Lotze, Hermann Rudolph

views updated

Lotze, Hermann Rudolph

(b. Bautzen, Germany, 21 May 1817; d. Berlin, Germany, 1 July 1881)

theoretical biology, metaphysics.

Lotze was the son of the military doctor Carl Fried rich Lotze and Christiane Caroline Noak of Dresden. He had an older sister and brother, Natalie and Carl Robert. He spent his Gymnasium years in Zittau from 1824 to 1834 and at seventeen graduated first in his class. In the summer semester of 1834 he began to study philosophy and natural science at the University of Leipzig, C. H. Weisse, an idealistic and Hegelian philosopher, made a strong impression at first on Lotze’s thinking. A counterbalance was provided by his scientific studies, for example, of physiology under E. H. Weber, of anatomy under A. W. Volkmann, and of physics under Fechner. He completed his philosophical studies with a work in French on Descartes and Leibniz, for which he received his Ph.D. on 1 March 1838. The ideas of Leibniz, moreover, were influential in his own philosophy.

Lotze earned his M.D. on 7 July 1838 with the dissertation Defuturis biologiae principüs phihsophicis. This youthful work contained the essence of his later philosophical system. In it he required that philosophy take careful account of scientific knowledge and reciprocally that physics and the life sciences subject their basic principles to the purifying scrutiny of contemporary philosophical analysis, In particular, he ruled out explanations that resorted to the concept of a life force, although the validity of this principle was then largely unquestioned, and he resolved the mind-body problem by a combination of Leibnizian monadology with the older occasionalism.

After Lotze had practiced medicine in Zittau for about a year (1838-1839), he qualified at Leipzig to lecture in medicine in the fall of 1839 and in philosophy in May 1840. With this combination he hoped to be fully equipped to consider the basic questions of biology, medicine, and anthropology. In that same year (1840) he published a volume of idealistic poems, which were contemplative yet lyrical and dealt with basic religious and aesthetic questions. In the period 1840 to1844 he lectured on a broad field of subjects-general pathology, logic, and theological medicine-which he attempted to unify in his later works. In 1843 he became an assistant professor of philosophy in Leipzig, and in 1844, at the age of twenty-seven, he obtained, on the recommendation of the anatomist Rudolph Wagner, a full professorship in philosophy in Göttingen, there succeeding the famous Herbert.

In Sepetember 1844 Lotze married Ferdinade Hoffmann, a pastor’s daughter; they had four sons. In the following decades Lotze devoted all his energies to his extensive scientific work. He maintained friendly relations with Wanger, and especially with members of the Freitagsverein, including the ophthalmologist Carl Ruete, the surgeon Baum, Carl Stumpf, and Karl Eward Hasse. He remained in Göttingen for thirty-seven years, refusing a call to return to the University of Leipzig in 1859. Finally in April 1881, at the age of sixty-four, he accepted a new offer, this timefor the chair of philosophy at Berlin. A few weeks later, on 1 July 1881, he died in Berlin of pneumonia.

Lotze sought to classify nature, soul, mind, history, and culture in a great unifying concept, and to do so, moreover, with careful consideration of the great advances in the inorganic sciences, biology, and medicine, as well as in psychology. His principal writings appeared in rapid succession beginning in 1841 and reached their high point in his comprehensive three-volume work Mikrokosnus (1856-1864). This Work is an architectonic one, and forms a kind of keystone joining Herder’s Ideen zur Philosophie der Menschheii (1784-1791) and Humboldt’s Kosmos. Here too Lotze displays his intention of explaining the nature of microcosm and macrocosm philosophically through the concepts of soul, mind, and culture, thus creating a philosophic-medical anthropology.

In his Metaphysik of 1841 Lotze attempted for the first time, by completely accepting a mechanistic causality in the organic as well as the inorganic world, to inquire into the real meaning and teleology of the cosmos, and therefore into the governing foundation of all phenomena. He concluded that mechanisms (natural laws) are the means by which the immanent goals of the universe are realized.

The relations between things can be causes, grounds, or purposes. Not everything is determined solely by causes. In the Allgemeine Pathologie (1842) he teaches that living things are subject to the same natural Jaws as inanimate nature; only the arrangement of the causally determined parts is different. There is no life force and no natural healing power, yet all life processes function harmoniously as a means toward the goal of survival. Between body and mind there exists a reciprocal cooperation.

In the history of physiology and the interpretation of living matter, Lotze’s essay “Leben, Lebenskraft” (1843) played an important role, for no one up to that time had so penetratingly demonstrated the senselessness of the then generally accepted concept of a life force. To him a life force as a single cause of a multitude of consequences was unimaginable. How could it activate or alter the extraordinary number of the most varied mechanisms? The organism is simply a combination of mechanical processes that are in harmony with natural goals. The vital properties, or “life force,” arise only from the concatenation of the mechanical properties of the entire organism. Nonetheless, each individual organism emerges not through chance, but through creation. The union of mind and body indicates a higher purposefulness, and the communication between body and soul occurs by means of a psychophysical mechanism with a preestablished occasionalistic harmony. Thus emerges a philosophical physiology which seriously investigates the scientific relation of causality but at the same time only briefly touches upon but does not develop the closely related question of goals.

