Thursday, July 13, 2017
Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts: Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (German: January 27th, 1775 - August 20th, 1854), later (after 1812) von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its apparently ever-changing nature.
Schelling's thought in the large has been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world, as has been his later work on mythology and revelation, much of which remains untranslated. An important factor was the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism. Schelling's Naturphilosophie also has been attacked by scientists for its analogizing tendency and lack of empirical orientation. However, some later philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Slavoj Žižek and Jason Wirth have shown interest in re-examining Schelling's body of work.
The Biography Of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Schelling was born in the town of Leonberg in the Duchy of Württemberg (now Baden-Württemberg), the son of Joseph Friedrich Schelling and his wife Gottliebin Marie. He attended the monastic school at Bebenhausen, near Tübingen, where his father was chaplain and an Orientalist professor. From 1783 to 1784 Schelling attended a Latin school in Nürtingen and knew Friedrich Hölderlin, who was five years his senior. On October 18th, 1790, at the age of 15, he then was granted permission to enroll at the Tübinger Stift(seminary of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg), despite not having yet reached the normal enrollment age of 20. At the Stift, he shared a room with Hegel as well as Hölderlin, and the three became good friends.
Schelling studied the Church fathers and ancient Greek philosophers. His interest gradually shifted from Lutheran theology to philosophy. In 1792, he graduated with his master's thesis, titled Antiquissimi de prima malorum humanorum origine philosophematis Genes. III. explicandi tentamen criticum et philosophicum, and in 1795, he finished his doctoral thesis, titled De Marcione Paulinarum epistolarum emendatore (On Marcion as emendator of the Pauline letters) under Gottlob Christian Storr. Meanwhile, he had begun to study Kant and Fichte, who influenced him greatly.
In 1797, while tutoring two youths of an aristocratic family, he visited Leipzig 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, where he saw collections of the Elector of Saxony, to which he referred later in his thinking on art. On a personal level, this Dresden visit of six weeks from August, 1797, saw Schelling meet the brothers August Wilhelm Schlegel and Karl Friedrich Schlegeland his future wife Caroline (then married to August Wilhelm), and Novalis.
After two years tutoring, in October, 1798, at the age of 23, Schelling was called to University of Jena as an extraordinary (i.e., unpaid) professor of philosophy. His time at Jena (1798–1803) put Schelling at the center of the intellectual ferment of Romanticism. He was on close terms with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who appreciated the poetic quality of the Naturphilosophie, reading Von der Weltseele. As the prime minister of the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, Goethe invited Schelling to Jena. On the other hand, Schelling was unsympathetic to the ethical idealism that animated the work of Friedrich Schiller, the other pillar of Weimar Classicism. Later, in Schelling's Vorlesung über die Philosophie der Kunst (Lecture on the Philosophy of Art, 1802/03), Schiller's theory on the sublime was closely reviewed.
In Jena, Schelling was on good terms with Fichte at first, but their different conceptions, about nature in particular, led to increasing divergence in their thought. Fichte advised him to focus on philosophy in its original meaning, that is, transcendental philosophy: specifically, Fichte's own Wissenschaftlehre. But 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 Schlegel and his wife, Caroline. A marriage between Schelling and Caroline'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. Robert Richards, however, argues 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 Caroline 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 Caroline 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 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 Karl Leonhard 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.
After Jena, Schelling went to Bamberg for a time, to study Brunonian medicine (the theory of John Brown) with Adalbert Friedrich Marcus and Andreas Röschlaub. From September, 1803, until April, 1806, Schelling was professor at the new University of Würzburg. 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 found many enemies among his colleagues and in the government. He moved then to Munich in 1806, where he found a position as a state official, first as associate of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities 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 or Mind), which Hegel had sent to him, asking Schelling to write the foreword. Surprised to find remarks directed at his own philosophical theory, Schelling eventually wrote back, asking Hegel to 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 Academy of Fine Arts; and Hegel wrote a severe criticism of it to one of his friends. After that, they criticized each other in lecture rooms and in books publicly until the end of their lives.
Without resigning his official position in Munich, he lectured for a short time in Stuttgart Stuttgarter Privatvorlesungen (aka: Stuttgart private lectures), 1810), and seven years at the University of Erlangen (1820–1827). In 1809 Karoline died, just before he published Freiheitschrift (Freedom Essay) the last book published during his life. Three years later, introduced by Goethe, Schelling married one of her closest friends, Pauline Gotter, in whom he found a faithful companion.
During the long stay at Munich (1806–1841) Schelling's literary activity came gradually to a standstill. 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 of a work by Victor Cousin, 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 and religion which in his view constituted the true positive complements to the negative of logical or speculative philosophy.
