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Heineccius, Johann Gottlieb (* 1681.09.11 † 1741.08.31)
Heineccius, Johann Gottlieb (* 1681.09.11 † 1741.08.31)

Heineccius, Johann Gottlieb (* 1681.09.11 † 1741.08.31)

Basic Overview Data

1681.09.11, Eisenberg
1741.08.31, Halle
Protestant, Lutheran
Institutional Affiliation
University of Halle,
University of Franeker,
University of Frankfurt (Oder)
Keyword Filters
Protestant, Lutheran, outstanding teacher, widespread textbooks
Important Family Relations:
Mother, Dorothea née Pruferus (Prüfer) (1642 - 1717), Girls’ school mistress, widow
Brother, Johann Michael Heineccius (1674 - 1722), pastor, scholar
Canonical URL:


Heineccius was born in Eisenberg, the son of Johann Michael Heinecke, a teacher at the town’s school; his father died when he was eleven years old. After attending Lyceum in Eisenberg he went to Goslar in 1698 as a private tutor, lodging with his older brother Johann Michael, a pastor there.

Heineccius originally studied theology in Leipzig from 1700 to 1703, where he had gone as a private tutor and Hofmeister to his wealthy student from Goslar. They lived in the house of the theology professor Adam Rechenberg who became a formative figure, apparently inclining Heineccius towards history, including church history, through his lectures. To which Heineccius added religious philology. After the magister’s degree, he returned to Goslar, practiced as a preacher, deputised in his brother’s parish office, but otherwise unemployed. A "great disgust" with pastoral tasks, especially visiting the sick and dying, quickly led him to give up practical theology.

Instead Heineccius went to Halle as a private tutor for a young law student, apparently around 1704 but with official enrolment as a theology student in May 1707. Heineccius eventually switched to philosophy and jurisprudence, the latter supposedly under the influence of Samuel Stryck. Heineccius became one of Stryck’s preferred students, as is evident in the memorial speech on the occasion of his teacher’s death in 1710. Staying with his brother who had now become a pastor in Halle, Heineccius continued to earn his living as a private tutor; Stryck and Christian Thomasius helped him to gain profitable employments, e. g., with Russian students of the nobility. In addition to Stryck and Thomasius, who were particularly influential, Heineccius learned law from Nicolaus Hieronymus Gundling and Justus Henning Böhmer and philosophy from Johann Franz Budde. Soon Heineccius offered private courses supplementing lectures by Samuel Stryck and perhaps others.

The career in jurisprudence went through the faculty of philosophy, where Heineccius initially failed to succeed Christoph Cellarius in the professorship of rhetoric and history, which went to his new rival Gundling in 1707. Apparently through the patronage of the Calvinist Brandenburgian court preacher and bishop Benjamin Ursinus von Bähr, Heineccius became an adjunct in the faculty in 1708. In 1713 he was appointed ordinary professor of philosophy in spite of protests by Pietist theologians in Halle and thanks to the influence of patrons – presumably Ursinus von Bähr again. With a doctorate in law in 1716, Heineccius received an extraordinary professorship at the faculty of law in 1718 and was appointed assessor, this time thanks to the support of Marquard Ludewig von Prinzen (1675–1725), curator of all Prussian universities and head curator of the University of Halle. In 1721, Heineccius became ordinary professor of jurisprudence, but – because of protests by colleagues against an additional chair – without salary. He was also appointed Königlicher Hofrat (Royal court councillor).

As professor of philosophy in Halle Heineccius offered a wide range of subjects: history of philosophy, logic, ethics, politics, moral philosophy, hermeneutics, methodology and ontology, theoretical philosophy (including „physica“) and metaphysics. In addition, literary history, stylistics, Latin speech and also natural law. In philosophy he followed Budde, in natural law much more Samuel Pufendorf’s De officio hominis et civis. As professor of law (1718-1721), the main foci of his teaching were criminal law, Roman law (Institutions and Pandects) and natural law. Heineccius taught natural law at both the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Philosophy.

In 1723 Heineccius accepted a professorship exclusively of law at Franeker in the Netherlands, delivering his inaugural lecture in March 1724. His outstanding pedagogical and methodical skills made him highly popular. In addition to Roman law (esp. the Institutions), he continued intensive teaching of Pufendorf’s De officio hominis et civis. Heineccius new focus was Hugo Grotius’ De iure belli ac pacis, which in Franeker was the subject of a separate course.

At the end of 1727 Heineccius moved to the University of Frankfurt (Oder) at his own request and, as before in Halle, he held two professorships. While natural law was an integral and intensive part of Heineccius’s teaching in Halle and Franeker, there is no evidence that he ever taught natural law during his six years in Frankfurt. This is probably due to the fact that in Frankfurt the profile of the chairs was clearly defined (in contrast to Halle). Heineccius held the professorship of Pandects in the Faculty of Law and the professorship of Philosophia rationalis ac moralis at the Faculty of Philosophy.

