König, Ernst (* 1635.04.28 † 1698.10.01)
Basic Overview Data
Biographical and Intellectual Profile
The son of a Lutheran pastor and great-grandson of the Swiss theologian Urban Regius, Ernst König was born in the village of Uchtenhagen (now Krzywnica, near the town Stargard Pomorski) in Swedish-occupied Pomeranian in 1635. He studied at the University of Leipzig with Jacob Thomasius, finishing his studies in 1660. Thereafter König returned to Pomerania where he was a vice-rector at the Pädagogium in Stettin (Szczecin) until its closure by the Swedish administration in 1667. In the same year he moved to Thorn (Toruń) where he was director of the academic gymnasium until 1681.
König left Thorn over conflicts with his institution and the municipal magistrate in May 1681. His pamphlet Ad bonarum artium patronos virosque doctos Provocatio a decreto abdicationis Thorunensi (1683) testifies to his difficulties. Here he presented his standpoint on the natural rights of individuals as well as peoples, including the natural right of self-defence, frequently quoting Pufendorf and Grotius. Between 1683 and 1688 he lived on the estate of a relative near Thorn. From 1688 till 1698 he was rector at the academic gymnasium in Elbing (Elbląg).
The three academic gymnasia in Royal Prussia, Danzig, Thorn and Elbing, deserve a prominent place among the institutions that informed the intellect of many of the urban and noble elites of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Ernst König played a paramount role in the consolidation of these institutions during the relatively stable period after the Swedish wars, and thanks to the rector’s organisational and administrative achievement, the gymnasia could regain some of their former educational standard. In these efforts König had changing didactic objectives in which Samuel Pufendorf’s works played varying functions. But despite König’s administrative efforts, he had to adapt his goals to the general decline of teaching, especially in Elbing. His pupils were able to meet less and less challenging tasks and needed an easily understandable exposition of politics – a simplified and eclectic version of Pufendorf and one that was easier than that based on the Aristotelian curriculum.
Comment on main natural law works:
König’s texts in all genres (treatises, compendia, editions, and disputations, either defended under his presidency or – mostly – written by him) are his successive answers to shifting pedagogical challenges that are reflected in the chronological list of his publications. Preferring Pufendorf to Aristotle, he chose a more reader-friendly textbook and material for disputations.
König’s Summarium doctrinae ethicae from 1671 is a re-make of the schemes and tables of ethics in Jakob Thomasius’s Philosophia practica (1661) in grammatically complete sentences that left the original order of the chapters untouched. König completed a similar adaptation of the political part of Thomasius’s Philosophia practica, which seems not to have survived. As the Summarium served the purpose of disputations, it presented the material to the students in half-sheet (8-page) units.
Between 1672 and 1675, an encounter with Pufendorf’s Jus naturae et gentium changed König’s professional habitus. His 1679 edition of Pufendorf’s De officio hominis et civis is the most spectacular and, due to its re-edition in 1682, the most widely known testimony of König’s reception of Pufendorf’s natural law. This edition was the third after the editio princeps in Lund and the second in Erfurt in 1678. From then on, De Officio was at the centre of his work as a teacher and as scholar.
The years between 1677 and 1680 saw König’s most important engagement with Pufendorf and his new political science. Eight disputations, built on a more or less coherent basis of sources, reflect the growing knowledge that König accumulated during his intense study of political science. In these disputations, König drew upon Grotius’s De jure belli ac pacis, Pufendorf’s Elementa jurisprudentiae universalis, De Jure Naturae et Gentium, and De officio hominis et civis, as well as on Hobbes’s De Cive. In the commentary literature, he made use of the standard works of the orthodox Lutheran interpretation of natural law.
After his dismissal from Thorn, König summarized his teaching activity in two works. One was the new edition of Pufendorf’s De officio, with a new, jurisprudence-based, pedagogical conception in its preface. The other was the Fasciculus exercitationum ethicarum et politicarum (1682) that published the eight disputations in ethics and politics as a complete volume. In his last work, Disquisitio ethica super justitia partiulari (1698), König interpreted Pufendorf’s De officio with strong Aristotelian overtones.
