Methods and Roles of Experience in Christian Wolff’s “Deutsche Metaphysik”

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
Kristina Engelhard Universität Trier Trier Germany

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The main thesis of this article is that in Christian Wolff’s Deutsche Metaphysik, empirical sources of knowledge play important if not foundational roles and that inductive methods of reasoning are extensively applied. It is argued that experiential self-awareness plays a foundational role and that empirical evidence, phenomena, and scientific theories from the empirical sciences of Wolff’s time are used for inferential purposes. Wolff also makes use of inductive reasoning, i.e., abduction to hidden causes of empirical phenomena, and inferences to the best or to the only possible explanation. Wolff’s Deutsche Metaphysik is therefore a prefiguration and an interesting case of inductive metaphysics in the contemporary sense. From this contemporary perspective, Wolff draws the distinction between valid and speculative abductions in a different way – but it is also different from that of his more empirically oriented contemporaries.

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