Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

Overview
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later von
Von
In German, von is a preposition which approximately means of or from.When it is used as a part of a German family name, it is usually a nobiliary particle, like the French, Spanish and Portuguese "de". At certain times and places, it has been illegal for anyone who was not a member of the nobility...

 Schelling
, was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

, situating him between Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is often difficult because of its ever-changing nature.
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Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later von
Von
In German, von is a preposition which approximately means of or from.When it is used as a part of a German family name, it is usually a nobiliary particle, like the French, Spanish and Portuguese "de". At certain times and places, it has been illegal for anyone who was not a member of the nobility...

 Schelling
, was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

, situating him between Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is often difficult because of its ever-changing nature. Some scholars characterize him as a protean thinker who, although brilliant, jumped from one subject to another and lacked the synthesizing power needed to arrive at a complete philosophical system. Others challenge the notion that Schelling's thought is marked by profound breaks, instead arguing that his philosophy always focused on a few common themes, especially human freedom, the absolute, and the relationship between spirit and nature.

Schelling's general thought has often been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world, as has been his later work on mythology and revelation (much of which remains untranslated). This stems not only from the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism, but also from his Naturphilosophie, which scientists have ridiculed for its "silly" analogizing and lack of empirical orientation. In recent years, Schelling scholars have attacked both of these sources of neglect.

Early life


Schelling was born in the town of Leonberg
Leonberg
Leonberg is a town in the German federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg about 10 miles to the west of Stuttgart, the state capital. Approximately 45,000 people live in Leonberg, making it the third biggest borough in the rural district of Böblingen .Leonberg is most famous for its picturesque market...

 in Württemberg
Württemberg
Württemberg , formerly known as Wirtemberg or Wurtemberg, is an area and a former state in southwestern Germany, including parts of the regions Swabia and Franconia....

 (now Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 states of Germany. Baden-Württemberg is in the southwestern part of the country to the east of the Upper Rhine, and is the third largest in both area and population of Germany's sixteen states, with an area of and 10.7 million inhabitants...

). He attended the monastery school at Bebenhausen
Bebenhausen
Bebenhausen is a village in the Tübingen district, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Since 1974 it is a district of the city of Tübingen, its smallest one. It is located 3 km north of Tübingen proper , in the southeastern part of the protected landscape of the Schönbuch, a dense forest...

, near Tübingen
Tübingen
Tübingen is a traditional university town in central Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated south of the state capital, Stuttgart, on a ridge between the Neckar and Ammer rivers.-Geography:...

, where his father was chaplain and an Orientalist
Oriental studies
Oriental studies is the academic field of study that embraces Near Eastern and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages, peoples, history and archaeology; in recent years the subject has often been turned into the newer terms of Asian studies and Middle Eastern studies...

 professor. From 1783 to 1784 Schelling attended a Latin school in Nürtingen
Nürtingen
Nürtingen is a town in the district of Esslingen in Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. It is located on the river Neckar.-History:The following events occurred, by year:*1046 : First mention of Niuritingin in the document of Speyer...

 and knew Friedrich Hölderlin
Friedrich Hölderlin
Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his...

, who was five years his senior. At the age of 16, he then was granted permission to enroll at the Tübinger Stift
Tübinger Stift
The Tübinger Stift is a hall of residence and teaching; it is owned and supported by the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg, and located in the university city of Tübingen, in South West Germany. The Stift was originally founded as an Augustinian monastery in the Middle Ages...

(seminary of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg
Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg is a Protestant church in the German former state of Württemberg, now the part of the state Baden-Württemberg. The seat of the church is in Stuttgart.It is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany , and is a Lutheran Church...

