Nicolai Hartmann

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Hartmann, Nicolai


Born Feb. 20, 1882, in Riga; died Oct. 9, 1950, in Göttingen. German idealist philosopher, founder of the so-called critical, or new, ontology.

Hartmann graduated from a Gymnasium in St. Petersburg. From 1920 to 1945 he was a professor of philosophy at the universities of Marburg, Cologne, and Berlin, and from 1945 to 1950, at the University of Göttingen.

At first Hartmann was a follower of the neo-Kantian Marburg school, but he became dissatisfied with its subjectivism (“methodologism”). Under the influence of E. Husserl and M. Scheler, he worked out an ontological concept that, on the whole, represents a modernization of the Aristotelian and scholastic doctrine of being (System of Ontology, vols. 1-4, 1933-50). According to Hartmann, being has a stratified structure and must be regarded as a hierarchy of four qualitatively distinct layers: the inorganic, the organic, the psychological, and the spiritual. The modes of existence and the categorial structure of the various strata are not identical. Thus, the immaterial strata (the spirit and the psyche) exist only in time. Each of the upper strata is rooted in a lower one but is not completely determined by it. The lower modes of being are more active in their self-assertion; the upper ones possess more freedom of manifestation. Hartmann considered the fundamental philosophical problems to be insoluble. Following Scheler in ethics, Hartmann developed the theory of immutable “ethical values.” For Hartmann, the principal question in this sphere is the problem of the relationship between values and freedom of the will. In his Ethics (1925) he interprets the problem as the relationship between two kinds of forces, or determinations—the ideal (values, which are orienting points for the will) and the real (the will, implementing values).


Grundzüge der Metaphysik der Erkenntnis, 4th ed. Berlin, 1949.
In Russian translation:
Estetika. Moscow, 1958.


Zotov, A. F. “Problema bytiia v Novoi ontologii N. Gartmana.” In the collection Sovremennyi ob” ektivnyi idealizm. Moscow, 1963.
Gornshtein, T. N. Filosofiia N. Gartmana. Leningrad, 1969. (With bibliography.)
Heimsoeth, H., and R. Heiss (eds.). N. Hartmann: Der Denker und sein Werk. Göttingen, 1952.
Feuerstein, R. Die Modallehre N. Hartmanns. Cologne, 1957.
Barone, F. N. Hartmann nella filosofia del novecento. Turin, 1957.