BAUMEISTER Friedrich Christian—philosopher, author of highly regarded manuals of rationalist philosophy referring to the system of C. Wolff, b. July 17, 1709 in Großkörnern, d. October 8, 1785 in Görlitz.
He was the son of a Protestant preacher. He completed primary school and the gymnasium in the principality of Goth. He studied theology, philosophy, and philology (Greek, Latin, and Hebrew) at the University of Jena (1727–1729) and Wittenberg (1729–1730). The objective scope of these studies directly influenced Baumeister’s further intellectual activity. His orientation to the field of classical philosophy, the result of his personal interested, was directly dictated by the character of both universities. These universities cultivated traditional forms of academic teaching, and Latin was given special treatment as the language of lectures. In 1730 he earned a master’s degree and gradually was given different courses in philosophy and philology. In 1734 he became an adjunct professor in the faculty of philosophy in Wittenberg. In 1736 he moved to Görlitz where he was appointed as the director of the gymnasium. He remained there to the end of his life, despite offers of work at important German universities. His time in Görlitz contributed to the intellectual development of the milieu of that place, which during that time became very strong and influenced the rest of the land.
Baumeister’s most important works include: Programma de Eruditis qui sensa animi exprimere nequiunt (Wittenberg 1734, L 17412, in: Exercitationes academicae et scholasticae, 1–12); Institutiones Philosophiae rationalis methodo Wolfii conscriptae (Wittenberg 1735, repr. Hi 1989); Philosophia definitiva hoc est definitiones philosophicae ex systemate lb. bar. a Wolfii […] (Wittenberg 1735, 178916; repr. Hi 1978); Institutiones metaphysicae: ontologiam, cosmologiam, psychologiam, theologiam denique naturalem complexae methodo Wolfi adornate (Wittenberg 1738, repr. 1988); Vita, Fata et Scripta Christiani Wolfi philosophi (L-Wr 1739,Hl 17553, repr. 1980); Elementa philosophiae recentioris: Usibus inventis scholasticae, accomodata et pluribus sententiis exemplisque ex veterum scriptorum Romanorum monumentis illustrata (Wittenberg 1747, W 17818)—this work has the character of a gymnasium manual of philosophy: Verziechniß aller derjenigen Studierenden so unter meiner Rectorats-Verwaltung von Anno 1736 bis 1785 in Prima Classe des Görlitzen Gymnasii sich als Zuhörer befunden […] (Görlitz 1785).
Baumeister belonged to the circle of C. Wolff’s most faithful disciples. His most important work was Institutiones metaphysicae: ontologiam, cosmologiam, psychologiam, theologiam denique naturalem complexae (Principles of metaphysics including: ontology, cosmology, psychology, and natural theology]. This work is an abbreviated lecture on the Wolffian rationalistic theory of being. According to Wolff’s doctrine, Baumeister states that ontology occupies a special place in metaphysics, which is “first philosophy”. Besides ontology he also distinguishes such divisions of metaphysics as cosmology, empirical and rational psychology, and natural theology. Being (ens) as Baumeister understands it has a very broad meaning and was defined as something possible (possibile). With direct reference to the well-known nominal definition of being presented originally by Wolff, Baumeister states: “being is that which can exist, namely, that whose existence is not contradictory” (“Ens definimus per id, quod est possibile, sive, ut Wolfii verbis, ens est, quod exsistere potest, consequenter, cui existentia non repugnat”, Institutiones metaphysicae […], par. 56; cf. C. Wolff, Philosophia prima sive Ontologia […], F 1730, par. 134). As he intended, being thus conceived, or more precisely, the concept of being would include all forms of entity, not only those in act, but also those that as “real essences” are something purely possible, yet independent of acts of thought (“Ita ens definiendum putamus, ut definitio ad omnes species entis possit applicari. Sunt quidem, qui per ens id tantum intelligunt, quod revera et actu existit, licet et nemo de eo cogitet” Institutiones metaphysicae, par. 56). In the question of cognition, Baumeister professed a rationalistic version of representationism, according to which what we know are not things themselves (res ipsae) but representations of these things (repraesentationes rerum) that exist in our mind.
His Institutiones philosophiae rationalis methodo Wolfii conscriptae (Principles of rational philosophy written in the method of Wolff), published in 1735, is noteworthy. There were up to twenty editions of this work, including translations into German and Greek. Baumeister divided this work into two basic parts. The first part he called theoretical logica, in which he considered in detail problems concerning questions such as the nature of concepts and ideas, the way terms and concepts are used, definitions, the problematic of different kinds of division. In the second part, called practical logic, he dealt with particular problems concerning truth. Among them he brought the following problems to center stage: prejudice (praeiudicium), the certainty of truth, and different ways of arriving at truth. In this work he distinguished three kinds of cognition: (1) philosophical cognition, which is the “cognition of the sufficient reason whereby one can know why a thing is, rather than is not; why a thing becomes, rather than not becoming, namely: the cognition of causes, this is philosophical cognition as generally conceived” (par. 5); (2) historical cognition (from the Greek verb ‘ιστορεω [historeo]—I investigate, I learn), whereby he understands “the cognition of those [things] that are or become” (par. 6). Among his other works, we should mention Philosophia definitiva, which had sixteen editions and was with good reason called the most lapidary exposition of Wolffian philosophy, and it applied the best literary Latin with references to classical models.
H. W. Arndt, Einleitung, in: F. C. B., Philosophia definitiva, Hi-NY 1978, 1–35; S. Carbonici, Transzendentale Wahrheit und Traum. Christian Wolffs Antwort auf die Herausforderung durch den Cartesianischen Zweifel, St-Bad Cannstadt 1991.