In the spring of 1733 Heineccius was reappointed to the University of Halle – against his express will. The reason was the university politics of the Prussian King, who wanted to strengthen the attractiveness of Halle by the now famous Heineccius. Again he received two parallel professorships. In law his focus was on Roman law (Institutions and Pandects), in philosophy, however, natural law was the dominant topic, quantitatively eclipsing all others. Heineccius initially used Pufendorf’s De officio before using his own textbook, published in the winter semester of 1737/38. During his whole academic career Heineccius taught natural law in an interdisciplinary way at both faculties.

Comment on main natural law works:

All major works by Heineccius are conceived and written as textbooks, they are "elementa in usum auditorii“. Also the three major works on natural law are direct products of his practical lecture activities or have a didactic focus.

1. Praelectiones academicae in Sam. Pufendorfii De officio hominis et civis libros II (Berlin 1746): Published posthumously by his student Johann Ludwig Uhl (1714–1790), this work dates from Heineccius’s time in Franeker between 1724 and 1727. Since Heineccius had taught natural law intensively according to Pufendorf in Halle in the years before, the work is presumably based essentially on the Halle lectures. The lecture is formally a commentary, so the discussion follows strictly chapter by chapter the structure of Pufendorf’s book. Heineccius’s Praelectiones – like his Roman law writings – were very successful throughout Europe.

2. Praelectiones academicae in Hugonis Grotii De iure belli et pacis libros III (Berlin 1744): Like his lectures on Pufendorf, those on Grotius appeared only posthumously, edited by Uhl. Dating from his time in Franeker, the considerable size of the work (some 900 pages) is evidence of a very intensive discussion of Grotius in his teaching there. However, it was only in Franeker that Heineccius taught Grotius, never so in Halle or Frankfurt. In addition to theoretical differences, the reason for this could be that Grotius did not correspond at all to his didactic-methodological rigor, and maybe the Grotius course had been a requirement of the Franeker University.

The question remains open, for what reasons Heineccius himself did not publish editions of these two lecture courses in his life time. Perhaps he had been planning to present his own natural law doctrine long before 1737.

3. Elementa iuris naturae et gentium commoda auditoribus methodo adornata (Halle 1738): Heineccius’s first and only independently designed textbook on natural law is a very late product of his career; only from the winter semester of 1737 did he base his lectures on natural law in Halle on it. The short overview on Heineccius’s natural law conception in the following refers to this work.

Comment on profile’s conception of natural law:

At least three fundamental points are noteworthy in Heineccius’s conception of natural law:

1. Systematics: Most striking in comparison to Grotius and Pufendorf is Heineccius’s new systematic distinction between natural law and law of nations. It is accompanied by a redefinition of the terms: The ius naturae refers to the actions of the individual in relation to a divine order of living. The ius gentium, on the other hand, refers to the status of the individual within societies (of all kinds) and the norms relating to this status. It is therefore neither a common law that applies to all nations (as with Grotius) nor merely law between nations (or between nations and people outside of civil societies). Law of nations means only the natural law applied to all societies, the difference between natural law and law of nations is therefore not theoretical, but concerns only the subject matter. Following Pufendorf, Heineccius adheres to the well-known threefold division of duties towards God, to oneself and towards others, and for him moral and theological elements remain integral components of natural law.

2. The principle of natural law: Heineccius cites as a decisive motive for writing his own natural law textbook that all previous natural law principles (such as ‘socialitas’ or ‘imbecillitas’) were either not certain or only doubtful. As a guiding principle, from which all norms of natural law are consistently derived, Heineccius sets the divine love for human beings, which manifests itself in God’s will that man should be happy. Therefore, natural law is founded not anthropologically, but theologically.

God remains at the same time the necessary ground of validity of the natural law, because each right presupposes a legislator, who gives the criteria for fair and just behaviour. Heineccius derives all social norms from the happiness of mankind desired by God. Accordingly the Christian love of neighbour is transformed into the natural law imperatives of justice. A natural law that would also be conceivable without God (as in Grotius) is thus definitely out of the question for Heineccius. Because natural law exists before any sociality, it therefore applies to every single human being, even if he were alone, and thus already in the status naturalis. Consequently, natural law contains not only general (civil) legal norms, but also the general elements of ethics, viz. morality and decency.