Comment on profile’s conception of natural law:
König’s principal objective was to transform the teaching methodology of political science with the help of Pufendorf’s works, not to introduce modern science and philosophy into the curricula of the German-speaking gymnasia in Royal Prussia. Similar to the practice of universities in the Protestant states of the Holy Roman Empire, it was political philosophy, not Descartes’s and Galileo’s new tenets, that undermined scholastic traditions in the gymnasia of Royal Prussia. As in Christian Thomasius’s thought, so in Ernst König’s, Aristotelian elements survived due to the influence of Jakob Thomasius, and both the son and the pupil tried to find the right balance between ancient and modern political science in teaching practice.
The pedagogical difficulties of the Thorn years had taught König the necessity of making political theory more practical. Subsequently in Elbing, Pufendorf’s De officio was adapted to a lower standard of teaching by even simpler, accompanying texts. König’s Introductio ad Libros duos V. Cl. Samuelis Pufendorfii, De Officio Hominis & Civis, in Usum Gymnasii Elbingensis provided a transition to Pufendorf from Aristotelian ethics rather than an introduction to Pufendorf in the proper sense of the term, conceiving philosophy as the science of divine and human things, divided accordingly into theoretical and practical philosophy: the goal of practical philosophy should be happiness, while the vehicle of pursuing happiness should be the state. In the transitory passages to Pufendorf’s views, König’s principal references were Paulus Slevogtius, Thomas Hobbes, Samuel Rachel, Jakob Thomasius, and David Mevius. Knowingly (consultò), as he wrote, he omitted the first three chapters of De Officio and excerpted it only from the fourth chapter (“Duties towards God”) onwards. The omission of the first three chapters, giving a detailed account on corrupted and fallible human nature, may have had good pedagogical reasons. More importantly, König deleted the whole Pufendorfian concept of natural law as precept of human co-existence, inconsistent with Justinian’s definition of ius naturae et gentium. The concepts of sociality (socialitas) and weakness (imbecillitas) do not play any role in König’s interpretation of Pufendorf, here or elsewhere.
Idea praeceptorum logices, ad placita Praestantissimorum Logicorum expressa, & pro Lectione Publicâ, in Paedagogio Stetinensi, extrnordinariâ [!] edita, (Stettin: Michael Höpfner, 1664).
[Editor] Summarium Doctrinae Ethicae, à V. CL. M. Jacobo Thomasio Lips. Acad. Prof. P. Continuis Tabellis adornatum. In Gymnasio Thorunensi, Publicè praelegit & disputavit M. Ernestus König / G. R., (Thorn: Joh. Cöpselius, 1671): Digital Version.
[Editor] D. Samuelis Pufendorfii Liber de Officio Hominis, Noscendis Ethicae Principiis genuinis ac solidis, in Gymnasio Thorun[iensi]. Per semestre aestivum M. DC. LXXIX. publicè praelectus, atque ad disputandum propositus à M. Ernesto König / Rectore, (Thorn: Coepselius, 1679): Digital Version.
[Editor] V. Cl. Samuelis Pufendorfii, De officio hominis et civis Libri duo. Commodo juventutis studiosae In Gymnasio Thorunensi, recudendos curavit, Ordinariis Lectionibus proposuit, itemque Solemni Studiosorum ac Eruditorum Virorum examini subjecit M. Ernestus König, Gymn. Rect., (Danzig: Typis Rhetianis, 1682).
Fasciculus Exercitationum ethicarum et politicarum, Quas sub ejusdem praesidio, Solemni ventilationi subjecerunt Studiosi quidam Juvenes. Accesserunt nonnulla alia, (Danzig: Typis Rhetianis, 1682).
Ad bonarum artium patronos virosque doctos Provocatio a decreto abdicationis Thorunensi (1683): Digital Version.
