, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 291–314 | Cite as

An Introduction to Nicolai Hartmann’s Critical Ontology

Original Paper


Nicolai Hartmann contributed significantly to the revitalization of the discipline of ontology in the early twentieth century. Developing a systematic, post-Kantian critical ontology ‘this side’ of idealism and realism, he subverted the widespread impression that philosophy must either exhaust itself in foundationalist epistemology or engage in system-building metaphysical excess. This essay provides an introduction to Hartmann’s approach in light of the recent translation of his early essay ‘How is Critical Ontology Possible?’ (1923) In it Hartmann criticizes both the pretensions of epistemology as well as the principal errors of classical ontology, and he proposes a series of correctives that lead to his development of a highly original and elaborate stratified categorial ontology. This introduction explains the most important errors of the ‘old’ ontology, his correctives to them, and further fleshes out these correctives with reference to his mature ontological work.


Categories Critical ontology Critique Epistemology Ideal being Logicism Nicolai Hartmann Ontology Real being Reductionism Spheres of being Stratification Teleology 



I would like to thank Frederic Tremblay and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier draft.


Hartmann’s Works

  1. Hartmann N (1921) Grundzüge einer Metaphysik der Erkenntnis. De Gruyter, Berlin-LeipzigGoogle Scholar
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  3. Hartmann N (1924) Diesseits von Idealismus und Realismus, ein Beitrag zur Scheidung des Geschichtlichen und Übergeschichtlichen in der Kantischen Philosophie. Kant-Studien 29: 160–206. (In Kleinere Schriften II [1957] De Gruyter, Berlin, pp 278–322)Google Scholar
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  6. Hartmann N (1935) Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie. De Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  7. Hartmann N (1938) Möglichkeit und Wircklichkeit. De Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  8. Hartmann N (1940) Der Aufbau der realen Welt. Grundriss der allgemeinen Kategorienlehre. De Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  9. Hartmann N (1943) Neue Wege der Ontologie. In: Hartmann N (ed) Systematische Philosophie. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, pp 199–311Google Scholar
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Other Works

  1. Harich W (2000) Nicolai Hartmann: Leben, Werk, Wirkung. In: Morgenstern O (ed) Königshausen & Neumann, WürzburgGoogle Scholar
  2. Harich W (2004) Nicolai Hartmann: Größe und Grenzen. In: Martin Morgenstern (ed) Königshausen & Neumann, WürzburgGoogle Scholar
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  4. Heimsoeth H (ed) (1952) Nicolai Hartmann: Der Denker und sein Werk. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, GöttingenGoogle Scholar
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  7. Peruzzi A (2001) Hartmann’s stratified reality. Axiomathes 12:227–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  9. Peterson K (2012) Nicolai Hartmann’s Critical Ontology: Stratification and Nonanthropocentrism. In: Kuperus G, Oele M (eds) Ontology of nature. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyColby CollegeWatervilleUSA

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