), despite not having yet reached the normal enrollment age of 20. At the Stift, he shared a room with Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

 as well as Hölderlin, and the three became good friends. Schelling studied Church fathers and ancient Greek philosophers. His interest gradually shifted from Lutheran theology to philosophy. In 1792 he graduated from the philosophical faculty, and in 1793 contributed to Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus's Memorabilien; in 1795 he finished his thesis for his theological degree, De Marcione Paullinarum epistolarum
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

 emendatore
. Meanwhile, he had begun to study Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 and Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

, who greatly influenced him. In 1794, Schelling published an exposition of Fichte's thought entitled Über die Möglichkeit einer Form der Philosophie überhaupt (On the possibility of a form of philosophy in general). This work was acknowledged by Fichte himself and immediately earned Schelling a reputation among philosophers. His more elaborate work, Vom Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie, oder über das Unbedingte im menschlichen Wissen (On Self as principle of philosophy, or on the unrestricted in human knowledge, 1795), while still remaining within the limits of the Fichtean idealism, showed a tendency to give the Fichtean method a more objective application, and to amalgamate Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

's views with it.

Philosophy of nature



While tutoring two youths of an aristocratic family, he visited Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 as their escort and had a chance to attend lectures at Leipzig University, where he was fascinated by contemporary physical studies including chemistry and biology. At this time he also visited Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

, where he saw several collections of the Archduke of Saxony, to which he referred later in his thinking on art.

After two years tutoring, in 1798, at the age of only 23, Schelling was called to Jena
Jena
Jena is a university city in central Germany on the river Saale. It has a population of approx. 103,000 and is the second largest city in the federal state of Thuringia, after Erfurt.-History:Jena was first mentioned in an 1182 document...

 as an extraordinary (i.e., unpaid) professor of philosophy. He had already contributed articles and reviews to the Philosophisches Journal of Fichte and Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer
Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer
Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer was a German theologian, religious philosopher and Protestant education reformer who was a native of Württemberg....

, and had thrown himself into the study of physical and medical science. In 1795 Schelling published Philosophische Briefe über Dogmatismus und Kritizismus (Philosophical letters on dogmatism and criticism), consisting of 10 letters addressed to an unknown interlocutor that presented both a defense and critique of the Kantian system; in 1797 he published the essay "Neue Deduction des Naturrechts" (New deduction of natural law), which anticipated Fichte's treatment of the topic in the Grundlage des Naturrechts (Foundations of natural law). His studies of physical science bore fruit in the Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur (Ideas concerning a philosophy of nature) (1797), and the treatise Von der Weltseele (On the world-soul) (1798). In Ideen Schelling referred to Leibniz and quoted from his Monadology
Monadology
The Monadology is one of Gottfried Leibniz’s best known works representing his later philosophy. It is a short text which sketches in some 90 paragraphs a metaphysics of simple substances, or monads.- Text :...

. He held Leibniz in high regard because of his view of nature during his natural philosophy period.

Schelling's time at Jena
Jena
Jena is a university city in central Germany on the river Saale. It has a population of approx. 103,000 and is the second largest city in the federal state of Thuringia, after Erfurt.-History:Jena was first mentioned in an 1182 document...

 (1798–1803) put him at the center of the intellectual ferment of Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

. Schelling was on close terms with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, who appreciated the poetic quality of the Naturphilosophie
Naturphilosophie
Naturphilosophie is a term used in English-language philosophy to identify a current in the philosophical tradition of German idealism, as applied to the study of Nature in the earlier 19th century...

, reading Von der Weltseele. As the prime minister of the duchy of Saxe-Weimar
Saxe-Weimar
Saxe-Weimar was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in present-day Thuringia. The chief town and capital was Weimar.-Division of Leipzig:...

, Goethe invited Schelling to Jena. On the other hand Schelling was repelled by Friedrich Schiller
Friedrich Schiller
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life , Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

's less expansive disposition, and was unsympathetic to the ethical idealism that animated Schiller's work. However, Schelling presumably studied Schiller's aesthetic writings: later, in his Vorlesung über die Philosophie der Kunst (Lecture on the philosophy of art, 1802/03), Schelling expressed little interest in Schiller's achievement in literature, but in its General Part, Schiller's theory on the sublime
Sublime (philosophy)
In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic...

 was closely reviewed with a deep respect.

