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Kant’s Way of Asking about the Thing

must be derived from the universal as the axiomatic and in accordance with principles. For metaphysica generalis this means: what belongs to being in general and as such, what determines and delimits the thingness of a thing as such, must be decided fundamentally in accordance with axioms, and indeed in accordance with the first axiom, in keeping with the schema of positing and thinking as such. What a thing is must be decided in advance from the highest principles of all propositions and of the proposition as such, i.e., from pure reason, before one can deal rationally with divine, worldly, and human things.

This prior and thoroughgoing investigation of all things with regard to their thingness, out of the pure reason of rational thought as such, the illumination as this prior [exercise of] clarifying all things, is Enlightenment, the spirit of the eighteenth century. Modern philosophy first received its authentic shape in this century, within which Kant’s thought grows and that also bears and determines his own most novel inquiry, the shape of that metaphysics without which that of the nineteenth century would also be unthinkable.


§20. Rational Metaphysics (Wolff, Baumgarten)


Between Descartes and the Enlightenment stands Leibniz. But he had an effect less by way of his ownmost thought and creative work than in the form of the scholastic development of philosophy determined through him.

During the eighteenth century in Germany, scientific and philosophical thought was dominated by the doctrine and school of Christian Wolff (1679–1754). He took his philosophical equipment from a definite interpretation of Leibniz’s philosophy. From there he strove [113] for an essential unification of the philosophical foundations laid by Descartes with the tradition of medieval Scholasticism and at the same time a reunification of Plato and Aristotle. The whole of Western metaphysical knowledge was supposed to be gathered together in the rational clarity of the Enlightenment and the humanity of the human being self-established in pure reason. Wolff treated philosophy in widely circulated textbooks in Latin and German. His textbook on metaphysics bears (in its German edition) a characteristic title, which, after what has been said, must now be intelligible in its own way: Rational Thoughts on God, the World, and the Human Soul, and Also on All Things as Such (1719). Wolff first taught in Halle as professor of mathematics and soon crossed over into philosophy; his fundamental and rigorous mode of teaching posed a serious threat to the shallow chatter of the theologians of the day. Wolff was consequently driven out of Halle by the efforts of his theological opponents in 1723 and forbidden to remain on pain of hanging. He taught at Marburg from 1723 until 1740. Frederick the Great did not approve of the method of refuting a philosophy by the threat of


Martin Heidegger (GA 41) The Question Concerning the Thing: On Kant's Doctrine of the Transcendental Principles