[Greetings after arriving in Elbing], Incipit: "Bene volis lectoribus, Cum debiti Cultûs & honoris praefatione”, (Elbing: Typis Achatij Corellij Nobil. Senat. Typographi, 1688).
De conjungendis cum Libertate artium Liberalium studiis, oratio in Gymnasio Elbingensi, V Id. Decembr. M DC LXXXVIII Dicta à M. Ernesto König..., (Elbing: Achatius Corelius, 1688).
Introductio ad Libros duos V. Cl. Samuelis Pufendorfii, De Officio Hominis & Civis, in Usum Gymnasii Elbingensis, exhibita à M. Ernesto König / Gymnasii Rectore, (Thorn: Christianus Bekk, s.d.): Digital Version.
Disquisitio ethica, super Justitia particulari, viri perillustris, Samuelis L. B. de Pufendorf, libris duobus, De Off. Hominis et Civis, dilucidandis tributa à M. Ernesto König / Gymn. Elbing. Rect., (Elbing: Samuel Preus, 1698): Digital Version.
Diatribe Politica de Majestate quam suprema majestate favente, (Thorn: Coepselius, 1671), [Praeses: Ernesto König, Autor et Respondens: Henricus Fibing].
Dissertatio Politica de Legibus Civitatis in genere, (Thorn: Coepselius, 1675), [Praeses: Ernestus König, Autor et Respondens: Gabriel Nakielski].
De Principiis Jurisprudentiae ethicis, Exercitatio Philosophica, (Thorn: Coepselius, 1677), [Praeses: Ernestus König, Respondens: Jacobus Merschier].
De Natura & Constitutione Philosophiae Practicae, (Thorn, 1678), [Praeses: Ernestus König, Respondens: Simon Antonii].
Exercitatio ethica, de bono hominis supremo, ejusque instrumentis, (Thorn: Coepselius, 1678) [Praeses: Ernestus König, Respondens: Michael Agnethler].
Exercitatio Ethica, De Eo, Qvod Justum Est, (Thorn, 1678) [Praeses: Ernestus König, Respondens: Johannes Gebhardus].
Exercitatio Politica de Origine Civitatis, ac Rebus huic necessariis nominatim, territorio et publicis reditibus, (Thorn: Coepseius, 1679) [Praeses: Ernestus König, Respondens: Boguslaus ab Unruh].
Exercitatio Politica, De Summis In Civitate Potestatibus, Harumq[ue] Praecipuis Administris, (Thorn: In Typ. Gymnasii, 1680), [Praeses: Ernestus König, Respondens: Petrus Genschius].
Exercitatio politica, De cive, et diversis hominum in civitate ordinibus (Thorn: In Typ. Gymnasii, 1680), [Praeses: Ernestus Koenig, Respondens: Christianus Wernigke].
De Collegiis & Urbibus. Ob defectum Respondentis non fuit ventilata. (= Fasciculus, no. VIII).
Diatribe synoptica de eumathia (Thorn) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 1-39].
Praecognita philosophiae (Thorn, 03.1678) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 40-55].
Ad Salutem Sacrae Coenae Dominicae Usum paradéneué Catechetica paucis thesibus delineata (Thorn) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 56-62].
Commentatio rhetorica de Stylo exhibita Ab Excellentissimo et Dno M. E. König. Gymnasii Thorunensis Rectore (Thorn, 1676) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 63-84].
Synopsis Noologiae (Thorn) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 85-86].
Gnostologiae synopsis methodica (Thorn, 1676) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 87-102].
Lectiones Sacrae horis publicis habitae a Cl. Dno M. Ernesto König. G. R. (Thorn, 04.1677) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 103-110].
Theses De Coena Dominica (Thorn, 04.1677) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 111-118].
Praelectiones logicae (Thorn, 1678) [Książnica miejska im. Kopernika in Toruń Bibl. gimn.: R 4o 16, Fol. 119-150].
Institutiones oratoriae methodicae (Thorn) [Unknown].