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A process (from the Latin procedere , "to go forward") can be described as a course , a development or, more generally, as a system of movements . Comparable terms are also “process”, “progress”, “process” and “process”. The original main meaning is the process as a legal term .


The word process (spelling in the 20th century process , in the 19th century often process , somewhat less frequently process ) has been used in the late Middle High German spelling process and the meaning "decree, judicial decision" in German since the 14th century. It was borrowed from the Latin processus ("progress, progression"), which goes back to procedere ("forwards, forwards, forwards"). The Latin procedere is also the starting point for the words procedure and procession .

In the Middle Ages, the word denoted a legal process, especially in church jurisdiction. It was only later that a generalization was made to “procedure”, from which the meaning “manufacturing process for medicinally effective tinctures” arose. From this the process term of chemistry developed , and from this that of philosophy.

At the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, Johann Christoph Adelung emphasized in his grammatical-critical dictionary of High German dialect that process refers to “the way in which a thing is treated”. It only describes the meaning in chemistry and as a legal process. At the beginning of the 20th century, Brockhaus placed the general meaning of “process, course, development” in front of a mention of the technical language meaning in law and chemistry in its 1911 edition of the Konversationslexikon. In between lies the 19th century, in which the term process received its current meaning, particularly through natural philosophy .


In the natural and social sciences today, process is a term for the directed sequence of events. In a business-organizational context, processes are referred to more precisely as work processes , business processes , production processes or value-added processes . Processes are also called in computer systems running programs , which are usually parts of the system software are.

A deterministic process is a process in which each state is causally dependent on and is determined by others, previous ones. A stochastic process (random process ) is one in which one state only follows from other states with a certain probability . Only statistical data can be assumed here.

Development of today's concept of process

In the nineteenth century, the natural sciences turned to a dynamic, process-based approach that replaced the static, classificatory approach of the 18th century. In 19th century chemistry, for example, the focus was on the investigation of chemical conversion processes, while the classification of substance properties was an important goal up to now. In biology, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and Charles Darwin dealt with the process of species change and to this extent supplemented a static species classification as established by Carl von Linné in the 18th century.

In the 19th century, political philosophy was more concerned with the analysis of process changes, for example in the case of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx . These considerations replaced static, unhistorical state fictions, as they had previously been formulated by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke , for example .

Schelling and Schlegel

From the end of the 18th century , the chemical process concept was expanded to include many phenomena in the natural sciences. Life is interpreted as a self-sustaining and organized process. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854) presents the terms “process” and “ organization ” as mutually dependent. He also relates “ work ” and “ product ” or “ production ” as a “process” to one another. For Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829) nature is a process. It replaces existing subject area boundaries of science (such as “mineral”, “vegetable”) with terms such as “product”, “process” and “ element ”.


Novalis (1772–1801) tried a theory of the “general process”. For the first time, not only the established process term of chemistry and the current one from natural philosophy should be included, but also the original, legal term. In its general process theory, the legal process can be understood as the generation of a judgment. Novalis was also the first to use the phrase "the process of history". This is interpreted as a combustion process.


At the beginning of the 19th century, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) adopted the concept of process from the natural-philosophical discourse of the time and expanded its scope of meaning further. He differentiates between a “theoretical process”, meaning a process of sensual perception, and the “practical process”. Hegel globalizes and de-specifies the term by identifying it with “ movement ”. After all, he relates the concept of process to itself, speaking of the “movement of the process” on the one hand and the “processless process” on the other.


  1. The Adelungsche's letters can be found in many citations today.
  2. ^ First assignment and Latin meanings according to Kluge Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 24th edition, 2002.
  3. Medieval use and expansion of meaning according to Kluge Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 24th edition, 2002.
  4. “The trial, [...] the way in which a thing is dealt with; In what sense it is customary, especially in chemistry and after-chemistry, where the prescribed manner of bringing a chemical product to reality is usually called a process. 2. More specifically, the manner in which the cases that arise are dealt with in court. 1) Actually, where it is the order prescribed in the law, according to which cases are heard and brought to an end; the legal process. [...] 2) Figuratively, a dispute in court itself; a litigation, legal trade. [...] “ Johann Christoph Adelung: Grammatical-Critical Dictionary of High German Dialect , electronic full-text and facsimile edition based on the last edition Leipzig 1793–1801 ( online ), accessed on April 22, 2008.
  5. ^ "Process (Latin), process, course, development; in the legal system the legal process, the judicial procedure (litigation), [...]; also the legal rules and their scientific presentation (see criminal process, civil process); in chemistry, s. Chemical processes. ” Brockhaus. Kleines Konversations-Lexikon , Fifth edition from 1911 ( online ), accessed April 22, 2008.

Individual evidence

  1. Process , Lemma in: Mackensen - Large German Dictionary , 1977.
  2. Siegrid Radszuweit / Martha Spalier, Knaur's Dictionary of Synonyms , Lexicographical Institute, Munich 1982. - For synonyms of terms, see there, as well as “course” and “development”.
  3. Duden "Etymologie" - dictionary of origin of the German language , 2nd edition, Dudenverlag, 1989.
  4. ^ "Natural and social sciences" in: Jürgen Mittelstraß (Ed.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science , JB Metzler, Stuttgart 1995, Lemma Prozess
  5. a b Jürgen Mittelstraß (Ed.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science , JB Metzler, Stuttgart, 1995, Lemma Process .
  6. a b c Joachim Ritter and Karlfried founder (eds.): Historical dictionary of philosophy , Schwabe, Basel, 1989, Lemma process. 3. the general concept of the philosophy of history .