Dissertation, University of Warwick (2017)

Dino Jakusic
University of Warwick
This thesis investigates the development of ontology as a philosophical discipline in the German philosophical tradition. It starts from what can be considered the invention of ontology and proceeds to the way it was received in the philosophy of Hegel. It is separated into two parts. The first part argues that what can be called the ‘traditional’ form of ontology is developed by Christian Wolff in his 1730 monograph Philosophia prima sive Ontologia, and it traces both the history of the name ‘ontology’, as well as the history of the conception which led to Wolff’s formulation of it. The history of the name tracks the use of the concept ‘ontology’ from its first occurrence in 1606 up to Wolff. The history of the conception tracks the conceptions of various philosophical disciplines, found in thinkers such as Aristotle, Aquinas, and Spinoza, that ultimately give rise to Wolff’s conception of ontology as a science of an entity qua entity. The second part traces the development of this Wolffian conception through the philosophical systems of Kant and Hegel. The aim of this thesis is to argue that Wolff’s philosophy should be seen as the original formulation of the philosophical discipline of ontology and that the Wolffian conception of ontology is the one shared by subsequent German thinkers up to, and including, Hegel. I refer to this shared understanding of what ontology is as ‘the German ontological tradition’. The title of the thesis, The Possibility of Ontology, refers to the way in which this traditional understanding of what ontology is, is treated throughout the German ontological tradition. Specifically, Kant argues that the traditional conception is effectively impossible, while in Hegel one can find arguments that are intended to show that some aspects of this traditional discipline are in fact possible. Besides focusing on a fairly under-researched topic of the early history of ontology as a philosophical discipline, this thesis attempts to utilise its historical findings in order to provide novel ways in which the systems of the thinkers such as Kant and Hegel can be understood. There is a serious disregard for, or underplaying of, the Wolffian influence on the philosophical thought of Kant and Hegel, and it is my aim to contribute to the rectification of this situation by demonstrating the frequently overlooked dialogue these thinkers had with Wolff’s conception of ontology.
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