Contemporary philosophy has reasserted the belief that philosophy has practical tasks. This turn reflects an understanding that the life of the individual and the community is not molded merely by personal needs and fortunes but also by the strength of dominant ideas. For Nicolai Hartmann, ideas are spiritual powers belonging to the realm of thought, but thought has its own strict discipline and critique of events. In his view, theory must include within its scope problems of the contemporary world and cooperation in work that needs doing.
New Ways of Ontology stands in opposition to the tradition of Heidegger. With deep appreciation of the history of philosophical controversy, Hartmann divides mistakes of the old ontology into those related to its method and those concerning its content. Hartmann finds a common mistake behind methodological approaches inspired by late German romanticism in attempts to develop a complete systematic account of the categories of being—not only of the ideal, but of real being.
The main task of New Ways of Ontology is to reveal and analyze interdependences and interconnections. The divisions of being and becoming, of the separation of existence and essence, as well as the old view that the real and the ideal exclude each other, require revision. For Hartmann, whose ideas take us close to modern social science research, ontology is the neutral category that includes subject and object, and gets beyond old realism and modern idealism alike.