In the article “Seele und Seelenleben” (1846) Lotze emphasized the limits of mechanism in an organism and discussed the three essential aspects of the concept of the mind: consciousness, unity of experience, and freedom. These go beyond the organic and constitute the separate domain of ethics and values.

In 1851 he discussed again, in a more profound manner, the subject of the interpretation of existence in Allgemeine Physiologic des kürperlichen Lebens, He stated that we must recognize a kind of ensoulment in all things and repeated the justification of teleological views alongside of mechanical conceptions. He again dismisses vitalism with the observation that irritability of organisms is no “life” force but a phenomenon explaining nothing, which must itself be explained. In the system of ordered existence the means and forces are organized in a particular way characteristic of each organism. The Medizinische Psychohgie (1852) continues the investigation of 1846 on the limits of mechanism. Lotze had by then assumed a completely spiritualistic view, believing that the central focus of the world was spiritual, with matter secondary and dependent. The mind is independent of all material events; it influences the body, but is not influenced by it. He also considers the fate of the soul and believes that immortality is granted only to the most distinguished souls.

Lotze’s three—volume masterpiece, the Mikrokosmus(1856–1864), presents everything effectively and skillfully in a unified survey. His structure arches from inanimate nature, through animate, to the mind and to man, and encompasses man’s history and culture, Lotze’s fundamental idea remains the same, namely, that throughout the inanimate, animate, and spiritual worlds, hidden purposes are active, of which science, with its analysis of causality, investigates and explains only the instrumentation of the causal relations. But the key to the understanding of the world is to be sought in ideas and values, not in these mechanical processes. Even the formation and development of a seed are supramechanical and determined by the immanence of an infinite being.

Lotze, however, had found it necessary to publish Streitschriften (1857) in order to offset the impressions that he was a materialist, a misconception which arose from an imperfect understanding of his anti-vitalistic stance. His writings received much attention from the natural scientists of the nineteenth century, especially because of his attack on vitalism and his disavowal of the philosophical uses of deductive reasoning and the dialectic method. This break with tradition stands at the beginning of the debate that was carried on particularly by the students of Johannes Müller, namely Schwann, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Helmholtz, Brücke, and also Ludwig, and which was concluded with a definitive victory about 1850.

Lotze was a small, gaunt man, and exceptionally taciturn. He was very formal, stiff, and inclined to melancholy. His style of lecturing was plain, even dull, and lacking high points, but very precise, logical, and convincing. His industry is evident from his abundant writings. The anti—materialists of the nineteenth century saw in him the defender of a view of the world nobler and more beautiful than that offered by Carl Vogt, Moleschott, Friedrich Buchner, and the monists. Lotze saw his goal as uniting in a consistent fashion the results of scientific research with an ethical and religious world view, and in demonstrating a harmony between natural laws and the world of values. Hence his philosophy bordered on theosophy. As A. Krohn said in his article on Lotze, “He sought in that which should be, the basis of that which is.”


I. Original Works. Lotze’s original works are: Meta-physic (Leipzig, 1841; Paris, 1883); Allgemeine Pathologie und Therapie als mechanische Naturwissemchaften (Leipzig, 1842; 2nd ed., 1848); Allgemeine Physiologie des körperlichen Lebens (Leipzig, 1851); Medizinische Psychologic oder Physiologie der Seek (Leipzig, 1852); Mikrokosmus. Ideen zur Naturgeschkhte und Geschkhte der Menschheit. Versuch einer Anthropologic, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1856-1864); System der Philosophic, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1874-1879); and Geschkhte der dettischen Philosophic sett Kant. Dictate am den Vorlesungen (Leipzig, 1882).

Three important articles Lotze wrote are: “Leben und Lebenskraft,” in R. Wagner, ed., Handwürterhuch der Physiologic, 1 (Brunswick, 1842), ix-lviii; “Instinkt,” ibid., 2 (1844), 191–209; and “Seele und Seelenleben,” ibid., 3 (1846), 142–264. Lotze’s shorter works were edited by D. Peipers, Kleine Schriften, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1885–1891).

II. Secondary Literature.Works about Lotze and his works are: R. Falkenberg, H. Lotze. Teil L Leben und Entstehung der Schriften nach den Briefen (Stuttgart, 1906); A. Krohn, “Zur Erinnerung an Hermann Lotze,” in Zeit-schrift für Philosophic und Philosophische Kritik, n.s. 80 (1882), 56–93; L. Seibert, Lotze als Anthropologe (Wies baden, 1900); M. Wentscher, Hermann Lotze. I. Band. Lotzes Leben und Werke (Heidelberg, 1913); E. Wentscher, Das Kausalproblem in Lotzes Philosophic (Halle, 1903); and S. Witkowski, “Über den Zusammenhang von Lotzes medizinisch-physiologischer Anschauung mit seiner Auffassung von Entstehen und Fortleben der Seele,” Ph.D. diss., Giessen University, 1924.

Short bibliographical sketches of Lotze may be found in: W. G. M. Haberling, F, Hubotter, H. Vierordt, eds., Biographisches Lexikon der hecorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker,3 (Berlin-Vienna, 1931), 846–847; Meyers Grosses Konversathns—Lexikon, 6th ed., 12 (Leipzig—Vienna, 1909), 737-738; and Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 52 (Leipzig, 1906), 93-97.

K. E. Rothschuh