Tetens, Johann Nicolaus

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Tetens, Johann Nicolaus (1736-1807): German Philosopher.

Johann Tetens was best known for his attempt to reform German metaphysics through the critical insights of empirical psychology and for his influence on the philosophy of Kant, Immanuel. There is some dispute regarding the year of Tetens birth. He was born either in Tetenbüll, Schleswig in 1736, or in Tönnig, Schleswig in 1738. He attended the Universities of Rostock and Copenhagen. From 1760 to 1765 he taught physics at Bützow Academy. From 1776 to 1789 he worked as a professor at the University of Kiel. And from 1789 until the end of his life he worked as a government finance official in Copenhagen.

Tetens’ philosophical formation was greatly influenced by Locke, Leibnitz, and his mentor, Eschenbach. In 1777 he published his most important philosophic work, Philosophical Essays on Human Nature and its Development. This work had an enormous impact on Kant’s first conception of the Critique of Pure Reason. For instance, Tetens’ discussion of how metaphysical first principles are rooted in the ego, and how the mind is an active principle of knowledge, had much in common with Kant’s ultimate development of critical philosophy. Tetens’ fundamental aspiration was to restore the reputation of German metaphysics through the use of the critical insights of empirical psychology so that it could withstand the criticisms of the English and French schools.

Further Readings:

Arthur Seidel, Tetens Einfluss auf die kritische Philosophie Kants, 1932.

F. Scott Scribner