne and Bremen, where he came under the influence of reformed scholasticism and the pedagogical and methodological ideals of Jan Amos Comenius. At Bremen he also met Tobias Andreae, whom he later joined in Groningen in 1644 after Andreae was appointed professor of History and Greek. He disputed some theses in 1646 and published his first independent treatise, Ontosophia, in 1647. Clauberg's initial works, including Ontosophia, do not display the influence of Descartes's philosophy, though Clauberg rewrote the book along Cartesian lines in later editions. After travels to France, to the Protestant Academy in Saumur and Paris (where he seems to have met some early Cartesians), and to England, Clauberg attended the lectures of the Cartesian Johannes de Raey in Leiden in 1648. It is clear that by 1648 Clauberg had become interested in Descartes's philosophy. Clauberg made his official entrance into the Cartesian world as a result of his participation in what is sometimes called the "Conversation with Burman." The latter is a manuscript of the University of Göttingen reporting a lengthy discussion between Descartes and (presumably) Frans Burman, a young theology student at Leiden. The discussion, conducted in Latin, apparently occurred on April 16, 1648, at Descartes's retreat in Egmont. According to the manuscript, Burman dictated his impressions of the meeting to Clauberg on April 20. Clauberg evidently kept a copy and had a second one made by some unknown scribe some months later; this is the surviving copy.

In that period Clauberg was approached about becoming a professor of theology in Herborn; he began his duties the following year, in 1649, as professor of philosophy instead, with occasional teaching in theology. However, he was not happy with his position; his teaching load was heavy and he probably resented the combination of theology and philosophy, protesting as well that the professor of theology had some teaching duties in philosophy. A conflict with his more conservative colleagues developed. On November 1, 1651, Clauberg's employer, the Count of Nassau, officially decreed that the only philosophy allowed in Herborn was Aristotelico-Ramist philosophy, either separately or jointly. As a result, Clauberg and his friend and fellow Cartesian Christoph Wittich, who had been appointed professor of mathematics, left Herborn in December 1651 and accepted posts in Duisburg, a town that fell under the jurisdiction of the Elector of Brandenburg. In Duisburg, Clauberg's position was initially Rector of the town's Gymnasium; when the Academy of Duisburg was opened in 1655 he and Wittich became doctors of theology. Clauberg married Catharina Mercator in 1652; they had one son and five daughters. For the rest of his life, the now-settled Clauberg lived the life of a professor in a small German town; he was even rector of the Academy in 1655 and 1659. He attracted many students to Duisburg, several of whom became professors themselves.


Clauberg must have already started on his second book, Defensio cartesiana, when still in Leiden, though it was published only in 1652. It is primarily a reply to Consideratio theologica (1648), a detailed commentary on Descartes's Discourse on Method from an orthodox theological point of view, by the Leiden Professor Jacobus Revius. Clauberg also added materials attacking his erstwhile colleague Cyrianus Lentulus (or Lentz), Professor of Practical Philosophy at Hernborn. The Defensio Cartesiana provoked a reply from Revius, which Clauberg answered with Initiatio Philosophi sive dubitatio cartesiana (1655). The conflict also involved Andreae, who published a two-volume response to Revius in 16531654, triggering yet another treatise from Revius in 1654. In his defense of Cartesianism, Clauberg distinguished between Descartes's popular and his esoteric works; according to Clauberg, the Discourse on Method belongs to the first category, whereas the Meditations and Principles of Philosophy belong to the second.

The promulgation of Cartesianism required Clauberg to write a number of other works explaining Descartes's physics and metaphysics, such as Paraphrasis in Renati Descartes Meditationes, Differentia inter Cartesianam et alias, and Physica. Clauberg also published some volumes of disputations. But doubtless his most influential books were Logica vetus et nova, first published by Elzevier in 1654, and the smaller Logica contracta. After Clauberg's death, the Amsterdam professor of philosophy Johann Theodor Schallbruch provided an edition of his works, Opera omnia philosophica, partly based on unpublished material in the possession of Clauberg's son, Johann Christopher; the added material included Clauberg's notes on Descartes's Principles of Philosophy, his correspondence with Andreae, a biography of Clauberg, and a general index to all of Clauberg's treatises.


