Volume 37, Issue 2, Summer 2007
Leibniz or Thomasius?
On the Roots of Kantian Criticism
The point of this study is to reconsider the roots of German idealism in pre-Kantian German modern philosophy of the seventeenth and early eight eenth centuries, or in pre-Enlightenment philosophy, which paved the way for the Enlightenment. Considered for far too long as depending solely on Leibniz and stigmatized as dogmatic—all too often it is referred to and summed up as “Leibnizo-Wolffian”—modern German philosophy appears, under close examination, to bear the mark of scepticism. This scepticism is precisely embodied by Thomasius, who is in many ways the father of German modern philosophy and a contemporary opponent of Leibniz. The aim of this paper is to reconsider the important series of philosophical transformations from Leibniz to Kant. I will be arguing that the pervasive nature of scepticism in the thought of Thomasius and his followers enabled the striking spread of Hume’s philosophy in modern German philosophy, Wolff included. In this way, I hope to contribute to understanding the sources of modern philosophy through what can be called, with Foucault in mind, an archaeology of the Aufklärung, with the aim of rethinking Kant’s own contribution.