1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Baumgarten, Alexander Gottlieb

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BAUMGARTEN, ALEXANDER GOTTLIEB (1714–1762), German philosopher, born at Berlin. He studied at Halle, and became professor of philosophy at Halle and at Frankfort on the Oder, where he died in 1762. He was a disciple of Leibnitz and Wolff, and was particularly distinguished as having been the first to establish the Theory of the Beautiful as an independent science. Baumgarten did good service in severing aesthetics (q.v.) from the other philosophic disciplines, and in marking out a definite object for its researches. The very name (Aesthetics), which Baumgarten was the first to use, indicates the imperfect and partial nature of his analysis, pointing as it does to an element so variable as feeling or sensation as the ultimate ground of judgment in questions pertaining to beauty. It is important to notice that Baumgarten’s first work preceded those of Burke, Diderot, and P. André, and that Kant had a great admiration for him. The principal works of Baumgarten are the following: Dispulationes de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus (1735); Aesthetics; Metaphysica (1739; 7th ed. 1779); Ethica philosophica (1751, 2nd ed. 1763); Initia philosophiae practicae primae (1760). After his death, his pupils published a Philosophia Generalis (1770) and a Jus Naturae (1765), which he had left in manuscript.

See Meyer, Baumgarten’s Leben (1763); Abbt, Baumgarten’s Leben und Charakter (1765); H. G. Meyer, Leibnitz und Baumgarten (1874); J. Schmidt, Leibnitz und Baumgarten (Halle, 1875); and article Aesthetics.

His brother, Siegmund Jacob Baumgarten (1706–1757), was professor of theology at Halle, and applied the methods of Wolff to theology. His chief pupil, Johann Salomo Semler (q.v.), is sometimes called, the father of German rationalism. Baumgarten, though he did not renounce the Pietistic doctrine, began the process which Semler completed. His works include Evangelische Glaubenslehre (1759); Auszug der Kirchengeschichte (1743–1762); Primae lineae breviarii antiquitatum Christianarum (1747); Geschichte der Religionsparteien (1760); Nachricht von merkwürdigen Büchern (1752–1757); Nachrichten von einer hallischen Bibliothek (1748–1751).

See life by Semler (Halle, 1758).