boris hennig



Four Causes. 2016. http://www.borishennig.de/fc.htm

Conscientia bei Descartes. Alber Verlag, Freiburg 2006.

Gibt es eine Rehabilitation der Cartesischen Psychologie? Master Thesis, Leipzig 2000.

Journal Articles

"Über die 'Ursachen' von Texten." Archiv für Rechts- & Sozialphilosophie, forthcoming.

"The Man Without Properties." Synthese, published online (DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1033-0).

"Plato's Ingredient Principle." Ancient Philosophy 35(2), 2015, 303-316.

"Instance is the Converse of Aspect." Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93(1), 2015, 3-20.

"Documents: Fillers of Informational Gaps." Monist 97(2), 2014, 246-255.

"'Insofar as' in Descartes' Definition of Thought." Studia Leibnitiana 43(2), 2011, 145-159.

"Kants Modell kausaler Verhältnisse." Kant Studien 102(3), 2011, 367-384.

"Teleonomy." Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 14, 2011, 184-201.

"Science, Conscience, Consciousness." History of the Human Sciences 23(3), 2010, 15-28.

"Eine Verteidigung des typologischen Artbegriffs." Philosophia Naturalis 46(2), 2009, 251-278.

"The Four Causes." The Journal of Philosophy 106(3), 2009, 137-60.

"Matter in Z3." Foundations of Science 13, 2008, 199-215.

"Tugenden und Absichten." Philosophisches Jahrbuch 115(1), 2008, 165-182.

"Substance, Reality, and Distinctness." Prolegomena 7(1), 2008, 5-20.

"Cartesian Conscientia." British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15(3), 2007, 455-484.

"Der Fortbestand von Lebewesen." Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 32(1), 2007, 81-91.

"Naturteleologie, reduktiv." Philosophisches Jahrbuch 113(2), 2006, 296-315.

"Conscientia bei Descartes." Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 60(1), 2006, 21-36.

"Schuld und Gewissen bei Abelard." Dialektik 1/2003, 129-143.

Book Contributions

"Konkrete Einzeldinge," "Kategorien." In: Markus Schrenk, ed., Handbuch Metaphysik, Metzler Verlag, forthcoming.

"Aristoteles' Beschreibung der ethischen Tugenden." In: Jan Müller & Jens Kertscher, Lebensform und Praxisform. Paderborn: Mentis Verlag, 2015.

"Constituent Functions." In: Christer Svennerlind et al., eds., Johanssonian Investigations. Ontos Verlag 2013.

"Das Segeltuchmodell." In: Sebastian Rödl & Henning Tegtmeyer, eds., Sinnkritisches Philosophieren. Berlin: De Gruyter 2012.

"Descartes." In: Tina-Louise Eissa & Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, eds., Geschichte der Bioethik. Paderborn: Mentis Verlag 2011, 137-148.

"Is Causation a Relation?" In: Keith Allen & Tom Stoneham, eds., Causation and Modern Philosophy. Routledge 2011, 188-200.

"Consciousness as Spontaneous Knowledge." In: Petr Glombicek & James Hill, eds., Essays on the Concept of Mind in Early-Modern Philosophy. Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2010, 7-27.

"What is Formal Ontology?" and "Occurrents." In: Katherine Munn & Barry Smith, eds., Applied Ontology: An Introduction. Ontos Verlag 2008, 39-56 and 255-284.

"Zeitliche Entitäten: Geschehnisse." In: Ludger Jansen, ed., Biomedizinische Ontologie. Zürich: VDF Hochschulverlag 2008, 127-154.

"Ghazali on Immaterial Substances." In: Christian Kanzian & Muhammad Legenhausen, eds., Substance and Attribute in Islamic Philosophy. Western and Islamic Tradition in Dialogue. Heusenstamm: Ontos Verlag 2007, 55-66.

"Social Facts Explained and Presupposed." In: Nikos Psarros & Katinka Schulte-Ostermann, eds., Facets of Sociality. Heusenstamm: Ontos Verlag 2006, 243-263.

"Holistic Arguments for Individualism." In: Georg Meggle, ed., Social Facts & Collective Intentionality. Frankfurt: Hänsel Hohenhausen 2002, 103-123.

"Luhmann und die Formale Mathematik." In: P.-U. Merz Benz, G. Wagner, eds., Die Logik der Systeme. Konstanz: Universitätsverlag 2000, 157-198.


Frank Lewis, How Aristotle Gets By in Metaphysics Zeta. Philosophical Quarterly, 2016.

Stephen Mumford and Rani Lil Anjum, Getting Causes from Powers. Philosophical Quarterly, 2015.

Jonathan Beere, Doing and Being. Philosophical Quarterly, 2015.

Stephan Schmid, Finalursachen in der frühen Neuzeit. HOPOS 3(1), 2013, p. 179-182.

Johannes Haag, Erfahrung und Gegenstand. Philosophischer Literaturanzeiger, Heft 3, 2007, p. 209-14.

Claudia Pawlenka, Sportethik. Leipziger Sportwissenschaftliche Beiträge 45, 2004, p. 152-157.

Dictionary entries

"Disposition." Hans Jörg Sandkühler et al., ed., Enzyklopädie Philosophie, Hamburg: Meiner Verlag 2010.




Boris Hennig, The Four Causes Four Causes
Aristotle's distinction of four causes can be derived by combining the distinction between natural things and processes with the distinction between that out of which something comes to be and what it comes to be. It follows that the matter of a thing is something that potentially is this thing and the formal cause of this thing is what it potentially is. Likewise, the efficient cause of a process may be taken to be something that potentially is this process, and the final cause may be taken to be the typical course of the process it comes to be.
Revised manuscript 2016 (349 pp., pdf).

Boris Hennig, Conscientia bei Descartes  Conscientia bei Descartes
Descartes used "conscientia", which is commonly translated as "consciousness," according to the traditional meaning of the Latin term that we also find in the writings of St. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and later scholastics. Thus for Descartes, conscientia is not a kind of speculative self-knowledge, inner observation or reflective awareness. Rather, it is a kind of practical knowledge. Extract from the PhD thesis and abstract available online. The book is published by Alber Verlag, May 2006.

Boris Hennig, Cartesische Psychologie  Gibt es eine Rehabilitation der Cartesischen Psychologie?
According to Descartes, substances are correlates of distinct ideas, that is, of ideas that may be defined without reference to other ideas. The key concepts of psychology cannot be distinct and therefore cannot correspond to substances. Therefore, psychology cannot be an independent discipline. Master thesis, Leipzig 2000.

Papers and Abstracts


The Man Without Properties (abstract, pdf)

Aristotle's essences are not properties, and certain passages in Aristotle make sense only if we do not take accidents to be properties either.

Instance is the Converse of Aspect (abstract, pdf)

According to Donald Baxter's Aspect Theory of Instantiation, a particular instantiates a universal when an aspect of the particular is also an aspect of the universal. According to an improved version of this account, this happens when the universal itself is an aspect of the particular.

Two Epistemic Directions of Fit (short version, pdf)

I use Austin's distinction of two directions of fit in order to explain how a priori knowledge is possible.

Four Causes (349 pp., pdf)

On Aristotle's four causes: matter, form and essence, classification, causation, teleology and teleological / practical reasoning.

The Four Causes (paper abstract, pdf)

The Aristotelian doctrine of four causes naturally arises from the combination of the two distinctions (a) between things and changes, and (b) between that which potentially is a certain thing or change and what it potentially is.

 Eine Verteidigung des typologischen Artbegriffs (pdf)

The biological species concept rests on the notion of reproduction, which we can only apply if we know what counts as a result of successful reproduction. Therefore, it presupposes the typological species concept and cannot, as Ernst Mayr thinks, replace it.

 Der Fortbestand von Lebewesen (abstract, pdf)

For something to be a living being is to engage in activities whose success is determined by criteria that emerge exclusively from a proper account of the nature of the living being in question.