3. Re-theologization: In general, Heineccius’s natural law is neither secular nor profane, but substantially theological. Although he clearly separates the epistemic principles, reason and revelation, Heineccius presupposes that the existence of God is beyond doubt among all peoples and cultures. For this reason, Heineccius’s natural law became acceptable in Catholic territories (Italy, the Hispanic world), and the theological anchoring was part of its wider success. On the other hand, as natural law per se it could be seen as a failure because it can no longer claim any obligation for non-believers or atheists. In comparison with Thomasius’s anthropologically founded and nearly secular natural law Heineccius’s natural law appears even as a radical re-theologization of this discipline.

Academic Data


- ../1698, Lyceum (Gymnasium) Eisenberg[Adam Gschwend]
1700 - 1703, Theology, University of Leipzig[Adam Rechenberg, Thomas Ittig]
1704\.. - 1707, Jurisprudence and Philosophy, University of Halle[Jurisprudence: Samuel Stryck, Christian Thomasius, Nikolaus Hieronymus Gundling, Justus Henning Böhmer. Philosophy: Johann Franz Budde]


1703.02.08, Magister philosophiae, University of Leipzig
1716.01.xx, Doctor of law, University of Halle


1713 - 1723: History of philosophy, logic, ethics, natural law (Pufendorf), politics, moral philosophy, hermeneutics, methodology, ontology, theoretical philosophy (incl. physics), metaphysics, literary history, and rhetoric/stylistics/Latin speech, University of Halle, Faculty of Philosophy (In this chair, Heineccius even also taught Roman antiquities, Roman law (Institutions, Pandects), criminal law, and history of law)
1718 - 1723: Roman law (Pandects, Institutions), Roman law history, criminal law, and natural law, University of Halle, Faculty of Law
1724 - 1727: Roman law (Institutions, Pandects), civil law, and natural law (Pufendorf, Grotius), University of Franeker, Faculty of Law
1727 - 1733: Roman law (Pandects), University of Frankfurt (Oder), Faculty of Law
1727 - 1733: Rational philosophy/logic, moral philosophy, and history of philosophy, University of Frankfurt (Oder), Faculty of Philosophy
1733 - 1741: Roman law (Institutions, Pandects), history of law and civil law, rhetoric, criminal law, feudal law, and history of German law, University of Halle, Faculty of Law
1733 - 1741: Natural law, moral philosophy, logic, history of philosophy, and politics, University of Halle, Faculty of Philosophy

Professional Data


1698 - 1700, Hofmeister (private teacher) in Goslar
1700 - 1703, Hofmeister (private teacher) in Leipzig (at the same time studying)
1703 - ../1704, Preacher (assistant pastor) in Goslar
1708 - ../1713, Adjunctus, University of Halle, Faculty of Philosophy
1713.09.13 - 1723, Ordinary professor of philosophy, University of Halle, Faculty of Philosophy
1718.04.18 - 1721, Extraordinary professor of law, University of Halle, Faculty of Law
1721 - 1723, Ordinary professor of law, University of Halle, Faculty of Law
1721 - 1723, Assessor, University of Halle, Faculty of Law
1721 - 1723, Director, St. Mary’s Library (Marienbibliothek, a church library, which was used as the first public university library in Halle)
1724.03.04 - 1727.07.22, Ordinary professor of law, University of Franeker, Faculty of Law (appointment 1723.09.10)
1727 - 1733, Ordinary professor of law (Pandects), University of Frankfurt (Oder), Faculty of Law (appointment to the faculty of law and faculty of philosophy (see below) in summer and fall 1726; enrollment 1727.10.29; inaugural lecture 1727.11.04)
1727 - 1733, Ordinary professor of logic and moral philosophy, University of Frankfurt (Oder), Faculty of Philosophy
1733 - 1741.08.31, Ordinary professor of law, University of Halle, Faculty of Law
1733 - 1741.08.31, Ordinary professor of philosophy, University of Halle, Faculty of Law

Titles, Memberships and Other Relevant Roles

?, Member, Societas Latina Jenensis, Jena
1721, Königlicher Hofrat (Royal Court Councillor), Prussian Court
1731, Geheimrat (Privy Councillor), Prussian Court
1731 - 1732, Rector, University of Frankfurt (Oder), Frankfurt
1734 - 1735, Prorector, University of Halle, Halle