In Jena, Schelling wrote and published numerous books and treatises. He was on good terms with Fichte at first, but their different conceptions, about nature in particular, led to increasing divergence in their thought. Fichte was not pleased that Schelling showed a deep interest in nature and advised him to focus on philosophy in its original meaning, that is, transcendental philosophy: specifically, Fichte's Wissenschaftlehre. Schelling was initially optimistic about their differences and thought Fichte would eventually understand what he was doing, since he considered his natural philosophy an important enhancement of Fichte's idealism. In 1800 Schelling published one of his most notable works System des transcendentalen Idealismus (System of transcendental idealism, 1800). In this book Schelling described transcendental philosophy and nature philosophy as complementary to one another. Fichte reacted by stating that Schelling was working on the basis of a false philosophical principle: in Fichte's theory nature as Not-Self (Nicht-Ich = object) couldn't be a subject of philosophy, whose essential content is the subjective activity of the human intellect. The breach became unrecoverable in 1800, after Schelling published Darstellung des Systems meiner Philosophie (Description of the system of my philosophy). Fichte thought this title absurd, since in his opinion philosophy could not be personalized. Moreover, in this book Schelling publicly expressed his estimation of Spinoza, whose work Fichte had repudiated as dogmatism, and declared that nature and spirit differ only in their quantity, but are essentially identical (Identitaet). According to Schelling, the absolute was the indifference or identity, which he considered to be an essential subject of philosophy.

Schelling, who was becoming the acknowledged leader of the Romantic school, had begun to reject Fichte's thought as cold and abstract. Schelling was especially close to August Wilhelm von Schlegel
August Wilhelm von Schlegel
August Wilhelm Schlegel was a German poet, translator, critic, and a foremost leader of German Romanticism. His translations of Shakespeare made the English dramatist's works into German classics.-Life and work:Schlegel was born at Hanover, where his father, Johann Adolf Schlegel, was a Lutheran...

 and his wife, Karoline
Karoline Schelling
Caroline Schelling, née Michaelis, widowed Böhmer, divorced Schlegel was a noted German intellectual.She was born at Göttingen, the daughter of the orientalist Michaelis....

. A marriage between Schelling and Karoline's young daughter, Auguste Böhmer, was contemplated by both. Auguste died of dysentery in 1800, prompting many to blame Schelling, who had overseen her treatment. However, Robert Richards demonstrates in his book The Romantic Conception of Life that Schelling's interventions were not only appropriate but most likely irrelevant, as the doctors called to the scene assured everyone involved that Auguste's disease was inevitably fatal. Auguste's death drew Schelling and Karoline even closer. Schlegel had moved to Berlin, and a divorce was arranged (with Goethe's help). Schelling's time at Jena came to an end, and on 2 June 1803 he and Karoline were married away from Jena. Their marriage ceremony was the last occasion Schelling met his school friend Hölderlin, who was already mentally ill at that time.

In his Jena period, Schelling had a closer relationship with Hegel again. With Schelling's help, Hegel became a private lecturer (Privatdozent) at Jena University. Hegel wrote a book titled Differenz des Fichte'schen und Schelling'schen Systems der Philosophie (Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's systems of philosophy, 1801), and supported Schelling's position against his idealistic predecessors, Fichte and Reinhold. Beginning in January 1802, Hegel and Schelling published the Kritisches Journal der Philosophie (Critical Journal of Philosophy) as co-editors, publishing papers on the philosophy of nature, but Schelling was too busy to stay involved with the editing and the magazine was mainly Hegel's publication, espousing a thought different from Schelling's. The magazine ceased publication in the spring of 1803 when Schelling moved from Jena to Würzburg
Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

.

From September 1803 until April 1806 Schelling was professor at the new University of Würzburg
University of Würzburg
The University of Würzburg is a university in Würzburg, Germany, founded in 1402. The university is a member of the distinguished Coimbra Group.-Name:...

