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Hypotheses. The Concept of Possibility in Ch.A. Crusius’ Theory of Objectivity

newdigital Hypotheses.
The Concept of Possibility in Ch.A. Crusius’ Theory of Objectivity
issue RIVISTA DI FILOSOFIA NEO-SCOLASTICA - 2020 - 3. Rethinking Objectivity: With and Beyond Kant
title Hypotheses. The Concept of Possibility in Ch.A. Crusius’ Theory of Objectivity
publisher Vita e Pensiero
format Article | Pdf
online since 12-2020
doi 10.26350/001050_000213
issn 00356247 (print) | 18277926 (digital)
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18th Century German Philosophy can be characterized by competing attempts to analyze the notion of «possibility», some of which are still of philosophical interest. Famous examples are Leibniz’s theory of infinite possible words, Wolff’s development of ontology on the basis of logical possibility and the law of non-contradiction, Lambert’s radically constructivist conception of the possible (as that, which can be made) and, finally, of course Kant’s modal definition of «possibility» as conformity to the a priori conditions of experience. In my paper I shall argue that in the works of the philosophers of the Thomasian school in Leipzig—Johann Andreas Rüdiger (1673-1731), August Friedrich Müller (1684-1761), Adolf Friedrich Hoffmann (1703-1741) and Christian August Crusius (1715-1775)—we find an alternative conception of «possibility» that deserves similar attention. According to this conception, the notion of «possibility» is based on the epistemological notion of «hypothesis». Thus, the possible is not explained in terms of possible worlds, logical non-contradiction, mathematical constructions or the formal conditions of experience. Rather, the ontological concept of possibility is reduced to the role it plays in the formulation of a theory or in the description of a hypothetical state of affairs. Moreover, a distinctive feature of that conception of the possible lies in the fact that these philosophers did not attempt to contrast it to a stronger notion of «necessity». Rather, they defended the primacy of subjectivity and contingency on the basis of a pure epistemological definition of the possible. This seems to be a typical feature of an «empiricist» conception of reality, which basically excludes any reference to the notion of rational law. For these philosopher, scientific hypotheses are mere possibilities that are derived from experience and therefore exhibit a certain degree of probability. What makes these theories philosophically relevant is not only the attempt to develop the empirical notion of hypothetical possibility in strictly metaphysical terms, but also to reduce all other ontological concepts and all metaphysical principles to it.


Christian August Crusius, Possibility, Hypothesis, Probability, Objectivity

Author biography

Universität Wien - Academia Kantiana, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, Kaliningrad, Russian Federation. Email: