Hartmann, Nicolai

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German philosopher; b. Riga, Feb. 20, 1882; d. Göttingen, Oct. 9, 1950. The principal features of his philosophy include a "critical ontology," an ethics of material values, and a study of man as creative spirit (demiurge) with Godlike prerogatives. Hartmann moved from the methodological formalism of the Marburg School to a concern, similar to that of phenomenology, with "things themselves." Unlike the phenomenologists, however, he recognized that man's natural consciousness, which he "critically" verified through its experience of opposition, was fixed on the real world. Yet, influenced by E. husserl and M. scheler, he retained an ideal world and regarded man as a mediator between the spheres of the real and the ideal.

Critical Ontology. In his "critical ontology," Hartmann held that knowledge does not engender the object but is the comprehension of being-in-itself (Ansichseienden ). Real being (nature) is beyond consciousness in the in-itself (An-sich ) and is wholly indifferent to being known. The bridging of the two establishes the "fundamental categorial relation" by which a partial identity, at least, is established between the categories of knowledge and those of being; this makes possible the grasping of the An-sich. Knowledge and being are not comprehended in a common logos, as in the old ontology. Spirit is something in being, the highest level of being, though it is also imbedded in the "homogeneous" mass of being. Hartmann's "new ontology" lays claim to being critical in that it does not rely on a transcendental insight but is directed to the physical concrete object alone. In the structuring of the real world into levels, one resting on the other but with the higher not derivable from the lower, lies both the strength and the weakness of his physical ontology, which may more properly be termed "ontics." The place that being occupies in the old ontology is taken in critical ontology by the connectedness of things existing in the world.

Ethics. Hartmann's ethics is full of insight into moral values. The domain of values has an ideal Ansichsein. For this, man requires a moral faculty, a value sense (Wertgefühl ). In ethical matters values must be introduced into the real world through volition. But how can values reach into real individual wills? This question is the experimentum crucis of Hartmann's ethics. Values are autonomous and unconditional, and the human will has itself an autonomous and absolute freedom. The will has no connaturality for values but is merely an organ for their attainment. Thus, at least in the case of a conflict of values, it can rule effectively against moral values. In this way the unity of morality is disturbed. Nevertheless Hartmann did not undermine the fact that man is by right a moral being or person. As he put it, the solution of this difficulty can be resolved only by answering the question as to the ultimate source of moral being. This, however, is a metaphysical problem and as such is as insoluble as the question of the origin of the world. Hartmann was cognizant of the fundamental metaphysical problems. Yet he so blocked himself off from any solution to them that he displaced value, as he did real being, to the level of An-sich, to which neither the person nor the knowing subject is ordered in the interior of his being. The grounding of person and values and of knowledge and being on a common basis would be to point directly to a personal Creator. Hartmann denied himself this view because of the so-called critical boundaries within the world man is able to experience. In his view, the world is, in ultimate analysis, "absolutely accidental."

God's Prerogatives. "In man, the world closes into a unity," for man brings together being and value and so establishes a creative sense in the course of history. To look for meaning in being itself is to have recourse to an anthropomorphic subjectivism. Hartmann was a radical opponent of those who saw an indissoluble unity in the concepts of being and meaning (e.g., the lumen naturale of St. thomas aquinas and the Seinsverständnis of M. heidegger). The determination of meaning in absolute freedom is man's privilege. If God existed, man would be neither free nor a moral being (postulational atheism). "To man falls the metaphysical heritage of God."

For Hartmann, systems disappear and problems alone live on in history. He distinguished, however, between problems that are neutral and independent of one's particular viewpoint and those that are not. The problem of religion is of the latter type: this no longer lives onit disappears with time. Although the question of religion continues to cry out against disposal, for Hartmann it does not exist as a true problem.

Hartmann's so-called objectivity is oriented toward the natural sciences, and indeed is taken over from them. His theory of the categories in his physical ontics is of value. Philosophy itself, however, can never be restricted merely to categorial analysis.

Bibliography: Works. Grundzüge einer Metaphysik der Erkenntnis (4th ed. Berlin 1949); Das Problem des geistigen Seins (Berlin 1949); Ethik (Berlin 1949); Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie (Meisenheim 1948); Möglichkeit und Wirklichkeit (Meisenheim 1949); Der Aufbau der realen Welt (Meisenheim 1949); Philosophie der Natur (Berlin 1950); Teleologisches Denken (Berlin 1951); The New Ways of Ontology, tr. r. c. kuhn (Chicago 1952). Literature. Nicolai Hartmann: Der Denker und sein Werk, ed. h. heimsoeth and r. heiss (Göttingen 1952). a. guggenberger, Der Menschengeist und das Sein (Munich 1942). j. n. mohanty, Nicolai Hartmann and Alfred North Whitehead (Calcutta 1957). h. hÜlsmann, Die Methode in der Philosophie Nicolai Hartmanns (Düsseldorf 1959). h. beck, Möglichkeit und Notwendigkeit (Pullach 1961). h. m. baumgartner, Die Unbedingheit des Sittlichen: Eine Auseinandersetzung mit Nicolai Hartmann (Munich 1962). g.m. meyer, Modalanalyse und Determinationsproblem (Meisenheim 1962). i. m. bocheŃski, Contemporary European Philosophy, tr. d. nicholl and k. aschenbrenner (Berkeley 1956). j. schmitz, Disput über des teleologische Denken (Mainz 1960).

[a. guggenberger]

Hartmann, Nicolai

views updated May 21 2018

Hartmann, Nicolai (1882–1950) German realist philosopher. Although influenced by Plato and Immanuel Kant, he proposed, in Outlines of a Metaphysics of Knowledge (1921), that existence is an essential prerequisite for knowledge, a reversal of Kant's idea. He finally rejected Kantian ideas in his book New Ways of Ontology (1942). See also realism

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