 Naturteleologie, reduktiv (pdf)

Life is not a describable property of things. In order to understand what life is, we must start with our conception of the life that we know, human life, and reduce the notion of this life to a notion of mere life.

Plato's Ingredient Principle (abstract, pdf)

We can accept Plato's "ingredient principle" when we replace the distinction between things and properties with a slightly different one.

Matter in Z3 (pdf)

In Metaphysics Z3, Aristotle suggests that matter may be that about a composite substance or "this such" to which a bare "this" would refer in isolation. However, since a bare "this" would refer to nothing, Aristotle rejects this conception of matter.

Action Theory and Ethics

 Aristoteles' Beschreibung der ethischen Tugenden (abstract, pdf)

On the linguistic form of Aristotle's account of the virtues (generic singular, future tense, modal qualifiers).

On What a Virtue Is (pdf)

Virtues are not character traits of individual agents, but generic ways of acting; this is why Anscombe found them important, and this is how Aristotle talks about them.

 Anscombe über Flächenbombardement und Abtreibung

Outline for a teaching sample.

Intention and Virtue (pdf)

This is not a translation of "Tugenden und Absichten," but a presentation with similar content. Among other things, I argue that intentions are terms in which intentional actions are properly classified and described; and virtues are for generic actions what intentions are particular actions.

 Tugenden und Absichten (pdf)

Intentions are not events that cause an action, but that in terms of which we describe and action when we describe it as intentionally. Likewise, virtues are not character traits that reliably cause certain behaviour, but that in terms of which we describe certain generic behaviour.

 Schuld und Gewissen bei Abelard (pdf)

Moral conscience in early medieval ethics.

 Sportethik? (pdf)

Review of Pawlenka, ed., Sportethik.

Social Philosophy

Social Facts Explained and Presupposed (pdf)

Inpidualistic theories of Social Facts are not altogether circular, but they still start on the wrong foot.

Holistic arguments for Individualism (pdf)

Holism, in one of its varieties, is not the opposite of individualism. Rather, individualism is its consequence.


 Was in uns geschieht, insofern es uns bewusst ist (pdf)

According to Descartes, a thought is what happens in us if and insofar as we are conscious of it. This means that what happens in us is a thought only in a certain respect. It is something other than a thought, namely consciousness of a thought, in another respect.

Substance, Reality, and Distinctness (abstract, pdf; link to article)

Descartes claims that God is a substance and that mind and body are two different and separable substances. This paper provides some background that renders these claims intelligible.

The Inner Man as Substantal Form (pdf)

When Descartes calls the soul of a human being an immaterial substance, he does not contradict the Aristotelian doctrine according to which the soul of a person is the substantial form of her body.

 Korrigierbarkeit als Merkmal des Mentalen (pdf)

Descartes defines the mind as something whose activities are subject to an evaluation according to which they are, in principle, corrigible.

Cartesian Conscientia (pdf)

Descartes uses 'conscientia' in the traditional sense, roughly meaning 'moral conscience'.


Über die "Ursachen" von Texten ( abstract, pdf)

On applying Aristotle's four causes in hermeneutics. I ask why Aristotle's causes are four and what they are meant to apply to. Then I discuss Walter of Bruge's treatise on the Four Causes of Theology.

Documents (draft; HTML / pdf)

Something is a document insofar as its official function is to compensate for the impossibility of immediately acquiring information that has a function (= plays a role in a practice).

Al-Ghazali on the Incoherence of "Substance" (pdf)

Forms and potentials inhere in a receptacle that exemplifies them, whereas universals and possibilities may inhere in a substratum that does not exemplify them, such as the intellect.

 Luhmann und die Formale Mathematik (pdf)

The use of George Spencer Brown's Logic of Distinctions by the Sociologist Niklas Luhmann.

 Erst Denken, dann Heiraten (pdf)

An essay on getting married.

Generic Ways of Functioning (pdf)

A close paraphrase of Heidegger's Being and Time §18 on how we make sense of items in the world in terms of their generic ways of functioning.


Areas of Interest
Action Theory / Ethics
Master thesis
PhD thesis