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Schuppe, Ernst Julius Wilhelm (1836–1913)


Ernst Julius Wilhelm Schuppe, the German philosopher, was born in Brieg, Silesia. He studied at the universities of Breslau, Bonn, and Berlin, and he took his doctorate at Berlin in 1860. He taught at grammar schools in Silesia and then held a chair of philosophy at the University of Greifswald from 1873 to 1910.


In his main work, Erkenntnistheoretische Logik (Bonn, 1878), largely anticipated by his earlier book Das menschliche Denken (Berlin, 1870) and summarized in his later Grundriss der Erkenntnistheorie und Logik (Berlin, 1894; 2nd ed., Berlin, 1910), Schuppe was concerned with the epistemological bases of knowledge generally and of logic in particular. Schuppe held that a theory of knowledge should avoid hypotheses such as the transcendent reality postulated by realists and metaphysicians, but that it should equally avoid one-sided objective or subjective foundations of knowledge, whether materialist, positivist, or idealist.

In keeping with these requirements, Schuppe developed the notion of conscious immanence (Immanenz, Bewusstsein, Ich ) in which subject and object form a unity. This immanence of consciousness, or ego, is a fact (Tatsache ) that is given with certitude and can therefore serve as a starting point for epistemology. Only abstractly can the ego be divided into subject and object; concretely it is a correlation of the two. This is not to say that the object is a psychic entity, but merely that there is no being not related to a subject. To ignore the correlation would be to incur a contradiction because a supposed unthought entity is nevertheless implied in the thought of the epistemologist.

To account for the distinction and division of consciousness and content (Inhalt ), and of contents among themselves (subjective elements such as acts are distinct from objects of acts, however much both may have to be considered contents for an abstract subject), Schuppe presented a theory of "common" content: Objective content is a given that can be shared by several, whereas subjective content (sensation, for example) is unique and private. The need for this division led to a theory of consciousness in general (Bewusstsein überhaupt ) as distinguished from the consciousness of a concrete individual subject. Individuality is based on content not shared by others. Other minds, which are presupposed by the notion of consciousness in general, are known, Schuppe claimed, by inference mediated by one's own body; but he also asserted that they can be regarded as immediately perceived. Schuppe denied the claim that other minds are immanent contents of one's mindlike any other objectas being tantamount to solipsism. Schuppe drew upon the ontic fact of a plurality of minds as a basis for consciousness in general.

Schuppe held that thought is also a "component" of the content of consciousness, along with the sense component; it "accedes" to perceptual data. Accordingly, objects of cognition can be considered as constituted by an interaction of an original given of sense, by itself an abstraction, with performances of thought (Denkarbeit ). In fact Schuppe came to regard thought as the central function of consciousness: To think is to appropriate content, to receive an impression in its positive determinacy, to fixate it as identical. This primary performance of appropriation is thought-in-general, which is prior to judgment. Schuppe argued that at this stage there is only one datum to be appropriated but that for judgment two contents, subject and predicate, are required. (Here Schuppe was influenced by a grammatical notion of judgment.) Continuing to develop his notion of content, Schuppe introduced an analysis of content in which thought stands for the identification of two contents (an instance of the principle of identity, with the principles of contradiction and limitation as corollaries) and, somewhat surprisingly, for the establishment of causal connection between them. Identity and causality are the categories that constitute objective content. (Here Schuppe was guided by a metagrammatical or transcendental notion of judgment, interpreting the category as the predicate of the unified contents.)


With this basis of transcendental thought, Schuppe's "espistemological" logic was not so much concerned with the "forms" of formal logic as with the establishment of a priori truths about the object of knowledge. Thus the logic constitutes a theory of objects, an ontology. Schuppe analyzed the given into its elements (temporal and spatial determinateness, sense impression) and conceptual moments (genera and species), and distinguished several kinds of union (Zusammengehörigkeit ) among them. In a transcendental progression Schuppe established number, space region, thing, organism, and artifact; and genera, species, and matter. He avoided any reference to a transcendent cause. Understandably, he presented a coherence theory of truth.


Schuppe sought a transcendental genealogy as a basis for logic. This project involved a certain deviation from the traditional understanding of formal logic. He rejected the isolation in logic of a purely formal realm, denying in fact that purely formal theorems are significant. He regarded propositions as assertions of categorial unification. Logic must be concerned with the realm of material content in which unity is asserted and must examine the various types of union of content, that is, the "real" genera of content, which, in the case of objects of appearance, are grounded in the causal context. This doctrine has ramifications in many areas of logic, for example, in the theory of definition.

Schuppe's theoretical philosophy can be regarded as a doctrine of the constitution of knowledge and its objects by transcendental synthesis. In view of its intuitive starting point and its analysis of given content, however, it seems to be a compromise between a logico-transcendental theory and a theory of reflective intuition. The agency responsible for the grounding of objectively constituted content is both a transcendental principle and an existent consciousness. The normative element of a transcendental theory is merged with the factual basis of a subjective ontology. Schuppe's philosophy thus stands between transcendental critique and ontological philosophy of immanence. Although it leans heavily on Immanuel Kant, it anticipates much of Edmund Husserl's phenomenology and constitutes an example for a theoretical understanding of the interplay of factuality and logico-transcendental thought.

Practical Philosophy

Schuppe's Grundzüge der Ethik und Rechtsphilosophie (1881; reprinted 1963) offers an independent compromise between a normative position, based on the will as a form of consciousness in general, and a eudaemonistic one, based on pleasure. He also wrote several studies in the philosophy of law, such as Der Begriff des subjektiven Rechts (Breslau, 1887), and joined the philosophical discussion concerning the new German civil code (Das Gewohnheitsrecht, Breslau, 1890; Das Recht des Besitzes, Breslau, 1891).

See also Coherence Theory of Truth; Epistemology; Epistemology, History of; Husserl, Edmund; Kant, Immanuel.


In addition to the works by Schuppe already cited, see Allgemeine Rechtslehre mit Einschluss der allgemeinen Lehren vom Sein und vom Wissen, edited and with an introduction by Wilhelm Fuchs (Berlin: Verlag für staatswissenschaften und geschichte, 1936).

For works on Schuppe, see R. Hermann, Schuppes Lehre vom Denken (Greifswald, 1894); Gunther Jacoby, Wilhelm Schuppe, no. 45, Greifswalder Universitätsreden (Greifswald, 1936); L. Kljubowski, Das Bewusstsein und das Sein bei Wilhelm Schuppe (Heidelberg, 1912); Rudolf Zocher, Husserls Phänomenologie und Schuppes Logik (Munich, 1932).

Klaus Hartmann (1967)

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