Jungius, Joachim (1587–1656)

views updated


Joachim Jungius, of Lübeck, represents the German counterpart to Galileo Galilei in Italy, René Descartes in France, and Francis Bacon in England as an innovator in science and philosophy. Unlike these men, Jungius did not achieve an international reputation; even among scholars, interest in him has been largely confined to Germans, whose curiosity has been whetted by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's enthusiastic praise of his merits as a philosopher. But Jungius exercised a wide personal influence in Germany as an active teacher. Furthermore, like Bacon, he envisaged a scientific society that would promote the welfare of humankind: Jungius actually organized a group called the Societas Ereunetica, whose stated objective was to promote sound science and combat false opinions. This group, with its stress on mathematics and logic as an antidote to metaphysical and mystical speculation, invites comparison with the Vienna circle of the twentieth century as well as with the Royal Society. Although Jungius has been linked by legend with the Rosicrucians, there is no evidence whatsoever to support this conjecture, according to G. C. Guhrauer.

Jungius studied at Rostock and Giessen before traveling to Italy to take a medical degree from Padua in 1618. During the early seventeenth century, philosophy in the German schools relied to a large extent on Aristotelian compendia drawn up by Philipp Melanchthon or by Peter Ramus, supplemented by metaphysics of the Suarezian type. Both traditions were diligently studied by Jungius before he rejected them. Jungius had taught mathematics at Rostock; hence, he must have found the atmosphere of Padua congenial, because of the school's emphasis on a research-oriented natural philosophy, medical training, and mathematics.

On his return to Germany, Jungius resumed his teaching duties, presiding over disputations in which Aristotelian views in physics were mercilessly criticized. He was dissatisfied with the doctrine of the four elements and wished to substitute for it an atomism that, he believed, would be confirmed by future research but which, in any event, offered a more promising hypothesis. Jungius considered atomism more sound from the methodological point of view since it did not require the postulating of entities ("forms") to explain the rise of all sorts of new qualities in things. "Democritus was an Ockhamist," he remarked.

In 1625 Jungius began teaching medicine at Helmstedt, stressing the value of Galen, whose logical empiricism he found congenial. In 1628 Jungius took an unusual stephe left university teaching to assume charge of a secondary school in Hamburg. Jungius rescued the school from the decline into which it had fallen, sending out from it students trained to a high level of critical analysis. For them Jungius composed the famous "Hamburg Logic" (1638), called by Heinrich Scholz "the most significant logic of the seventeenth century," eclipsing the better-known Port-Royal logic. Jungius's critical presentation of traditional logic shows what the more sophisticated neo-Aristotelian contemporaries of Descartes were thinking about causation, induction, and the nature of scientific demonstration. Jungius was also interested in natural history; he and his students collected plants, minerals, and fossils. His botanical views attracted the attention of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who planned a monograph about him.

Most of Jungius's writings in manuscript were destroyed by fire in 1691. The works posthumously published under his name, such as the Doxoscopiae Physicae Minores (Hamburg, 1662), were compilations made by students. Such writings as we do have bear the stamp of an active and critical mind, free from any mystical leanings and directed toward a scientific reconstruction of philosophy.

See also Atomism; Bacon, Francis; Descartes, René; Galen; Galileo Galilei; Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Logic, History of; Logical Positivism; Melanchthon, Philipp; Ramus, Peter; Suárez, Francisco.


works by jungius

Logica Hamburgensis. Edited by R. W. Meyer. Hamburg: Augustin, 1957.

works on jungius

Ashworth, E. J. "Joachim Jungius, 15871657, and the Logic of Relations." Archiv Fuer Geschichte der Philosophie 49 (1967): 7285.

Guhrauer, G. C. Joachim Jungius und sein Zeitalter. Stuttgart: Cotta, 1850. The definitive biography.

Wohlwill, E. "Joachim Jungius und die Erneurung atomistischer Lehren im 17. Jahrhundert." Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der Naturwissenschaften. Hamburg, 1887. Vol. X, pp. 366.

Neal W. Gilbert (1967)

Bibliography updated by Tamra Frei (2005)