. This period was marked by considerable flux in his views and by a final breach with Fichte and Hegel. In Würzburg, a conservative Catholic city, Schelling had many enemies among his colleagues and in the government. He moved to Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 in 1806, where he found a position as a state official, first as associate of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities
The Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities is an independent public institution, located in Munich. It appoints scholars whose research has contributed considerably to the increase of knowledge within their subject...

 and secretary of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, afterwards as secretary of the Philosophische Klasse (philosophical section) of the Academy of Sciences. 1806 was also the year Schelling published a book in which he criticized Fichte openly by name. In 1807 Schelling received the manuscript of Hegel's Phaenomenologie des Geistes (Phenomenology of the spirit), which Hegel had sent to him, asking Schelling to write the foreword. Surprised to find disparaging remarks directed squarely at his own philosophical theory, Schelling eventually wrote back, asking Hegel to please clarify whether he had intended to mock Schelling's followers who lacked a true understanding of his thought, or Schelling himself. Hegel never replied. In the same year, Schelling gave a speech about the relation between the visual arts and nature at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, and Hegel wrote a severe criticism of it to one of his friends. After that year, they criticized each other in lecture rooms and in books publicly until the end of their lives.

Munich period


Without resigning his official position in Munich, he lectured for a short time in Stuttgart
Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

 (Stuttgarter Privatvorlesungen [Stuttgart private lectures], 1810), and seven years at Erlangen
Erlangen
Erlangen is a Middle Franconian city in Bavaria, Germany. It is located at the confluence of the river Regnitz and its large tributary, the Untere Schwabach.Erlangen has more than 100,000 inhabitants....

 (1820–1827). In 1809 Karoline died, just before he published Freiheitschrift, the last book published during his life. Three years later, introduced by Goethe, Schelling married one of her closest friends, Pauline Gotter
Pauline Gotter
Pauline Gotter was the second wife of Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling and a friend of Louise Seidler and Sylvie von Ziegesar.- Life :...

, in whom he found a faithful companion.

During the long stay at Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 (1806–1841) Schelling's literary activity came gradually to a standstill. The "Aphorisms on Naturphilosophie" published in the Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft (1806–1808) are for the most part extracts from the Würzburg lectures, and the Denkmal der Schrift von den göttlichen Dingen des Herrn Jacobi was a response to an attack by Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was an influential German philosopher, literary figure, socialite and the younger brother of poet Johann Georg Jacobi...

 (the two accused each other of atheism). The only writing of significance is the "Philosophische Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit und die damit zusammenhängenden Gegenstände" (Investigations of Human Freedom, Philosophische Schriften i, 1809), which carries out, with increasing tendency to mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

, the thoughts of the previous work, Philosophie und Religion (Philosophy and religion, 1804). However, in a change from the Jena period works, now evil is not an appearance coming from the quantitative differences between the real and the ideal, but something substantial. This work clearly paraphrased Kant's distinction between intelligible and empirical character. Otherwise, Schelling himself called freedom "a capacity for good and evil."

The tract "Über die Gottheiten zu Samothrake" (On the divinities of Samothrace
Samothrace
Samothrace is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It is a self-governing municipality within the Evros peripheral unit of Thrace. The island is long and is in size and has a population of 2,723 . Its main industries are fishing and tourism. Resources on the island includes granite and...

) appeared in 1815, ostensibly a portion of a greater work, Die Weltalter (The ages of the world), frequently announced as ready for publication, but of which little was ever written. Schelling planned Die Weltalter as a book in three parts, describing the past, present, and future of the world; however, he began only the first part, rewriting it several times and at last keeping it unpublished. The other two parts were left only in planning. Christopher John Murray describes the work as follows:

Building on the premise that philosophy cannot ultimately explain existence, he merges the earlier philosophies of Nature and identity with his newfound belief in a fundamental conflict between a dark unconscious principle and a conscious principle in God. God
makes the universe intelligible by relating to the ground of the real but, insofar as nature is not complete intelligence, the real exists as a lack within the ideal and not as reflective of the ideal itself. The three universal ages — distinct only to us but not in the eternal God — therefore comprise a beginning where the principle of God before God is divine will striving for being, the present age, which is still part of this growth and hence a mediated fulfillment, and a finality where God is consciously and consummately Himself to Himself.
It is possible that it was the overpowering strength and influence of the Hegelian system that constrained Schelling, for it was only in 1834, after the death of Hegel, that, in a preface to a translation by Hubert Beckers
Hubert Beckers
Hubert Beckers was a German philosopher known chiefly as an expositor of the philosophy of Schelling.-Biography:He was born at Munich, and studied at the university there...