Clauberg's work is a paradigm of what first-generation Cartesian scholastics needed to accomplish. Clauberg made progress elaborating Cartesian themes, such as espousing occasionalism for the relation between mind and body, and created texts to fill the gaps in the collegiate curriculum as it would be taught by a Cartesian. With the Principles of Philosophy, Descartes began the process of producing textbooks from which to teach Cartesian philosophy. However, scholastic textbooks usually had quadripartite arrangements mirroring the structure of the collegiate curriculum: logic, ethics, physics, and metaphysics. And Descartes produced at best only a partial physics and what could be called a general metaphysics; he did not finish his physicshe did not produce the expected final two parts of the Principles of Philosophy on animals and on manand did not write a particular metaphysics. He did not produce a logic or ethics for his followers to use or to teach from. These things must have been perceived as glaring deficiencies in the Cartesian program and in the aspiration to replace Aristotelian philosophy in the schools.

So the Cartesians rushed in to fill the voids. One can understand Louis de la Forge's additions to the Traité de l'homme, for example, as an attempt to complete the physics, and Clauberg's later editions of Ontosophia or Baruch Spinoza's Cogitata metaphysica, for instance, as endeavors to produce a more conventional-looking metaphysics. Descartes, of course, saw himself as presenting Cartesian metaphysics as well as physics, both the roots and trunk of his tree of philosophy. But from the point of view of schools texts, the metaphysical elements of physics (general metaphysics) that needed to be discussed by Descartessuch as the principles of bodies: matter, form, and privation; causation; motion: generation and corruption, growth, and diminution; place, void, infinity, and timewere expected to be taught in a course on physics. The scholastic course on metaphysics (particular metaphysics) dealt with other topics, not discussed directly in the Principles of Philosophy, such as being, existence, and essence; unity, quantity, and individuation; truth and falsity; good and evil. Such courses usually also ended up with questions about knowledge of God, names or attributes of God, God's will and power, and God's goodness. The Principles of Philosophy by itself was not sufficient as a text for the standard course in metaphysics.

Clauberg's Ontosophia, however, discussed being in general, dividing it into its general and primary sense of "intelligible" being, a secondary and lesser sense of "something" to be distinguished from "nothing," and a third, particular sense of "real" being, being outside the intellect, or substance, contrasting it with accident and mode. Clauberg went on to talk about essence, existence, and duration. His remaining chapters concerned pairs of concepts such as one and many; true and false; good and evil; perfect and imperfect; distinct and opposite; the same and another; exemplar and image.

Cartesian Logic

Beyond completing Cartesian physics and metaphysics, there were even attempts at producing Cartesian ethics; a Latin-language manual called Ethica, printed in 1685, was said to have been authored by Descartes. Descartes never wrote such a work, but a translator was able to put together a tripartite treatise out of Descartes's own words: (1) on the greatest good, happiness, and free will; (2) on passions; and (3) on love. There were numerous stabs at creating Cartesian-style logic texts as well, Clauberg's Logica vetus et nova being first of its kind, together with the Logique of Jacques Du Roure. The attempt to publish a Cartesian textbook that would mirror what was taught in the schools culminated in the famous multivolume works of Pierre-Sylvain Régis and of Antoine Le Grand, which included expanded versions of Cartesian physics and metaphysics, together with treatises on ethics and logic.

Scholastic logic, as taught in the seventeenth century, typically followed an order of topics dictated by the various books of Aristotle's Organon: Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics, and Sophistical Refutations. For example, after some preliminary questions on the usefulness of logic, whether logic can be called science or art, and the definition and divisions of logic, Scipion Dupleix wrote a six-part logic, corresponding to Aristotle's six logical works: (1) categoriesthat is, substance, quantity, quality, relations, and so forth; (2) nouns, verbs, and statements; (3) syllogism; (4) science and demonstration; (5) topics; and (6) paralogisms. One can say similar things about the logic textbooks of other early seventeenth-century scholastics, such as Eustachius a Sancto Paulo and Pierre du Moulin. Clauberg's Logica contracta followed a similar pattern, starting with the categories and continuing with attribute and accident, cause and effect, subject and adjunct, relation, whole and part, the same and other, universal and singular, definition, and division. His second part of logic began with the grades of judgment, qualitative statement, truth and falsity, opposition, conversion and equivalence, and composite statement, and continued with argument and syllogism, both perfect and imperfect, and true and false. Clauberg's third part of logic dealt with the grades of memory and his fourth part concerned teaching and dialectics, order, and fallacy. Very little of this was Cartesian.

