Høffding, Harald

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Høffding, Harald

(hä`räl höf`dĭng), 1843–1931, Danish philosopher. He was professor at Copenhagen (1883–1915). His histories of philosophy have been enjoyed by a large audience, especially his History of Modern Philosophy (1894–95; tr., 2 vol., 1900, repr. 1955).

Høffding, Harald


Born Mar. 11, 1843, in Copenhagen; died there July 2, 1931. Danish idealist philosopher and historian of philosophy.

From 1883 to 1915 Høffding was a professor at the University of Copenhagen. Under the influence of Hegel’s historicophilosophical method he attempted to analyze the relationship of philosophy to science and to compare, on the level of epistemology, the philosophers of different ages, though within the framework of Western Europe, viewing their doctrines as stages in the development of a single body of thought (History of Modern Philosophy, 1894-95). In the spirit of positivism he examined philosophical problems in their relation to scientific and cognitive ones and unsuccessfully tried to reconcile the principles of empiricism and positivism with the basic propositions of Kant’s critical philosophy (Human Thought: Its Forms and Its Problems, 1910).

Høffding held that the basic philosophical questions were problems of the nature of consciousness, of the verity of cognition, of the nature of being, and, finally, of axiology. In his studies in psychology he tried to combine introspectionist concepts with the ideas and methods of Darwinism in biology, and he considered consciousness to be the highest form of biological development. Although Høffding identified the cultural history of man as a special factor, psychologism was central to his outlook; he viewed psychology as the basis of logic, ethics, and other sciences connected with the study of man and ignored the dependence of conscious processes on social and historical experience. In studying personality, Høffding attributed great significance to the principle of psychological activity and therefore, of the three psychological elements—knowledge, feeling, and will—he regarded will as the most important. Høffding’s criticism of the view of consciousness as the sum total of independent elements—of sensations and ideas—had a positive effect on the history of psychology. To this view he counterposed the “law of relations,” according to which the qualities of a particular psychological element are determined by the totality of relations and connections of which the element is a part.


In Russian translation:
Ocherki psykhologii, osnovannoi na opyte. Moscow, 1896.
O printsipakh etiki. Odessa, 1898.
Psikhologicheskie osnovy logicheskikh suzhdenii. Moscow, 1908.
Filosofiia reiigii, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Filosofskie problemy. Moscow, 1905.


Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 12.
Hansen, V. Harald Høffding som Religionsfilosof, og andre Karakteristiker. Copenhagen, 1923.
Holm, S. Filosofien i Norden efter 1900. Copenhagen, 1967.