Karl Zollner

Karl ZollnerIn hmolscience, Johann Karl Friedrich Zollner (1834-1882), variously cited as J.C.F. Zollner, J.C. Friedrich Zollner, Karl Zollner, Carl Zollner, or Friedrich Zollner, was a German astrophysicist noted for his 1872 book The Nature of Comets: Contributions to the History and Theory of Knowledge—a treatise on the physics of comets, intermixed with a Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer based critical-philosophical account of the nature of knowledge, along with some type of four-dimensional space model based on physics of Hermann Helmholtz.

Zollner is known to have been the arch enemy, in some respects, of German physicist Hermann Helmholtz, with whom he had a prolonged heated debate with. In 1874, Helmholtz wrote his “On the Use and Abuse of the Deductive Method in Physical Science”, a general attack on Zollner, in which he commented the following: [1]

“I do not find in Mr. Zollner's book a distinct declaration by which his new mode of procedure may be distinguished from that generally followed. Judging from what he aims at as his ultimate object, it comes to the same thing as Schopenhauer's metaphysics. The stars are to love and hate one another, feel pleasure and displeasure, and to try to move in a way corresponding to these feelings. Indeed, in blurred imitation of the principle of least action (pp. 326, 327), Schopenhauer's pessimism, which declares this world to be indeed the best of possible worlds, but worse than none at all, is formulated as an ostensibly generally applicable principle of the smallest amount of discomfort, and this is proclaimed as the highest law of the world, living as well as lifeless.”

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Zollner’s The Nature of Comets, which Swedish science historian Thomas Brobjer describes as “a strange mixture of advanced science, epistemology, Kantian philosophy, and moral statement”, along with atomic theory writings of Roger Boscovich, were influential to early natural science readings of Friedrich Nietzsche. [2]

In 1875, Zollner visited English physical chemist and spiritualism advocate William Crookes, views about which he intermixed with his previous Theory of 4-Dimensional Space (1867) work, to pen the 1878 book Transcendental Physics, in an attempt to validate concepts such as “clairvoyance, matter transfer, ghosts and natural spirits” in terms of physics.

1. (a) Zollner, Johann. (1872). The Nature of Comets: Contributions to the History and Theory of Knowledge (Über die Natur der Kometen, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Theorie der Erkenntnis). Leipzig.
(b) Helmholtz, Hermann. (1874). “On the Use and Abuse of the Deductive Method in Physical Science” (translator: Crum Brown), from Helmholtz’ preface to the second part of the German edition of William Thomson and Peter Tait’s Treatise on Natural Philosophy, vol. 1; in: Nature, 11:149-51, Dec 24; in Nature, 11:211-12, Jan. 14.
(c) Buchwald, Jed Z. (1993). “Electrodynamics in Context: Object States, Laboratory Practice, and Anti-Romanticism”, in: Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science (editor: David Cahan) (§8:334-73, esp. pgs. 370-72). University of California Press.
(d) Karl Friedrich Zollner (German → English) – Wikipedia.
2. Brobjer, Thomas H. (2004). “Nietzsche’s Reading and Knowledge of Natural Science: An Overview”, in: Nietzsche and Science (editors: Gregory Moore, Thomas H. Brobjer) (§1:21-50, esp. pg. 32). Ashgate Publishing.

External links
‚óŹ Johann Karl Friedrich Zollner – Wikipedia.

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