A major problem to resolve in producing a Cartesian logic was that Descartes, in keeping with a standard Renaissance view, was extremely negative about the subject. According to Descartes in the Discourse on Method (repeating views he had previously elaborated in the unfinished Rules ), syllogisms are useless: they serve to explain things one already knows, or even to speak without judgment on matters of which one is ignorant, rather than to learn them; although logic might contain true and good precepts, nevertheless there are so many other precepts mixed up with them, that are either harmful or superfluous, that it is practically impossible to separate them from one another. Descartes proposed instead his four rules of methodthe rules of evidence, of the division of difficulties, of the order of inquiry, and of the completeness of enumerationsas a method of discovery exempt from the faults of formal logic.

However, Descartes also called his rules of method the principal rules of logic. According to Descartes, before applying himself to true philosophy a person who has only common and imperfect knowledge should study "logic," but not the logic of the Schools: Such logic corrupts good sense rather than increasing it. Descartes's logic instead teaches people to direct their reason with a view to discovering the truths of which they are ignorant. The more moderate late Cartesian views about logic were reinforced in a text familiar to Clauberg. Commenting to Burman on the Discourse passage about the harmful role of logic, Descartes supposedly asserted that his statements did not apply so much to logic, which provides demonstrative proof on all subjects, but to dialectic, which teaches how to hold forth on all subjects. Descartes's subtle shift in position allowed Clauberg to reinterpret Descartes's rules of method as part of logic, now integrated into a legitimate branch of learning that even included syllogisms.

Clauberg's Logica vetus et nova begins with a Prolegomena arguing, along Descartes's line from the end of Principles of Philosophy, Part 1, that the principal origin of error is to be found in the prejudices of childhood. Logic is the corrective for these mental imperfections; thus, in the first book of his logic, Clauberg devises a scheme that involves Descartes's rules of method and traditional logic, following the pattern of his logica contracta, as three "grades" or levels of logic. The first level has to do with accepting clear and distinct perceptions; it includes the rule of evidence and ends up with the rule about the division of difficulties, but it also discusses traditional topics such as: substance, attribute, and mode; essence and existence; universal and singular; definition; and division. The second level concerns right judgment and involves the rule about the order of inquiry, ending with the rule of the completeness of enumerations; it also discusses induction and syllogism. Clauberg's third level concerns memory.

Clauberg provided the initial pattern for Cartesian logic, though other Cartesians found it more expedient to follow more closely the scholastic order in logic, grafting on a section about method at the end of their treatises. Later Cartesian logics, such as the Port-Royal Logic and Le Grand's Logick are divided into four parts: (1) Ideas, including Aristotle's categories, universals, and names; (2) Propositions (or Judgments), truth and falsehood; (3) Reasoning (or Discourse), including syllogisms, topics, and sophisms; and (4) Method. By method, however, these writers meant analysis and synthesis, which does not have to be anything particularly Cartesian, though we do find Descartes's rules of method enumerated in the chapters on analysis. The Port-Royal Logic supplanted Clauberg's logic and was ultimately adopted and abbreviated by Régis as his logic in his General System of Cartesian Philosophy. One can legitimately think, however, that Clauberg understood Descartes's views on logic better than subsequent Cartesians.

See also Cartesianism.


works by clauberg

Tessarakas thesium philosophicarum, de logicae ab aliis disciplinis quibus cum vulgo confundi assolet distinctione moderatore Tobias Andreae. Groningen, Netherlands: J. Nicolai, 1646.

Disputatio theologico-practica de conscientia sub praesidio Matthiae Pasoris. Groningen, Netherlands: Eissens, 1646.

Elementa philosophiae sive Ontosophia. Scientia prima, de iis quae Deo creaturisque suo modo communiter attribuuntur. Groningen, Netherlands: Nicolai, 1647. With editions in 1660 and 1664.

Defensio cartesiana adversus Iacobum Revium Theologum Leidensen, et Cyriacum Lentulum, professorum Herbornensem: pars prior exoterica, in qua Renati Cartesii Dissertatio de Methodo vindicatur, simul illustria Cartesianae logicae et philosophiae specimina exhibentur. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1652.

Logica vetus et nova, modum inveniendae ac tradendae veritatis, in Genesi simul et analysi facili methodo exhibens. Amsterdam: Elzevier, 1654. With editions in 1656, 1658, 1683, 1685, and 1692.

Initiatio philosophi, sive dubitatio Cartesiana, ad metaphysicam certitudinem viam aperiens. Leiden, Netherlands: Wyngaerden, 1655.

De Cognitione Dei et nostri, quatenus naturali rationis lumine, secundum veram philosophiam, potest comparari, exercitationes centum. Duisburg, Germany: Wyngaerden, 1656, with another edition in 1685.

