Jan Amos KOMENSKÝ - life, work, legacy

Prima philosophia


The first philosophy


Origin of the work:
1630 Leszno

  1942 Prague, J. Hendrich, První metafysika J. A. Komenského? In: Česká mysl 36, pp49-57 (various eds.)

1965 Prague, Archiv pro bádání o životě a díle J. A. Komenského (Acta Comeniana) 23

1968 Prague, Vybrané spisy J. A. Komenského, vol. V, various eds., Czech translation by J. Červenka

1974 Prague, J. A. Comenii Opera omnia, vol. 18



A school textbook on metaphysics, which Comenius created while a teacher at the Leszno Gymnasium. The manuscript is to be found among the so-called “Leningrad miscellany” of works by Comenius, in the Saltik-Shchedrin Public Library, St Petersburg, together with other treatises: the Geometria, the O vycházení a zapadání přednějších hvězd oblohy osmé, the O poezi české, the Cosmographiae compendium and the Historia profana sive politica.




As a title ‘the first philosophy’, used by Comenius in the heading to the work, comes from Aristotle. The term ‘metaphysics’ later came to be used in its place. This is the science of existence, i.e. of its origins, essence, causes and purposes. Comenius’ treatise has four parts; the introductory text gives the definition of existence, and divides it into primal existence (God) and created existence arising out of the primal existence (everything except God, i.e. the world and its beings).

The first part considers that which is common to the Creator and the created, i.e. being (essentia) and the attributes of being (attributa essentialia), among which are unity, truth and good, and further that which created existences have in common, i.e. the initial additions (accidentia primaria). In this, unity gives rise to place, time and quantity, truth to quality, action and passivity, and good to order, use and love.

The second part examines the variety of existence, both the dissimilarity of existence created by the Creator from the points of view of human beings, unity, truth and good, and the dissimilarity of the created existences to each other, from the same points of view.

The third partdiscourses on types (species) of existence (i.e. on primal existence and existences arising out of the primal, of which the essence is either substance (substantia) or addition (accidens), and later on the principles of and types of substance and types of addition.

The fourth part sets out the rules of all things (principles of cognition), both for living things and dependent things (causality).

The work ends with an addendum to the second part on the difference between the Creator and the created.

This work is written lucidly, concisely and clearly. According to Max Wundt, an expert on 17th century metaphysics, Comenius’ notions are in several ways utterly original.


For further study, see also:

J. A. Comenii Opera omnia, vol.18. Prague 1974, pp29-31

J. Červenka, Poznámky ke spisu Prima philosophia, in: Archiv pro bádání o životě a díle J. A. Komenského (Acta Comenina) 24, 1970, pp168-180

Vybrané spisy J. A. Komenského, vol. V. Prague 1968, pp225-228

Jan Kumpera, Jan Amos Komenský, poutník na rozhraní věků. Prague & Ostrava 1992, p289




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