 of a work by Victor Cousin
Victor Cousin
Victor Cousin was a French philosopher. He was a proponent of Scottish Common Sense Realism and had an important influence on French educational policy.-Early life:...

, he gave public utterance to the antagonism in which he stood to the Hegelian, and to his own earlier, conception of philosophy. The antagonism certainly was not then a new fact; the Erlangen lectures on the history of philosophy of 1822 express the same in a pointed fashion, and Schelling had already begun the treatment of mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 which in his view constituted the true positive complements to the negative of logical or speculative philosophy.

Berlin period


Public attention was powerfully attracted by these vague hints of a new system which promised something more positive, especially in its treatment of religion, than the apparent results of Hegel's teaching. The appearance of critical writings by David Friedrich Strauss, Feuerbach
Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach
Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach was a German philosopher and anthropologist. He was the fourth son of the eminent jurist Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, brother of mathematician Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach and uncle of painter Anselm Feuerbach...

, and Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer was a German philosopher and historian. As a student of GWF Hegel, Bauer was a radical Rationalist in philosophy, politics and Biblical criticism...

, and the evident disunion in the Hegelian school itself, express a growing alienation from the then dominant philosophy. In Berlin, the headquarters of the Hegelians, this found expression in attempts to obtain officially from Schelling a treatment of the new system which he was understood to have in reserve. The realization of the desire did not come about till 1841, when the appointment of Schelling as Prussian privy councillor and member of the Berlin Academy, gave him the right, a right he was requested to exercise, to deliver lectures in the university. Among those in attendance at his lectures were Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 (who said Schelling talked "quite insufferable nonsense" and complained that he did not end his lectures on time), Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin was a well-known Russian revolutionary and theorist of collectivist anarchism. He has also often been called the father of anarchist theory in general. Bakunin grew up near Moscow, where he moved to study philosophy and began to read the French Encyclopedists,...

 (who called them "interesting but rather insignificant"), Jacob Burckhardt
Jacob Burckhardt
Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt was a historian of art and culture, and an influential figure in the historiography of each field. He is known as one of the major progenitors of cultural history, albeit in a form very different from how cultural history is conceived and studied in academia today...

, and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 (who, as a partisan of Hegel, attended to "shield the great man's grave from abuse"). The opening lecture of his course was listened to by a large and appreciative audience. The enmity of his old foe, H.E.G. Paulus
Heinrich Paulus
Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus was a German theologian and critic of the Bible. He is known as a rationalist who offered natural explanations for the biblical miracles of Jesus....

, sharpened by Schelling's apparent success, led to the surreptitious publication of a verbatim report of the lectures on the philosophy of revelation, and, as Schelling did not succeed in obtaining legal condemnation and suppression of this piracy, he in 1845 ceased the delivery of any public courses. No authentic information as to the nature of the new positive philosophy was obtained till after his death (at Bad Ragatz
Ragatz
Ragatz, also known as "Old Baths Pfäfers" or "Old Baths of Pfäfersin" in the 19th century and earlier, was a famous watering-place in the Swiss canton of St. Gall, situated on the left bank of the Rhine, and by rail 22 km north of Coire or 98 km S.E. of Zurich...

, on 20 August 1854), when his sons began the issue of his collected writings with the four volumes of Berlin lectures: vol. i. Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology (1856); ii. Philosophy of Mythology (1857); iii. and iv. Philosophy of Revelation (1858).

Philosophy


While of indisputable historical importance, Schelling has often been dismissed as obscurantist or unmethodical.