Logica contracta. 3rd ed. Duisburg, Germany: Cunradi, 1670. With editions in 1683, 1701, 1702, 1711, 1737, and 1721. There might have been a first edition plus a second edition in 1659. The Logica contracta is also printed with adaptations of Clauberg's works, such as Ontosophia, quae vulgo metaphysica vocatur, notis perpetuis in philosophiae et theologiae studiosorum usum illustrata, a Joh. Henrico Suicero. In calce annexa est Claubergii logica contracta (Zurich: Gessner, 1694).

Unterschied zwischen der cartesianischen und der sonst in den Schulen gebraüchlichen Philosophie. Duisburg, Germany: Wyngaerden, 1658. Dutch translation, Nijmegen: Van Hervelt, 1658. The work is best known in a Latin version, Differentia inter Cartesianam et alias in Scholis usitatam Philosophiam conscripta. (Groningen, Netherlands: Edzardi, 1680) with another edition in 1681.

Paraphrasis in Renati Descartes meditationes de prima Philosophia. In quibus Dei existentia, et Animae humanae à Corpore distinctio demonstrantur. Duisburg, Germany: Wyngaerden, 1658, with another edition in 1668. Dutch translation, 1683.

Ars etymologica Teutonem e philosophiae fontibus derivata; id est, via Germanicarum vocum & origines & praestantiam detegendi, cum plurium, tum harum Vernunft, Suchen, Außspruch exemplis. Duisburg, Germany: Asendorf, 1663.

Physica, quibus rerum corporearum vis & natura explicantur. Amsterdam: Elzevier, 1664.

Theologorum academiae Duisbergensis Johannis Claubergii et Martini Hundii disputationes selectae, quibus controversiae fidei adversus omnis generis adversarios. Duisburg, Germany: Haius, 1665.

Chilias thesium ad philosophiam naturalem pertinentium disputanda in Academia Duisburgensi. Groningen, Netherlands: Cöllen, 1668.

Dictata physica privata, id est physica contracta seu theses physicae, commentario perpetuo explicatae. Frankfurt: Ilsner, 1681. With another edition in 1689.

Opera omnia philosophica. Edited by Johannes Theodor Schalbruch. 2 vols. Amsterdam: Blaeu, 1691. With another edition in 1710. Reprint, Hildesheim: Olms, 1968. (Contains Physica Contracta ; Disputationes Physicae ; Theoria Corporum Viventium ; Metaphysica de Ente, cum Notis ; Paraphrasis in Meditationes Cartesii ; Notae breves in Cartesii Principia Philosophiae: nunc primum editae ; Exercitationes Centum de Cognitione Dei et Nostri ; Logica vetus et nova ; Logica contracta ; Defensio Cartesiana ; Dubitatio Cartesiana ; Differentia Cartesianam inter & Vulgarem Philosophiam ; Exercitationes & Epistolae Joh. Claubergii & Tob. Andreae varii argumentis, nunc primum editae ; plus an Index locupletissimus and a Vita of Clauberg by Henricus Christianus Henninus.)

works about clauberg

Balz, Albert G. A. Cartesian Studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1951.

Bohatec, Joseph. Die Cartesianische Scholastik in der Philosophie und Theologie der reformierten Dogmatik des 17. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, Germany: A. Deichert, 1912.

Brosch, Pius. Die Ontologie des Johannes Clauberg. Eine historische Würdigung und eine Analyse Ihrer Probleme. Greifswald, Germany: E. Hartmann, 1926.

Dibon, Paul. L'enseignement philosophique dans les universités néerlandaises à l'époque pré-cartésienne. Leiden, Netherlands: s.n., 1954.

Dibon, Paul. Regards sur la Hollande du Siècle d'Or. Naples: Vivarium, 1990.

Müller, Hermann. Johannes Clauberg und seine Stellung im Cartesianismus. Jena, Germany: H. Pohle, 1891.

Thijssen-Schoute, C. Louise. Nederlands Cartesianisme. Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandse Uitgeversmaatschappij, 1954.

Verbeek, Theo. Descartes and the Dutch: Early Reactions to Cartesian Philosophy, 16371650. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.

Verbeek, Theo, ed. Johannes Clauberg (16221665) and Cartesian Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer, 1999.

Weier, Winfried. Die Stellung des Johannes Clauberg in der Philosophie. Mainz, Germany: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, 1960.

Wundt, Max. Die deutsche Schulmetaphysik des 17. Jahrhunderts. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr (Siebeck), 1939.

Roger Ariew (2005)