Trendelenburg, Friedrich Adolf
TRENDELENBURG, FRIEDRICH ADOLF (1802-1872), German philosopher and philologist, was born on the 30th of November 1802 at Eutin, near Liibeck. He was educated at the universities of Kiel, Leipzig and Berlin. He became more and more attracted to the study of Plato and Aristotle, and his doctor's dissertation (1826) was an attempt to reach through Aristotle's criticisms a more accurate knowledge of the Platonic philosophy (Platonis de ideis et numeris doctrina ex Aristotele illustrate.). He declined the offer of a classical chair at Kiel, and accepted a post as tutor to the son of an intimate friend of Altenstein, the Prussian minister of education. He held this position for seven years (1826-1833), occupying his leisure time with the preparation of a critical edition of Aristotle's De anima (1833; 2nded. by C. Belger, 1877). In 1833 Altenstein appointed Trendelenburg extraordinary professor in Berlin, and four years later he was advanced to an ordinary professorship. For nearly forty years he proved himself markedly successful as an academical teacher, during the greater part of which time he had to examine in philosophy and pedagogics all candidates for the scholastic profession in Prussia. In 1865 he became involved in an acrimonious controversy on the interpretation of Kant's doctrine of Space with Kuno Fischer, whom he attacked in Kuno Fischer und sein Kant (1869), which drew forth the reply Anti-Trendelenburg (1870). He died on the 24th of January 1872.
Trendelenburg's philosophizing is conditioned throughout by his loving study of Plato and Aristotle, whom he regards not as opponents but as building jointly on the broad basis of idealism. His own standpoint may almost be called a modern version of Aristotle thus interpreted. While denying the possibility of an absolute method and an absolute philosophy, as contended for by Hegel and others, Trendelenburg was emphatically an idealist in the ancient or Platonic sense; his whole work was devoted to the demonstration of the ideal in the real. But he maintained that the procedure of philosophy must be analytic, rising from the particular facts to the universal in which we find them explained. We divine the system of the whole from the part we know, but the process of reconstruction must remain approximative. Our position forbids the possibility of a final system. Instead, therefore, of constantly beginning afresh in speculation, it should be our duty to attach ourselves to what may be considered the permanent results of historic developments. The classical expression of these results Trendelenburg finds mainly in the Platonico-Aristotelian system. The philosophical question is stated thus: How are thought and being united in knowledge? how does thought- get at being? and how does being enter into thought? Proceeding on the principle that like can only be known by like, Trendelenburg next reaches a doctrine peculiar to himself (though based upon Aristotle) which plays a central part in his speculations. Motion is the fundamental fact common to being and thought ; the actual motion of the external world has its counterpart in the constructive motion which is involved in every instance of perception or thought. From motion he proceeds to deduce time, space and the categories of mechanics and natural science. These, being thus derived, are at once subjective and objective in their scope. It is true matter can never be completely resolved into motion, but the irreducible remainder may be treated like the jrpwTTj 6\ij of Aristotle as an abstraction which we asymptotically approach but never reach. The facts of existence, however, are not adequately explained by the mechanical categories. The ultimate interpretation of the universe can only be found in the higher category of End or final cause. Here Trendelenburg finds the dividing line between philosophical systems. On the one side stand those which acknowledge none but efficient causes which make force prior to thought, and explain the universe, as it were, a tergo. This may be called, typically, Democritism. On the other side stands the " organic " or teleological view of the world, which interprets the parts through the idea of the whole, and sees in the efficient causes only the vehicle of ideal ends. This may be called in a wide sense Platonism. Systems like Spinozism, which seem to form a third class, neither sacrificing force to thought nor thought to force, yet by their denial of final causes inevitably fall back into the Democritic or essentially materialistic standpoint, leaving us with the great antagonism of the mechanical and the organic systems of philosophy. The latter view, which receives its first support in the facts of life, or organic nature as such, finds its culmination and ultimate verification in the ethical world, which essentially consists in the realization of ends. Trendelenburg's Naturrecht may, therefore, be taken as in a manner the completion of his system, his working out of the ideal as present in the real. The ethical end is taken to be the idea of humanity, not in the abstract as formulated by Kant, but in the context of the state and of history. Law is treated throughout as the vehicle of ethical requirements. In Trendelenburg's treatment of the state, as the ethical organism in which the individual (the potential man) may be said first to emerge into actuality, we may trace his nurture on the best ideas of Hellenic antiquity.
Trendelenburg was also the author of the following: Elementa logices Aristotelicae (1836; gth ed., 1892; Eng. trans., 1881), a selection of passages from the Organon with Latin translation and notes, containing the substance of Aristotle's logical doctrine, supplemented by Erlauterungen zu den Elementen der Aristotelischen Logik (1842; 3rd ed. 1876); Logische Untersuchungen (1840; 3rd ed. 1870), and Die logische Frage in Hegels System (1843), important factors in the reaction against Hegel ; Historische Beitrage zur Philosophic (1846-1867), in three volumes, the first of which contains a history of the doctrine of the Categories; Das Naturrecht aufdem Grunde der Ethik (1860); Liicken im Volkerrecht (1870), a treatise on the defects of international law, occasioned by the war of 1870. A number of his papers dealing with non-philosophical, chiefly national and educational subjects, are collected in his Kleine Schriften (1871).
On Trendelenburg's life and work see H. Bonitz, Zur Erinnerung an F.A.T. (Berlin, 1872); P. Kleinert, Grabrede (Berlin, 1872); E. Bratuschek, Adolf Trendelenburg (Berlin, 1873); C. von Prantl, Gedachtniisrede (Munich, 1873); G. S. Morris in the New Englander (1874), xxxiii.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)