In his own view, Schelling's philosophy fell into three stages:
  1. the transition from Fichte's method to the more objective conception of nature—the advance, in other words, to Naturphilosophie
  2. the definite formulation of that which implicitly, as Schelling claims, was involved in the idea of Naturphilosophie, that is, the thought of the identical, indifferent, absolute substratum of both nature and spirit, the advance to Identitätsphilosophie
  3. the opposition of negative and positive philosophy, an opposition which is the theme of the Berlin lectures, though its germs may be traced back to 1804.


At all stages of his thought he called to his aid the forms of some other system. Thus Fichte, Spinoza, Jakob Boehme and the mystics, and finally, the great Greek thinkers with their Neoplatonic
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

, Gnostic
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

, and Scholastic
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 commentators, give colouring to particular works. But Schelling did not merely borrow; rather, he shaped his materials into a unified philosophic effort and spirit.

Naturphilosophie


In his Naturphilosophie, Schelling argues Nature must not be conceived as merely an abstract limit to the infinite striving of spirit (as it was by Fichte), or as a mere series of necessary thoughts for mind. Rather, it must be that and more than that. It must have reality for itself, a reality which stands in no conflict with its ideal character, a reality the inner structure of which is ideal, a reality the root and spring of which is spirit. Nature as the sum of that which is objective, intelligence as the complex of all the activities making up self-consciousness, appear thus as equally real, as alike exhibiting ideal structure, as parallel with one another. Nature and spirit, Naturphilosophie and Transcendentalphilosophie, thus stand as two relatively complete, but complementary parts of the whole.

The function of Naturphilosophie is to exhibit the ideal as springing from the real, not to deduce the real from the ideal. The incessant change which experience brings before us, taken in conjunction with the thought of unity in productive force of nature, leads to the all-important conception of the duality, the polar opposition through which nature expresses itself in its varied products. The dynamical series of stages in nature, the forms in which the ideal structure of nature is realized, are matter, as the equilibrium of the fundamental expansive and contractive forces; light, with its subordinate processes—magnetism, electricity, and chemical action; organism, with its component phases of reproduction, irritability and sensibility.

Just as nature exhibits to us the series of dynamical stages of evolutionary processes by which spirit struggles towards consciousness of itself, so the world of intelligence and practice, the world of mind, exhibits the series of stages through which self-consciousness, with its inevitable oppositions and reconciliations, develops in its ideal form. The theoretical side of inner nature in its successive grades from sensation to the highest form of spirit, the abstracting reason which emphasizes the difference of subjective and objective, leaves an unsolved problem which receives satisfaction only in the practical, the individualizing activity. The practical, again, taken in conjunction with the theoretical, forces on the question of the reconciliation between the free conscious organization of thought and the apparently necessitated and unconscious mechanism of the objective world. In the notion of a teleological connection and in that which for spirit is its own subjective expression, that is, art and genius, the subjective and objective find their point of union.

Along two distinct lines Schelling is to be found in all his later writings striving to amend the conception, to which he remained true, of the absolute as the ultimate ground of reality. It was necessary, in the first place, to give to this absolute a character, to make of it something more than empty sameness; it was necessary, in the second place, to clear up in some way the relation between the actuality or apparent actuality of nature and spirit (Natur und Geist). Unlike Schelling's fellow philosopher and erstwhile friend Hegel, Schelling did not believe that the absolute could be known in its true character through rational inquiry alone. A transcendent apprehension through artistic creativity, or a mystical intuition through religious experience (especially evident in his writings of, and after, the year 1809), was instead required to realize the reality of the "Godhead" that is the absolute, primal ground of all being.

The briefest and best account by Schelling himself of Naturphilosophie is that contained in the Einleitung zu dem Ersten Entwurf (S. W. iii.). A full and lucid statement of Naturphilosophie is that given by Kuno Fischer
Kuno Fischer
Kuno Fischer, born Ernst Kuno Berthold Fischer, was a German philosopher, a historian of philosophy and a critic.-Biography:After studying philosophy at Leipzig and Halle,...

 in his Geschichte der neuern Philosophie, vi. 433-692.

