Wizenmann, Thomas

Wizenmann, Thomas a German champion of orthodoxy, was born at Ludwigsburg, in Wurtemberg, November 2, 1759, of pietistic parents. After having passed through preliminary studies, he was received into the training-school and orphanage of his native town, as famulus, October 28, 1775. In the spring of 1777 he resigned that position, however. He received the master's degree in October of that year, and in 1780 passed the theological examination and became vicar at Essingen. He had previously studied deeply the writings of Bengel, Oetinger, and Fricker, and continued to employ his leisure in the examination of standard authors, e.g. Locke, Leibnictz, Wolff, Mendelssohn, Jacob Bdhme, Herder. He was also accustomed to commit the results of his thinking to writing, and on many occasions to give them to the public. Pfenninger's Christliches Magazin (1780-83) contains an extended series of articles contributed by him; but many papers on theological and psychological subjects were never published, and were found, usually in an unfinished state, among his literary remains after he died. In 1783 Wizenmann exchanged his vicariate for a tutor's place in a private family at Barmen, and, while journeying thither, made the acquaintance of the philosopher Jacobi, which was not without influence over his mental life. Jacobi subsequently made him acquainted with Spinoza's Ethics and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. In April 1784, Wizenmann began a work on the gospel according to Matthew, in which he attempted to make the gospel narrative demonstrate its own genuineness. He died before the work was completed, but it was published as a fragment by Kleuker in 1789. In 1785 he resigned his tutorship and took up his abode in the house of Jacobi. In 1786 he published Resultate der Jacobischen u. Mendelssohn. Philosophie, kritisch untersucht, etc., in which he denied the possibility of proving the existence or non-existence of God by the method of demonstration, but asserted the reasonableness of a belief in a revelation whenever trustworthy historical proofs in its support can be adduced. The work excited considerable interest, and was favorably reviewed by many influential scholars, among them Jacobi, but Kant published an unfavorable criticism in the Berliner Monatsschrift, alleging that Wizenmann had convicted himself of enthusiasm in the positions assumed in the Resultate. Wizenmann felt obliged to reply to the charge of fanaticism emanating from so high a source, and made so masterly an exposure of the weak spots in Kant's argument as gained him friends among those who had not previously approved his book, among them Hamann. The strain upon his delicate constitution had, however, been too severe. His strength gave way, and he lay down to die. The end came February 22, 1787, when he had scarcely begun a course of what promised to be important labors for the cause of truth. A memoir was published by von der Goltz, under the title Th. Wizenmann, der Freund Jacobi's, etc. (Gotha, 1859, 2 volumes). See Herzog, Real-Encylop. s.v.

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