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, and Bruno Bauer, 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 councilor 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 (who said Schelling talked "quite insufferable nonsense" and complained that he did not end his lectures on time), Mikhail Bakunin (who called them "interesting but rather insignificant"), Jacob Burckhardt, Alexander von Humboldt (who never accepted Schelling's natural philosophy), and Friedrich Engels (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, 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.
Schelling at all stages of his thought called to his aid outward forms of some other system. Fichte, Spinoza, Jakob Boehme and the mystics, and finally, major Greek thinkers with their Neoplatonic, Gnostic, and Scholastic commentators, give coloring to particular works. In Schelling's own view, his philosophy fell into three stages. These were: The transition from Fichte's method to the more objective conception of nature i.e. the advance to Naturphilosophie, 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 Identitätsphilosopiee and the opposition of negative and positive philosophy, an opposition which is the theme of his Berlin lectures, though its germs may be traced back to 1804.
The function of Schelling's Naturphilosophie is to exhibit the ideal as springing from the real. The change which experience brings before us leads to the conception of duality, the polar opposition through which nature expresses itself. The dynamical series of stages in nature 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.
Some scholars characterize Schelling 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. Unlike Hegel, Schelling did not believe that the absolute could be known in its true character through rational inquiry alone.
Schelling's thought is still studied, although his reputation has varied over time. His work impressed the English romantic poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who introduced his ideas into English-speaking culture, sometimes without full acknowledgment, as in the Biographia Literaria. Coleridge's critical work was itself influential, and it was he who introduced into English literature Schelling's concept of the unconscious. Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism has been seen as a precursor of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams.
By the 1950's, Schelling was almost a forgotten philosopher even in Germany. In the 1910s and 1920s, philosophers of neo-Kantianism and neo-Hegelianism, like Wilhelm Windelband or Richard Kroner, 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 1790's and first decade of the 19th century were the main focus. 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". From socialist philosophers like György Lukács, he received criticism as anachronistic. An exception was Martin Heidegger, who treated Schelling's On Human Freedom in his lectures in 1936. Heidegger found there 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 philosophers including Karl Jaspers gave presentations about the uniqueness and relevance of his thought, the interest shifting toward his later work on being and existence, or, more precisely, the origin of existence. Schelling was the subject of the 1954 dissertation of Jürgen Habermas. In 1955 Jaspers published a book titled Schelling, representing him as a forerunner of the existentialists. Walter Schulz, 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 surpassed by Hegel much earlier. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote: "what I learned from Schelling became determinative of my own philosophical and theological development".
In the 1970's 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 life 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 an interest since the late 1960s, from Philipp Otto Runge to Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys.
In relation to psychology, Schelling was considered to have coined the term "unconsciousness". Slavoj Žižek has written two books attempting to integrate Schelling's philosophy, mainly his middle period works including Weltalter, with the work of Jacques Lacan. The opposition and division in God and thus the problem of evil in God faced by the later Schelling influenced Luigi Pareyson's thought. Ken Wilber places Schelling as one of two philosophers who "after Plato, had the broadest impact on the Western mind"
Quotes by Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Nature is visible Spirit; Spirit is invisible Nature.
History as a whole is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute.
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.
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.
Only he who has tasted freedom can feel the desire to make over everything in its image, to spread it throughout the whole universe.
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.
(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.
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.
To achieve great things we must be self-confined...mastery is revealed in limitation.
The I think, I am, is, since Descartes, the basic mistake of all knowledge; thinking is not my thinking, and being is not my being, for everything is only of God or of the totality.
Far from it being true that man and his activity makes the world comprehensible, he is himself the most incomprehensible of all, and drives me relentlessly to the view of the accursedness of all being, a view manifested in so many painful signs in ancient and modern times. It is precisely man who drives me to the final despairing question: Why is there something? Why not nothing?
Nothing upsets the philosophical mind more than when he hears that from now on all philosophy is supposed to lie caught in the shackles of one system. Never has he felt greater than when he sees before him the infinitude of knowledge. The entire dignity of his science consists in the fact that it will never be completed. In that moment in which he would believe to have completed his system, he would become unbearable to himself. He would, in that moment, cease to be a creator, and would instead descend to being an instrument of his creation.
Man’s being is essentially his own deed.
Man has been placed on that summit where he contains within him the source of self-impulsion toward good and evil in equal measure; the nexus of the principles within him is not a bond of necessity but of freedom. He stands at the dividing line; whatever he chooses will be his act, but he cannot remain in indecision because God must necessarily reveal himself and because nothing at all in creation can remain ambiguous.