Printed Sources


Elementa iuris civilis secundum (Amsterdam: 1726).
    - Edition 1727 (Marburg: Krieger): Digital version
    - Edition 1728 (Amsterdam: Ianssonius-Waesbergii)
    - Edition 1730 (Giessen: Kriegerus): Digital version
    - Edition 1731 (Amsterdam: Ianssonius-Waesbergii)
    - Edition 1732 (Argentorati: Stein)
    - Edition 1733 (Amsterdam: Ianssonius-Waesbergii)
    - Edition 1737 (Venice: Typographia Balleoniana)
    - Edition 1738 (Amsterdam: Ianssonius-Waesbergii)
    - Edition 1740 (Leipzig: Fritsch)
    - Edition 1740 (Amsterdam: Ianssonius-Waesbergii):
    - Edition 1744 (Berlin: Rudiger)
    - Edition 1747 (Geneva: Cramer & Philibert)
    - Edition 1747 (Frankfurt am Main: Varrentrapp)
    - Edition 1748 (Frankfurt; Leipzig: Spring & Garbe): Digital version
    - Edition 1749 (Gottingae: J. Gu. Schmidt)
    - Edition 1757 (Frankfurt am Main: Varrentrapp): Digital version
    - Edition 1758 (Leipzig: Fritsch)
    - Edition 1763 (Vienna: Trattner): Digital version
    - Edition 1764 (Magdeburg: Hechtel)
    - Edition 1765 (Berlin)
    - Edition 1765 (Wrocław: Gampert)
    - Edition 1766 (Leipzig: Fritsch): Digital version
    - Edition 1766 (Frankfurt am Main: Garbe)
    - Edition 1767 (Leipzig: Metternich)
    - Edition 1771 (Giessen: Krieger)
    - Edition 1778 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek)
    - Edition 1780 (Edinburgh: Venales prostant apud Gordon et Murray)
    - Edition 1782 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek)
    - Edition 1787 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek): Digital version
    - Edition 1789 (Leipzig: Beer)
    - Edition 1789 (Wrocław: Korn)
    - Edition 1796 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek et Ruprecht): Digital version
    - Edition 1803 (Venice: Rossi)
    - Edition 1806 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek)
    - Edition 1810 (Paris: Warée)
    - Edition 1826 (Venice: Gnoato)
    - Edition 1835 (Bassani: Remondini)

Elementa philosophiae rationalis et moralis ex principiis admodum evidentibus iusto ordine adornata accessere historia philosophica (Frankfurt/O.: Conrad, 1728).
    - Edition 1730 (2nd ed., Amsterdam: Waesberg)
    - Edition 1744 (5th ed., Geneva: Cramer et Philibert)

Elementa iuris naturae et gentium (Halle: Orphanotropheum, 1738).
    - Edition 1742 (Halle: Orphanotropheum)
    - Edition 1744 (Geneva: Cramer & Philibert)
    - Edition 1749 (Halle: Orphanotropheum): Digital version
    - Edition 1758 (Halle: Orphanotropheum)
    - Edition 1768 (Halle: Orphanotropheum)
    - Edition 1791 (Venice: Balleo)
    - [English translation] A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, The Laws of Nature and Nations, with Supplements and a Discourse by George Turnbull. Translated from the Latin by George Turnbull. Edited and with an Introduction by Thomas Ahnert and Peter Schröder (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008)

Opera, 8 vols (Geneva: Cramer et Philibert, 1744 seq.).
    - Edition 1766 seq. (Geneva: Tournes)

Praelectiones academicae in Hugonis Grotii De Iure Belli et Pacis libros III (Berlin: Rüdiger, 1744).
    - Edition 1746  (Rovereto: Balleonian)
    - Edition 1749 (Geneva: Cramer et Philibert, in Opera, vol. VIII)
    - Edition 1771 (Geneva: Tournes, in Opera, vol. IX)

Praelectiones academicae in Sam. Pufendorfii De Officio Hominis et Civis libros II (Berlin: Rüdiger, 1746).
     - Edition 1746 (Rovereto: Balleonian)
     - Edition 1757 (Wien: Trattner, 1757)
     - Edition 1766 (Neapel: Pasquale)
     - Edition 1749 (Geneva: Cramer et Philibert, in: Opera, vol. VIII)
     - Edition 1771 (Geneva: Tournes, in: Opera, vol. IX)

Academische Reden über desselben elementa iuris civilis secundum ordinem institutionum (Frankfurt, Leipzig: Spring & Garbe, 1748).
    - Edition 1758 (Frankfurt, Leipzig: Spring & Garbe)
    - Edition 1766 (Frankfurt, Leipzig: Spring & Garbe)
    - Edition 1774 (Frankfurt, Leipzig: Spring & Garbe)
    - Edition 1781 (Frankfurt, Leipzig: Spring & Garbe): Digital version

Manuscript Sources



Direct Personal Connections:

1704, Christian Thomasius, Halle [Attended lectures by Thomasius, later faculty colleague]
1704, Johann Franz Budde, Halle [Attended lectures by Budde, followed him in philosophy]
1704, Samuel Stryck, Halle [Attended lectures by Stryck, later faculty colleague]
Mikkel Munthe Jensen, Last Update:  21.07.2022