Influence


All aspects of Schelling's thought are studied by Western philosophers, although he did not always enjoy such a high reputation.

Schelling's work impressed the English romantic poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

, who introduced his ideas into English-speaking culture, sometimes, unfortunately, without full acknowledgment, as in the Biographia Literaria
Biographia Literaria
Biographia Literaria, or in full Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of MY LITERARY LIFE and OPINIONS, is an autobiography in discourse by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which he published in 1817. The work is long and seemingly loosely structured, and although there are autobiographical...

. Coleridge's critical work was highly influential, and it was he who introduced into English Schelling's concept of the unconscious.

However, by the 1950s, Schelling was almost a forgotten philosopher even in his own country, Germany. In the 1910s and 1920s, philosophers of neo-Kantianism and neo-Hegelianism, like Wilhelm Windelband
Wilhelm Windelband
Wilhelm Windelband was a German philosopher of the Baden School.Windelband is now mainly remembered for the terms nomothetic and idiographic, which he introduced. These have currency in psychology and other areas, though not necessarily in line with his original meanings...

 or Richard Kroner
Richard Kroner
Richard Kroner was a German neo-Hegelian philosopher, known for his Von Kant bis Hegel , a classic history of German idealism written from the neo-Hegelian point of view. He was a Christian, from a Jewish background...

, tended to describe Schelling as an episode connecting Fichte and Hegel. His late period tended to be ignored, and his philosophies of nature and of art in the 1790s and first decade of the 19th century were mainly focused on. In this context Kuno Fischer characterized Schelling's early philosophy as "aesthetic idealism", focusing on the argument where he ranked art as "the sole document and the eternal organ of philosophy" (das einzige wahre und ewige Organon zugleich und Dokument der Philosophie). From socialist philosophers like György Lukács, he received criticism as an anachronistic antagonist.

One exception was Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

, who treated Schelling's On Human Freedom in his lectures in 1936. Heidegger found there the central themes of Western ontology: the issues of being, existence, and freedom.

In the 1950s, the situation began to change. In 1954, the centennial of his death, an international conference on Schelling was held. Several notable German-speaking philosophers, including Karl Jaspers
Karl Jaspers
Karl Theodor Jaspers was a German psychiatrist and philosopher who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry and philosophy. After being trained in and practicing psychiatry, Jaspers turned to philosophical inquiry and attempted to discover an innovative philosophical system...

, gave presentations about the uniqueness and actuality of his thought, the interest of philosophers shifting toward his late period in which Schelling focused on being and existence, or precisely the origin of existence. Schelling was the subject of the 1954 dissertation of the eminent 20th century German philosopher Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

. In 1955, the next year of this conference, Jaspers published a book titled Schelling, representing him as a forerunner of the existentialists. Walter Schulz 1912-2000, one of organizers of the 1954 conference, published a book claiming that Schelling had made German idealism complete with his late philosophy, particularly with his Berlin lectures in the 1840s. Schulz presented Schelling as the person who resolved the philosophical problems which Hegel had left incomplete, in contrast to the contemporary idea that Schelling had been overcome by Hegel much earlier and outdated.

In the 1970s nature was again of interest to philosophers in relation to environmental issues. Schelling's philosophy of nature, particularly his intention to construct a program which covers both nature and the intellectual in a single system and method and restore nature as a central theme of philosophy, has been reevaluated in the contemporary context. His influence and relation to the German art scene, particularly to Romantic literature and visual art, has been a scientific interest since late 1960s, from Philipp Otto Runge
Philipp Otto Runge
Philipp Otto Runge was a Romantic German painter and draughtsman. He made a late start to his career and died young, nonetheless he is considered among the best German Romantic painters.- Life and work :...

 to Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter is a German visual artist. Richter has simultaneously produced abstract and photorealistic painted works, as well as photographs and glass pieces, thus undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.- Biography :Gerhard Richter was born in...

 and Joseph Beuys
Joseph Beuys
Joseph Beuys was a German performance artist, sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art.His extensive work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy; it culminates in his "extended definition of art" and the idea of social...

