Ernst Platner

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Ernst Platner
Ernst Platner um 1789.jpg
Portrait by Anton Graff
Born11 June 1744
Died27 December 1818
Leipzig, Electorate of Saxony
EducationUniversity of Leipzig (M.D., 1767)
Era18th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
History of philosophy, medicine
Notable ideas
The Unconscious
Pragmatic history
Psychosomatic medicine
Ernst Platner in 1812 by Friedrich Overbeck, Albertinum, Dresden

Ernst Platner (/ˈplɑːtnər/; German: [ˈplatnɐ]; 11 June 1744 – 27 December 1818) was a German anthropologist, physician and Rationalist[1] philosopher, born in Leipzig. He was the father of painter Ernst Zacharias Platner (1773–1855).


Following the death of his father in 1747, the philologist Johann August Ernesti became his foster father. He received his early education at the gymnasium in Altenburg, the Thomasschule in Leipzig and at the gymnasium in Gera.[3] Afterwards, he studied at the University of Leipzig, where in 1770 he became an associate professor of medicine. Later at Leipzig, he was appointed a full professor of physiology (1780) and philosophy (1811). In 1783/84 and 1789/90 he served as university rector.[3]


Platner was a follower of the teachings of Leibniz. He was the author of Anthropologie für Aerzte und Weltweise, one of the more important anthropological works of the Spätaufklärung (an epoch of German literature). This work was influential to scholars that included Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller and Karl Philipp Moritz. He believed in treating modern anthropology as a medical-philosophical science of the whole individual — a viewpoint that can be considered as a precursor of psychosomatic medicine.[4]

Platner is credited with originally coining the term Unbewußtseyn (unconscious).[5] He is also credited for coining the phrase "pragmatic history of the human faculty of cognition" (pragmatische Geschichte des menschlichen Erkentnißvermogens),[6] later appropriated by Johann Gottlieb Fichte as "pragmatic history of the human spirit" (pragmatische Geschichte des menschlichen Geistes).[7]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Anthropologie für Aerzte und Weltweise (Anthropology for physicians and the worldwise), 1772
  • Neue Anthropologie für Aerzte und Weltweise (New anthropology for physicians and the worldwise), 1790
  • Über den Atheismus. Ein Gespräch (About atheism, an interview), 1783
  • Philosophische Aphorismen nebst einigen Anleitungen zur philosophischen Geschichte (Philosophical aphorisms with some principles for a history of philosophy), Vol. 1: 1776, Vol. 2: 1782
  • Quaestiones physiologicae (Questions of physiology), 1794
  • Quaestiones medicinae forensis (Questions of forensic medicine), 1797–1817


  1. ^ a b Frederick Beiser, The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte, Harvard University Press, 2009, p. 214.
  2. ^ John H. Zammito, Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology, University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 250.
  3. ^ a b Prof. Dr. med. Ernst Platner Professorenkatalog der Universität Leipzig
  4. ^ Plat(t)ner, Ernst at NDB/ADB Deutsche Biographie.
  5. ^ Ernst Platner, Philosophische Aphorismen nebst einigen Anleitungen zur philosophischen Geschichte, Vol. 1 (Leipzig: Schwickertscher Verlag, 1793 [1776]), p. 86; Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher, Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought (2010), Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 9.
  6. ^ Ernst Platner, Philosophische Aphorismen nebst einigen Anleitungen zur philosophischen Geschichte, Vol. 1 (Leipzig: Schwickertscher Verlag, 1793 [1776]), p. 9.
  7. ^ Gesamtausgabe I/2: 364–65; Daniel Breazeale, "Fichte's Conception of Philosophy as a "Pragmatic History of the Human Mind" and the Contributions of Kant, Platner, and Maimon," Journal of the History of Ideas, 62(4), Oct. 2001, pp. 685–703; Günter Zöller, Fichte's Transcendental Philosophy: The Original Duplicity of Intelligence and Will, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 130 n. 30; Sally Sedgwick, The Reception of Kant's Critical Philosophy: Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 144 n. 33; Daniel Breazeale and Tom Rockmore (eds.), Fichte, German Idealism, and Early Romanticism, Rodopi, 2010, p. 50 n. 27: "Α »history of the human mind« is a genetic account of the self-constitution of the I in the form of an ordered description of the various acts of thinking that are presupposed by the act of thinking the I"; Ezequiel L. Posesorski, Between Reinhold and Fichte: August Ludwig Hülsen's Contribution to the Emergence of German Idealism. Karlsruhe: Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie, 2012, p. 81: "Pragmatische Geschichte des menschlichen Geistes designates reason's timeless course of production of the different levels of the a priori system of all knowledge, which are exclusively uncovered and portrayed genetically by personal self-conscious reflection"; Daniel Breazeale, Thinking Through the Wissenschaftslehre: Themes from Fichte's Early Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013, p. 72.