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The Gestation of German BiologyPhilosophy and Physiology from Stahl to Schelling$
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John H. Zammito

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226520797

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226520827.001.0001

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Taking Up the French Challenge: The German Response

Taking Up the French Challenge: The German Response

(p.122) Chapter Five Taking Up the French Challenge: The German Response
The Gestation of German Biology

John H. Zammito

University of Chicago Press

At mid-century Germans were confronted directly with French vital materialism by the presence in Berlin of Maupertuis and La Mettrie and by the translation of Buffon’s Histoire naturelle into German. A key figure in this German reception was Albrecht von Haller. He played a substantial role in the project of a German translation of Buffon. He had a personal and nasty controversy with La Mettrie, and he negotiated extensively with Maupertuis over an invitation to join the Berlin Academy. When, instead, he returned to Switzerland, he entered into a new alliance with Charles Bonnet of Geneva. He was also influence by the most important German repudiation of French materialism, the ideas on natural religion and especially animal instinct of Hermann Reimarus. Reimarus evoked a crucial philosophical reaction as well in the writings of Mendelssohn, Herder and Tetens. Meanwhile, Caspar Friedrich Wolff’s articulation of an empirical theory of epigenesis drew Haller once more into sustained controversy, driving Wolff to retreat to a position in the St. Petersburg Academy of Science. But Haller’s dominance came to be challenged in the 1770s by the neurophysiology of Unzer and the physiological psychology of Herder.

Keywords:   Maupertuis, Haller, Buffon, epigenesis, Caspar Friedrich Wolff, Johann August Unzer, Johann Gottfried Herder, Hermann Samuel Reimarus, vital materialism, physiological psychology

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