Johann Eduard Erdmann

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Johann Eduard Erdmann
Johann Eduard Erdmann.jpg
Born13 June 1805
Died12 June 1892 (1892-06-13) (aged 86)
EducationUniversity of Dorpat
University of Berlin
University of Kiel (PhD, 1830)
Era19th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolOld Hegelians
InstitutionsUniversity of Halle
ThesisQuidnam sit discrimen philosophiam inter et theologiam (What is the Distinction between Philosophy and Theology?) (1830)
Academic advisorsG. W. F. Hegel
Notable studentsKuno Fischer
Main interests
Notable ideas
Philosophy and religion converge to a common truth (even though they differ in form of approach)
Coining the term "psychologism"

Johann Eduard Erdmann (13 June 1805 – 12 June 1892) was a German religious pastor, historian of philosophy, and philosopher of religion, of which he wrote on the mediation of faith and knowledge. He was known to be a follower of Friedrich Schleiermacher, whom he studied under August Carlblom, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel whom he considered as mentor. He also studied the works of Karl Daub and was to become known as a right-wing member of Hegelianism.[1]


Erdmann was born on 13 June 1805 in Wolmar, Livonia, where his father was a pastor. His was a cousin of Julius Walter. He studied theology at Dorpat (Tartu) and afterwards at Berlin, where he fell under the influence of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and was known never to miss his lectures. Then, from 1829 to 1832 he was a minister of religion in his native town of Wolmar.[2] Afterwards he resigned from his position as pastor to devote himself to education and philosophy, but continued to minister throughout his life. He obtained a doctoral degree in from the University of Kiel with the treatise, Quidnam sit discrimen philosophiam inter et theologiam (What is the Distinction between Philosophy and Theology?), written in 1830, in which he argued that philosophy and religion converge to a common truth, even though they differ in form of approach. In 1834 he began writing his Habilitation thesis to qualify in Berlin. This would eventually become the first volume of Versuch einer wissenschaftlichen Darstellung der Geschichte der neuern Philosophie (Attempt at a Scientific Presentation of the History of Modern Philosophy).[3] In 1836 he was professor-extraordinary at Halle, became full professor in 1839, and remained there until his death. He died on June 12, 1892 in Halle.[4]

He published many philosophical text-books and treatises, and a number of sermons; but his chief claim to remembrance rests on his elaborate Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie (Outline the History of Philosophy, 2 vols, 1866), the 4th edition of which has been translated into English. Erdmann's special merit is that he does not rest content with being a mere summarizer of opinions, but tries to exhibit the history of human thought as a continuous and ever-developing effort to solve the great speculative problems with which man has been confronted in all ages. His chief other works were: Leib und Seele (Body and Soul, 1837), Grundriss der Psychologie (Outline of Psychology, 1840), Grundriss der Logik und Metaphysik (Outline of Logic and Metaphysics, 1841), and Psychologische Briefe (Psychological Letters, 1851).[5]

Erdmann had many readers, students and followers, and influenced many intellectuals of his time. Some of these include Niels Thulstrup, his student Albrecht Ritschl, his colleague Martin Kähler, and members the Hegelian school, such as Kuno Fischer, Bruno Bauer, Ludwig Feuerbach and Karl Ludwig Michelet. Søren Kierkegaard studied and was inspired in his early studies by Erdmann's works, in particular his Vorlesungen über Glauben und Wissen als Einleitung in die Dogmatic und Religionphilosophie (Lectures on Faith and Knowledge as an Introduction to Dogma the Philosophy of Religion). Although Kierkegaard integrated much of Erdmann's work into his own, the only work in which Erdmann was cited by him was his dissertation On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates.[6]

Commentary on Erdmann[edit]

John Dewey wrote in the Andover Review:

The combination of qualities necessary to produce a work of the scope and grade of Erdmann's is rare. ...Erdmann wrote his book [A History of Philosophy: Ancient and Mediaeval Philosophy], not as a reference book... but as a genuine history of philosophy, tracing in a genetic way the development of thought in its treatment of philosophic problems. Its purpose is to develop philosophic intelligence rather than to furnish information. ...Erdmann unites a minute and exhaustive knowledge of philosophic sources at first hand, equalled over the entire field of philosophy probably by no other one man... To the student who wishes... a somewhat detailed knowledge of the evolution of thought, and of what this and the other writers have contributed to it, Erdmann is indispensable; there is no substitute.[7]

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ Stephen Bitter, "Erdmann: Appropriation and Criticism, Error and Understanding" from Kierkegaard and his German Contemporaries Tome II: Theology, Ed. Jon Stewart, Ashgate Publishing Limited (2007)
  2. ^ Hugh Chisholm (ed.), Encyclopædia Britannica, Cambridge University Press, 11th ed. Vol.9 (1911)
  3. ^ Stephen Bitter 2007
  4. ^ Hugh Chisholm 1911
  5. ^ Hugh Chisholm 1911
  6. ^ Stephen Bitter 2007
  7. ^ Erdmann, A History of Philosophy: Ancient and mediaeval philosophy MacMillan and Co. 3rd. ed. (1893): "Notices of the Press"
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Erdmann, Johann Eduard". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 734.

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