Nicolai Hartmann (nē´kōlī), 1882–1950, German philosopher, b. Latvia. He taught at Marburg (1922–25), Cologne (1925–31), Berlin (1931–45), and Göttingen (1945–50). Abandoning his early adherence to idealism, he propounded instead a philosophical realism based on the intelligibility of being. For Hartmann, ontology was the source of philosophy. He saw philosophy's mission as the statement of the problems of being and the unraveling of the irrational and the puzzling. Although a nontheistic humanist, he posited three levels of the spirit, which he considered to be a process rather than a substance. He held the world to be a unity, but said that one would not be justified in calling that unity God. In his Ethik (1926, tr., 3 vol., 1932), he sought to develop a system of values from the ethics of Max Scheler; Hartmann's ethics, like Scheler's, are distinctive in their treatment of the freedom of the will. Hartmann argued that there exist objective values that we can intuit and use as guides for action. Among his other works are Gründzuge einer Metaphysik der Erkenntnis (1921); Das Problem des geistigen Seins (1933); Möglichkeit und Wirklichkeit (1938); Der Aufbau der realen Welt (1940); Neue Wege der Ontologie (1949, tr. New Ways of Ontology, 1952); and Ästhetik (1953).
See W. H. Werkmeister, Nicolai Hartmann's New Ontology (1990).