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Petroniević, Branislav (1875–1954)


Branislav Petroniević, a Yugoslav philosopher and paleontologist, was born in Sovljak, Serbia. He taught as a professor of philosophy at the University of Belgrade and was a member of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts. In paleontology, Petroniević was the first to distinguish between the genera Archaeopteryx and Archaeornis ; he also discovered new characteristics of the genera Tritylodon and Moeritherium.

Petroniević systematically treated many problems, both in pure philosophy and in scientific methodology. He considered himself a "born metaphysician" and devoted himself to constructing his own metaphysical system. But, although original, it grew out of the nineteenth-century empirical metaphysics of Hermann Lotze, Eduard von Hartmann, and Petroniević's teacher, Johannes Volkelt.

Petroniević's epistemological theory of empiriorationalism claimed that all contents of consciousness are absolutely real in the same sense as things per se. Thus there can be no absolute or immanent or transcendental illusion. Petroniević rejected phenomenalism also, specifically Immanuel Kant's. He claimed that an analysis of directly given empirical contents of consciousness shows that there are qualitatively simple evidences of experience, the "givenness of something"the givenness of simple sensuous qualities as basic correlates of the laws of thought. Thought and being are identical, and apodictic knowledge of being itself is possible.

In his main philosophical work, Principien der Metaphysik, Petroniević claimed that the basic task of metaphysics is to explain the structure of the "world of multitude, diversity, and change" as the "pre-evidence" of the directly given empirical and transcendental reality. According to Petroniević, the world is a manifold of "discrete points of being" and of quality, of will, and so on. The world as a manifold is possible only because the real points of being are separated by real "acts of negation," which determine the qualities of being and without which being would be absolutely homogeneous. Petroniević regarded the principle of negation as "the absolute principle of the world," of both being and thought; only on the basis of this principle can the diversity and multiplicity of the world be deduced and explained. On similar grounds Petroniević considered the principle of sufficient reason the fundamental law of true knowledge.

Petroniević synthesized Benedict de Spinoza's monism and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's monadological pluralism in his monopluralism. His original and profound "hypermetaphysical" teachings on the origin and development of the qualitative and quantitative manifoldness of the world have yet to be studied and evaluated. His views on real space and real time, which he regarded as discreta rather than abstract continua, deserve special attention. He constructed a new geometry of real discrete space.

Petroniević's view was essentially idealistic, since he held that absolutely unconscious atoms are impossible and that the soul, which is immortal, is a conscious monad.

Petroniević upheld an ethical theory of transcendental optimism and free will. He devoted a number of studies to aesthetics, particularly in the work of the Yugoslav poet Petar II Petrović-Njegoš and of Lev Tolstoy.

Among his most notable contributions to the logical foundations of mathematics are his work on typical geometries, on the problem of the finitude or infinitude of space, the three-bodies problem, on differential quotients, and on mathematical induction. In psychology he developed theories about the observation of the transparent and on the depth and observation of compound colors. In the history of science his most notable works were on the methodology of Isaac Newton's discovery of the law of gravitation, on Johann Gottfried Galle's and Urbain-Jean-Joseph Leverrier's discovery of Neptune, and on Dmitri Mendeleev's discovery of the periodic system of elements.

See also Consciousness; Geometry; Hartmann, Eduard von; Idealism; Kant, Immanuel; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Lotze, Rudolf Hermann; Mathematics, Foundations of; Monism and Pluralism; Newton, Isaac; Phenomenalism; Spinoza, Benedict (Baruch) de; Tolstoy, Lev (Leo) Nikolaevich.


works by petronieviĆ

Der ontologische Beweis für das Dasein des Absoluten. Leipzig, 1897.

Der Satz vom Grunde. Belgrade: Staatsdruckerei, 1898.

Prinzipien der Erkenntnislehre. Berlin, 1900.

Prinzipien der Metaphysik, 2 vols. Heidelberg, 19041911.

Die typischen Geometrien und das Unendliche. Heidelberg, 1907.

L'évolution universelle. Paris, 1921.

Résumé des travaux philosophiques et scientifiques de Branislav Petroniević. Academie Royal Serbe, Bulletin de l'Academie des Lettres, No. 2. Belgrade, 1937.

works on petronieviĆ

Spomenica Branislav Petronijević. SAN No. 13. Belgrade, 1957. Articles on Petroniević by various authors.

Bogdan Šešić (1967)

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