Pauler, Akos (1876–1933)

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The Hungarian philosopher Akos Pauler, son of an archivist and historian and grandson of a professor of law, grew up in an intellectual and bookish environment. Even before he matriculated, he published his first article in the scholarly journal Bölcseleti Folyoirat in 1893. It was a defense of metaphysics against positivismmetaphysics starts from what is given and goes back to that without which the given cannot be thought. This is, in germ, Pauler's "reductive method" (as against induction and deduction), which became his main preoccupation in later life. However, influenced by his university professor Imre Pauer, he was first a positivist for about a decade. After obtaining his doctorate at Budapest in 1898, he spent a year at Leipzig and another at the Sorbonne. In 1902 Pauler became Privatdozent at Budapest and, in 1906, lecturer in ethics on the faculty of law at Pozsony (Bratislava). His departure from positivism seems to have started during this period, since his work on ethics published in 1907 at Budapest, Az Etikai Megismerés, is close to the Kantianism of Heinrich Rickert. In 1912 Pauler became professor of philosophy at Kolozsvár, and from 1915 he occupied the chair of philosophy at Budapest.

Most expositions of Pauler mention his division of philosophy into five partslogic, ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, and ideologypresented in the first seven paragraphs of his Bevezetés a Filozofiaba (Introduction to philosophy; Budapest, 1920; revised 3rd ed., Budapest, 1933). However, it will be sufficient to discuss only his logic and metaphysics.

For Pauler, logic is the most important part of philosophy, which is not surprising in view of his broad notions of logic, the scope and nature of which can be seen from his four "laws of logic"the law of identity: "Everything is identical only with itself," from which follow the laws of contradiction and excluded middle; the law of connection: "Everything is connected with other things," which includes the law of sufficient reason; the law of classification: "Everything can be classified," which includes the dictum de omni et nullo ; and the law of correlativity: "There is nothing relative without an absolute." Only the first three laws, in a slightly different version, are found in earlier works. The fourth law was added in the "Introduction to Philosophy."

Pauler's metaphysics is a combination of Aristotelian and Leibnizian elements, but by the end of his life it had moved toward Platonism and Neoplatonism. A substance is a center of self-activity based on intention or wish (vágy ); the body is a manifestation of this activity. The interaction of substances not only proves their plurality but also provides the unity of the world. Since all change is from potentiality to actuality, the whole world process is a self-realization and self-liberation. All substances strive toward the first principle of their development, the principle of self-liberation, which is the Absolute. Moreover, substances exist insofar as they strive toward the Absolute. At first, God was described as something other than the Absolute, but Pauler later developed this Absolute into a theistic concept. He also introduced the Platonic anamnesis and the Augustinian illuminatio into his theory of knowledge.

Toward the end of his life he seems to have identified his reductive method with the Platonic dialectic, and his reductive method ultimately leads us to the notion of Good. He also criticized Aristotle for having misunderstood Plato. According to Pauler, Aristotle was mistaken in assuming that the Ideas are in the field of reality. They are, in fact, in the field of validity; that is, we do not come to them in the search for new entities, but in the search for those presuppositions without which we cannot think validly. We do this not by induction or deduction but by reduction.

See also Absolute, The; Aristotle; Logic, History of; Metaphysics; Neoplatonism; Platonism and the Platonic Tradition; Positivism.


There is a full bibliography of Pauler's published and unpublished works in Pauler Akos Emlékkönyv (Budapest, 1933), a special number (No. 6) of the publications of the Hungarian Philosophical Association that is devoted to Pauler.

See also J. Somogyi, "Die Philosophic Akos Paulers," in Kantstudien 30 (1925): 180188, and C. Carbonara, "Akos von Pauler e la logica della filosofia dei valori," in Logos 3 (1931).

German translations of Pauler's works are Grundlagen der Philosophie (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1925) and Logik (Berlin and Leipzig: W. de Gruyter, 1929).

Julius Kovesi (1967)