.

In relation to psychology, Schelling was considered to have coined the term "unconsciousness". The Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

n philosopher and psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher, critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis....

 has written two books on Schelling, attempting to integrate Schelling's philosophy, mainly his middle period works including Weltalter, with the work of Jacques Lacan
Jacques Lacan
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

. American philosopher Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber
Kenneth Earl Wilber II is an American author who has written about mysticism, philosophy, ecology, and developmental psychology. His work formulates what he calls Integral Theory. In 1998, he founded the Integral Institute, for teaching and applications of Integral theory.-Biography:Ken Wilber was...

 places Schelling as one of two philosophers who "after Plato, had the broadest impact [effect] on the Western mind".

Quotations

  • "Nature is visible Spirit; Spirit is invisible Nature." (Ideen, "Introduction")
  • "History as a whole is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute." (System of Transcendental Idealism, 1800)
  • "Now if the appearance of freedom is necessarily infinite, the total evolution of the Absolute is also an infinite process, and history itself a never wholly completed revelation of that Absolute which, for the sake of consciousness, and thus merely for the sake of appearance, separates itself into conscious and unconscious, the free and the intuitant; but which itself, however, in the inaccessible light wherein it dwells, is Eternal Identity and the everlasting ground of harmony between the two.” (System of Transcendental Idealism, 1800)
  • “Has creation a final goal? And if so, why was it not reached at once? Why was the consummation not realized from the beginning? To these questions there is but one answer: Because God is Life, and not merely Being.” (Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom, 1809)
  • "Only he who has tasted freedom can feel the desire to make over everything in its image, to spread it throughout the whole universe." (Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom, 1809)
  • "As there is nothing before or outside of God he must contain within himself the ground of his existence. All philosophies say this, but they speak of this ground as a mere concept without making it something real and actual." (Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom, 1809)
  • "[The Godhead] is not divine nature or substance, but the devouring ferocity of purity that a person is able to approach only with an equal purity. Since all Being goes up in it as if in flames, it is necessarily unapproachable to anyone still embroiled in Being." (The Ages of the World, c.1815)
  • "God then has no beginning only insofar as there is no beginning of his beginning. The beginning in God is eternal beginning, that is, such a one as was beginning from all eternity, and still is, and also never ceases to be beginning." (Quoted in Hartshorne & Reese, Philosophers Speak of God, Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1953, p. 237.)

Further reading

  • Xavier Tilliette
    Xavier Tilliette
    Xavier Tilliette is a French philosopher, historian of philosophy and theologian, born on July 23, 1921, in Corbie . Former student of Jean Wahl and of Vladimir Jankélévitch, he is a member of the Society of Jesus and professor emeritus at the Catholic Institute of Paris , at the Pontifical...

    , (1970) Schelling une philosophie en devenir, Two Volumes, Paris: Vrin. (Encyclopedic historical account of the development of Schelling's work: stronger on general exposition and on theology than on Schelling's philosophical arguments).
  • Xavier Tilliette, Schelling, Biographie, Calmann-Lévy, coll. « La vie des philosophes », 1999
  • Slavoj Žižek
    Slavoj Žižek
    Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher, critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis....

    , (1996) The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters, London: Verso.

See also

  • History of aesthetics (pre-20th-century)
    History of aesthetics (pre-20th-century)
    This description of the history of aesthetics before the twentieth century is based on an article from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.-Greek Speculations:...

  • Perennial philosophy
    Perennial philosophy
    Perennial philosophy is the notion of the universal recurrence of philosophical insight independent of epoch or culture, including universal truths on the nature of reality, humanity or consciousness .-History:The idea of a perennial philosophy has great...

  • Nondualism
    Nondualism
    Nondualism is a term used to denote affinity, or unity, rather than duality or separateness or multiplicity. In reference to the universe it may be used to denote the idea that things appear distinct while not being separate. The term "nondual" can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice,...


External links